How to Become a Lawyer

Want to become a lawyer? Start with this step-by-step guide

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The legal field is an exciting, difficult, and all important career choice. Contrary to what you may have heard, the world still needs good lawyers. If you want to become a lawyer, there are essentially four steps you'll have to follow:

1. Complete your undergraduate education

Although specific qualifications vary, all law schools require that applicants have completed an undergraduate degree. You certainly don't have to major in prelaw, but you will have to complete a degree in some discipline in order to be considered as a law school candidate.

High grades matter as do good recommendations and writing skills. For guidance on the kind of classes you can take to help prepare for law school, see recommended Undergraduate Courses. For more on what to do during your undergrad years, click here. Towards the end of your undergraduate education, you will have to make time to apply to law school. Click here to learn about how to apply to law school.

2. Take the LSAT

The LSAT, or law school admission test, is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school. It takes several hours to complete and your score ranges from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest possible score and 180 the highest possible score. The average LSAT score is about a 150. What’s the best way to prepare for the LSAT? That largely depends on what kind of learner you are. There are many prep options, from traditional classroom settings to online prep and everything in between.

Many college students considering law school take the LSAT either the summer after their junior year or during the fall of their senior year; if you are no longer in college, you want to take the LSAT as early as possible before law school application deadlines approach.

For some tips on preparing for the test, see LSAT Prep in Three Steps.

For more advice on LSAT prep, click here.

3. Complete your legal education

Law school is like nothing you have ever experienced before. It is not the same as going back to college, and that’s why you hear people saying law school is “hard”. But it is very rewarding, and after (traditionally) three years of study, you learn basically everything you need to become a lawyer. There are also flexible part time law school programs aimed at professionals that take four years. Only after you  earn a Juris Doctor degree can you sit for the bar exam to become a lawyer (unless your state supports an apprenticeship program). Degree requirements vary greatly by school, so be sure to read up on the specifics of any law schools you are considering. Check out our law school profiles for help researching your law-school options. 

For more information on narrowing down your choices, see 10 Criteria for Choosing a Law School.

4. Pass the bar exam

Again with few exceptions, you will have to pass a state bar exam in order to become a lawyer. The bar examination is a test intended to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction. There are often many other possible requirements for sitting for the bar exam as well, which can include the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam), character references, and criminal records clearances, so be sure to check with the bar examiners in your state for specifics.

It is important to start thinking about the bar exam toward the end of law school so you can start preparing.   

For more information on preparing for the test, see How to Pass the Bar Exam. For bar exam tutoring and prep, click here

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Your Citation
Fabio, Michelle. "How to Become a Lawyer." ThoughtCo, Feb. 26, 2016, Fabio, Michelle. (2016, February 26). How to Become a Lawyer. Retrieved from Fabio, Michelle. "How to Become a Lawyer." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 13, 2017).