Becoming a lawyer is more than understanding the justice system—it’s about creating a safe and unbiased society. To become a lawyer, you need to endure many challenges, but you also need the guts to face them, as it’s a challenging career path.
Protecting your client’s legal rights is one of the most satisfactory feelings as a lawyer. Once you pursue this profession, you must stick by it because the only way to survive is by practicing it with hard work.
However, learning about the responsibilities of a lawyer and what you need to become one can determine whether this is your career. After all, this job comes with many rewards, and we’re not only speaking about money.
How Do You Become a Lawyer?
Becoming a lawyer requires good communication skills to help you debate and persuade others. Whether you’re looking to specialize in a specific area of law, there are a few steps you need to take to become an attorney.
Although, as a lawyer, you can choose to work both in the public and private sector, there are five fundamental steps you need to complete, plus a certain amount of academic skill.
Step 1: Complete an undergraduate degree
An undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a lawyer. Although law schools don’t require you to study a specific subject, most need you to get a bachelor’s degree.
Considering the importance of your undergraduate GPA, you need to focus on your coursework if you want to become a competitive candidate. For extra help, you can opt for courses to develop your writing, reading, research, public speaking, and logic skills. That said, some law schools prefer applicants who have taken such courses and have a high GPA.
Step 2: Take the admissions test
Following an undergraduate degree, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is another essential component of the admission process. This test is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and is required for any law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Your LSAT scores are used as an objective measure to determine your knowledge and quality as an applicant.
The test takes half a day to complete and includes five multiple-choice question sections and a writing sample. The LSAT measures your skills in areas related to future legal work, such as reading comprehension, analysis, critical thinking, information management, argumentation, and reasoning.
While the test doesn’t necessarily measure how you will perform in law school, most schools rely heavily on these scores, similar to your GPA. So, if you don’t have a high GPA but a high score on the LSAT, you’re more likely to get accepted to law school.
It’s also recommended that you spend at least three months studying for the LSAT, but if you think that your scores don’t reflect your capacities, you can retake the test. However, most schools require that the LSAT be taken by December to be accepted in law school in the following fall semester. You can find more about the LSAT locations and test dates here.
Step 3: Apply to law schools
Once you’re done with the LSAT and you receive your scores, you can start applying to law schools. Most students apply to many law schools for better opportunities, so they have more options to choose from. Each application must have law entrance test scores, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other information. However, it’s essential that you only consider law schools accredited by ABA.
Additionally, besides GPA, LSAT scores, and undergraduate coursework, there might be other factors that you need to consider before choosing which law school to apply to, such as:
- Cost of attendance
- Employment rates
- Bar passage rates
- Specialization of the school
When applying to law school, you should expect to provide the following information:
- Application form
- Application fee
- 1 to 3 letters of recommendation
- LSAT score
- Personal statement
- Undergraduate transcript
Step 4: Complete law school
Completing law school is easier said than done, but you must be ready to face any challenges. You begin law school by taking courses in property law, constitutional law, legal writing, torts, and contracts. You can also take elective courses based on your preferences, such as tax, corporate, or labor law.
Based on the ABA rules, you must have 83 credit hours to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school. These credit hours must be completed within 24 months, except in unusual circumstances, no later than 84 months after starting law school.
You will study subjects like sociology, political science, and economics during your studies. These subjects are beneficial as they help you understand more about the society in which you will practice law. Naturally, you’re also expected to study criminal, constitutional, and family law topics. Lastly, you must pass all the subjects in your last year to become a law graduate.
Step 5: Pass the bar exam
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You’re one step closer to becoming a lawyer. All you need to do is pass the bar exam of the state in which you want to practice law, and you’ll be declared a lawyer. This exam is no joke because the passing rate is 40% in some states.
Additionally, the bar exam is administered through the Board of Bar Examiners, depending on the state you’re applying in. While each state has different requirements and guidelines, the bar exam usually lasts two days. The first day is used to complete the Multistate Bar Examination, whereas the second is focused on writing examinations related to various legal matters.
So the exam consists of multiple-choice and essay questions that measure your knowledge of state law and your capacity to apply the law to various facts.
The bar exam also involves these components:
- Multistate Bar Examination (MBE): it lasts six hours and has 200 multiple-choice questions regarding civil procedure, torts, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, procedure, etc.
- Multistate Essay Examination (MEE): it consists of six essay questions about civil procedure, business associations, conflict of laws, real property, secured transactions, etc.
- Multistate Performance Test (MPT): it consists of two 90-minute skills questions about legal analysis and reasoning, factual analysis, problem-solving, identification and resolution of ethical dilemmas, etc.
- Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE): it consists of a multiple-choice examination about ethics.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?
The truth is, to become a lawyer, you need to be mentally and physically stable because this requires years of hard work and dedication. For an aspiring lawyer, it can take between five and eight years of full-time study. However, this also depends on your chosen career. For example, if you want to pursue an integrated law course, earning a law degree can take up to five years.
Additionally, you need four years of study to earn an undergraduate degree, plus another three years of law school. You can also have 6 to 12 months of training as part of the process.
Is Law a Good Career?
Although becoming a lawyer is not easy, your education can pay off in the end, leaving you with an advanced career. You will get the chance to work with successful lawyers, have a profitable job, and grow as a person. You can also choose different law specializations for more opportunities.
Law as a career has always been in demand, and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for lawyers is estimated to grow by 9% in the next eight years. On average, around 46,000 job openings for lawyers are projected each year.
However, considering the number of people pursuing law school, this number may not be sufficient to provide jobs to everyone.
Additionally, the BLS states that legal firms are now using paralegals and other non-attorney professionals to handle prep work and research usually performed by lawyers to reduce costs. Still, the demand for legal work is expected to increase since legal services are always required.
If there’s one thing that pays off all the hard work of lawyers is the hefty salary. In fact, lawyers have one of the highest annual salaries in the US. According to BLS, in 2021, the median annual wage for lawyers was $127,990. The best-paid percent earned over $208,000, while the lowest-paid percent made less than $61,400.
For a better understanding, here are the top industries and the median wages for lawyers per year:
- Federal government – $152,590
- Legal services – $127,530
- State government – $100,330
- Local government – $100,240
If you want to become a lawyer, you need to have a clear direction and goal. If you’re one of those who enjoy a challenge and the pride that comes after winning a case, the law may be a suitable fit for you. Law is exciting, and it allows you to change the world because you are influential and can profoundly impact society.