How Do You Become an Attorney? If you are wondering how to become an attorney, you should prepare for a rigorous process that leads to a fulfilling career. In most cases, prospective attorneys need to complete education and licensing requirements.
This includes taking a state bar exam, and each state has its own requirements for the bar. Attorneys play essential roles in our everyday lives.
How Do You Become an Attorney?
To start, these professionals help individuals plan their estate, protect their intellectual property, and recover personal injury losses. A lawyer who passes the bar exam and joins their state’s bar association can officially call themselves an attorney. There are more than 1.3 million practicing attorneys in the United States.
Who Is an Attorney?
An attorney has French origins and stems from a word meaning to act on behalf of others. The term attorney is an abbreviated form of the formal title ‘attorney at law’. An attorney is someone who is not only trained and educated in law but also practices it in court. A basic definition of an attorney is someone who acts as a practitioner in a court of law.
Steps To Becoming an Attorney
There are many different paths to becoming an attorney, but all of them tend to be long and uphill. Let’s explore some of these paths by looking at the main steps to becoming an attorney.
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program You Enjoy
Law schools want well-rounded students. Therefore, most law schools don’t require you to study a particular subject (such as pre-law) as an undergraduate. In fact, there’s some evidence that law schools prefer students who major in areas other than pre-law.
With that said lawyers who are interested in becoming intellectual property attorneys should strongly consider developing a technical background (for example, by majoring in engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, or computer science).
While law schools don’t require you to study a particular subject, the vast majority of law schools require you to obtain a bachelor’s degree. There’s at least one ABA-approved law school (Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School) that will admit “exceptional students” who have not earned a bachelor’s degree. However, the school warns that many state bar associations will not allow a student without a bachelor’s degree to take the bar exam.
Pass The Law School Admission Test
The LSAT is a standardized test administered several times each year by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) at testing centers around the country. All law schools require that you take the LSAT in order to be admitted.
Law schools generally place a lot of emphasis on your LSAT score. For that reason, it’s imperative that you take the LSAT seriously. Most admissions counselors recommend studying for at least three months.
You can enter your GPA and LSAT score into the LSAC calculator to predict your likelihood of admission to each ABA-approved law school.
Identify Law Schools and Complete Applications
After finishing an undergraduate degree, some students choose to forego further education, while others gain professional experience in other fields prior to enrolling in law school. Regardless of the timing, prospective students should only consider law schools accredited by the American Bar Association.
In addition to overall GPA, undergraduate coursework, and LSAT scores, other admission factors may include community service, organization affiliations, and a recommendation letter from educators, alumni, or legal professionals. The Law School Admission Council is a great resource for students in the research phase of the law school application process.
Earn a Juris Doctor Degree
The Juris Doctor (JD) is the nationally recognized degree for practicing law in the United States and is currently offered by 205 ABA-accredited law schools. Prospective students should have knowledge of the faculty, areas of study, tuition, and curriculum prior to applying. There are numerous specialties within legal practice and students should select a program that offers a focused curriculum in their area of interest.
For example, students may choose to concentrate in areas of real estate, property, criminal, environmental, tax, or family law. Typically, students can complete their Juris Doctor in three years of full-time study. Popular concentrations include:
Corporate or business law is a lucrative field with responsibilities such as the formation and dissolution of corporations, mergers and acquisitions, corporate disputes, and more.
Labor attorneys deal with relations between workers and employers, often representing one side or the other on matters including compensation, discrimination, and collective bargaining.
Intellectual Property Law
Attorneys in this type of law work to protect the intellectual property of clients through patents, trademarks, and copyright.
Tax lawyers work closely with the tax code, often working on tax policy, and representing clients in tax matters.
Health law is a broad field that focuses on everything related to healthcare, including healthcare policy, patents, and medical malpractice.
Civil Rights Law
Civil rights lawyers work to protect individual’s civil rights, often representing individuals in matters against or relating to the government.
Family law deals with legal relations between families such as marriage, divorce, domestic partnerships, adoption, and child welfare.
Pass The MPRE
Before writing the bar exam, aspiring attorneys must write and pass an ethics exam known as the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination). The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice examination developed by NCBE that is offered three times a year. It is a prerequisite for writing the bar exam in all but three U.S. jurisdictions (Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico).
Pass The Bar Examination
To become an attorney, you must pass the bar examination for whichever state you’d like to practice law in. For example, if you want to become an attorney in Florida, you will need to pass the Florida State Bar Exam. While there are some variations from state to state, the bar exam is usually a two-day test. On the first day, you will complete the Multistate Bar Examination, and the second day consists of a written exam portion.
Preparing for the bar exam requires a lot of studying. You should create a study schedule that takes place over several months. You’ll also want to find a quality bar exam preparation course and materials to help focus your attention on topics that appear frequently.
Meet The Character and Mental Fitness Requirements
The bar examiners ask candidates questions about the quality of their character, academic integrity, financial situations, criminal history, any substance abuse issues, and physical fitness. This information helps examiners determine if each candidate can practice law competently.
Take Your Oath
The final step to becoming an attorney is taking your state’s oath of attorney. This involves a ceremony where you’ll be sworn in and take your oath. In most states, this oath is a promise to support the U.S. Constitution, faithfully carry out your duties as an attorney, and demonstrate integrity and civility in your conduct. States may differ on the exact elements of their oaths.
Become An Attorney-At-Law
People sometimes use the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” interchangeably, but there is a difference. When you have passed the bar exam and become a member of the bar association in your state, you’ll officially be an attorney at law. An attorney has to be a lawyer, but a lawyer is not necessarily an attorney.
How Much Money Do Attorneys Make?
The median pay for attorneys in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $127,990 per year. Salaries may depend on experience level, the field of legal practice, and a lawyer’s location.
How Much Does It Cost to Go to Law School?
The cost varies from school to school. On average, you can expect to spend about $45,000 per year. For the top law schools in the country, the tuition is closer to $65,000 per year. The cost will also depend on whether you’re paying in-state or out-of-state tuition and attending a public or private school. Additionally, about 70% of law school graduates in the U.S. have student loan debt. According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, they owe a cumulative $140,000 for the Juris Doctor program.