A career in law is not for the faint hearted. With 7 years of grueling studying, followed by the pressure of passing the Bar in your chosen state, and on top of all that, the long hours and challenging cases you will have to face, a career as an attorney should not be taken lightly.
If however, you are set on following a career path in law, then you need to learn the route to this career path. It is not easy, by no means cheap, and much more strenuous than other degrees such as Literature, Art or History, but, the rewards make it all worthwhile!
Before I explain how to become an attorney, I will give a quick insight into the benefits and disadvantages to following a career path in law.
- Excellent pay, rising with experience and reputation
- Solid career progression prospects
- Option to set up your own legal partnership
- Respected profession
- Long hours
- Often work weekends
- Student debt
- Job dissatisfaction
- Competitive market
- Pressures from clients
If, after reading the above, you still want to become an attorney, read on…
How to become an attorney
Obtain a bachelor’s degree: This is a 4 year degree in any subject (students are not required to major in pre-law), in which you must obtain a high score. Choosing a difficult subject may therefore go against you if it results in a lower grade. You need to bear in mind that ABA-accredited (American Bar Association) law schools usually have a minimum entry level GPA that undergraduates need to have to gain entry so pick your BA degree carefully.
Apply to law school: This choice will ultimately influence your career path and opportunities upon graduation, so don’t rush this decision. Before you can attend your chosen law school however, you will first need to sit the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Prepare for the LSAT: Although the LSATs are done 4 times a year, it is advised to take the test in the spring before admission to law school the following fall. This is because if you do happen to score badly, you can always retake the test in December. The LSAT is a half day standardized exam based on reading and analytical comprehension.
Graduate law school and sit the bar: The first thing you need to remember is that graduating with a low score (even if you pass the bar) can often hinder your chances of becoming a successful attorney, so be sure to study hard. The bar must be sat in your chosen state; the state in which you will practice law. The bar test is a 2 day exam consisting of multiple choice and essay questions to test your knowledge about state law. If you don’t pass the bar, you can take it again, but what you do need to be aware of, is that it is very expensive to take.
Depending on the state you take the bar in, you may also be required to take an ethics exam which tests your knowledge of the codes of professional responsibility and judicial conduct.
Choose the type of attorney you want to be
You need to know the area of law you want to work in, and the sooner you realise the better! Here are some of the most popular areas of law:
- Family Attorney
- Criminal Defense Attorney
- Real Estate Attorney
- Corporate Attorney
- Copyright Attorney
- Intellectual Property Right Attorney
- Tax Attorney
- Environment Attorney
- General Practice Attorney
- Insurance Attorney
- Personal Injury Attorney
What to expect as an Attorney
The average annual wage of attorneys according to figures (May 2010) is $112,760, although many corporate attorneys can make significantly more (and some, significantly less).
Long hours, hard work and pressure from clients can be hard to take, but with the right attitude and passion for the legal profession, you can experience great job satisfaction, wealth, and career progression.