Do you want to become a lawyer or feel that is your calling? If so, that’s a great career path. Practicing law and helping others understand how it all works can be helpful for their challenging situations and be rewarding for you.
There are various law schools out there to help and many areas of law. Ehline Law Firm has been practicing in California for many years. We enjoy being part of the community we serve to help others understand their legal rights and the law.
If you need a lawyer or someone you know requires legal assistance, please call (213) 596-9642. We’re here to help!
What’s It Take to Practice Law?
There are many steps involved in becoming a lawyer. Your path to a legal profession often begins with:
- Understand your undergraduate degree choices
- Preparation tips and LSAT information
- Learn of top-tier law school options
- Attend law school to learn how to prepare legal documents
- Top attorney trends and fields in the industry
- Understand your state’s bar exam and how to prepare.
Are you ready to start? Let’s dive into the details to help you pursue a law education and career!
Lawyer vs. Attorney – Is There a Difference?
The terms lawyer and attorney mean the same thing and are interchangeable today. However, there were clear distinctions in the past.
- Lawyers were considered people who were trained and educated in law but hadn’t been practicing.
- Historically, attorneys were legally qualified (after passing the bar exam in their state or jurisdiction) to do more than provide legal advice. They could defend and prosecute actions on behalf of clients and in court.
Some people think the term “lawyer” denotes the profession, while “attorney” is the relationship of the lawyer to the client. Regardless, when you successfully pass the bar examination and graduate from law school, you may choose the title that fits your future career and legal practice.
The Four Steps to Become a Lawyer
It’s a challenging process to become a lawyer, but it’s also rewarding. Here are the four steps that many lawyers complete to practice law. Most students use this route, but some future lawyers decide to become paralegals and pass the bar exam from their experience.
Complete Your Undergraduate Degree
To be an attorney, you must first complete your undergraduate degree from a nationally or regionally accredited university or college. With that, the accreditation agency from the school must be recognized by the Department of Education. Though you require a bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t have to be in a particular subject.
You may choose a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in a major subject to become eligible for admission to a law school approved by the American Bar Association.
Understanding Undergraduate Degree Choices
If you want to become a lawyer, you should think about the right undergraduate degree to give you the logical skills and analytical tools necessary to prepare for this profession. While no data supports one degree option over another, these are the most popular choices:
One study shows that students majoring in the classics scored higher on their LSAT exams. Overall, you’re learning about classical antiquity. These include Roman and Greek histories, like philosophy, literature, archaeology, and languages.
A history degree gives you a base knowledge of how our legal system developed globally to give you a general understanding of how law applications changed with time. Learning about the effects law had on government and society can help you determine how our legal systems were founded.
Law students must develop excellent verbal communication, comprehension, and writing skills. Overall, critical thinking skills are essential. An English degree can help you complete research, putting together persuasive arguments to defend and present them clearly.
A philosophy degree gives you the framework to analyze different viewpoints and think critically on theory and evidence. Understanding these complex theories and how to break down arguments prepares you for the legal profession.
Political science is a very popular pre-law degree choice. Many programs give you a better understanding of the judicial system and how United States law is applied. Such a major demands that you think critically, attain public speaking skills/presentation skills, and form arguments, which are all crucial for being a litigator.
Business Administration and Economics
Understanding how to break down economic issues and interpret data can prepare you for your legal career. You must learn about corporate structure, negotiation standards, and contracts to form effective solutions and present your arguments.
Take the Law School Admission Test
Each ABA-approved law school requires aspiring law students to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). It’s offered four times a year throughout the US. The LSAT is a multiple-choice exam made of five timed sections (35 minutes each). They include:
- Reading comprehension (1)
- Analytical reasoning (1)
- Logical reasoning (2)
Those are the sections that contribute to your LSAT score. The fifth section isn’t scored and is used as a way to test new forms and questions.
At the end of your test, you also complete an unscored writing sample that takes 35 minutes. While it isn’t scored, it’s crucial because copies of it are provided to law schools for which you apply later.
