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How To Become an Employment Lawyer

August 22, 2023


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 01/16/23

If fair employment interests you, read on to learn more about how to become an employment lawyer.

If you’re considering becoming a lawyer, you’ve likely heard of both labor and employment lawyers. While the majority of people tend to lump these two professions together, it’s important to note there are stark differences between them.

A labor lawyer is particularly interested in labor laws and, more importantly, labor unions. An employment lawyer, however, only deals with non-union employees and management.

Labor lawyers tend to have a more specific role, whereas employment lawyers handle a wider range of employment issues. 

If the latter law specialty sounds like a career you’d like to pursue, this guide will go over everything there is to know about how to become an employment lawyer and what to expect in this career.

How To Become an Employment Lawyer: Step-By-Step

Steps to becoming an employment lawyer

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to become an employment lawyer:

Step One: Get an Undergraduate Degree

In order to get into a law school, you’ll have to complete an undergraduate degree. The major you choose doesn’t matter so long as you can maintain a high GPA! 

Step Two: Develop Good Study Habits

While you’re completing your undergrad, do your best to create good study habits and time management skills. Once you get to step five, which is attending law school, you’ll be grateful to have these skills!

You should also learn how to make good notes, be an active reader, and hone your research skills.

Step Three: Join Extracurriculars

Law schools want to know that their students are well-rounded individuals that can juggle multiple time commitments. While you’re still in your undergrad, gain useful work or volunteer experience that will make you a more attractive candidate for law school. 

This experience does not have to be in the legal field but should develop skills and abilities that will help you become a better law student and lawyer. Skills you should focus on are time management, prioritization, communication, organization, and leadership.

Step Four: Begin the Application Process To Your Desired Law Schools

If you plan on taking a gap year, you’ll have a little more time to complete your law school application. However, if you don’t want to take a gap year, you’ll have to complete your law school application during the senior year of your undergrad. 

To ensure you don’t face any delays in your applications, begin early! First, figure out which law schools you’d be interested in attending and keep note of their admission requirements, particularly their median GPA and LSAT scores

You should also try to make connections with your professors in your final years of your undergrad so you can secure strong letters of recommendation that attest to your character and academic potential.

Step Five: Write the LSAT

Again, depending on when you’d like to join law school, you’ll have to write your LSAT either during your undergrad or during your gap year. If you’d like to write it during your undergrad, give yourself enough time to study for and write the LSAT at least two times.

Your LSAT is arguably the most important part of your law school application, so it’s essential you create a solid study plan that can get you to your target score! 

Step Six: Complete Your JD

Once you have finished submitting your law school applications, gotten acceptance offers, and selected the right law school for you, it’s time to officially begin your legal education.

When choosing the right law school to become an employment lawyer, search for schools that offer employment law programs. These programs will give you the best experience and education in your specialty to excel in your career.

For instance, Cornell has a renowned labor and employment law program that equips you with the right knowledge and skills to succeed as an employment lawyer.  

Your grades mattered during your undergrad, and will matter even more during your JD. Keep on top of all of your readings, be an active member of your classroom, and dedicate enough time to your studies each week to maintain a high GPA. Your GPA will be a major deciding factor in your postgraduate job prospects. 

Step Seven: Gain Useful Experience

Getting a JD often isn’t enough to secure a good full-time job post-graduation. In order to give yourself the best chance of employment, ensure you seek valuable externship or clerkships during the summers between your JD years. 

These experiences can boost your resume and make you a more attractive employee! Even if you don’t get a job that is directly related to the employment sector, any experience that can help you actually practice the theory you learn in the classroom will be beneficial!

Step Eight: Write the Bar Exam

Once you’ve completed your JD, the next and final step is to write the bar exam. This exam will license you to begin practicing as an independent employment lawyer! 

(Optional) Step Nine: Pursue an LLM

As an optional ninth step, you may want to further advance your training and expertise in employment law by getting an LLM degree. This step is not required to become an employment lawyer, but it can increase your job prospects and qualifications.

What Does an Employment Lawyer Do?

