Becoming a lawyer requires many years of schooling and sitting for the bar exam for the state where a person wishes to practice law. Typically, earning a law degree takes three years but can take longer, depending on a person’s chosen path.
There are various requirements to becoming an attorney, such as a car accident attorney. For one, prior to taking the bar exam in your state, you must earn a Juris Doctor, or JD, at an accredited law school. Continue reading to learn more about law school and how the steps attorneys must go through in order to obtain their positions.
Requirements To Apply to Law School
Nearly every accredited law school requires that prospective students have a bachelor’s degree, which can be in almost any subject. A bachelor’s degree is usually earned after four years of full-time schooling of 40 or more college-level courses or at least 120 credits of college courses.
A small number of American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law schools will allow “exceptional students” to enroll in their JD programs without a bachelor’s degree. However, most state bar Associations will not allow law school graduates to take their bar exam if they have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. There are only four states for whom an individual can sit for the bar exam without a bachelor’s degree: Virginia, Washington, Vermont, and California.
Before applying to law school, a potential applicant will need a high school diploma, an undergraduate degree, a competitive GPA and LSAT score, and letters of recommendation.
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
Students intending to apply to law school must take the LSAT before they can enroll in a law degree program. The LSAT is administered several times every year. According to the LSAT website, the test is administered in two parts. The first part consists of several 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. The second part of the LSAT consists of a 35-minute, unscored writing sample. The LSAT evaluates students based on their reading comprehension, writing, critical thinking, and reasoning skills – all skills required when studying law and becoming a lawyer.
How Long Is Law School?
The length of time you spend at law school may vary based on the degree you are pursuing. Law schools have more degrees than just JD degrees. Each kind of degree will require the study of different curriculums and will have different requirements for the number of credits you have to earn before you complete your degree.
Below are some popular law degrees you can obtain from law schools:
- Juris Doctor: This is the degree that the vast majority of law student graduate with who are interested in becoming lawyers. A JD from an accredited law school fulfills the ABA requirement to take the Bar Exam. This degree can be used to work in nearly any field of law, from criminal defense to civil litigation. Most students obtain this degree in three years, but this length of time may vary.
- Master of Legal Studies: This degree consists of an advanced curriculum of constitutional, federal, and state laws. This degree may be used by paralegals, court administrators, or trial consultants. Some colleges do not require an LSAT score for this degree.
- Master of Laws: Many licensed attorneys, usually from non-US countries, pursue an LL.M. degree focusing on a specific area of law. LL.M. degrees are offered in a number of fields, such as taxation, intellectual property, administrative law, or immigration law. A Master of Laws degree provides the attorney with an advanced credential beyond their initial JD or foreign-equivalent degree. This degree typically is obtained in 12 months following graduation with a JD.
Obtaining a Juris Doctor
The ABA requires the completion of at least 83 credits, with 64 being acquired by attending regularly scheduled classroom sessions. These credits cannot be completed any earlier than 24 months and must be completed within 84 months of a student’s beginning of law school instruction.
What To Expect at Law School
There are certain courses that just about every law student must take. Most law schools require their students to complete this coursework during their first year of law school.
These courses generally cover:
- Legal Writing
- Property Law
- Criminal Law
- Tort Law
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Contract Law
From there, law students may select courses that are applicable to the area of law they wish to work in post-graduation.
In addition to academic study, students may participate in skill-building activities outside of the classroom to refine the abilities they will need to be successful in the practice of law. Some extracurricular activities include law review, mock trial, moot court, or externships.
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