In order to be a lawyer, you need to complete many educational requirements and pass a handful of tests before you can even legally practice.
1. You need to meet educational requirements
Today lawyers need to complete high school and university, and it is important that the undergraduate institution you choose to attend is a nationally or regionally accredited institution. You can find a list of accredited schools from the US Department of Education.
Your pre-law or undergraduate education can be in any field you choose. However, when law schools review your admission application, they will look for something unique.
For example, if you are attending an institution that offers a pre-law degree, while you might think that is useful, it effectively goes over the same concepts that are taught in law school but to a lesser degree. By comparison, taking the opportunity to obtain a degree in business if you want to become a business lawyer or international relations if you want to become an immigration lawyer can show diversity, something particularly important to the review boards.
2. You have to take the lsat
Becoming a lawyer requires that you take a test once you have graduated with your bachelor’s degree, a test you must pass in order to become accepted to an accredited law school. You can find a list of American Bar Association law schools in each state online.
The Law School Admission Test, known as the LSAT, is offered four times per year across the nation. The first part is a multiple-choice test that features questions focusing on analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. The second part is a written exam.
Note: When you sign up to take this test you will sign up for a test date for the first part and become automatically eligible to complete the second part 8 days before you take your multiple-choice test.
3. You must attend law school
Once you have your degree, and you have followed the procedures for the LSAT and received a passing grade, you can apply to law school, a lengthy process.
After you have been accepted to law school, you must complete your Juris Doctor degree, your JD. Upon graduation, you become eligible to complete the bar exam.
4. You must pick an area of specialty
Lawyers don’t just “law,” they practice a specific area of law. You have to decide early on what your specialty will be, such as child custody and marriage law, which can cover things like marriages, divorce, domestic partnerships, and more. Or you might decide to go into business or entertainment law, where you focus on the entertainment industry and contracts; or a criminal lawyer, handling things like murder trials and DUI, or even a probate lawyer, where you work with the estates of people who have recently passed away.
5. You must pass the Bar Exam
Each state has a different bar exam overseen by the American Bar Association. You have to pass the test in the state where you want your career to begin. If you become an attorney in the state of Wisconsin, for example, but you decide to move or you work for a law firm that moves you to a new branch in Oklahoma, you will have to take the bar exam to practice in Oklahoma.
6. You won’t get a corner office right out of law school
It is a big misconception that as soon as you graduate you get the big office in the corner of the building and an equally large paycheck. Many law students go to law school in order to become prestigious attorneys and make a lot of money, but in reality, 80% of attorneys don’t make an excessive amount of money and of those, many choose to leave the profession after 5 years or so and find something more suitable to them.
7. You need to work for senior lawyers to get experience
Don’t be surprised when you first graduate from law school if you work for other lawyers in order to gain experience. Generating income when you first leave law school will probably involve working as some sort of legal assistant to whom senior lawyers give some of their more mundane work. As a new lawyer, you will likely start at the very bottom of the corporate ladder and work your way up.
8. You need to be able to get clients and run a business successfully
If you want to branch out on your own because you now have learned a great deal about legal procedures, the Constitution, legal codes in your area, rights, and your local court system, you still have to figure out how to get clients on your own. One of the main reasons that most lawyers don’t make a great deal of money is simply because there isn’t as much money available. While before the bread and butter of lawyers consisted of simple paperwork like uncontested divorce filings, now most people can complete rudimentary court filings and legal procedures on their own or online.
Similarly, law school simply doesn’t teach you how to go out and find clients, how to handle accounting or run a business. A law firm is a business, and if you want to start your own firm you need to know how to hire and manage the people you hire, how to get clients, and how to keep your clients happy.
9. You need to keep learning
As you continue your practice, you should always improve your networking and education. As a lawyer, there is legal information you can access by joining certain membership organizations in each state for specialties like specific types of law or specific minorities. To learn more, you can use things like a free legal database like Lawrina.
10. You must control your work environment
The work environment is not all fun and games. In fact, corporate lawyers expect to work well over 40 hours each week because of the practice of billable hours. Billable hours refer to things you can billa client for directly, tasks that relate to preparing their case. But regular things like focusing on your continuing education, checking your email, or attending meetings do not fall under this category and they add on average an extra 10 hours per week. The work environment for lawyers can be very demanding and stressful, according to the American Bar Association, and this high level of stress can contribute to dissatisfaction with your job if you don’t properly manage it.