What Degree Do I Need To Be A Lawyer?
Lawyers play a very vital role in ensuring that individuals, businesses and government agencies are represented in the country’s legal system. Preparing legal documents like wills, contracts, deeds and appeals, researching and analyzing legal policies as well as representing a client in court need a lot of preparation which students can get in law school.
To become a lawyer in most states, you will need to obtain a juris doctor (JD) degree from a law school which is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). This usually takes three years of fulltime study to complete. In the first year, the program focuses on general law courses such as procedures, contracts, torts, criminal law and lawyering, among others. In the second and third years, students can choose their field of specialization. If you want to work with large businesses, for example, you can specialize in corporate law and choose courses related to this field of specialization. You can also opt to focus on criminal law, environmental law, international law and intellectual property and technology law which are considered as the fast-growing specialties to date.
It’s important to understand that the road towards law school does not immediately begin with a three-year juris doctor degree. Before you can even qualify for law school, you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree. There are no specific undergraduate degree courses to be taken to qualify for law school but political science, English, communications and economics are good preparatory courses for legal studies. There are also colleges offering pre-law courses that already have the desired programs in their curriculum that are meant to prepare students for the more rigorous training that they will undergo in formal law school.
In addition to completing your undergraduate degree, another requirement to be accepted into a juris doctor degree program is a good score in the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This is an exam that measures a student’s aptitude to go into law school. The LSATs are usually taken before the application deadline for law school comes around. Many law schools these days ask applicants to take the LSATs in December if they way to enter law school in the fall.
Successfully hurdling the requirements of law school and receiving your juris doctor degree, however, won’t be enough for you to practice as a lawyer. You will still need to be admitted to the bar or in more common language, get your license, before you can call yourself a full-fledged lawyer. In many states, the requirements for licensure or admission to the bar include getting a law degree from an ABA-accredited school, passing bar exams and having the character and integrity to give law advice and represent clients as attested to by the admitting body. Lawyers are also required to stay updated on the new developments in the legal profession through continuing education programs which they will need to take to keep their license. These legal education courses need to be taken every year or every three years depending on the particular state’s requirements.