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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many different kinds of lawyers, so what lawyers do can differ quite a bit. We can go over some general tasks they usually perform, no matter what kind of law is practiced.

First and foremost, lawyers represent clients in legal proceedings and advise in situations that require legal knowledge. Some lawyers represent individuals, while others represent companies. Some lawyers represent the government.  No matter whom the lawyer is representing, his or her ethical obligation is to represent that client throughout the entire legal proceeding or transaction.  This could be reviewing a contract, writing a letter on the client's behalf, going to trial, or filing and arguing an appeal.

In doing these tasks, lawyers often need to do research.  They must find out what statutes and regulations they need to take into consideration in aiding their clients. They must find case law that will help them argue on behalf of their clients.  A great deal of the lawyer's time can be tied up in research. 

Lawyers do a great deal of writing. They write letters on behalf of their clients. They write contracts. They write complaints, answers, motions, and briefs. This, too, often takes up a large proportion of the lawyer's time.

Lawyers give their clients legal advice. They advise them as to what is legal and what is illegal. 

Lawyers often negotiate on behalf of their clients. For example, they might negotiate a contract or a child custody dispute. 

Lawyers represent their clients in court proceedings. They file various documents on behalf of their clients.  They appear in court to argue on behalf of their clients.  They represent clients on appeal. They represent clients in various kinds of courts, at the magistrate on a local level, in a state court, or in a federal court. 

All of these tasks constitute most of what a lawyer spends his or her time doing. There are so many areas of law that make the combination of tasks a bit different for each area, but these are really the primary functions of the lawyer.