How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More
Lawyers represent clients in criminal and civil litigation and other legal proceedings, draw up legal documents, or manage or advise clients on legal transactions. May specialize in a single area or may practice broadly in many areas of law.
Table of contents
|Juris Doctor (JD) degree
|License or certification
|Most states require Lawyers to become licensed, which involves passing one or more bar exams.
|Duration to become one
|Difficulty to become one
Lawyers require a Law degree, which is often called a Juris Doctor (JD) degree and requires a Bachelor’s degree.
Aspiring Lawyers may earn a Bachelor’s degree in any field before applying for law school, but History, Business, and English are the three most common majors.
Most states require Lawyers to become licensed, which involves passing one or more bar exams.
Step 1: Prepare for College During High School
Aspiring Lawyers should begin thinking about college admissions during their final two years of high school. Maintaining good grades and test scores can increase your chances of getting into the colleges or universities of your choice.
Some high schools may also offer classes and extracurricular activities that are related to the world of law, such as debate club. Excelling at Social Studies courses and English classes may also provide useful skills and knowledge for your future career.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Law schools typically accept applicants with Bachelor’s degrees in any field. However, aspiring Lawyers often major in History, Business, English, Philosophy, Political Science, or Economics.
Your GPA during college may impact your ability to get accepted to your preferred law schools. You may also use your time at college to take courses that may prepare you for your future career. Courses such as Writing, English, and Communications help develop your writing and speaking skills, which are essential skills for Lawyers.
Step 3: Pass the LSAT
Before applying to a law school, aspiring Lawyers need to pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT is administered in two separate parts. The first part is a multiple-choice exam that covers analytical reasoning, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning.
The second part of the exam is a written essay called “LSAT Writing.” The LSAT Writing portion may be completed after or up to eight days before taking the multiple-choice exam.
Almost every law school uses the LSAT when reviewing admission applications. It is the only test that is currently accepted by all accredited law schools in the United States and Canada.
Step 4: Earn a Juris Doctor Degree
After passing the LSAT, you may start applying to law schools. Most states require Lawyers to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a school that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Completing law school typically takes three years. The first year of law school covers the basics of law. Students may learn more about Criminal Law, Legal Writing, and Legal Research. Civil Procedure courses are also provided to give students an understanding of common courtroom procedures.
During the second year of law school, students typically take Constitutional Law courses. For the final year of law school, students may start taking classes to specialize in certain areas of law, such as Estate Planning, Tax Law, Civil Litigation, or Employment Law.
Step 5: Pass the Bar Exams
Before you receive a license to practice law in your state, you need to pass the bar exams, which are administered by the ABA. The National Conference of Bar Examiners maintains a list of the licensing requirements for individual states and jurisdictions.
While the requirements may vary, most states require you to pass one or more bar exams and complete a thorough background check. Past felony convictions or academic misconduct may disqualify you from practicing law.
States may develop individual bar exams or use the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). The UBE is a standardized exam developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). It consists of three parts, which include the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE).
The MBE covers 50% of your overall score. It includes 200 multiple-choice questions that you must complete over six hours. It assesses your knowledge of fundamental legal principles and legal reasoning skills.
The MEE accounts for 30% of your score and includes six 30-minute essay questions. The MEE determines your ability to identify legal issues and differentiate between non-relevant and relevant information. The MPT includes two 90-minute exams to assess your skills in realistic scenarios and accounts for 20% of your overall score.
After passing the bar exams, you are “admitted to the bar” and may work as a lawyer in your state. If you plan on practicing law in other states, you typically need to retake the bar exam for each state.
Step 6: Become an Associate Attorney
Law firms typically call newly hired Lawyers “Associates.” Finding a job as an Associate Attorney is often easier for those with previous experience through summer internships or part-time jobs at law firms. Working as a Legal Intern or a Law Clerk may improve your resume and help you find an entry-level job.
Many aspiring Lawyers fresh out of law school find it difficult to find employment in large cities where there is more competition for Associate Attorney positions. If you struggle to find a job in your current city, you may need to broaden your search to include law firms in smaller cities.
Step 7: Advance Your Career
Many Associates continue to work for law firms with the hope of becoming “Partners,” which means that they become partial owners of the firm. Experienced Lawyers may also decide to open their own practices or look for work in other areas, such as government agencies and corporate legal departments.
Step 8: Continue Your Education
Some states require Lawyers to continue their education. For example, Lawyers in California must meet the Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirement, which includes 25 hours of study every three years. However, the requirements vary. Lawyers in Michigan do not need to continue taking courses.
Even if your state does not require continuing education credits, additional legal training may improve your skills and knowledge. Consider taking law courses to keep up with the latest developments in the legal profession.
What degree do most Lawyers have
We did a survey to ask other Lawyers what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.
How long does it take
Becoming a Lawyer typically takes seven years. After earning a four-year Bachelor’s degree, you need to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, which typically requires three years of study.