There are about 50,000 lawyers in Pennsylvania in law firms, corporations and various entities of the government. At the bottom end, the average earnings are about $62,000 per year, but even at the middle of the pay scale the salary is at $121,000 per year. Those working in the Philadelphia community earn even more. Law students generally did well on the Pennsylvania bar exam with 84% passing from Drexel University, and 98.5% passing from the University of Pennsylvania. More than 91.3 passed from the University of Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania bar exam is no cake walk either. If you want to become a lawyer in Pennsylvania, follow the steps that are outlined below. You’ll do just fine.
Getting Your Pre-Law Major Out of the Way
You’re required to first get your bachelor’s degree out of the way. Any undergraduate or graduate degree will suffice, so long as it is from a school that’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The American Bar Association (ABA) requires this as a condition precedent to admission to an accredited law school. As there is no such thing as a pre-law degree, it’s recommended that the following courses be taken: History, literature, political science, business, sociology and communications. As per your major, law school admission committees have no preference either. It could be anything from business to tax or theater to chemistry. They’re looking for people who genuinely enjoy their major. If you do well in your major, you’re likely to do well in law school too.
Taking the LSAT
After they have their bachelor’s degree out of the way, law school candidates will sit for the Law School Admission Test. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour exam that’s required for admission to any accredited law school by the ABA. You’re cautioned not to go into the LSAT cold though. You must be ready for the types of questions that will be asked of you. There are commercial test prep companies out there that specifically prepare you for this exam. Do yourself a big favor by taking a test prep class. It teaches you how to take the LSAT. It could mean the difference between teaching school for the rest of your adult life and becoming a lawyer. You’ll be required to be tested on the following areas:
- Analytical Reasoning: You’ll read a passage and be called upon to infer or deduce a conclusion that is based on it.
- Logical Reasoning: You’re going to read a short passage. and then choose an answer that best suits that passage.
- Reading Comprehension: You’ll be given passages of 600 or so words each. Its up to you to deduce what’s relevant, irrelevant and why.
- Writing Sample: You’ll have 35 minutes to provide a writing sample on a selected subject provided.
- Experimental Section: You won’t be told which section is experimental from the above three areas. It won’t be scored, but you must do well on it anyway in case it is.
Applying for the LSAT
You get your application for the LSAT online from the Law School Admissions Council. It costs $215 to take the exam. You can register by credit or debit card. About three weeks after the test, you’ll receive your results. A low would be 120 and a high would be 180. If for any reason you wish to cancel your score, you can do so, but you must notify the Law School Admissions Council with six days. Don’t worry about spreading yourself too thin. There are nine accredited law schools in Pennsylvania and about another 195 across the country. Graduating from any of them will permit you to sit for the bar exam in Pennsylvania.
The Credential Assembly Service
Now that you’ve successfully passed the LSAT, the next step is the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). Use of the CAS is mandatory. It will gather your transcripts, letters of recommendation, evaluations, writing sample and LSAT scores and send them to the law schools that you applied to. The cost of this is $195 plus $45 for each law school that you’ve applied to. It’s a valuable and necessary service.
Classes and Internship
The following classes might be tested on the Pennsylvania bar exam. They should be taken during your law school years: State and federal civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, business organizations, contracts, will and trusts, evidence, professional responsibility, tax, real property, employment discrimination and Uniform Commercial Code. There may be others, and it’s your responsibility to note them. An internship might also be included. These are positions of considerable responsibility, and you’re graded on your contributions too. Be sure to respond accordingly.
Taking the Pennsylvania Bar Exam
The Pennsylvania Bar exam lasts for two days. Here’s the content that it covers. On the first day, you’ll perform the Multistate Performance Test to determine whether you are competent to practice law. This consists of one question. In the afternoon session, you’ll be given six essay questions on a wide range of subjects. On the second day, you’ll be given the Multistate Bar Exam consisting of 200 multiple choice questions. There will be 100 in the morning session and another 100 in the afternoon.
Your Application Fee
Assuming you pay on time the fee is $650 to take the bar exam. There are three different late fees. If you wish to take the July exam, the fee must be received by April 15. If you wish to take the February exam, the fee must be paid by October 30. Take notice that a determination must be make on your character and fitness to hold the office of an attorney in Pennsylvania.
Admission to the Bar
Pennsylvania is different from other states where if you passed the bar exam, you’re sworn in shortly thereafter. After passing the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, you’re given a Certificate Recommending Admission to the Bar. You then have six months to provide an Application for Admission to the Bar. If you fail to file a petition for admission within three years of receiving your certificate, you must take the bar exam over again.
After passing the bar exam, you’ll also be sworn in. Either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia will be the locations. After that, you’re a lawyer. Congratulations! You’re now eligible to practice in any state court in the Commonwealth.