What Education Do I Need to Become a Lawyer?

Whether you plan on specializing in environmental law or family law, you can expect to spend at least seven years in school. If you intend to practice as a professional lawyer, you'll aim for a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Keep reading to learn more about the type of education you need to become a lawyer and for some tips from the American Bar Association. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Pre-Law Studies

Before you go to law school, you'll need a bachelor's degree. Law school applicants aren't required to have any particular major for undergraduate education. In fact, the American Bar Association (ABA) encourages students to study any subject they find fascinating and challenging. The ABA also provides advice on the types of classes that will help you once you get to law school.

Some of the majors considered to offer traditional pre-law training include subjects like history, economics, political science, English and philosophy. Take classes that encourage analytical thinking, critical writing and reading skills, research and communication. If you choose to major in a non-traditional field, you might want to consider a subject that relates to the legal specialization you're interested in.

Getting Into Law School

After you get your bachelor's degree, you'll need to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) before you can be admitted to a school approved by the ABA. This test is a half-day exam that has five sections of multiple choice questions. The questions measure your abilities in logic, reading and analytics. Once the multiple choice questions are completed, you'll complete a writing sample. The sample won't be graded, but it will be sent on to any law school you apply to.

Law School

Once you get to law school, you'll generally spend three years working towards your J.D. Regardless of your specialization field, you'll probably spend your first year working on foundational courses, such as those on constitutional and contract law, legal writing and civil court procedure. After that, you can spend more time focusing on a specialization field, like one of these:

  • Civil rights
  • Admiralty law (maritime law)
  • Juvenile law
  • Intellectual property
  • Entertainment law

Experience and Skill Development

In addition to a classroom education, you may want to get experience through part-time employment at legal offices. You can also take advantage of opportunities to do legal writing and participate in trial situations offered by the law school.

Educational and practical experience may help you to develop skills that are critical for lawyers. Some of the skills you'll need include:

  • Analytical and interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Research Skills
  • Public speaking skills

Continuing Education

At least 46 states also require lawyers to participate in continuing education courses to maintain their professional license to practice, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some states require lawyers to pass ethics exams as well. Relocation can also require further education. If you move from one state to another, you need to take the bar exam in your new state. Some states do allow reciprocity, provided you meet their requirements in experience and moral character.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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