As stated earlier, employment lawyers deal with non-union employees and employers. Many only represent one party. 

The specific types of cases employment lawyers undertake involve:

  • Compliance advice: help employers follow employment laws and ensure they do not discriminate against any of their employees
  • Filing complaints: help clients file complaints about their employers before pursuing action
  • Wage and hour lawsuits: represent employees that don’t receive adequate or agreed-upon wages, or are asked to work off the clock for free
  • Discrimination lawsuits: represent employees that feel they are being discriminated against by their employer due to their race, religion, nationality, age, sex, or gender
  • Class action cases: when multiple employees have the same complaints about an employer, they may join in a class action together to go up against the employer
  • Compensation claims: similar to personal injury law, but involves workers needing compensation for injuries incurred at work
  • Union issues: employment lawyers do not deal directly with these, but can provide advice on employees’ union rights

Employment lawyers protect the rights of all types of employees: full-time, part-time, temporary, or casual.

Employment Lawyer Salary and Job Outlook

Now that you know how to become an employment lawyer, you might be wondering how much you can make as one. Employment lawyers earn $161,206 on average, making this a high-earning field of law.

While $161,206 is the average, these lawyers have an even higher earning potential, as many go on to make over $200,000. 

Not only are employment lawyers well-paid, but they’re also in high demand! Since employees and employers exist all over the world, these relationships always need mitigation and guidance. 

The demand for employment lawyers also recently skyrocketed because of COVID due to the number of cutoffs that were made and issues of safety in the workplace!

What Skills Do You Need To Become an Employment Lawyer?

Even if you have all the credentials to become an employment lawyer, there are certain traits and skills you’ll need to excel as one! 


As a lawyer, the majority of your job involves effective communication. You’ll need to be able to communicate complex legal ideas to your clients, adequately advocate for these clients, and be able to persuade a court.

Technical Skills

You’ll need to know all of the employment laws in and out in order to best advocate for your clients! Having the right technical skills to be able to apply general laws to specific cases is essential to become an employment lawyer.

Attention To Detail

As you’ll have to deal with employment laws, you’ll need excellent attention to detail to be able to find violations and spot any inconsistencies in your opponents’ cases. 

Time Management

Lawyers often have strict competing deadlines to handle. To be a successful employment lawyer, you’ll have to prioritize your deadlines and manage your time well to help your clients’ punctually. 

Many of your cases will involve issues that require immediate action, meaning you must be able to gather all your evidence and create a solid argument in an orderly and timely fashion.

FAQs: Becoming an Employment Lawyer

We’ve covered the basics of how to become an employment lawyer, the earning potential, and the skills required to succeed in this area. However, you may still have some remaining questions! Read on to find your answers.

1. What Law School Is Best for Employment Law?

Cornell University is one of the best law schools for employment law. 

2. How Long Does It Take To Become an Employment Lawyer?

After seeing how many steps it takes to become an employment lawyer, you’re likely wondering, “how long does it take to become an employment lawyer?”. 

It will take at least seven years: four years for your undergrad and three for your JD. If you decide to also pursue an LLM, it will take around eight or nine years in total. 

3. How Hard Is it To Become an Employment Lawyer?

Aside from law school itself being difficult to get into and excel in, any field of law is competitive! It is challenging to land a high-paying, full-time law and requires dedication, experience, and persistence.

4. How Much Do Employment Lawyers Charge Per Hour?

Employment lawyers typically charge anywhere from $40 to over $100 per hour

5. Do Employment Lawyers Represent Employees or Employers?

They can choose to only represent one type of party or both! It’s completely up to the lawyer. Some choose to only represent one side because it’s easier to develop expertise this way.

6. Do Employment Lawyers Deal With Unions?

No, not directly. They may advise their clients on their rights to unionize, but labor lawyers do not handle union cases!

Final Thoughts

If you feel like you’d be well-suited for employment law, know that while it will take a lot of hard work to succeed, you’ll be well compensated for your hard work in more ways than your salary! 

Employment law is a high-demand and fulfilling legal field where you’ll be making a real impact by creating more equality in the workplace!

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