How to Become a Lawyer
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal profession is projected to grow 6% between 2014 and 2024. Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. Read on to find out what it takes to become a lawyer!
1. Decide if becoming a lawyer is right for you.
Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services. Lawyers must possess analytical, interpersonal, problem-solving, research skills, speaking and writing skills.
There are different types of lawyers that specialize in specific legal areas; environmental lawyers, for instance, deal with issues and regulations that are related to the environment. Tax lawyers handle a variety of tax-related issues for individuals and corporations. Family lawyers handle a variety of legal issues that pertain to the family. They may advise clients regarding divorce, child custody, and adoption proceedings. Other specialties include: intellectual property lawyers, securities lawyers, litigation lawyers, and more.
2. Complete your undergraduate degree.
Becoming a lawyer in the United States usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school.
A bachelor’s degree is required for entry into most law schools. Although there are no required courses or recommended majors for law school admission, courses in English, public speaking, government, history, and economics can be useful.
3. Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Almost all law schools, particularly those approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This test measures applicants’ aptitude for the study of law.
4. Complete your law degree.
Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to complete a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the ABA. A J.D. degree program includes courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. Law students may choose specialized courses based on their interests, such as tax, labor, or corporate law.
During your time in law school, you may join extracurricular organizations in order to participate in mock trials and legal clinics, or you may choose to edit and write for a law journal.
5. Gain experience.
Law students often gain practical experience by participating in school-sponsored legal clinics, in moot court and oral argument competitions, in practice trials under the supervision of experienced lawyers and judges, and through research and writing on legal issues for a school’s law journals.
Part-time jobs or summer internships in law firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments also provide valuable experience.
These experiences can help law students decide what kind of legal work they want to focus on in their careers, and these internships may lead directly to a job after graduation.
6. Get licensed.
Prospective lawyers take licensing exams called bar exams. When a lawyer receives their license to practice law, they are “admitted to the bar.”
To practice law in any state, a person must be admitted to the state’s bar association under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. The requirements vary by individual states and jurisdictions. For more details on individual state and jurisdiction requirements, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state often must take the bar exam in each state. Aside from maintaining certifications, it is important for lawyers to keep informed about legal developments that affect their practices. Almost all states require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education either every year or every 3 years.
Ready to see if a career as a lawyer is right for you? Check out these videos from PathSource to hear what real lawyers have to say!
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