Lawyers represent their clients in the legal system. With criminal justice, the lawyer may prosecute or defend a client in court. In the meantime, civil cases can range from property disputes to class action settlements.
Whatever type of lawyer someone is, there are a few degree requirements that they must meet before applying for their license. Becoming a lawyer causes a lot of hard work and a lengthy education that takes several years to complete.
There are several areas of law that you can study, and the niche you choose will also influence how long it takes to become a lawyer. Understanding how to pursue a career in law can help you plan your path and shorten the time to get there.
In this article, we discuss what a lawyer does, answer the question, “How many years does it take to become a lawyer,” outline the steps to take to pursue this career path, and provide answers to frequently asked questions for those considering the role.
What Does A Lawyer Do?
Lawyers advise businesses and individuals on legal issues and represent them in legal proceedings such as hearings, depositions, and trials. Lawyers can specialize in a variety of areas such as real estate, criminal defense, criminal prosecution, medical malpractice, personal injury, and political law.
They handle a variety of other tasks, regardless of their area of expertise, such as
- Divorce agreements and business contracts, for example, require the creation, review, and interpretation of legal documents.
- Investigating current laws and legal precedents from previous cases
- Collaboration with other legal professionals such as judges, mediators, court reporters, and paralegals
- Negotiating resolutions
- Communicating with clients, investigators, cops, and legal adversaries
What Does it Take to be a Lawyer?
To practice law, lawyers must complete extensive education, practical training, and testing. If you’re thinking about becoming a lawyer, start by researching the typical job responsibilities of a lawyer and deciding whether the profession is right for you.
The fundamental steps to how many years in college to be a lawyer
#1. Attending University
A university degree or at least three years of undergraduate study is required for admission to law schools. The programs accept people with a wide range of degrees or fields of study, so you can major in whatever field you want.
Criminal justice, economics, English, philosophy, business, sociology, and political science are some of the most common undergraduate majors for lawyers. Regardless of your major, try to take some courses related to the area of law you want to practice.
For example, if you want to work in corporate law, some business or management classes might be useful. Your undergraduate education can provide you with a broad knowledge base on a variety of topics.
Before beginning law school, you can also pursue your interests and improve your reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing skills. Many people obtain an additional diploma in order to improve their chances of admission to law schools.
#2. Taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The LSAT comprises five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions on critical thinking, reading comprehension, and argumentation. There is also a sixth written section you can complete and submit online from the comfort of your own home.
This exam is required by almost all Canadian law schools, as well as many other institutions around the world. The test is given by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). It is a non-profit organization based in the United States with members from all over the world. LSAC provides a free test preparation program, or you can seek help from another professional.
There are several testing dates available throughout the year, so you can take the exam whenever you’re ready. Scores range from 120 to 180, and you can take it as many times as you want. Some law schools, however, may take an average of all scores or use the lowest score you receive instead of the highest.
#3. Applying to Law School
After receiving your LSAT results, you can begin applying to law schools. It’s a good idea to apply to several schools so that you have a variety of options.
For each application, most law schools require official transcripts, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and LSAT scores. The requirements for students applying to national and international law schools differ slightly:
National Law Schools
Additional information about your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and relevant jobs or internships may also be required. Law schools in Ontario only accept online applications via the Ontario Universities Application Centre. Law schools have their own set of rules based on their unique requirements and provincial requirements.
There are 24 law schools in Canada, and they can grant degrees in both legal systems. In Quebec, French common law predominates, while English common law is used in the other provinces.
If you want to practice law in Quebec, all you have to do is apply to law schools in Quebec. The other provinces have agreements that allow lawyers who studied in a province where English common law is prevalent to practice in any other province where the same is true.
International Law School
If you attend a foreign law school, you must get permission to practice law in the country from the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA).
The NCA decides what additional courses you need to become familiar with Canadian law after you submit your qualifications and experience. You may also be required to pass one or more exams. The NCA will issue you a Certificate of Qualification once you have qualified.
#4. Earning a Law Degree
To qualify for bar membership, you must complete a Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B.) or Juris Doctor (J.D.) program after selecting a law school and being admitted. Most law schools offer a J.D. degree, but the subjects are similar.
