Becoming a Law Teacher: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a law teacher? Get real job duties, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a law teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Law Teacher

Law professors train aspiring attorneys in a variety of areas, such as legal codes, courtroom practices, government regulations and legal ethics, as well as teach them strong communication skills. If you are considering a career as a law professor, you may want to know the pros and cons of this career field.

Pros of a Law Teacher Career
Potentially high income (almost $126,270, well above the average income for professors in other academic areas, such as history or English)*
Opportunity to pursue academic research in specific areas of interest*
Time and resources to publish groundbreaking journal articles*
22% expected job growth between 2014 and 2024*

Cons of a Law Teacher Career
Extensive education (generally seven to eight years of higher education)**
Rising cost of tuition (public law school tuition increased over 500% between 1985-2009)***
Many areas of the country lack opportunities*
Tight competition for tenured positions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET, ***American Bar Association

Job Description, Career and Salary Information

Law teachers are generally employed by university law schools. They participate in activities related to teaching at the graduate level, which may involve preparing course materials, advising students and evaluating their performance. While you may have a certain amount of administrative duties, full-time positions may afford you the luxury of delegating some administrative, research and teaching responsibilities to teacher's assistants. The skills necessary to excel in this occupation include excellent oral comprehension, reasoning abilities, speech clarity and the ability to stay abreast of continually changing relevant information. You will also need to develop the ability to interpret complex information for a broad student population.

Law Teacher Specializations

With a growing number of states recognizing specialization in legal practice, you may choose to specialize in your teaching career. Possible specialties include areas such as immigration law, international law, corporate law, civil codes and medical malpractice, to name a few. Specialization may require the completion of interdisciplinary academic work, including post-graduate certificate programs or additional advanced degrees in specialized legal study.

Projections for Law Teacher Careers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2014-2024 projections indicated a 22% growth in employment for postsecondary teachers. With slightly above average growth expected, the increase in job openings may be met with increasing competition for positions that offer tenure. The BLS 2014 data reported a mean salary of around $126,270 for postsecondary law teachers, which is nearly double the average income for history professors or English literature professors.

Education Requirements

For many postsecondary teaching positions, you will need to obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Some employers may consider a Ph.D. as commensurate educational accomplishment. These are some of the most common admission requirements for law school:

• A bachelor's degree with a minimum undergraduate grade point average

• A minimum score on the Law School Assessment Test (LSAT)

• Letters of recommendation from academic faculty or professional references

You may have the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary or dual degrees that can help you gain specialized knowledge for future employment in academia. Many students choose to pursue programs in relative academic areas such as business, political science, psychology or sociology.

Real Job Listings for Law Teacher Positions

Many positions for law professors require you to complete a J.D. program or a Ph.D. program in a law related field of study. Teaching experience or professional legal experience will also be helpful. Here's a sample of jobs from a national higher education recruitment board from March of 2010:

  • A Washington, DC, law center sought an adjunct professor for its internship program. Requirements included a J.D. and experience as a lawyer and a teacher.
  • A Georgia university sought non-tenured instructors for its legal writing course. Requirements included a professional degree from an accredited U.S. law school and experience in legal writing. Candidates with experience in legal practice were preferred.
  • A Florida university sought a bar preparation instructor who possessed a J.D. from an American Bar Association-approved school. Preference would be given to candidates who have successfully passed the Florida bar exam. Experience in higher education or tutoring students was preferred.

How to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Based on these and related job postings, it appears that academic accomplishment may be the strongest possible advantage to finding your first teaching position. You've seen that many positions offer the opportunity to use your specialized knowledge of the law. While you may have the opportunity to teach courses in your area of specialization, to stay competitive for job openings, you may need to maintain the ability to teach introductory and fundamental courses. Many aspiring law professors seek tenure-track positions in order to gain employment stability and increased income. In order to achieve this, you may need to gain experience in associate or part-time faculty positions.

A growing number of academic programs are offered online or through flexible evening or weekend courses, so may be important to maintain scheduling flexibility to meet the needs of today's students. While full-time and tenured faculty member may be afforded the ability to determine their course schedule, as a beginning teacher, you should be prepared to teach at multiple campus locations and at varying times.

Alternative Careers in Law

With public tuition costs averaging over $18,000 a year (as of 2009), you may wish to consider other careers as you pursue your doctorate degree, or as an alternative to a career as a professor. A national job placement organization listed these positions:

• Recruitment coordinator needed for technology law firm. Bachelor's degree required.

• Professional development coordinator needed for private law firm. Bachelor's degree in human resources preferred.

• Recruiting assistant for west coast law firm. Applicant must possess a minimum of an associate's degree, bachelor's degree preferred.

Careers as a Professional Lawyer

In order to practice law, you will need to obtain state licensure. Most states use the Multistate Bar Examination and require completion of an American Bar Association-approved academic program. Again, you will receive a J.D. degree and find opportunities in the public or private sector. As with law professorship, career opportunities may be enhanced through specialized areas of study and practice. The BLS 2008-2018 projections indicated a 13% increase in employment for lawyers and the BLS 2010 data reported a mean salary of $129,440.

Paralegal Careers

Job opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants often require only an associate's degree. Many firms will train the right candidate without academic experience. The BLS 2008-2018 projections indicated a 28% increase in employment for paralegals and legal assistants, well above the national average for all occupations. Paralegals may find additional opportunities working for community assistance programs or government agencies. Paralegals that specialize in certain aspects of law may have a competitive edge. Based on BLS 2010 data, paralegals earned a mean salary of around $50,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

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    Master's
      • Master: Legal Studies
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      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
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      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
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      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
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    2. Baker College Online

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    Bachelor's
      • Criminal Justice - Bachelor
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    3. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Legal Studies
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      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
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    4. Grand Canyon University

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    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
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    5. Saint Joseph's University

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      • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
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    6. Argosy University

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      • Compliance (ML)
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      • Bachelor - Business Administration
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    7. Northcentral University

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      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
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    8. Penn Foster Career School

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    Certificate
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    9. Colorado Technical University

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    10. Widener University

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Baker College Online

  • Criminal Justice - Bachelor

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Argosy University

  • Compliance (ML)
  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary

What is your highest level of education?