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Legal Profession in the USA

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When we speak about the person who practices law in the USA it is necessary to use the word attorney. An attorney is a united legal profession, which means that it does not draw a distinction between lawyers who plead in court and those who do not.

In the USA there are two types of attorneys: attorneys-in-fact and attorneys-at-law. An attorney-in-fact is an agent who acts on behalf of another person, typically with respect to business, property, or personal matters. Such an agent does not have to be licensed to practice law and often does not have any license at all. An attorney-at-law is a person trained and licensed by a relevant jurisdiction to practice law. He or she has the right to represent clients in legal matters and give legal advice. The term attorney, standing alone, means an attorney-at-law.

After graduation from the Law School attorneys in the USA should be admitted to the bar. They should pass a bar exam to be licensed as attorneys. Practically all the states which require a bar exam also require that the applicant should take a degree. Most often it is PhD Philosophy Doctor (Law) - a Juris Doctor (J.D.), or Doctor of Jurisprudence. A few states accept foreign law degrees. In addition to this formal education, attorneys in most jurisdictions must complete regular Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements.

Once admitted to practice by the highest court of a state, an American attorney may file legal pleadings and argue cases in any state court, provide legal advice to clients, and draft important legal documents such as wills, trusts, deeds, and contracts. The distinguishing feature of the USA attorneys is that they have a narrow specialization. It means that they deal with the cases of one particular branch of law.

Practicing law includes interviewing a client to identify the legal question, analyzing the question, researching a relevant law, devising legal solutions to problems, and executing such solutions through specific tasks such as drafting a contract or filing a motion with a court.

Most academic legal training is directed to identifying legal issues, researching facts and law, and arguing both the facts and law in favor of either side in any case.

For several years, law schools have sent through far more students than new job openings have become available. This has led to attorneys (once they pass the bar) seeking work in other occupations, either by choice or by the lack of employment opportunities.

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In the USA lawyers in private practice are the most numerous group of lawyers, comprising approximately 72% of all lawyers in the country. It is hard to say much of a general nature about private practice because there are many different types of practice.

It has been traditional to classify private practice by size of law firm. Thus there are three basic sizes: small (from 1 to 10 lawyers), medium (from 11 to 50 lawyers) and large (more than 50 lawyers). But recently large firms have grown so much that a firm of more than 50 lawyers is not said to be large any more.

The size of a firm is usually an indicator of type of practice: smaller firms are more likely to practice people law, i.e. to represent individuals, while larger firms are more likely to practice corporate law, i.e. to represent business clients.

Solo practitioners and small firms have much in common. Indeed, small firms often operate more as an aggregate of solo practitioners sharing rent than as a true firm. Solo or small-firm practitioners may be new lawyers who want to grow and add partners or they may be experienced practitioners who like the independence and atmosphere of working alone or with a small group of lawyers.

Of private lawyers, sole practitioners receive the lowest pay. There are exceptions to this, but in many areas of the country particularly in bad economic times it is very difficult for a new lawyer to build and maintain a successful solo practice. The new lawyers must either have a good source of clients or sufficient financial reserves to tide the lawyers over while building a clientele or in difficult times.

The number of lawyers working in large firms comprises only 14.6% of private lawyers and only 10.5% of all lawyers. However, they are much more successful financially. In addition, senior partners in the megafirms often move in powerful governmental and political circles, regularly serving in governmental positions when their political party is in power. They are also a major power in the profession because they more often serve on bar association committees and commissions than sole practitioners or lawyers from smaller firms.

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Date: 2016-04-22; view: 1432

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