Being a lawyer is a respectable but challenging career that may open a variety of opportunities for you. Depending on your preferences and skillset, you could practice on an international stage, on the Supreme Court, or even become president of the country. But before you make the decision to be a lawyer, you need to first learn what you are signing up for and what it takes to be a lawyer. Here is what you need to know when wondering what training is required to be a lawyer.
What Does a Lawyer Do?
A lawyer, sometimes referred to as an attorney, is a person licensed and qualified to practice law. To be regarded as a licensed lawyer, you first have to get a Juris Doctor degree, then pass a state bar exam. The entire period between getting a Juris Doctorate and taking a state bar exam averages seven years. There are a variety of law fields in which you can practice. Depending on your preference, you can practice by representing a sole client or extend your legal services to other capacities. As a legal counsel, you are obligated to assist your clients in understanding the law, represent them in their lawsuits, and follow the law to serve your client’s best interests.
As a lawyer, you can offer your services to a client by giving them advice, representing them in court, managing the client’s estate, air on their behalf, preparing the required legal documents and filing them, negotiating on their behalf, etc.
Based on your planned career goals, you can choose to specialize as a lawyer in the public or private sector. You can opt to start a law firm, work in one, for the government or a private company. The following are options for practicing law.
- Research assistant for a judge
- Magistrate or judge
- Lobbying and advocacy
- Legislative drafter
- A law professor
- Public defense
- A prosecuting attorney
- Attorney for a governmental agency
Of course, having licensure to practice law does not necessarily mean you have to practice it. Provided you pass the bar exam, you are considered a lawyer. What step you choose to take next is entirely up to you. Many people with a degree in law and who passed the bar examination have successful careers in sectors not associated with the legal field.
How to Become a Lawyer
To become a licensed lawyer, you will have to achieve a number of qualifications to fulfill specified requirements. Here are some of the requirements needed to become a licensed lawyer.
Before proceeding to law school, you have to get an undergraduate degree first. Provided you graduate with a bachelor’s degree, law schools don’t really focus on your main area of study. What law schools focus on
Most law schools prefer applicants who have a grade point average of three-point-five. There are some law schools that accept applicants with grade point averages as low as two-point-seven. Since law schools typically don’t focus on an individual’s undergrad major, it is recommended you choose a major you have passion for and enjoy studying. Enjoying the discipline you chose will improve your chances of graduating with an ideal grade point average to get accepted into a law school of your choice.
Pass the LSAT
Before your application can be accepted by a law school accredited by the American Bar Association, you must first pass the Law School Admission Test or LSAT in short. Your GPA and LSAT scores are evaluated by law schools to see if you qualify for their programs. The LSAT mainly focuses on your critical thinking skills, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension which will come in handy to be successful and practice law. LSAT score among takers averages 150. To be accepted into a top-tier law school in the U.S, you will need to have an LSAT of at least 170. The high you score on your LSAT, the higher you stand a chance to be accepted into your preferred law school. Even if you don’t have an ideal GPA, a high LSAT score can benefit your chances.
Get a Juris Doctor Degree
When asking yourself “What training is required to be a lawyer?” you should know that this is an essential step. The main purpose of attending a law school is to obtain a Juris Doctorate. Failure to get a Juris Doctor degree will prevent you from taking a state bar examination. A Juris Doctor program usually takes three years to obtain. Going for a part-time Juris Doctor program can see you obtaining a degree after four years. During your time in law school, you will encounter everything to do with the law including ethics, criminal law, civil procedures, torts, contracts, etc. You can also specialize in courses such as contract law, environmental law, tax law, family law, or other fields of law that may appeal to you. While it’s possible to obtain a Juris Doctor degree from any school accredited by the ABA, the chances of you passing the bar exam are largely determined by your law school’s quality of learning. For instance, top-tier law schools have a bar pass rate averaging 97 percent. Lower-tier law schools have a bar pass rate averaging 50 percent or less.
Complete the MPRE
Standing for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, the MPRE is an examination focusing on ethics that you need to pass before taking your bar exam. It’s mandatory to pass the MPRE before you sit for a bar exam in all states, except Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, and Maryland.
Pass the Bar Examination
After graduating from law school with a Juris Doctorate, your next step should be to sit for a bar examination. A state bar examination consists of an essay and multiple-choice exam which tests your knowledge of the law and ability to apply it I’m specified scenarios. You are required to take a bar exam in the state you intend to practice law in. After you pass the bar exam in a specific state, you are officially a licensed attorney of law and allowed to practice in that state.
