Becoming an attorney is highly rewarding but demands an extensive educational journey with a lot of determination, hard work, and patience. There are many students who are clear on becoming an attorney from an early age. And if you are one of them, here is a complete guide on how long it takes to become an attorney in the USA.
What is an Attorney?
An attorney or lawyer is a professional who provides legal advice to clients on certain matters, like labor, tax, family, corporate, and more. Usually, their job is to interpret the constitutional laws and apply them in specific cases. Attorneys can also specialize in research to develop current legal practices on matters like business and criminal laws.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Attorney?
On average, becoming an attorney takes anywhere around seven years, including four years of bachelor’s and three law school years. However, it can vary depending on your pace and extracurricular work experience.
Become a Lawyer: Complete Step-by-Step Guide
Becoming a lawyer requires you to get educational certificates and take licensed exams. If you are planning to enter this profession, here is a complete step-by-step guide for you to follow. So, dive right in to know more.
Enroll in the Undergraduate Program
Once you complete high school, the first step to becoming a lawyer in the States is getting enrolled in a bachelor’s degree. Do consider that some law school does not require you to have an undergraduate degree, but most of them do. So, what’s better is to check with the school you want to get into.
Now, at this level, you do not have to pick any elective majors, and getting any degree is pretty much okay. That said, the American Association of Law School AALS advises aspiring students to focus on getting the essential skills required to practice as a lawyer, including communication, networking, problem-solving, and law research. For this, majors like criminal justice, history, international relations, and journalism may be a better choice.
However, there is an exception for those planning to practice in the USPTO or United States Practice and Trademark Office. The exam for this position is known as a Parent Bar Exam, which requires a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or engineering field. If, for any reason, you are unable to enroll in an engineering course, science-related coursework may help you take the exam.
- Pro Tip: Focus on getting a high GPA and volunteer work. Doing so will make it easy to get into law school despite high competition.
Take the LSAT Exam
Now that the bachelor’s is complete, it is time to take the LSAT exam, also known as the Law School Admission Test. It is a prerequisite for getting into law school, as it evaluates your reading, comprehension, writing, communication, and reasoning skills.
The exam itself is based on four sections, each having a certain set of MCQs. Three of these sections include reading, logical reasoning, and basic analysis skills. Completing each section will take you around 35 minutes, making it a three-hour long test for entering law school.
The writing section is a separate exam known as LSAT writing. It is an online exam taken eight days before the MCQ-based exam happens. However, this writing test is not scored. That said, it still adds to your profile, demonstrating your ability to make arguments through written text.
Now, talking about your law school application profile mostly includes your Undergraduate scores and test marks. So, even if your GPA is a little low, it is important that you have high LSAT scores. LSAT is conducted on a monthly basis across the world, so you can register yourself for this exam whenever you want.
Complete the Law School
The next step is getting enrolled and completing law school, which typically takes around three years. The degree you will get at this school is known as a Juris Doctorate or JD.
During the first year of law school, you are going to learn the basic concepts of laws, including civil procedures, contracts, property laws, and criminal practices. The second year involves getting specialized courses like bankruptcy, tax law, criminal law, human rights law, environmental law, and more. It is better to think about these courses in the first year so you do not waste time in between.
The last year of law school mostly gives you real-life expertise in the profession. You will get to write legal reviews and journal articles and take internships for research and practices. Although your professional experience is different from those obtained during law school, it is still ideal that you build a reputable profile during your time in the school.
Take the Bar Exam
Finally, you are mostly done, and it is time to take the bar examination in order to become a licensed lawyer in your respective state. These exams are highly competitive and difficult and evaluate all the skills you learned at the school. The bar test usually takes two to three days to complete and is open twice each year.
Before taking this exam, it is better that you consider that it has high stakes and requires a lot of practice and determination from your side. It is equally important to note that prerequisites and passing criteria are different for different states across America. For instance, some states also require you to pass the fitness and character test along with the bar exam.
Work in the Field
Once you have a license to practice as a lawyer in a specific state, it is time to fish for jobs in law firms and offices. You can opt for government, non-government, or private workspaces based on your requirements. That said, it is better to apply for as many jobs as possible to secure a place in the best office.
According to BLS or Bureau of Labor Statistics USA, an average is between $55,000 and $180,000 on a yearly basis. That said, the salary depends on a number of factors, including location, experience, education, bar exam results, and more. Hence, it is better to update your certifications in order to get better job opportunities and salary packages.
Types of Law Studied in the USA
Here are some popular law specialties you can practice across the USA.
Labor attorneys or lawyers usually work in building a relationship between employees and employers. Typically, they specialize in discrimination, compensation, and bargaining techniques.
Tax lawyers advocate businesses and individuals in matters regarding tax legislation, like income tax, corporate transactions, and tax deductions. They also help prepare tax policies for the clients.
Family lawyers give their advice to families on how to solve legal matters. It can be related to adoptions, divorce, marriage, custody, and children’s welfare.
Patent lawyers provide their consultations and advice on matters regarding intellectual rights. In addition to the bar exam, these lawyers also have to pass the US Patent and Trademark Office exam.
Civil Rights Law
Civil rights lawyers work to maintain and advocate the rights of all US citizens in matters related to the government and the Constitution.
Can I retake the LSAT exam?
Yes, you can take the LSAT exam three times in two years. The LSAT scores are also valid for almost five years.
Can I get a job while attending law school?
Well, most law schools do not encourage students to get part-time jobs, given the content of the degree is competitive. So, you need to check it with your school. Hence, what’s better is that you focus on getting experience during summer breaks.
How long does it take to become an attorney?
On average, it takes around seven to eight years to become a licensed attorney in the USA.
I hope this guide was helpful in planning your career path as an aspiring attorney. Finally, I would like to thank Mary Jane for helping me gather information and go through the entire process. She is currently working as a tax attorney in New York and was kind enough to help me with this challenging task.