Lawyer or Judge? A Comparative Guide for Law Students Choosing a Career Path in the United States

Lawyer Blog

If you are a law student trying to decide between becoming a lawyer or a judge, there are a few key differences to consider.


  • As a lawyer, you would work in private practice, government, or in-house counsel.
  • You would represent clients in legal proceedings, draft legal documents, and provide legal advice.
  • You would need to pass the bar exam in the state(s) where you wish to practice.
  • Lawyers typically earn more money than judges, but their income varies greatly depending on their specialty and location.
  • As a lawyer, you would have more flexibility in your career path, as you could choose to switch specialties or practice areas if you wish.
  • Lawyers can work independently or as part of a team, depending on the type of practice they choose.


  • As a judge, you would preside over legal proceedings and make rulings on cases.
  • You would need to have extensive legal experience, typically at least 5-10 years of practicing law, before being eligible to become a judge.
  • You would need to be appointed or elected to a judgeship, and the process can be highly competitive.
  • Judges generally earn less money than lawyers, but their salary is typically more stable and predictable.
  • As a judge, you would have less flexibility in your career path, as you would be expected to serve for a set term and would be limited to hearing cases in a specific area of law.
  • Judges work in a more collaborative environment, as they work with other judges and court staff to manage cases.

In the United States, the decision to become a lawyer or a judge depends largely on your personal preferences and career goals. If you enjoy working directly with clients, prefer a more flexible career path, and are willing to put in the time and effort to build your practice, becoming a lawyer may be the right choice for you. If you have a passion for legal scholarship and are interested in serving the public in a more formal capacity, becoming a judge may be a more suitable career path.

In conclusion, both lawyers and judges play important roles in the legal system, and each career path has its own unique rewards and challenges. If you are a law student trying to decide between becoming a lawyer or a judge, take some time to consider your personal interests and career goals, and research the different opportunities available in each field. With careful consideration and planning, you can make an informed decision that will set you on the path to a successful and rewarding legal career.