Is becoming a lawyer right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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How to become a Lawyer
Becoming a lawyer requires a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. It is a challenging but rewarding career that offers the opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals and society as a whole. To become a lawyer, you typically need to complete the following steps:
- Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Complete an undergraduate degree in any field. There is no specific major required, but it can be helpful to study subjects that develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
- Take the LSAT: Register for and take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized test that assesses reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical thinking. The test score is an important factor in law school admissions.
- Earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degree: Apply and get accepted into an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school. Complete the three-year J.D. program, which includes coursework covering various areas of law. During law school, you may have opportunities for internships or clerkships to gain practical experience.
- Pass the Bar Exam: After earning a J.D. degree, you need to pass the bar exam in the state where you wish to practice law. The bar exam assesses your knowledge of legal principles, procedures, and ethics. Each state has its own bar exam requirements, so it's important to research and understand the specific requirements of the state where you plan to practice.
- Obtain a Law License: Once you have passed the bar exam, you can apply for a law license from the state's licensing authority. This typically involves submitting an application, meeting character and fitness requirements, and paying the necessary fees.
- Consider Specialization and Continuing Education: After becoming a licensed attorney, you may choose to specialize in a specific area of law by pursuing additional certifications or advanced degrees. Continuing legal education (CLE) is also required to maintain your license, which involves attending seminars, workshops, or courses to stay updated on legal developments.
Lawyers can pursue specialization certifications to demonstrate their expertise and dedication in specific areas of law. These certifications are typically offered by professional organizations or state bar associations.
- Board Certification: Many states have board certification programs that recognize attorneys who have demonstrated exceptional knowledge, skills, and experience in specific areas of law. For example, the American Board of Certification offers board certification in areas such as bankruptcy law, business bankruptcy law, creditors' rights law, and consumer bankruptcy law.
- Specialist Certification: Some states have their own specialist certification programs, such as the State Bar of California's Certified Specialist program. Attorneys who meet specific criteria and pass a rigorous examination can be certified as specialists in areas such as criminal law, family law, immigration law, or estate planning.
- Federal Court Certification: Lawyers can also seek certification to practice in federal courts. The most common certification is admission to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, which allows attorneys to argue cases before the highest court in the country.
- Patent and Trademark Certifications: The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers certification programs for attorneys who specialize in patent or trademark law. These certifications, known as the Patent Bar and the Trademark Bar, respectively, require passing specialized exams to demonstrate knowledge of the relevant laws and procedures.
- State Bar Section Memberships: State bar associations often have specialized sections or divisions dedicated to specific practice areas, such as family law, real estate law, or environmental law. Becoming a member of these sections can provide lawyers with access to specialized resources, networking opportunities, and continuing education specific to their practice area.
As a lawyer, there are several helpful resources available, such as:
- American Bar Association (ABA): The ABA provides numerous resources for lawyers, including professional development opportunities, legal research materials, practice management tools, and access to various publications.
- Westlaw and LexisNexis: These are comprehensive legal research platforms that provide access to a vast database of case law, statutes, regulations, legal journals, and secondary sources. They offer advanced search features and are widely used by legal professionals for conducting legal research.
- Fastcase: Fastcase is another popular legal research tool that offers access to a wide range of primary and secondary legal sources, including cases, statutes, regulations, court rules, and legal forms. It provides a user-friendly interface and is known for its cost-effectiveness.
- Cornell Legal Information Institute (LII): LII is a nonprofit organization affiliated with Cornell Law School. It offers free online access to a wealth of legal information, including the United States Code, Supreme Court opinions, federal and state statutes, and regulations.
- FindLaw: FindLaw is a comprehensive online legal resource that offers a range of services for both legal professionals and the general public. It provides access to legal forms, legal news, directories of lawyers and law firms, and a wide range of legal information.
- National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA): NLADA is an organization dedicated to promoting access to justice for individuals who cannot afford legal representation. They provide resources, training, and support for lawyers and legal aid organizations.
- State Bar Associations: Each state has its own bar association, which often provides valuable resources and support to lawyers practicing within that state. These associations may offer continuing legal education programs, practice management resources, networking opportunities, and access to legal publications specific to the state.
- Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Providers: Many organizations offer CLE courses to fulfill the mandatory continuing education requirements for lawyers. Some well-known providers include the Practising Law Institute (PLI), the National Business Institute (NBI), and the American Law Institute (ALI) Continuing Legal Education.