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How to Become a Labor Attorney

If you have a passion for speaking out and standing up for what’s right, then becoming a labor attorney could be a rewarding career path for you. Labor attorneys specialize in labor laws to help employees and employers with any disputes or negotiations. It is essential for practicing labor attorneys to remain ethical and honest to promote trust and justice in the court system.

Labor attorneys are experts in wage and hour laws, workplace safety, disability and extended leave requirements, and workplace harassment and discrimination to assist clients with any potential wrongdoings in those areas. Labor attorneys are there to advise employees when to take legal action and to defend employers when employees sue them.

This career opportunity is very rewarding. Labor attorneys are paid generously to advocate for clients that are in difficult situations. Attorneys can see their clients at their worst and help them find a happy resolution through their work. Becoming a labor attorney is not only financially and emotionally rewarding, it is also fairly flexible. Many law firms offer telecommuting, extended family leave, and additional assistants to help reduce their workload.

Sample job description

Labor attorneys represent clients who have legal issues with their employer or employees. They handle cases involving workplace safety, disability, employee leave, workplace harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and more. Labor attorneys should have expertise in written and verbal communication, strong knowledge of state and federal laws, and excellent research and negotiation skills. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced labor attorney to expand our business. If you have experience representing employers or workers in labor disputes, you might be right for this role as a labor attorney.     

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Advise and counsel clients on legal issues stemming from the relationship between employers and employees
  • Litigate cases in court
  • Litigate cases before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Draft and review employment agreements, contracts, company policies, and employee handbooks

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work.

Coursework in history, government, labor law, legal writing, contracts, and related subjects is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in written and verbal communication
  • Knowledge of state and federal laws
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills
  • Litigation experience

Preferred qualifications

  • Candidates should possess 3-5 years of employment litigation experience
  • Excellent analytical and writing skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Passion for client service and practice development

Typical work environment

Labor attorneys typically work in legal offices for corporations, government agencies, labor unions, or other companies. They usually work during normal business hours, but many times they work overtime, especially when meeting deadlines or preparing for court presentations.    

Typical hours

The work hours in an office setting for a labor attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week, especially when nearing deadlines or preparing for court proceedings.

Available certifications

Labor attorneys represent employers and employees in a host of industries. Many institutions offer certification programs to demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills to perform at the highest level. Here are some of the best certifications for labor attorneys: 

  • Labor & Employment Law Certification. Lawyers who practice labor and employment law who have demonstrated special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in the field can sit for certification in labor and employment law. The minimum requirements for certification vary according to state but generally include at least 5 years of experience practicing law, most of which is in labor and employment law. Candidates must also prove a certain amount of continuing education in the specialty of labor and employment law. After passing a peer review and a written examination, the certification is awarded. 
  • Masters of Laws (LLM) in Labor Law. Various law schools offer an LLM in Labor Law that prepares lawyers to specialize in representing employers, employees, and labor unions in the area of labor law. This program proves your legal expertise in working in either the private, non-profit, and public sectors.

Career path

Labor attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. College coursework in areas like history, government, labor law, legal writing, contracts, and related subjects is helpful and can make candidates attractive to employers.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress on either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel. Corporations, government agencies, and labor unions can also employ Labor Attorneys.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

Labor and employment laws change often, so labor attorneys need to stay on top of changes in the law to serve their clients best. According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, some trends could change how labor attorneys do their jobs in the next few years. These changes to labor laws include new federal requirements for how much overtime exempt employees need to be paid, changes to legislation regarding independent contractors’ rights, and varying changes to state laws on everything from drug testing to salary history to criminal convictions.