Law is considered by the world over to be one of the most prestigious professions available. Becoming a lawyer is challenging, takes a long time and a lot of dedication, and demands long hours, but in the end, is very rewarding work. Lawyers act as the engine of society, exercising the judicial system to the extent of the law. The life of a lawyer can range from the mundane to the exhilarating, depending on the area of law that they choose to practice. The pay is excellent, allowing a person to live very comfortably. However, in turn, the education required is very demanding and expensive in its own right. There are a few different ways in which one can become a lawyer.
The first thing that most students do when they choose law as a career path is to enter college. Choosing the right program in college is essential, as is getting into the best university that you can. For this, you likely will need to depend on your high school performance so be sure to get the best grades in your class, which will make you a more competitive applicant. Once you get accepted to the college you will need to declare a major. With the law in mind, choose a major like political science, philosophy, sociology, criminal justice, economics, or history. All of these set a strong foundation in the social sciences which will help your understanding of how human societies work. It would be a great idea to get involved in extra-curricular activities that can teach you and strengthen skills that would be useful as a lawyer. Debate teams are excellent ways to learn the most essential of lawyer skills – thinking on your feet, arguing a viewpoint clearly and logically, and finding weaknesses and inconsistencies in the arguments of others. In fact, having been on a debate team is something that will stand out on your law school application and make you a much stronger applicant. Things like this that show initiative and planning towards a goal will show the committee reviewing your application that you are and have been serious about your career goals for some time. Other options to consider are volunteer work (always good for any resume), work in a law office to show familiarity with legal procedure, or a senatorial page program. Also, if you can get to know some professors in a social science discipline, that would be great – they would be able to write recommendation letters to strengthen your standing.
After graduating from a four-year college with the best grades that you can and experience to round out your character – again, in order to make yourself a more competitive applicant – it’s time to choose and apply to a law school program. There are many law schools out there meaning you will have plenty of choices. But before you apply to your schools of choice, you will need to take a qualifying exam called the Law School Admission Test. This is a serious exam that is required for entry into any accredited law school in the nation. It tests acquired reading and reasoning skills gained throughout college. Typically for fall admissions, the LSAT must be taken by December, at the latest. Since this test is only given four times a year, be sure to check deadlines and be prepared to sign up for it on a given date. After LSAT results come back, you are ready to apply to law school.
Once in law school, you will have to learn how to budget your life and manage your time effectively. Law school is very expensive and you will likely be looking at taking out a loan to fund your time. Many respected schools do not allow students to work for their first year, to ensure students are studying enough, so be prepared to have a source to pay for living expenses. For a top-notch school, you could be looking at up to $150,000 (including living expenses). This is an exorbitant amount, but once you work as a lawyer you will be able to pay back loans for school – as long as you manage your money wisely.
In school, devote yourself fully to the program. You get what you put in, and given how consuming law work is, you will likely experience a lot of burnout and stress. Expect long hours studying case laws, reading documents, writing detailed case briefs, and preparing for group discussions in class. Following your first year, you will be required to take the MPRE – the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. This evaluates how you performed over the past year and evaluates your knowledge. If you do have some spare time over the next few years in law school, you can try to gain experience outside of school working for a law firm. This is great not only for the experience but also for networking.
After completing a course of education (typically three years) you will be prepared to take the infamous State Bar Exam. Having chosen and researched the jurisdiction that you want to work in, each state requires a separate bar exam that allows you to practice law in that state, as an expert of that state’s laws. Typically, you take it following the summer after law school. Spending hours of studying in preparation for this exam is typical, but pass it and you are a certified lawyer, ready to take on the world.