How to Become a Lawyer/Attorney

Lawyers and attorneys are responsible for acting as representatives for firms, businesses, individuals, and even the government in legal matters. They participate in court hearings, offer legal advice, and collect evidence and facts as they relate to legal cases. They are employed within both the private and public spheres. Exact duties will vary based on the clients the lawyers work for, although most lawyers will function as client advocates. Some lawyers choose to specialize in different aspects of law, like media or environmental law, and work as legal consultants, while others function as litigation specialists and assist their clients with legal disputes. The exact qualifications for lawyers also vary depending upon the lawyer’s title, employer, and responsibilities.

Minimum Qualifications

At a minimum, potential lawyers and attorneys must have a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Most online degrees for lawyers require students to take the LSAT exam prior to enrolling in a law program. Lawyers must also be licensed to practice law within their state. In addition, successfully lawyers have strong social and organizational skills, and are adept at writing as well as conducting research.

Education & Training

After earning a bachelor’s degree, potential lawyers should look into attending ABA accredited law schools, which are schools accredited by the American Bar Association, to earn a J.D. degree. The most qualified candidates will have a high grade point average, a high LSAT score, and a solid foundation in English, ethics, communication, and history. Most law degrees take around three years to complete, although the exact completion time will vary based on graduation requirements and how many classes a student takes each term. Internships may not be required by law degree programs, but they are highly recommended, as experience within the field can help improve job prospects after graduation.

After completing law school, graduates must take a test known as the bar exam before they can become fully licensed. The bar exam is a written exam that can take two or three days to complete. Each state has agencies that offer the exam. To locate an agency in your area, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners website. Successful fulfillment of all state guidelines for lawyers results in licensing and the ability to practice. However, a lawyer’s training does not end there. Many lawyers must take continuing education classes to stay up-to-date on new developments within the field.

Career Statistics

Once a lawyer is legally permitted to practice, he or she can seek employment within a firm, business, or governmental practice. Lawyers also have the option of establishing their own practices, although getting some initial experience first within other firms is generally recommended. To become hired, lawyers and attorneys must submit a resume, background information, and a cover letter. They will also have to participate in an interview process. Some firms and companies may require lawyers to complete skill assessments and written exams as well.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn an average of $112,760 a year. The top 10% earns $166,400, while the bottom 10% earns $122,760. Keep in mind that salary figures may vary widely among different locations and employers.

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