How to Become a Lawyer
July 10, 2014
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From attorneys to paralegals and legal assistants, the practice of law opens a broad avenue of employment opportunities. Becoming a lawyer requires a huge commitment of time and resources, a rigorous education and high academic standards. Before you invest so much, you can test the waters while establishing a new and excellent career with a legal studies degree. This will give you a taste of what to expect. Following that, if you are still wondering how to become a lawyer, this guide will show the way.
Enter Law School
Identifying your interest early is the best way to begin your career as an attorney. A glut of lawyers in the job market makes it a competitive profession, and you have to stand out. If you are entering college directly after high school, excellent performance and academic preparation is critical.
To begin, you must first register with the Law School Admissions Council, a mandatory service that manages your application materials. All law schools in the U.S. require an undergraduate degree, and most expect grade point averages well beyond 3.0. Regardless of your major course of studies, it will help you to focus work in history, English, philosophy, government and economics.
Law schools also require high scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Taking this exam a year before admission is preferred by most schools, requiring months of intense study. Your prospects are enhanced with relevant volunteer work and recommendations from attorneys and faculty.
Application fees to most law schools are expensive, and you may need to limit your preferences to schools most likely to admit you. An education in law is costly, too, so be careful about student loan debt. The more time and effort you devote to your studies, the more likely you improve your employ chances afterward. Be prepared to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which is usually administered during your first year of school. The MPRE measures your understanding of professional conduct.
The Bar Exam and Beyond
Looking ahead is central to good law practice, and it's especially important when looking for a job. Before you graduate, you should be preparing for the bar exam in the state where that job is located. Along with the state bar exam you will take the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). If you have a criminal record, substantial debt or poor school performance, it will be difficult to find employment.
Working in a partnership or some other organization is your most likely career path, but success in the courtroom will highlight your skills and help you stand out. Having a good mentor, maintaining a high level of personal integrity and working hard will also advance your career.
Consider a Legal Studies Degree Instead
If you want to get into the law profession sooner, one excellent alternative is to obtain a legal studies degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the entry-level education for a legal assistant is an associate degree in legal studies, although bachelor degrees are also offered. The BLS reports the number of jobs will increase by 17 percent.
Working in a broader role, legal aides attend an additional year of school for a certificate as a paralegal. Alternatively, you can work toward a bachelor of science in paralegal studies. At either level, with a legal studies degree you can work in the profession and discover your interest in pursuing a law degree.
The steps on how to become a lawyer are well-established, and it is a long and arduous process. If you have a strong interest in the legal profession but are uncertain about investing so much time and money, a legal studies degree might be right for you.
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