What Education Do I Need to Become a Lawyer?
Whether you plan on specializing in environmental law or family law, you can expect to spend at least seven years in school. If you intend to practice as a professional lawyer, you'll need a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Keep reading to learn more about education requirements for lawyers, and get some tips from the American Bar Association.
Before you go to law school, you'll need a bachelor's degree. Law school applicants aren't required to have any particular major for undergraduate education. In fact, the American Bar Association (ABA) encourages students to study any subject they find fascinating and challenging. The ABA also provides advice on the types of classes that will help you once you get to law school.
Some majors that offer traditional pre-law training include subjects like history, economics, political science, English and philosophy. Take classes that encourage analytical thinking, critical writing and reading skills, research and communication. If you choose to major in a non-traditional field, you might want to consider a subject that relates to the legal specialization you're interested in.
Important Facts About Lawyers
|Median Salary (2018)||$120,910 (for lawyers)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||8% (for lawyers)|
|Key Skills||Analytical, good at problem-solving, research, speaking and writing, excellent interpersonal skills|
|Work Environment||Corporate and private offices|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Getting Into Law School
After you get your bachelor's degree, you'll need to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) before you can be admitted to a school approved by the ABA. This test is a half-day exam that has five sections of multiple-choice questions. The questions measure your abilities in logic, reading and analytics. Once the multiple choice questions are completed, you'll complete a writing sample. The sample won't be graded, but it will be sent to any law school you apply to.
Once you get to law school, you'll generally spend three years working towards your J.D. Regardless of your law concentration, you'll spend your first year working on foundational courses, such as those on constitutional and contract law, legal writing and civil court procedure. After that you'll focus on your specialization, which may include one of the following:
- Civil rights
- Admiralty law (maritime law)
- Juvenile law
- Intellectual property
- Entertainment law
Experience and Skill Development
In addition to a classroom education, you may want to get experience through part-time employment at a legal office. You can also take advantage of opportunities to do legal writing, and participate in trial situations offered by the law school.
Educational and practical experience may help you to develop skills that are critical for lawyers. Some of the skills needed include:
- Analytical and interpersonal skills
- Problem solving skills
- Research Skills
- Public speaking skills
At least 46 states require lawyers to participate in continuing education courses to maintain their professional license to practice, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some states require lawyers to pass ethics exams as well. If you relocate, you may be required to complete further education. If you move from one state to another, you need to take the bar exam in your new state. Some states do allow reciprocity, provided you meet their requirements in experience and moral character.