How to Become a Lawyer in 5 Steps
Research what it takes to become a lawyer. Learn about job duties, education, job growth and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Legal Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information at a Glance
A lawyer, or attorney, works within the legal system, applying laws to circumstances that people face within society. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a lawyer.
|Degree Required||Juris Doctor (J.D.)|
|Key Responsibilities||Provide legal advice to clients; draw up legal documents; represent clients in civil or criminal trials or prosecute cases on behalf of states|
|Licensure or Certification||All states require licensure|
|Job Growth (2012-2022)||10%*|
|Median Salary (2013)||$114,300*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
What is a Lawyer?
As a lawyer, you may represent clients in court, or you may offer legal advice regarding personal and business affairs. Either way, your job involves researching laws and judicial decisions that you can apply to a client's particular situation. You may choose to specialize in a particular type of law, such as environmental, intellectual property, international, criminal or civil law.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
You need to earn a bachelor's degree in order to get into law school. There are no required courses or recommended majors for law school admission. However, courses that develop skills in writing, reading, public speaking, logic and research can be helpful. Some law schools may prefer applicants who have taken intellectually challenging courses.
Step 2: Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
LSAT scores are required to be submitted along with your law school application. This test is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and is used to assess your reading, comprehension, reasoning and critical thinking skills. The LSAC test is administered in a multiple-choice format and is given in five sections (www.lsac.org). If you take the LSAT and feel that your scores do not reflect your ability, you may choose to retake the test.
Step 3: Earn Your Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degree
Law school typically lasts for three years and results in a J.D. degree. You begin law school by taking courses in constitutional law, property law, legal writing, contracts and torts. You then take elective courses based on your interests, such as corporate law, tax law or labor law. During your time in law school, you may participate in mock trials, attend legal clinics and write for a law journal.
Step 4: Consider Participating in a Clerkship
As a law student, you may be given the opportunity to complete a part-time or summer clerkship. Clerkships allow you to gain experience by working in a law firm, corporate office or government agency. For some, a clerkship can lead to an employment offer following graduation from law school.
Step 5: Pass Your State Bar Examination
Before you may practice law in the United States, you are required to pass your state bar examination and earn a license. Depending on your state, you likely need to pass a written bar exam, as well as a separate written ethics exam. If you would like to practice law in multiple states, you generally need to pass a bar exam in each state.
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