Steps to Becoming a Lawyer in Iowa

There are attorneys that never leave their courthouses. Then, there are those who come and leave. On top of working as criminal or trial attorneys, there are those who live the life of a family or civil attorney. Some even do a little bit of everything. Lawyers in Des Moines earn an average of $!20,000 per year. Some Make more and some make less. Lawyering has many intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. You can read about them below.

Getting a College Education

Iowa Court Rules Chapter 31 states that you must have a Juris Doctor degree in order to take the Iowa bar exam. That degree must be accredited too. Before a Juris Doctor comes a bachelor’s degree. So according to the American Bar Association, it’s typically four years of college and three years of law school to become a lawyer. Then, there’s the bar exam.

The Accreditation Issue

The ABA has ruled that you must obtain your bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Nearly all of them are listed on the U.S. Department of Education’s database. Accordingly, if your school appears on this database, it should be accepted.


The ABA doesn’t require that a pre-law student major in a pre-law program. In fact, nearly all schools don’t have a pre-law program. Any major from accounting to social sciences will do. If you’d like to subject yourself to the closest thing to pre-law class, look for the following:

  • Political Science.
  • Human behavior.

Classes like the above are going to benefit you anyway. So long as you have your degree in any field of study with a passing Law School Admission Test score, you’ll be admitted somewhere.


To get into any ABA accredited law school, a prerequisite of that is to perform well on the Law School Admission Test. The test is six hours long, and it really has little or nothing to do with the practice of law. It deals with the following five sections:

  • Logical Reasoning: This section gives you arguments and you must either defend them or deny them.
  • Analytical Reasoning: Also called “logic games,” this section calls on you to find reasoning and structure out of organized information.
  • Reading Comprehension: Reading long passages, identifying details and ideas are keys to this.
  • Experimental Section: You won’t be scored on this, but you won’t know if it is scored or not. Just try to do your very best.
  • Writing Sample: This is 30-minutes long. Write one position while criticizing another. This part isn’t graded either, but it’s sent to the schools you apply to.

Click here for more LSAT resources.

Receiving Your Score

You’ll receive your score about three or four weeks after the LSAT. The lowest possible score is 120, while the highest possible score is a 180. The average score at University of Iowa was 161. Some were below that and some were above. The average at Drake University was 158.


You’re required to also register online with these people. The Law School Admissions Committee costs $195 plus $45 per school that you apply to. The LSAC will assemble copies of all college transcripts, letters of recommendation and the like and forward them to the school if your choice. There’s a $135 charge for three schools. Any charges after that are $45 each.

Accredited Law Schools

The next step if applying to law schools. The ABA has more than 200 of them. As there are only two accredited law schools in Iowa, many people can attend law school elsewhere. Since the bar exam has a wide variety of subjects, you can count on an ABA accredited law school to ready you well for it. Don’t limit yourself geographically. Each school has varying requirement on admission.

The Application Process

Complete the application along with the non-law enforcement records check. Enclose the application fee of $550 and enclose a fingerprint card. Enclose the Dean’s affidavit from the Dean of your undergraduate school. Then sign and notarize all forms. Mail all documentation to the place requested.

The Bar Exam

You now have your Juris Doctor degree in hand, so now it’s time to take the bar exam. You can even take it so long as you’re 45 days short of your degree. Iowa administers the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). It consists of the Multistate Essay Exam, the Multistate Bar Exam and the Multistate Performance Test. The MEE is six essay questions over three hours that might cover anything from business associations to criminal law and procedure to real property. The MPT covers two more essay questions over three hours with a file and a library. You must write a memo. The MBE is two three-hour sessions of 100 essay questions each.


In addition to the above requirements, test takers are required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Test no later than April 1, before the July bar exam and no later than November 1, of the bar exam. A scaled score of 80 is passing.

The Pass Rate

The pass rate appears to be going down in Iowa. In 2017, it was 86%. The 2022, pass rate for Iowa test takers was 67%. There is no indication whether this number included first and second or even third time takes though.

If a passing exam was performed, you’ll receive further instructions on when you will be sworn in. Once you’ve become a member of the bar, you’ll have one day after the last exam that you passed to take eight hours of instruction time in at least eight instructional areas. The good news is though that you’re a lawyer now!