Law Degree Programs

As a graduate with a law degree, you have many options in front of you. Public defender, trial lawyer, divorce lawyer, international law attorney - all are viable options for qualified professional graduates from one of many reputable law degree programs. Keep reading to learn if pursuing a law degree is for you.

Is a Law Degree for Me?

Career Overview

If you enjoy taking on lots of responsibility and working with others, then a law degree may suit you. Lawyers must also have excellent reasoning and communication skills with high levels of creativity and perseverance. In order to become a lawyer, you must complete a four-year undergraduate degree program followed by three years of study in law school to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.

Most lawyers begin their careers in salaried positions as associates and then slowly work their way up to partner of a firm or open their own private practice. Lawyers work as advisors and advocates, representing members of society through criminal and civil trials. The nature of this career is to study the law and judicial decisions in order to represent clients and work in their best interest.

Most lawyers work in offices, courtrooms and libraries. Some spend most of their times in prisons and hospitals while working with clients. Work schedules vary, but many salaried lawyers enjoy a structured schedule. Still, preparation for cases can take considerable amounts of time, requiring long nights and weekends of work.

Specializations

Depending on your specialty, you could appear in court often. Areas of specialization include bankruptcy, corporate, environmental, traffic and tax law. Some lawyers are employed by a single client, such as a corporation, full-time. Others are employed at various levels of the government, acting as prosecutors, state attorneys and public defenders.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for lawyers between 2012-2022 is expected to increase by 10%, but there will still be intense competition first to gain acceptance into a renowned law school and then for jobs (www.bls.gov). The BLS also estimates that 22% of attorneys were self-employed as of 2012. As of May 2013, the mean annual wage for an attorney was $131,990. The tenth percentile earned $55,170, while the 75th percentile earned $169,880.

How Can I Earn a Law Degree?

Education

First, you must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. There is no recommended major before entering law school, but specializing in the liberal arts may be beneficial. All law schools that have been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) require that students successfully pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Your score on this examination, as well as previous grades, work experience and an application essay, will determine your admission to a law school.

A three-year law degree program will include coursework in areas such as constitutional law, legal writing, civil procedure, intellectual property rights and contracts. Areas of specialty such as environmental, corporate, tax, labor and entertainment law are usually offered as elective courses. Advanced law degrees or joint degrees will increase chances for employment as a professor, researcher or legal specialist.

Licensing

After earning a law degree, a graduate must become licensed as an attorney to practice law. This is accomplished by being admitted to the State Bar. Each state and jurisdiction has separate requirements that must be met for attorneys. You must pass the Bar examination in each state in which you plan to practice.

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