As of 2021, there were more than 28,000 lawyers who are licensed to practice in Colorado, with nearly 66% of them in active practice. Their average salary was in the range of $95,000. A first-year lawyer’s salary was in the range of $75,000 while a lawyer with 10 years of experience was at a level of about $125,000. For every 1,000 people in the state, there are about 4.48 lawyers. There are several steps to becoming a lawyer in Colorado. Dedication and focus are required. Here are the requirements that must be fulfilled.
An Undergraduate Degree is Required
The American Bar Association (ABA) sets the requirements for law school admission in Colorado. The first step in that process is to obtain a undergraduate four-year bachelor’s degree from a college or university that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Your Undergraduate Major
As there’s no such thing as a pre-law major, an aspiring lawyer can select any undergraduate major course of study that he or she wants. Law schools are generally less interested in an applicant’s major than his or her grade point average and ability for critical and logical thinking and expression. An undergraduate’s major can range from art to engineering or history to teaching.
The Law School Admission Test
Every law school that is accredited by the ABA requires anybody who wants to become a lawyer to take the Law School Admission Test. If you’re still an undergraduate student, and you plan on attending law school right away after obtaining your degree, you should take the LSAT in the summer of your third year or fall of your fourth year of undergraduate studies. The exam is offered four times a year throughout the state. Anybody who takes the LSAT will be competing for a law school seat against others on a national basis. The lowest possible score on the test is 120, and the highest possible score is 180. The test has little or nothing to do with the law. It evaluates reading comprehension, verbal skills, critical thinking and analytical skills. Courses are offered throughout the state for purposes of preparing people for taking the LSAT. It’s strongly recommended that prospective law students take one of these classes.
Accredited Law Schools in Colorado
There are two accredited law schools in Colorado. Those are at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. Median LSAT scores at the University of Colorado were above 160, and at the University of Denver, they were above 157.
Attending Law School in Colorado
Law school admission candidates don’t want to limit themselves geographically. Although there are only two ABA accredited law schools in Colorado, there are more than 200 others across the United States. All ABA accredited law schools will be using the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS). With CAS, the law school application process is simplified. That’s because transcripts and anything else required by a law school that a person applies to need only be forwarded to CAS one time. Those are coupled with a candidate’s LSAT scores, and a complete report is sent by CAS to any law schools that he or she applies to. The cost for CAS is $215, and it can be paid online. Graduation from an ABA accredited law school is of the utmost importance. In order to sit for the Colorado bar exam, test takers are required to have graduated from an ABA accredited law school. Certain classes like contracts, torts or evidence are mandatory in accredited law schools. A wide variety of other elective classes are available for law students with special interests.
The Professional Responsibility Requirement
Aside from mandatory classes, Colorado requires lawyers to take or have taken a six-hour class on professional responsibility. If this class isn’t taken in law school, it must be taken within six months of admission to the state’s bar. If it’s taken after admission to the bar, those six hours count as time toward mandatory continuing legal education requirements. The Multistate Professional Responsibility Test must be taken, and before being admitted to the bar, a passing score of 85 or above is required.
Law School Externship Programs
Colorado law students are required to participate in an externship at a government or non-profit agency. They’re not permitted to extern at private law firms or corporations. This requirement is aimed at aiding in the development of legal skills, obtaining certain insights into the legal system and developing a sense of professional responsibility.
The Colorado Bar Exam
After graduating from an ABA accredited law school, prospective lawyers become eligible to take the Colorado Bar Exam. Like most states, it consists of the Multistate Essay Exam, the Multistate Performance Test and the Multistate Bar Examination. The Colorado exam is offered over two consecutive days in February and July. Here’s how it’s broken down:
- The Multistate Essay Exam: Nine short essay questions on a wide range of legal subjects are to be answered over the course of almost four hours in the morning of the first day.
- The Multistate Performance Test: Two 90-minute essay questions involving lawyer skills are to be answered over the afternoon segment on the first day.
- The Multistate Exam: 200 multiple choice questions on a wide range of legal topics are to be answered at 100 in the morning and another 100 in the afternoon over a total of six hours.
Applying to Take the Colorado Bar Exam
Applications to take the Colorado Bar Exam are made through the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. They’re submitted through its Application Management System. The cost to take the exam in 2022 was $710. The 2022 July pass rate for first-time exam takers was 70%. Applicants should take notice that a passing score of 85 or above is also required on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam before bar admission is granted. After taking the Colorado bar exam, results are sent out in about three months. You’ll be required to attend your swearing in ceremony, whereupon you’re a lawyer when you walk out. The current cost for that is $45.
Like anywhere else in the country, becoming a lawyer in Colorado is a long and strenuous process, but you’ll be able to practice law throughout Colorado in the state’s trial and appellate courts.