You can continue with your education after getting your Juris Doctor degree. If you opt to continue with your education, you can go for a Doctor of Laws or Master of Law to enhance your knowledge and skills in different aspects of the law. It’s not required that you obtain either of these to practice law or get licensure, but they are beneficial, in that they will enrich your skills and knowledge, thereby opening more opportunities for you in the legal job market.
A Fast Way to Be a Lawyer
The process of becoming a lawyer on average takes seven years including years spent in post-high school and law school—four years spent obtaining a bachelor’s degree and three years in law school. If you want to speed up your journey to become a licensed lawyer, you can opt for enrolling in an accelerated Juris Doctor program. This program will allow you to spend two years in law school instead of the normal three. You can also shed off time getting your undergrad degree by taking a 3+3 Juris Doctorate program. This program, also known as the BA-to-JD program, means that you can complete courses in your first year of law school during your fourth undergrad year. This program will allow you to complete your undergrad studies and law school in six years instead of the normal seven
Types of Lawyer You Can Become
You are allowed to practice in any aspect of the law you wish to specialize in after getting your Juris Doctor degree and passing your bar examination. Some of the aspects of law you can choose to specialize in include:
A criminal Lawyer, or defense attorneys, specializes in defending people charged with committing a crime or breaking the law. They help their clients prove their innocence in court as well as arrange for negotiations, pleas, arraignment, and bail.
Personal Injury Lawyer
A personal injury attorney is knowledgeable in tort law and represents persons involved in accident injuries or property damage. They represent clients in need of legal services. If they represent a plaintiff, their main goal is to get their client compensated for damages caused to them.
Bankruptcy lawyers specialize in helping corporations or individuals who are insolvent. Their knowledge of bankruptcy procedures and law makes them efficient in communicating with debtors and filing important paperwork as well as representing their clients in court. Bankruptcy lawyers also advise their clients on alternatives to filing bankruptcy, types of bankruptcy, and bankruptcy eligibility.
Intellectual Property Lawyer
Intellectual property lawyers protect their client’s intellectual property and the rights associated with it. An IP lawyer assists with patent issues, trademark issues, and copyright issues, among others.
An employment lawyer can represent either an employee or employer who is included in an employment contract. Employment lawyers are usually involved when one or both parties breach an employment contract.
A corporate lawyer deals in corporate law and assists with the formation of companies as well as ensures the companies’ operations adhere to important industry and governmental laws.
Immigration lawyers help their clients with issues related to citizenship, visa application, and so forth. They also help clients seeking asylum and other issues related to immigration laws.
A divorce attorney helps clients with issues pertaining to divorce. They assist their clients in getting ideal settlements as well as representing them in divorce court.
Environmental lawyers represent governmental agencies, advocacy organizations, and persons. They mainly focus on court cases pertaining to coastline disputes, public health, pollution, and natural resource management.
Family Law and Juvenile Law
Lawyers practicing in this specialty usually resolve disputes caused by family conflict. A family lawyer represents individuals in cases of child support, legitimacy, domestic partnerships, civil unions, domestic abuse, divorce, etc. An adoption attorney can also represent clients in cases concerning adoptions.
Car accident lawyers help clients to file a personal injury claim and get well-deserved compensation for damages caused by the other party. They specialize in tort law involving car accidents.
A DUI Lawyer specializes in representing clients involved in cases such as drugged driving, and drunk driving, among other related cases. DUI falls under criminal defense so a qualified defense attorney can take on any case related to it. There are some cases, however, that are complex and require an attorney who specifically deals in DUI defense.
Disability lawyers specialize in representing persons unable to work or access the disability benefits they may be in need of. They assist their clients in the application procedure to get said benefits.
A contract lawyer represents individuals or parties regarding disagreements over breach of oral or written contracts or misinterpretation of contractual agreements. They also assist in various contract-related issues such as termination of a contract, seeking remuneration laid out in an agreement, and enforcing terms outlined in a contract.
There are lawyers who practice in more than one specialty and dabble in many aspects of the law. They handle matters to do with due diligence, depositions, filings, and discovery and offer consultation services on various matters to their clients.
Besides the potential job opportunities it presents, there are many reasons why you should consider becoming a lawyer. You must obtain the necessary requirements before getting licensure to practice law. A real estate lawyer mainly deals with issues to do with conflicts regarding real estate and a criminal defense lawyer concentrates on providing legal services to a defendant facing a lawsuit. Being a lawyer is a lucrative career and if executed properly, can become a lifelong career. It is important to maintain ethics when practicing law as this will help to assure clients of your integrity and professionalism. You need to go through the proper avenues to obtain certification to become a lawyer as well as receive proper training to deliver good results in a courtroom. Many lawyers prefer to stick to one area of law but you can dabble in different areas as well if you want to.