Becoming a lawyer in the United States is a long process. While each state has its own rules for becoming a lawyer, there are a few big steps that every state agrees must be completed to do so: going to college, going to law school, and passing the Bar Exam.
1. Go to College
Before you can go to law school, you must go to college. Your undergraduate GPA is one of the most important factors that law schools will consider when you apply for admission, so you should do your best throughout your college career if you hope to go to law school. Law schools don’t require you to major in a particular subject while at college, but some common majors for those planning to attend law school include justice studies, political science, and English. Your college may also offer a pre-law specialization, which can help prepare you for law school.
2. Go to Law School
After college, you will have to go to law school. Law school offers a three-year course of study in the law. But just as you had to take the ACT or SAT to get into college, you must take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to get into a law school. Some law schools have started accepting GRE test scores, but most still require an LSAT score. You should be sure to set aside plenty of time to study for the LSAT, because that’s another of the most important factors law schools will be looking at. At the very least, you should purchase an LSAT study guide, but you may also want to go one step further and take an LSAT prep course.
When you’re choosing which law schools to apply to, pay attention to three statistics that they will provide: the median undergraduate GPA and median LSAT score of their entering class and historical Bar passage rates. Those GPA and LSAT statistics will give you an idea of how you compare to the students that the school admits. Historical Bar passage rates will give you an idea of how well the law school prepares its students to pass the Bar. Surprisingly, not every law school does a good job at that, so do your research. Law school rankings are also important, but keep in mind that they are national rankings. Low-ranked schools may still prepare you to pass the Bar, and they may enjoy a better reputation regionally than they do nationally.
3. Pass the Bar
Even graduating from law school doesn’t make you a lawyer. After four years of college and three years of law school, you will finally be able to take the Bar Exam. The Bar Exam is a multi-part test that you will take over two or three days. It can include questions from any field of law, so you should prepare for it by taking a Bar review course. These courses will help refresh your memory about what you learned during law school, and you take them after graduating from law school but before taking the Bar.
None of the above steps is easy, and from start to finish, we’re talking about more than seven years of your life. So, choosing to become a lawyer isn’t a decision you should make lightly. Weigh these three steps carefully when thinking about your career options.