What Education Is Needed to Become a Lawyer? A lot of people often ask, “What education is needed to become a lawyer?” Well, if your goal is to pursue a career in the legal system that is challenging yet rewarding.
Becoming a lawyer could be a great fit especially if you enjoy helping others who are facing legal battles. Determining the education required to be a lawyer can be confusing, especially considering variations among different states.
What Education Is Needed to Become a Lawyer?
It’s important to note that requirements vary widely between states. Accordingly, the best way to ensure you are meeting your legal education requirements is to consult with your state’s bar association. Nonetheless, this overview can give you a sense of what your legal journey will look like. Lawyers play essential roles in our everyday lives.
These professionals help individuals plan their estates, 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.
Educational Requirement to Become a Lawyer
Knowing what educational requirements you need to become a lawyer can improve your odds of following this career path. Regardless of your current educational level, knowing what degree you must acquire is helpful if you want to excel in your profession.
Here are the requirements to become a lawyer:
Earn A Bachelor’s Degree
Law schools generally require a bachelor’s degree before admission. However, most law schools will allow you to apply without receiving your degree. Some law schools may not even require an undergraduate degree, although you should check with the school of your choice. You don’t need to pursue any specific pre-law major during undergraduate school to qualify for law school.
When choosing a major, first consider what type of law you want to practice, and take classes that are related to this subject area. For example, if you want to practice corporate law, you may want to pursue a business administration bachelor’s degree. All aspiring lawyers should take a course that will help develop their problem-solving, communication, and research skills.
Take The LSAT Or GRE
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized examination that assesses students’ readiness for law school. Passing the LSAT is required for admission to law school in the United States. The Law School Admission Test is the traditional law school exam that most prospective law students take to qualify for law school.
However, prospective law students may also have the option to take the Graduate Record Examinations General Test. The higher the LSAT score, the more competitive a law school applicant usually is. But even if you end up with average scores, remember that admissions committees also consider other components of your application.
Law schools take a holistic approach to reviewing candidates, and there’s rarely any single factor that will get you in or keep you out of law school. But law school admissions can indeed be a competitive process. So, factors like the LSAT and GPA can be very important in gaining admission to the school you are looking at. So definitely take both of those seriously.
Get Into Law School and Earn a J.D. Degree
If you can maximize both your undergraduate GPA and your LSAT score, you should be able to get into law school. It typically takes three years of law school to obtain your law degree, known as a Juris Doctorate (JD). The law school curriculum generally covers some core areas of law for the first year and a half, such as criminal law, civil procedure, property law, and contracts.
During this time, law students can also expect to learn the basics of legal writing and research. After the midpoint of the three-year law school journey, law students can then choose to take more specialized courses, such as bankruptcy, tax law, or environmental law. Many law students seek to earn placement in their school’s law review or other legal journals to develop and demonstrate their writing and research skills.
Students can also apply for externships and legal clinics that will allow them to observe real-world legal activities. Getting high grades in law school, as well as obtaining reputable positions such as law review membership, will generally be an advantage in gaining legal employment after graduation.
It’s also important to seek a well-rounded education that exposes the student to the realities of practicing law. Many facets of the profession, such as working at law firms, will be vastly different from your law school experience. Accordingly, take advantage of any experiential opportunities that interest you while you are still in school.
Sit For the Bar Exam
After graduation, the final step towards becoming a lawyer is passing the bar examination. The exam is typically a two-day process, and the state board in charge of the examination may consider other factors other than the exam itself, such as the candidate’s character, educational background, or perceived competence.
Some state bar exams are notoriously difficult. Aspiring attorneys need to take them seriously and study them thoroughly. The bar exam is used to determine whether a lawyer has the knowledge and skills needed to become licensed and practice law. Each state has the option to choose its own bar exam, but most jurisdictions use the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
The UBE consists of multiple components. It is administered and scored the same way in all jurisdictions, so scores are transferable to other jurisdictions that also use the UBE. States that have adopted the UBE determine their exam policies, including eligibility to sit for the exam, character and fitness, educational requirements, and acceptable passing scores. The ABA provides detailed information on bar admission requirements.
Advance Your Career
There are many opportunities for lawyers to advance their careers. Freshman lawyers generally start as associates, working closely with seasoned lawyers to hone their craft. After several years of successful practice, attorneys may rise to become partners in a firm, while others may choose to open their own law office. Some may move beyond practicing law and become judges or shift into public positions.
Lawyers may also pursue further education at both the master’s and doctoral levels. The Master of Laws (LLM) and Lawyer (Ph.D.) are two common choices for lawyers interested in careers involving research and academic scholarship.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Being a Lawyer Hard?
Yes. Becoming a lawyer involves years of study and a comprehensive examination, so it isn’t easy. The exact level of difficulty depends on how well you absorb the information you learn and how much effort you put into preparing for your examination.
Can You Become a Lawyer Without Law School?
In some states, you can become a lawyer without attending law school. Or, at least, without attending the full three years. In four states—California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington—you can become a licensed attorney without attending law school at all. In three other states—Maine, New York, and Wyoming—one can substitute an apprenticeship for one or two years of law school.