Steps to Becoming a Lawyer in South Dakota

Eastern South Dakota is where most of the state’s population is located. West of the Missouri River, the land is used for its fertile soil and ranching. The Missouri River is also the longest river in the state. In the 2021 census, the states population was just under 840,000. Agriculture is a big part of the economy of the state as is the service industry and tourism. Sioux Falls is the population center of the state with a metropolitan population of about 282,000. South Dakota started the Recruitment Assistance Pilot Program, based on the fact that lawyers in less populated areas of the state were necessary. Other bar associations also provide assistance to low-income clients. If you’d like to become a lawyer in South Dakota, here’s what you need to do.

Get that Bachelor’s Degree

A law school that’s accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) requires your undergraduate degree to come from a school that’s valid and accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. There are at least 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States that are so accredited. It doesn’t really matter what your degree is in either. Classes in political science, history, sociology or communication might help though in getting into and staying in law school. On that basis, your bachelor’s degree can be whatever you care for. That’s because there’s no such thing as a pre-law degree. Any degree that you’re comfortable with and challenged by is sufficient. If you’re challenged and still get good grades, just about any law school will want you.


LSAT is an abbreviation for the Law School Admission Test, and it’s the next step to becoming a lawyer. ABA accredited law schools across the country require you to take this test. It’s a nationwide exam, so that means you’re competing nationally for a seat in a law school with thousands of other students. That should tell you that you’ll want to take a preparation class for this test. It could literally add ten points or more onto your score, and get you into the law schools that you wanted. Take one, and you won’t regret it. The LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections. It’s given on Saturdays and Mondays in November, January, March and June.  Four of the sections will count toward your LSAT scores. Those are the Reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning and written portion of the exam. There will also be an experimental section, but you won’t be told which one. That’s why it’s important for you to do the best job possible on the exam.

Your LSAT Score

You’ll receive your score about three weeks after the exam. The lowest you can score is 120, and the highest is 180. South Dakota has only one single ABA accredited law school in it. That’s South Dakota State University. The most recent test averaged out at 150. Remember that South Dakota State only take a select number of students. If your grades are good and your test scores are also good, there are more than 200 accredited law schools that you can attend. You can still go to South Dakota to the bar exam. Go to the Law School Admission Council website. You’ll be able to set up your LSAT test there. The fee is $215, and it can be paid online with a credit or debit card.

The Credential Assembly Service

The next step in becoming a lawyer in South Dakota is to establish an account with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This step is mandatory. This service allows for the retrieval of all necessary transcripts, letters of recommendation, evaluations, writing samples and LSAT scores to the law schools that you wish to apply to. The cost for this is $215 and $45 per school. You’ll find it to be a valuable service that will save you hours of time.

Applying to Law School

If you’ve gone as far as the Credential Assembly Service, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be admitted to an ABA accredited law school. Don’t limit yourself geographically though. Remember, that theirs is only one ABA accredited law school in South Dakota. All accredited law schools are going to put you through the wringer. Classes that you must take include, but aren’t limited to, contracts, torts, civil procedure, criminal law, Uniform Commercial Code, property, fundamentals of legal skills and research and writing, evidence and constitutional law. You’ll also be required to take an internship wherein you’ll be putting what you’ve learned into real life situations with real clients. You’ll be graded on this, so be sure to give it your best effort.

Taking the South Dakota Bar Exam

In taking the South Dakota bar exam, the first thing that you’ll do is to prepare. There are commercial preparation agencies out there. Find out which ones your classmates are going to and take that one too. It’s unlikely that you’ll pass the bar without one. South Dakota administers the Uniform Bar Examination. On the first day, you’ll be answering the Multistate Performance Test over three hours. It will consist of six 30-minute issue spotting questions along with an Indian law question. Then, the Multistate Performance Exam consisting of two essay questions will be given in the afternoon. You’ll be given real-world tasks that attorneys might need to resolve. Day two will consist of 200 multiple choice questions on the Multistate Bar exam. There will be 100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon. Don’t forget about the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam either. It must be passed with a scaled score of 75 or above. You can take the MPRE while you’re still in law school.

There is a $450 charge for taking the bar. Pay particular attention to your admission requirements. The passing rate for first-time test takers in spring of 2022 was 81%. Assuming that you also pass, you’ll be notified of the forthcoming bar admission ceremonies. Then, it’s congratulations! You’re a lawyer now. You can practice in the state courts of South Dakota without restriction.