When you become a lawyer, you become an attorney. Some lawyers are in courtrooms just about every day, and other lawyers have never seen the inside of a courtroom in their professional career. Most courtroom lawyers practice in the areas of civil law, while a minority of them practice in criminal law. Whether an individual wishes to practice in personal injury, real estate, insurance, become a career prosecutor or provide high-profile criminal defense, certain requirements must be fulfilled for purposes of professional quality control. Those have been laid out by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the various states that an attorney might practice in.
The basic requirements for admission to an ABA Law School are that applicants possess or will shortly be awarded a bachelor’s degree and have satisfactory scores on the law school admission test (LSAT). Some law schools might require a written personal statement from an applicant. Although not pivotal, letters of recommendation might be considered on the issue of admitting a candidate who is on the edge of a law school’s requirements. Unless otherwise indicated, submit two or three of them with your application.
If you want to go to law school, there is no single course of study that admissions committees prefer over others. A candidate’s grade point average and LSAT scores by far outweigh his or her major. A physical education major has as much of a chance of gaining admission to an ABA accredited law school as a political science major. Study whatever interests you that you think you’ll do well in. Law schools want a well-rounded first-year class of students.
Knowledge of the law isn’t required to sit for the LSAT. The test is standardized and only given four times per year. You’re competing on a national basis when you take it. The test consists of two parts. The first part is in a multiple-choice format that gauges reading comprehension and reasoning capabilities. The second half is written. It measures a candidate’s ability to express himself or herself in written form. Analysis, critical thinking and reasoning are important. Given the COVID-19 crisis, and until further notice, the LSAT is administered online with remote proctoring.
Always remember that there will be other candidates with undergraduate grade point averages and LSAT scores in the same neighborhood as yours. Your personal statement can distinguish you from those other individuals. Some law schools might ask you to respond to specific questions, and others might leave your personal statement open to you. Keep the fact in mind that whoever reads your personal statement is likely an admissions committee member who has read countless such statements. Separate yourself from the other candidates. Follow any guidelines that the law school gives. Write crisply and concisely with correct grammar. Quality lawyers write that way too. Don’t use quotes. This is your own original personal statement. For your own protection, run your personal statement through an online spelling and grammar checker.
A significant percentage of people who take the LSAT who had better grades than you in college aren’t going to do well on the test and will never take it again. They’ll move on to other careers. Sure, you can register to take the test, go there and take it and give it your best effort. You’re not giving yourself the best chance at your best possible score on the test though. Remember that you’re competing on a national level. Classes are available to teach you how to take the LSAT. Don’t think that you’ll be wasting time or money taking such a class. You’ll likely find it invaluable, and that class could be what puts you over the hump and into an accredited law school.
Maybe you went to college, and you graduated with a C+ grade point average because you just didn’t pay much attention to your studies. Then, you went to the school of hard knocks and bounced from one job to another, all of which you hated. That’s when you realized that becoming a lawyer was still an option. You sat for the LSAT and your scores were above satisfactory, but you’re worried about that C+ average getting in the way. There are plenty of law students just like you throughout the country. With more than 200 ABA accredited law schools in the United States, you’re likely to be admitted somewhere, but it might not be the school you want in your geographical area. It’s an ABA accredited law school though, and upon graduation, you can take the bar exam in any state, even if you intend on practicing on the other side of the country. Many excellent attorneys graduated from lesser-known law schools.
Even if you graduated from an ABA accredited law school, you still can’t hold yourself out as a lawyer. You must pass a half-day ethics exam, and you’re also required to take and pass the bar exam in the state that you wish to practice in. That consists of two days of tests. The first day is the multiple-choice Multi-State Bar Exam covering general law across the United States. The second day is a written exam consisting of questions on relevant law in the state that you’re taking the bar exam in. Classes preparing candidates for the bar exam are available. They’re strongly recommended. After passing the ethics exam and bar exam, you’re sworn in as an attorney in the state that you are now licensed in. Then, you can finally hold yourself out as an attorney.
Although law school isn’t necessarily a test of coming in first in your class, it’s definitely a test of endurance. The saying on the first day of law school of “look to your left and look to your right, and next year, one of those people won’t be here” is definitely true. Students will drop out for various reasons. Some won’t make it to the end because of their grades. In the first year, you’re taught to think like a lawyer and do the course work. In the second year, you feel like you’re being worked to the point of a near death experience. In the third year, you’re still working and learning, but you can’t wait to graduate and prepare for the bar exam. A few years after graduating, nobody is even going to care about where you went to law school or what your class rank was, but you’ll continue learning for the rest of your career. Now, you’ve become a lawyer.