It’s a fascinating and financially lucrative field that dips into all matters of life. Lawyers assist clients in the most personal details of their lives through estate planning and ensure you and your family’s rights are represented during official litigation.
A lawyer, also called an attorney, is both an advocate and adviser to their clients. They conduct legal matters in court, within government agencies and privately.
Becoming a lawyer takes a considerable amount of time in school, usually around seven years.
Costs of Becoming a Lawyer
The cost for a four-year degree is around $50,000 on average. Law school can run from $120,000 to more than $150,000. The field is expanding, with job growth expected to be around 8 percent through the next seven years.
The typical entry-level position requires a doctoral or professional degree. Lawyers can expect to make around $80,000 to $120,000 during their first few years practicing law. The average is based on the area of practice as well as location.
Bachelor Degree Requirements for Lawyers
Law schools typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The Juris Doctor degree is needed in order to take a state bar exam. The state bar exam is required to receive a license to practice law in a certain area.
To be admitted to a law school, a student doesn’t necessarily need a specific major such as pre-law.
Pre-law or criminal justice as a bachelor’s degree can familiarize a student with the basics of the legal system in preparation for an advanced law degree. However, a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts area such as English or philosophy can also be helpful. Any major that requires critical thinking, writing skills, logic and problem-solving skills are just as valuable as a pre-law major.
Advanced Degree Requirements for Lawyers
A Juris Doctor, or J.D., can be obtained at an accredited law school. These typically include courses such as property, tax, family and patent law.
You will need strong legal writing and debating skills and will learn how to conduct research in legal libraries and online as well as how to interpret that research and apply it to specific cases.
Bar Exam Tips
Once you have obtained a J.D. degree, you need to complete the bar exam in the state where you plan to practice. The bar exam may include a multistate essay examination as well as test your knowledge of appropriate professional conduct.
Before taking the bar exam, create a study schedule that includes both online and book study. A few ways to ensure you do well on this critical exam include the following.
- Join a study group. Working together can shore up your weaknesses and point out areas where you may be lacking. A group can also help keep you accountable to your preset study schedule.
- There are many online practice tests for the bar exam. A full-length practice bar exam after months of studying can give you a clear snapshot of how well you will do on the actual test.
Expectations of a Lawyer
The duties of a law school graduate include the following.
- An attorney spends a good amount of time interpreting rulings, new laws and regulations for clients and businesses.
- Lawyers prepare legal documents, including lawsuits, appeals, contracts, wills and deeds. They are charged with filing and protecting these documents as well.
- They present written and verbal facts to their clients for testimony. They use this factual research to argue on behalf of their clients in person.
- A lawyer represents individuals, businesses and government agencies on issues that pertain to the local, state and national law. They advise their clients on legal issues and disputes between other consumers, businesses and individuals.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.