General practice encompasses a broad range of civil and criminal matters. Unlike lawyers who specialize in one or two subjects, general practice lawyers are not limited to any specific area of the law. They often concentrate on basic legal services including, but not limited to, probate law, family law, contract law, and property law. Keep reading to learn more about general practice lawyers.
What Does a General Practice Lawyer Do?
Instead of specializing in one or two areas of the law, general practice attorneys cover a wider range. Because their work spans multiple practice areas, they are knowledgeable about a wide array of legal matters. Some of the most common cases handled by general practice attorneys involve:
- Traffic violations
- Wills and trusts
- Power of attorney
- Spousal support
- Personal injury
- Child custody
- Estate planning
- Minor crimes
This list is not all-inclusive and not every general practice attorney will have the experience needed to handle every case in these areas.
This type of lawyer is most frequently found in small communities or rural areas, where the options for legal assistance are limited. In these situations, the client may hire the attorney for any case that may arise. If the attorney lacks knowledge in a particular area of the law, he may confer with other lawyers to ensure the client is provided adequate representation.
Younger attorneys may also choose general practice because they are unable to decide what they want to specialize in. This gives them a taste for the different areas of the law.
General practice attorneys generally prepare paperwork, meet with clients, and represent clients in court. They may also gather evidence, interview witnesses, or provide mediation for two or more parties.
Professional Requirements to Become a General Practice Lawyer
Like lawyers in all fields of practice, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree from a college or university to become a general practice lawyer. Towards the end of your undergraduate program, you will take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT.) This test assesses reading comprehension, logical, and verbal reasoning skills and your score is used as part of the admissions process by law schools
After passing the LSAT, you will start working towards earning a Juris Doctorate degree (.J.D.) by attending law school. Generally, aspiring attorneys spend the first year studying the basics of law and subsequent years focused on specific fields. Those interested in general practice however, may study the general aspects of different legal areas. The last step to become a general practice lawyer is to take the bar exam in the state of residency.
Additional Education and Experience
Internships and clerkships are available to most law students and this is a great way to gain experience before graduation. It can also expand your job opportunities after you become licensed to practice law.
Another option is obtaining the Master of Law degree (M.L. or LL.M). This is a two-year program that is internationally recognized and gives attorneys global credibility.
Additional Licensure Requirements
Each state bar sets forth additional licensure requirements for attorneys. While the requirements vary, all but a handful of states mandate that lawyers must take Continuing Education Courses on a regular basis. These courses help lawyers stay up to date with changing laws and new case precedent.
Where Can You Work as a General Practice Lawyer
When it comes to where you can work as a general practice lawyer, there are several options available. Some attorneys choose to practice solo while others become employed by law firms. The law firm may specialize in general practice, or have a department dedicated to it. Commonly, a lawyer joins a law firm as an associate with the goal of becoming partner in the future.
General practice attorneys can also work for non-profit organizations such as legal-aid agencies. These lawyers provide free or reduced rate services to clients who cannot afford to hire private representation.
How do General Practice Lawyers Get Paid?
How general practice lawyers get paid depends on their approach to billing. In general, this type of attorney will charge hourly for most cases and a flat rate fees for basic services such as drafting wills or contracts. The exact rate charged to the client will depend on the complexity of the case, the attorney’s experience, and geographical location. Lawyers working in large firms tend to charge more to compensate for a higher overhead.
Most attorneys also require a retainer fee. This fee is a portion of the total costs paid up front and placed into a special account. The attorney then uses this retainer as he works on the case. The amount of retainer required varies based on total costs.
General practice lawyers working for pro bono legal programs often work for free or at a reduced rate. Some of the programs are funded by the federal governments, while others are funded by state or private organizations.
General Practice Lawyer Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the annual average salary for attorneys in the U.S. is $119,250 as of 2018. This number accounts for lawyers in all fields of practice as the BLS does not list them separately.
Lawyers with experience and expertise tend to fall at the higher end of the salary spectrum. Geographical location also plays a large part in the exact salary of an attorney.
Employment Outlook for General Practice Lawyer
The employment rate for lawyers is projected to grow around 8% according to the BLS. This is the average for all occupations in the U.S. The competition for attorney jobs is expected to remain competitive as more students graduate from law school.
Hiring a General Practice Lawyer
Most legal issues can have lasting consequences; therefore, it is vital to hire someone that can effectively represent you. If your situation involves multiple areas of the law, hiring a general practice lawyer may be the right choice. If your situation is very specific to a particular area however, you should strongly consider hiring a specialized attorney
Before signing an agreement with a lawyer, you should set up an initial consultation, which is often offered free of charge. The consultation is the perfect time to find out if your attorney has the experience and expertise needed to represent you. You should also discuss the fees involved with his services.
Your attorney should be someone you feel is one your side and are comfortable discussing the details of your case with. He should address your concerns and represent your best interests throughout the case.
How to Find the Right General Practice Lawyer
There are resources available to help you find the right general practice lawyer. Before starting your search, ask for recommendations from family, friends, and business associates. If you know someone that works in the legal field, you can also ask them for a referral.
The next step is using attorney database websites to find lawyers in your area. These databases allow you to search by city, state, name, and practice areas. Some even provide referrals, client reviews, peer endorsements, and legal guides. The bar association in your state may also provide a list of attorneys in your area.
When you find the right general practice lawyer, set up an initial consultation. It is usually a good idea to meet with several before making a choice.
|Degree Level||Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) law is optional|
|License/Certification||Licensure in state of practice|
|Key Skills||Creative problem-solving, critical thinking, verbal and written communication, familiar with various areas of law, people-oriented|
|Number of Jobs (2016)||792,500|
|8% growth rate (average growth rate)|
|Median Salary (2017)||$119,250*|
|On the Job Training||Moderate term of on-the-job training|
|Top Earners||Top earners in the bankruptcy field are generally employed by large law firms|
(*Source: the BLS)