Law Degree Requirements

Find your next area of study: Law Degree Requirements

Law school is a serious commitment. In most states, law degree requirements are fairly steep. Professionals should be prepared for several years of intense study and a thorough examination before beginning their career. For professionals who succeed, law is one of the few occupations that allow people of all ages to succeed. From newly graduated professionals to elderly judges, legal professionals can continue working for as long as they’re able to.

A law degree can be used for several occupations. These can include:

  • Judge
  • Jury consultant
  • Lawyer
  • Prosecutor

Most professionals pursuing their law degree become lawyers. As of 2008, there were roughly 750,000 licensed lawyers practicing in the United States. After practicing as a lawyer for a period of time, some may move into other occupations such as judge and prosecutor. Some successful lawyers may run for political office.

Although law degree requirements may vary somewhat by state, becoming a lawyer typically takes professionals about 7 years. This is broken down into 4 years of undergraduate study and then another 3 years in law school. An examination must be taken at the conclusion of law school before a lawyer may begin practicing.

There is no recommended undergraduate major to take before entering law school. Some universities may offer a pre-law major which may make the transition into their law program easier. Courses that students may want to take before law school include:

  • English
  • Foreign language
  • Government
  • Philosophy
  • Public speaking

Students should use their undergraduate time to polish their speaking skills and time management. Public speaking will be especially important for lawyers who want to work mostly in trials. Because of the coursework and study requirements during law school, students will need to manage their time effectively. Additionally students will need to work on strict deadlines set by courts after graduation. Time management will be highly important to ensure that lawyers meet courtroom demands without penalties.

Prospective law students should look for law schools with accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). Most top tier law schools will require prospective students to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Some law schools may also interview prospective students. Openings are highly sought after at most law schools and there may be a lengthy waiting list.

After graduation, a lawyer will need to pass a bar examination in order to practice. To take a bar examination, an applicant must have graduated from a college or university with ABA accreditation. Most states use the national Multistate Bar Exam as a part of their individual state bar examinations. Some states may include an additional essay examination to complement the bar examination. Nearly all states require that lawyers pass a separate examination on ethics.