vs Detectives: Making the Case
As graduation approaches, many high school seniors are
haunted by the same question: what do you want to do after graduation? For the
longest time, I was not sure how to answer this. Around this time last year, I
finally decided on two viable career options: a lawyer and a detective. Ideally,
I would like a job that is a pleasant mix of the two. Before researching, I was
already aware of the basics for both jobs, such as: average salary, education
required, and duties. The purpose of my research is to find out the specifics
of both of these fields and to find out if there is a job that would fit most
of my needs. As a result of getting educated on these professions, I would like
to have a clearer idea of what I can see myself pursuing in the future.
JOB DUTIES AND ROLES
It is a lawyer’s job to represent clients in
criminal/civil apprehension or other legal cases. They have also been known to
write legal documents and manage/advise clients in legal transactions. Lawyers
can either specialize in one area or be broadly educated in multiple fields,
and can play many different roles in this process, including: advisor,
advocate, intermediary, negotiator, evaluator, or a 3rd Party
Neutral (“Types of Lawyers”).
Detectives work to gather information pertaining to
crimes or scandals and help to piece the facts together in a criminal case. They
do this through observing suspects, interviewing witnesses and suspects, and
examining evidence. Most detectives work for the police, specializing in
forensic work such as running tests, or investigating areas such as homicide,
fraud, drug trafficking, robbery, and many others. Detectives can also work
independently and solve cases of stalking and other personal scandals (Hewitt).
EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
need a bachelor’s degree or higher in either law as a whole or in the area of
law they would like to specialize in. They must also attend 2-3 years of law
school to get a master’s degree, followed by passing the BAR Exam (a
standardized exam given to evaluate whether the taker is qualified to practice
in the law field) after receiving said degree. In order to be certified, a
lawyer must pass the exam and will often need to take an ethics test to be
licensed in the state they wish to practice. These representatives should
always be competent, prompt, and diligent, along with making it a personal goal
to improve and enforce the law in the duration of their careers (Kane; “Preamble”).
become a detective, one would need at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal
justice, forensic science, or another pertinent topic. Investigators need to
have integrity, self-control, dependability, and need to have a keen eye for
detail. This job requires flexibility, an excellent level of stress-tolerance,
and being able to be on-the-clock 24/7 (Hewitt).
TYPES OF LAWYERS &
AREAS OF LAW
Lawyers have many options when it comes to choosing a
career field to specialize in. Each requires the same level of education;
however, it is recommended that the last two years of their degree targeted
towards their specialization. The most commonly practiced areas are Business,
Criminal, Family, and Finance (“Types of Lawyers”).
law, also called Corporate Law, refers to legal areas in businesses. At
startup, legal issues involve selecting a business form, filing articles of
incorporation or organization, and obtaining licenses and permits. During
operation, a business must follow consumer protection laws, contract law,
employment law, environmental law, finance law, tax law, etc. (“Types of
also known as penal law, covers criminal offenses. This includes, but is not
limited to: arrest, arraignment, bail, guilty pleas and plea agreements,
preliminary hearings, jury trials, sentencing, probation, parole, appeals, and
other post-conviction relief (“Types of Lawyers”).
law regulates functions among families, such as with spouses, parents,
children, guardians, wards and domestic partners. This area is divided into
domestic law and juvenile law. Domestic law covers marriage/divorcee, domestic
violence, child custody, and property rights. Juvenile law focuses on juvenile
delinquency/criminal offenses, truancy, runaways, neglected/abused children,
etc. Lawyers in this field have the privilege of helping children and families
improve their life situations (“Types of Lawyers”).
law deals with all things related to money. Within this area, there is personal
financing, business financing, and government financing. Personal financing
focuses on the purchase, sale or transfer of real/personal property, business
financing manages trades and stocks, and government financing gives a lawyer
the power to levy/collect taxes, issue bonds, make contracts, and other tasks (“Types
AREAS OF DETECTIVE WORK
When one finishes the education needed, a potential
detective can follow two main pathways- working for a police department of some
kind or opening up a private practice. Police detectives are employed by a
police department and work directly for them, while private investigators
operate on their own and work directly for clients or organizations when hired.
