Lawyers work in the legal system to represent their clients. For criminal justice cases, the lawyer may be prosecuting the case or defending a client in the courtroom.
Meanwhile, civil cases can involve anything from property disputes to class action settlements. No matter what kind of lawyer someone decides to become, there are a few degree requirements that they will need to get before applying for their license.
What Degree Does a Lawyer Need?
To become a lawyer, individuals need to spend seven years in school. Initially, students get their bachelor’s degree from a college or a university. Afterward, they must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The student’s university grades and LSAT score will determine whether they get into the top law school of their choice.
The majority of lawyers have to spend four years getting their bachelor’s degree and three years attaining their Juris Doctor degree. For the Juris Doctor degree to count, it has to be from a school that is accredited by an organization known as the American Bar Association (ABA). Once the student begins law school, they can take classes in things like property law, labor law, contracts, civil procedure, corporate law, constitutional law and tax law.
What Happens After Law School?
Once the student successfully graduates from law school, their work is still not done. Every person who wants to become a lawyer must take a test known as the bar exam. If the student passes this test, people say that they have been admitted to the bar.
The exact rules for getting a license from the bar vary from state to state. In general, most states require students to have no felony convictions or substance abuse problems. Applicants may be disqualified if they have committed some kind of academic misconduct during their years of schooling. In addition, students need to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school and pass their bar exam to be admitted to the bar.
If the lawyer wants to practice in another state, they will have to take the bar exam all over again. The state may also require lawyers to enroll in continuing legal education every one to three years to keep their license. The number of courses and the kind of courses depends entirely on the state.
What Kind of Bachelor’s Degree Should Students Get?
Technically, students can get into law school with any kind of bachelor’s degree. While there is no required major, it will be easier for students to get accepted into law school if they take courses like public speaking, history, mathematics, English, government and economics. Some schools have a pre-law program that helps to prepare students for going to law school after they graduate with their bachelor’s degree. Criminal justice is also a popular option for students who are preparing for law school.
In general, students should pick a major that matches their future goals. If the undergraduate college does not have a pre-law program, students should take courses that match the law school’s admission requirements. Students can benefit from choosing majors like philosophy, English and economics. While philosophy prepares students for critical thinking, English degrees help students write and read analytically. An economics degree can help students understand the business side of running a law firm.
Is Law School Required?
While some states offer alternative ways to become a lawyer, law school is required in most states. Even when a state allows students to take the bar exam without a law degree, there are potential problems that students should watch out for. In the state of Washington, students can technically study and work for a lawyer for a set amount of time instead of going to law school. Then, they are allowed to take the bar exam. Only a few students ever choose this option because it can be extremely difficult to find a practicing lawyer who is willing to be the student’s mentor. Even if students manage to find a practicing lawyer to mentor them, they will still have a harder time getting hired without a law degree.
Overall, the majority of prospective lawyers will need to spend seven years in school before they can take the bar exam and become a lawyer. After four years in a bachelor’s degree program, students will spend another three years in law school. With a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor degree, students can take their bar exam and become a practicing lawyer.