How To Become a Lawyer on Your Timeline

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 23, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a lawyer requires an extensive education that can take several years to complete. However, understanding the steps you need to pursue a career in law can help you become a lawyer on schedule. When planning to become a lawyer, you can set a timeline for gaining experience and completing your education based on your specific career goals.

In this article, we will explain the process of becoming a lawyer and answer some common questions about practicing law.

What does a lawyer do?

A lawyer provides legal advice to clients, represents them in legal proceedings and creates legal documents. They regularly interpret the law based on the specific situations of their clients. Lawyers also do regular research into current laws and common legal issues. Lawyers can specialize in many areas, including personal injury, immigration, criminal law and business law.

Read more: Learn About Being a Lawyer

How long does it take to become a lawyer?

It usually takes seven years to become a lawyer, including four years of undergraduate study and three years of law school. However, many people choose to get a job in the legal field before applying to law school in order to strengthen their application. Working as a paralegal or legal secretary can provide valuable experience but will also extend your timeline of becoming a lawyer. You can decrease the amount of time it takes to become a lawyer by taking exams to earn credits during your undergraduate studies, allowing you to graduate early.

Related: 4 Professions Similar To a Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Average salary

Most lawyers work full time as an employee of a law office or a business's legal department. Salaries for lawyers can be influenced by many factors, including education, experience, location and specialization. Many lawyers work overtime in order to provide the best services to their clients, which can increase pay. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link below:

  • National average salary: $75,141 per year

How to become a lawyer

Becoming a lawyer takes several years of planning and commitment. If you are thinking about pursuing a career as a lawyer, you should begin by researching their job responsibilities and considering if they fit your skills and interested. The following list explains the main steps involved in becoming a lawyer:

1. Earn an undergraduate degree

Law schools require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in order to be considered for admission. While a lawyer's undergraduate degree can be in any subject, majors related to law such as Political Science, Criminal Justice, English and Sociology are common among law students.

Various law schools may also require that you take certain courses before applying. You should work to earn a high GPA and become involved in extracurricular in order to have the strongest application for law school.

2. Take the LSAT

Taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a key part of applying to law schools. The LSAT is a standardized test that helps law schools determine how successful an applicant might be in their program.

Although your LSAT scores are not the only important part of your application, it is important to begin studying and preparing far in advance of your test. High LSAT scores can help law schools identify top applicants.

3. Complete law school

Most states require people to graduate from an accredited law program in order to become a lawyer. Law students who attend school full-time can expect to complete their program in three years. Some people go to law school part-time, but this option will increase the timeline for you to begin practicing law.

Law school will help develop your critical thinking skills and knowledge of the law and introduce you to some common scenarios you might experience as a lawyer.

4. Pass the bar exam

After graduating from law school, you will need to pass the bar exam and be admitted to your state's bar. The bar exam determines if you have all the knowledge and skills to practice law. This usually involves several months of studying for the test, then a character examination and an extensive background check.

5. Apply for jobs

Once you have passed the bar exam and are certified to practice law, you should focus on applying for jobs at law firms or offices. Lawyers can work with the government, private practices, non-profits and many other organizations.

Consider the type of law you would like to practice and what environment you would like to work in. You might apply to a wide variety of positions after graduating in order to decide what parts of being a lawyer you enjoy the most.

Related: Attorney Resume Samples

FAQs about law school

Applying to law school can be a confusing process, but there are many resources available to help you understand each step. Most admissions offices at law schools will be available to provide detailed information about their school and may also be able to help you with general questions about being a lawyer. Here are some frequently asked questions about law school:

Can I retake the LSAT?

You can take the LSAT up to three times over the course of two years, and your scores are valid for five years. Be aware that some law schools will accept your highest score, while others may use the average of all of your scores.

How much does law school cost?

Law school can be extremely expensive, with many schools charging tens of thousands of dollars each year. Private schools are generally more expensive than in-state public schools. Applying for law school can often cost several hundred dollars for each school. When applying, research the various scholarships that you might qualify for.

How should I choose which law school to attend?

Selecting a law school should be a personal decision based on your goals and ideal lifestyle. If possible, ask current law students and alumni at each school about their experiences. Consider the law school's reputation as well as the type of courses they offer.

Can I have a job while attending law school?

Most law programs suggest not having a job during law school because the coursework is very demanding. In order to get the most out of your law education, you should devote as much time as possible to your studies. However, many law students do pursue legal work over the summer in order to build their resume. Students who attend law school part-time will also have more flexibility to work while in school.

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