Aspiring lawyers can find study resources to determine what this test is like. The LSAC provides free and official prep materials, such as a sample test, sample questions, and test prep videos.
You may also find LSAT self-study plans on Powerscore. Whether you’ve got 12 months to prepare or one, it’s easy to get an idea of what you must do.
Select a Law School
After passing the LSAT, you should choose your law school and submit law school applications. In law school, you earn a JD degree (Juris Doctor). It’s required to practice law and often takes a full-time student three years to complete.
In the first year, law students take general courses on topics like legal writing, criminal law, and contracts. The last two years are where you pick a specialty, such as tax, corporate, criminal, and labor law.
Your choice of law school is influenced by various factors, such as location, type of law you want to practice, and cost.
Top Law Schools in the US
- Columbia University Law School
- University of Chicago Law School
- Stanford Law School
- Harvard Law School
- Yale Law School
Best Law Schools in California
- University of California Berkley Law School
- University of California Los Angeles Law School
- University of California Davis Law School
- Stanford Law School
- Monterey College of Law
Best Associations to Join for Preparation of Your Legal Future
Most big law firms look past your law school to see what associations you’ve joined. They can help you prepare for legal careers, and they look good on your resume. These include:
- Student Government – Develop problem-solving, negotiating, and public speaking skills to get a leg-up on your leadership abilities.
- Debate Team – Think critically, form arguments, and familiarize yourself with litigator responsibilities.
- American Mock Trial Association – The organization holds competitions each year, and over 350 universities participate. Learn trial and critical thinking skills.
- Phi Alpha Delta – This is the largest legal fraternity and offers law school, alumni, and pre-law chapters.
Take the Bar Exam
After completing the JD degree, you have to pass the bar exam to practice law in your preferred state. Becoming a lawyer isn’t just about learning what to do; you must prove you understand.
However, before you can take the bar exam, you need to finish the multistate professional responsibility examination. This is a two-hour test with 60 multiple-choice questions and is there to measure your knowledge and understanding of the established standards relating to professional conduct as a lawyer. It’s required for admission to all state bars except Wisconsin and Puerto Rico.
Aspiring lawyers may wonder what the bar exam is like. There are two options in California. The baby bar is called the first-year examination. It’s given twice a year and takes a day to complete. There are four essay questions (each one hour long) and 100 multiple-choice questions. These cover Torts, criminal law, and contracts.
The California bar exam is offered twice a year and takes two days to complete. It consists of these parts:
- Multistate bar examination (200 multiple-choice questions)
- 90-minute performance test
- Five essay questions (one hour each)
Generally, the content of the exam incorporates more than a single subject area, such as:
- Constitutional law
- Commercial law
- Business organizations
- Family law
- Professional responsibility
- Trusts and estates
- Criminal law and procedures
Roughly 16,000 people take it, and you must pass the bar exam to become a lawyer.
Bar Exam Statistics and Facts
Law schools often provide facts and statistics about the exam. These are the most current within the country:
- An average of 55,200 people pass the bar exam every year.
- There are 1,268,011 licensed attorneys and lawyers nationwide.
- The average price to take the exam is $300.
- Only about 76.5 percent pass the bar exam on average.
- The national average score for the bar exam is 138.
- The median salary for an attorney/lawyer nationwide is $113,530.
- The lowest-paid salary for an attorney is about $54,310.
Additional Information about the California Bar Examination
Law schools want students to pass because they’re graded on pass rates. Therefore, it’s in their interest to help you prepare. Many schools have a bar prep course available, and you can find them online, too. For example, the National Conference for Bar Examiners provides sections of the MBE, MEE, and MPT to assist.
Top Fields to Consider as an Attorney
While the top attorney fields change constantly, some legal professions always seem to be hiring and want young, bright minds to help them in the courtroom, community, and throughout the corporate world. These include:
- Litigation – These attorneys are often called trial lawyers or litigators and represent clients (defendants and plaintiffs) in business and civil cases. Litigators handle all the steps in the legal process, such as pleadings, initial investigations, mediation, discovery, settlement, trial, and pre-trial.
