So, You Want to be a Lawyer...
Becoming a lawyer is a career path that offers immense opportunities for personal and professional growth. Lawyers play a crucial role in society, advocating for justice, providing legal counsel, and shaping the course of the law. But how do you become a lawyer and what are some of the benefits associated with this profession?
Education and Academic Preparation
The journey to becoming a lawyer starts by completing a bachelor's degree in any field of study. While there is no specific undergraduate major required to enter law school, it can be beneficial to choose courses that develop critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills.
The next step in academic preparation is to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized exam that assesses critical thinking, logical reasoning, and analytical skills. You can prepare for the LSAT by utilizing study resources, practice exams, and preparatory courses to maximize your score.
According to WBW's newest attorney, Drew Tuggle, it is recommended to start LSAT preparation during your junior year of undergraduate studies, or at least several months before you intend to take the test: “The LSAT is typically offered multiple times a year, so you can choose a test date that aligns with your preparation timeline and application deadlines. Aim to complete your LSAT before or during your senior year."
Next, conduct your own research and apply to accredited law schools. Each law school has its own admission requirements, so carefully review application deadlines. In addition to your application, you are required to submit personal statements, recommendation letters, and transcripts to present a compelling admissions request.
Many students apply in the fall or early winter of their senior year of undergraduate studies. However, students can also apply to law school after completing an undergraduate degree. Tuggle adds, “Transitioning directly from undergraduate studies to law school isn't the only path. Some individuals choose to take a gap year or work for a period before attending law school. It's a personal decision that depends on your circumstances and goals.”
Law School and Bar Exam
Once admitted to law school, your next step is to pursue a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. The J.D. program typically takes three years to complete, during which you'll study various legal subjects, including contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, and more.
“Participate in internships, externships, or clinics to acquire hands-on practical experience,” Tuggle recommends.
After graduating with your J.D., you are required to pass the bar exam in the state where you intend to practice. The bar exam assesses your knowledge of the law and legal reasoning. Graduates typically spend several months preparing for the bar exam.
“The length and intensity of your study period may depend on the state in which you plan to practice law and the specific bar exam requirements,” says Tuggle. “In most jurisdictions, you can't practice law before passing the bar exam and meeting other licensing requirements. After law school, you're not considered a licensed attorney until successfully passing the bar exam. However, some jurisdictions offer opportunities for law school graduates to work under the supervision of a licensed attorney, such as through a legal internship or clerkship, before passing the bar.”
Building a professional network by participating in legal organizations, attending industry events, and connecting with mentors is another way to get immersed in the legal field while studying for the bar.
Benefits of a Legal Career
The legal profession provides intellectual stimulation and continuous learning, fostering complex problem-solving, critical analysis, and strategic thinking skills. Lawyers hold the power to drive change and champion justice, representing individuals, organizations, and society to ensure fairness and uphold the rule of law.
A law degree leads to diverse career paths beyond traditional courtroom practice, as well. Specializations include corporate law, intellectual property, environmental law, human rights, and more, with opportunities in private practice, corporate law, and consulting.
“Becoming a lawyer is a rewarding journey demanding dedication, perseverance, and lifelong learning,” says Tuggle. "The field's potential for positive impact, justice advocacy, and societal betterment makes for a great life's work."