Lawyer Training Programs and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Lawyer Education Essential Info

A career as a lawyer includes providing legal assistance to people by helping them understand and navigate the legal system. Training to be a lawyer entails earning a bachelor's degree followed by a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an ABA-accredited law school. Lawyers must also obtain licensure in their practicing state by taking and passing a state bar exam.

Prior to admission to law school, an applicant typically must take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Law school typically takes around three years to complete. Furthermore, during law school, many students are hired for paid or unpaid clerkships or internships, which help to prepare them for the practical aspects of law practice and allow one to train to be a lawyer. After passing the bar exam and obtaining licensure, many graduates obtain positions in the private or public sector or for a non-profit law practice. An ideal lawyer candidate enjoys public speaking and has a good grasp of analytic research and writing.

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
Other Requirements State bar exam passage to obtain state licensure
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4%*
Median Salary (May 2019) $122,960*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Lawyer Training Programs

Becoming a lawyer typically requires students to earn an undergraduate degree and attend three years of law school. Some students receive advanced law degrees, which enables them to specialize in a certain field, conduct research, or teach.

Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring lawyers don't need to declare a specific major in which to earn their bachelor's degree. Rather, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that students major in degree programs that teach them potentially useful skills, such as writing, speaking, investigating, and critical-thinking (www.bls.gov). Beneficial courses may include political studies, history, economics, and philosophy. Students who want to specialize in a specific type of law can earn bachelor's degrees in a field relevant to the specialty, like business. These programs will prepare you for a career as a lawyer as you learn what training is needed to become a lawyer. In order to get accepted into law school, a strong undergraduate performance is helpful, and an LSAT exam score is more than likely required.

The LSAT

The LSAT or Law School Admission Test is a test critical to beginning a career in law in the US, Canada, and other countries. This test will ensure that future law students possess the skills necessary to be successful throughout their time at law school. The LSAT tests a student's reason, reading comprehension, and writing skills. The results that a student obtains taking this test are typically a critical factor in their acceptance into law programs. This test is composed of two parts. The first part is a multiple-choice test designed to test a student's ability to use both analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. The second portion of the test is a written essay designed to test one's writing skills. The LSAT costs $200 dollars to take.

Law School

J.D. Degree

After earning a bachelor's degree, the next step is to graduate from law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Here one will work on the basic lawyer training requirements. Law schools accept students based on several factors, including their undergraduate grade point average and major, recommendations, personal essays, extracurricular activities, work experience, and Law School Admission Test scores.

The Law School Admission Council, Inc. states that, although all law school curriculums are similar, each school differs in teaching methods, clinical education, and learning opportunities (www.lsac.org). During the first year of law school, students usually take courses on such subjects as civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property law, torts, and legal writing. Later on, students can elect to take courses that are more specialized, such as labor law, corporate law, immigration law, or environmental law.

They also put their skills and knowledge to use by participating in clinical programs, which allow second- and third-year law students to apply what they learn into real-life situations. They work under the guidance of experienced lawyers to provide counsel, partake in court proceedings, and perform other legal duties.

LL.M. Degree

Some lawyers choose to further their studies by earning a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree. A J.D. degree is required for admission into an LL.M. program, which provides global credibility and they typically last one full-time academic year. Some LL.M. programs allow students to concentrate on one area of law, such as intellectual property or taxation, while others provide students with an advanced but broad law curriculum.

Licensing Requirements

Lawyers must be licensed by the bar association in the states where they plan to practice. Obtaining licensure requires candidates to earn law degrees through programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and pass bar examinations. This exam ensures that one has received adequate attorney training and is prepared to start a career in law. A nationally accepted bar exam doesn't exist, but many states and districts use the Multistate Bar Examination, which covers constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, evidence, real property, and torts.

Other tests that may be used are the Multistate Essay Examination; the Multistate Performance Test, which tests practical skills; local state bar exams; ethics tests; and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, which tests ABA's professional-responsibility and judicial-conduct codes.

The Bar

The bar is a test that must be passed in order to become licensed to practice law. There are several formats that this test may take and state requirements will vary. The various forms of bar exams include the following:

Type of Test Length Format Topics
The Multistate Bar Examination Six-hours Multiple-choice (200 questions) criminal law procedure, federal rules of civil procedure, contracts, torts, real property, federal rules of evidence
The Multistate Performance Test Two 90-minute periods Skills questions more analysis and reasoning focused, includes problem solving, legal management, and written communication
The Multistate Essay Examination Three hours Essay questions (6) business law, torts, civil procedure, constitutional law, law conflicts, contracts, real property, family law, legal transactions
The Uniform Bar Examination Two days Multiple formats The MBE, MPT and MEE combined

Career and Salary Information

The BLS estimated that lawyers would see 4% growth in employment opportunities in the years 2019-2029. The BLS stated that lawyers earned $122,960 as a median annual wage in May 2019.

Because of the nature of their work, lawyers should be comfortable in research, analysis, analytical writing, and public speaking. Lawyers must hold a Juris Doctor degree before applying for the bar exam; passing the bar exam is required to practice law in their state. There are also other exams that may be needed by a lawyer wishing to enter the courtroom.

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