- Corporate Law (Commercial) – Commercial law or business law focuses on the regulations, rights, conduct, and relations of businesses and individuals engaged in merchandising, trade, commerce, and sales. It encompasses private and public sectors and laws.
- Personal Injury Law – Personal injury law is a crucial branch of civil law relating to wrongful conduct and negligence. It deals with torts and everyday people who want legal assistance to cover expenses, such as medical bills and missed wages, after an injury or accident.
- Health Care Law – This is a growing area of law and focuses on the executive, legislative, and judicial regulations and rules that govern the healthcare industry. It increased after the Affordable Care Act was passed and because of the aging population and many healthcare organizations throughout the nation.
- Intellectual Property – This type of law focuses on the rules necessary to enforce and secure legal rights to artistic works, designs, and inventions.
- Real Estate Law – This is another branch of civil law governing the right to possess and use land and the permanent attachments and buildings associated with it. Typically, you deal with renters, homeowners, sellers, and buyers.
What Advice Is There for a College Freshman Considering a Law Degree?
A law career is a great opportunity to make a difference in your community and help others. However, it’s not for everyone, so you must ensure that it’s what you want for your entire life. Consider the job scope, challenges, and schedule, making sure they’re things you want to involve yourself with daily.
Many people become a lawyer or pursue a law degree because their parents and grandparents were attorneys. However, becoming a lawyer is a significant time and money investment. If you love the law, want to uphold it, and enjoy learning, it might be the right choice for you.
What Advice Is There for Law Students for their Studies?
It’s a wise decision to pursue summer internships or get a summer job in the field you’re most interested in. Many law firms hire law students or use interns. Often, they learn more about their particular law field than they do by attending law school. Though it sounds a little strange, it’s often true.
Law school doesn’t always teach you how to practice law; it just teaches you how to learn about doing it. Therefore, you must gain work experience from a reputable firm to develop the skills you need.
However, some firms only hire students to summarize medical records or input personal injury information into a database. While they can help somewhat, paralegals often take on that work. It’s best to avoid those jobs. Instead, you should work somewhere that exposes you to many tasks in your given legal field. The job market is full of legal professionals, and you want a varied legal education that helps you earn your law license and get a legal job.
How Do You Prepare for a Law Career Path in Law School?
If you’re still in high school or doing undergraduate study and decide to pursue a law degree, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for law school:
- Maintain a good GPA – A higher GPA means more options for undergraduate universities and colleges.
- Research law schools early – Law schools are everywhere, and you want to ensure yours meets your academic needs. Where do you plan to live and work? State-based schools are great for specific regions, and nationally-known schools are ideal for those who want to work at large law firms.
- Improve your soft skills – These include public speaking, writing, and analysis. Determine areas of improvement and practice those as much as you can.
- Take pre-law classes – Tell your academic advisor you want a pre-law curriculum or ask what courses they recommend.
- Visit law schools – Create a shortlist of schools and plan to visit each one to see which option meets your needs.
- Join pre-law organizations – Most undergraduate colleges offer pre-law organizations to help you research law schools, fill out applications, and prepare in various ways.
- Prepare for the LSAT – This standardized test is required by most law schools for entrance. It tests your analysis, logic, writing abilities, and reading comprehension skills.
Becoming a lawyer isn’t the easiest task in the world, and it requires a lot of time, energy, and money. However, the rewards are overwhelmingly wonderful.
With so many law schools, it’s crucial to understand the many legal specialties available before you start your graduate degree. You’re sure to do plenty of legal research, must understand the civil procedure, and pass the state bar.
Michael Ehline knew he wanted to practice law from an early age, working hard to get where he is today. Now, his full-time job is to help others understand the law and apply it to their personal needs.
Please call the Ehline Law Firm at (213) 596-9642 if you or someone you know needs legal assistance. Request a free consultation to determine if you have a case and what you must do to prepare.