If you dream of attending Harvard or Yale, you may be considering a career as a lawyer. It’s a popular choice, but it’s important to know exactly what you have to do to get this distinguished position. Here are the 8 steps you’ll need to take, from your high school senior year to being hired as an associate.
1. Is This What You Want?
Luckily, with a career in law, you have time to change your mind if you decide it is not the correct route for you. With several years of school ahead of you, and undergraduate school first, you have time to really give thought to this position. You may find another subject or field calls to you as you attend college over the next four years.
However, if you’re set on this particular career field, it’s important to start preparing right away.
2. Apply For and Attend Undergraduate School
Before you can attend law school, you have to get your Bachelor’s degree. You may want to attend a college that has a law school available, but you don’t have to. Applications should be ready to go out during your senior year, so make sure you’re ahead of the game and getting your paperwork in before each individual school’s deadline.
Early on in your college career you will want to talk to your prelaw advisor to ensure you’re prepared for the LSAT. You’ll also be talking about your potential law schools and recommended courses.
3. Choose a Major
You don’t have to take any specific courses to apply to Law School, but you may want to consider the popular choices like English, History, and Business. There are a few others, so make sure to research your desired path and consider your interests.
You should be taking courses that will help you on your LSAT and future classes, however.
4. Prepare for and Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, is an extremely difficult test. It scores between 120 and 180. If you’re looking to get into a top school, you should be aiming for over 160, but the average score tends to be around 150.
The exam itself is a half day test and will ask questions on logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension. There will also be am essay where you have to show skills needed to become a lawyer. This essay is not included in your final score, but will be used by future schools.
Just like the SAT or ACT, the best way to prep for the LSAT is to practice and create a study schedule. You’ll want to time yourself and become adept at test taking strategies. You should be aiming to study at the very least 4 hours a week at least for about four months.
5. Apply For Law School
You’ve no doubt given thought to which law schools you’d be interested in attending and should have discussed this with your prelaw adviser in college. Now it’s time to create your LSAC.org account. This will keep all your records, scores, transcripts, and more for an easier application process. The account will also track important deadlines for you and it’s important to take note of your LSAC account number.
Just like you did for undergraduate school, attend open houses, visit the schools, and do your thorough research. Once you’re sure which law schools you wish to attend, use LSAC.org to apply. Almost all ABA approved law schools use LSAC.
6. Attend Law School
Law school is generally another three years of education. Total, you can expect to spend seven years between your bachelor’s degree and these courses. You’ll be taking classes on civil procedure, contracts, legal writing, and more.
You can also choose to take more niche courses if you wish to specialize in a certain aspect of law. This could be something like tax law or employment law. You may also want to apply for part time jobs at law firms or parts of law you’re interested in during this time. Usually, first year students can be accepted for these positions.
7. Take the Bar Exam
The Bar Exam is the test you need to take to practice law. Without it, you cannot get a license. If you pass, you will be admitted to the bar. It’s a six hour test with two hundred questions and covers a large majority of things you learned in law school. Study and prep is absolutely required.
When you pass the bar exam, you’re only allowed to practice law in that particular state. If you wish to practice in a neighboring or other state, you will be required to take the bar exam there as well.
8. Get Hired as an Associate and Become a Lawyer
Usually, before you can advance, you will have to work on teams as an associate in an established law firm. If there is an opening after several years of work with the practice, you may be taken on as a partner.
However, this won’t always happen. You may have to find another position at another firm or consider creating your own practice. You also have the option to apply for positions in legal departments in companies and corporations.
Becoming a lawyer is a long process and requires lots of study, patience, and diligence. Each exam, from the LSAT to the Bar requires all the attention you can give it. Start preparing in undergraduate school. Meet with your prelaw adviser, take the appropriate courses, and start getting ready for the LSAT.
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