Police detectives strictly specialize in criminal activity, while private
investigators can assist a client with just about any personal or financial
SALARY AND BENEFITS
average, lawyers make $118,000 a year, and the median pay is around $90,000 per
year. A lot of what a lawyer is paid depends on education, experience, area of
work, and location in which the individual lives, as the crime rate in a place
can dramatically influence the need for lawyers. Depending on all of these
factors, salaries for lawyers ranges from $40,000-$192,000 per year (Zahorsky).
median pay for detectives as of 2016 is $61,000 annually; however, the average
range is anywhere from $51,000-$91,000, with the top ten percent earning more
than $122,000 a year. The growth rate for the next ten years is about 3
percent, which is slower than the average, but it still a relatively good
outlook. Salary for a detective depends on area of residence, experience, and
the level of government worked for, such as state, federal, or local (“Police
LOCATIONS AND PROJECTED GROWTH
Zahorsky writes, a lawyer’s area of residence has a significant impact on their
likeliness of getting a job and their salary. In a lot of cases, the higher the
crime rate in a city, the more demand and pay for lawyers there is. The most
popular states for an attorney to live in are California, Texas, New York, and
to the summary provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are
807,000 detective careers located all throughout the U.S., and is expected to
grow at an average rate of seven percent between 2016 and 2026
(Summary-Detective). According to Hewitt, the overall ten best states
(depending on salary, cost-of-living index, and demand for jobs) are Illinois,
Michigan, Virginia, Alaska, New Jersey, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and
A blog called “The Balance” conducted an interview
recently with Nicole Abboud, a “Generation Y Lawyer,” or a millennial lawyer.
She started as an associate but now currently does her own solo practice in the
area of business law. Abboud explains how she felt it in her bones that she
wanted to become an attorney, and that she simply loved the appeal of the
authority of an attorney and was intrigued at the idea of being able to use her
legal knowledge to help people out.
Abboud admits the first years of law school were filled
with risk, fear, and confusion. She says, “There is a huge learning curve when
you first start practicing law, and the amount of responsibility that falls in
your lap is a bit overwhelming,” (Monahan). If there is any advice she would
give to new law students it would be to build your authority, expose yourself to
as much experience as possible, and to build relationships among other
a news website entitled “The Guardian,” an interview was done with Christopher
Barling, a homicide detective. He has worked with the Los Angeles Police Department
(LAPD) in their homicidal investigation unit since 1993. Today, he is now the
homicide supervisor for the 77th division, located in the southern
area of Los Angeles.
A typical day for him starts at 6 or 7am. Assuming there
was not a homicide overnight (rarely does a homicide occur during business
hours), he will get to the station and meet with his team. There, they will
grab some coffee and get everyone caught up on the current events on cases.
They will also plan out who will get to be on call on what days and other
scheduling matters. Barling then switches into administrative mode, performing
functions such as completing time sheets, signing overtime slips, reviewing search
warrants, court orders, and other forms of paperwork. Typical duties in this
job field include gathering evidence, such as downloading footage, collecting
trace evidence, searching through databases, gathering and interviewing
witnesses and suspects, and (hopefully!) solving the case in a reasonable
amount of time.
asked about his favorite part of the job, Barling’s response was the following:
“It is exciting to watch a detective interviewing a suspect, and getting that
suspect to make admissions or confess to a murder. It is also rewarding to hear
one of the detectives get the call … that a jury just convicted a suspect who
is responsible for a murder,” (“U.S. Crime”).
I knew the general gist of both of these careers going into this project, I
have learned more about the specifics of each of these jobs. I found the
interviews done with Nicole Abboud and Christopher Barling especially helpful,
as they talked about what it is actually like to pursue a career in these
fields and gives detailed insight to the actual hands-on experience of it all. This
research has been extremely beneficial to me in the way that I know more
details about both of my options and am able to predict what kind of future
would be in store for me depending on which career I go into. These were also
helpful in the way that the interviewees tell what the job is really like
rather than a viewer simply reading a synopsis of job duties.
the end of the day, I am in high school until May, so while it may not be a lot
of time, I still do have a period to make my final decision. I plan to go to
the University of Arizona post-graduation, where they offer majors appropriate
for both a lawyer and a detective. My parents and closest friends have told me
that I would be great at either, and I believe it as well.
I were to take the lawyer path, I would most likely end up in criminal law or
family law. The ability to solve crimes and to deal with other criminal
activity is very intriguing to me and it is definitely something that I would
enjoy doing. The privilege of being able to help children and families will be
extremely rewarding; however, if I still want a detective-like job, criminal
law would be the best fit; I love to solve puzzles and feel that I would fill
the role excellently.
detective path; however, does have a lot of options as well. From startup,
there are two routes- working for the police/government or opening up a private
practice. Personally, either would be an exciting career choice, but I would
most likely end up working for the police. There, detectives get to work as
part of a team to solve crimes and give peace of mind to the town’s citizens.
It would be easier to be able to have a team by your side to divide up the work
and to have more sets of eyes and more brain power.
I am still rather
hesitant, as both of these jobs require a lot of schooling and I know that
those who pursue these careers must have a real passion for what they aim to
do, and I still have a strong love for both, but it will be decided in time.