They are all equally valid across the country, and they each take about three years to complete. Students frequently take part in client counseling and trial advocacy competitions, as well as volunteer at nonprofit organizations and legal clinics, and attend clubs and social events.
People usually complete more general studies in many areas of law for the first two years before deciding on their area of expertise. People have taken more electives, begun focusing on a specialty, and worked on niche research papers in the last year. Here are some of the topics you can expect to learn about as you pursue your law degree:
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law
- Courtroom procedures
- Civil law
- International law
- Property and real estate law
- Contract law
- Legal research
- Legal writing
#5. Passing the Bar Exam and Becoming a Lawyer
Each province has its own bar exam, which you must pass if you want to practice there. Many provinces also offer a training course on the topics covered on the bar exam or allow you to use reference materials.
Before you can take the bar exam, you must first complete some practical training as an intern. These internships, also known as articling, entail working for nine to twelve months under the supervision of a licensed lawyer approved by the province’s law society.
After passing the bar, you must usually pay a membership fee and answer questions about your character in order to become an official lawyer. You must also appear in court and take an oath in many provinces.
Becoming an expert with natural oils takes a lot of training. Reading this article will help widen your horizon.
What Kind of Bachelor’s Degree Should Students Get?
Technically, students with any bachelor’s degree can enter law school. While there is no required major, students who take courses in public speaking, history, mathematics, English, government, and economics will find it easier to get into law school.
Some schools offer a pre-law program to help students prepare for law school after they finish their bachelor’s degrees. Criminal justice is also a popular career path for students preparing for law school.
Students should select a major that corresponds to their long-term goals. If the undergraduate college does not have a pre-law program, students should take courses that meet the admission requirements of the law school. Students can benefit from majors such as philosophy, English, and economics.
While philosophy prepares students to think critically, English degrees prepare students to write and read analytically. Students with a degree in economics can better understand the business side of running a law firm.
How Much Schooling Does it Take to be a Lawyer?
To become a lawyer, aspirants must go through a series of steps. Lawyers typically require seven years of a college education. After high school, students who are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree must complete four years of study.
They must then complete law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, which requires three more years of study. Before practicing law, law school graduates must pass their state’s bar exam and get licensure.
Undergraduate Degree Length and Law School Admission
To enter law school, aspirants must first get a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years. There is no required field for this bachelor’s degree, but the following are natural prerequisites for law school:
- Political Science
Admission to law school is highly competitive. Strong undergraduate GPAs are frequently preferred, and while a specific degree field is not required, prior work in English, speech, and history may help students succeed in law school.
Law school admissions committees may also consider the difficulty of the undergraduate degree field. Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores, letters of recommendation, work experience, leadership experience, and writing skills are all important considerations for applicants.
What is the Salary and Job Outlook of Lawyers?
In May 2018, the median salary for lawyers was $120,910 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lawyers in the top ten percent earned $208,000 or more per year, while those in the bottom ten percent earned $58,220 or less.
According to the BLS, employment opportunities for lawyers will increase by about 6% between 2018 and 2028. This rate is slightly higher than the national average for all occupations.
While law firms will continue to provide the most job opportunities, a trend toward in-house legal representation means that many large businesses will begin hiring more lawyers as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What factors should I consider when deciding which law school to attend?
Choosing a law school is a significant decision that can have long-term consequences for your career. Consider your location, your lifestyle, and the reputation of the law school. Speak with current and former students about their experiences, and look at the courses the school offers if possible.
Can I work while attending law school?
Because law school is so demanding, most students do not work while enrolled. They will devote more time to studying. However, during the summer, when classes are not in session, many people work in law offices or other jobs. If you choose to work while attending law school, consider attending part-time for greater flexibility. It takes longer to complete the certification, but it improves your ability to prioritize your various goals.
Are there any other certifications available?
There are several certifications available in specific areas of law, and you can use them to help your resume stand out after you become a lawyer. They usually have an application fee and an exam, and some of them require a certain number of courtroom hours or cases in the specialty. The additional certifications that can benefit you most depend on your area of expertise and where you live across the country.
Can I work in the legal field if I don’t have a law license?
Without a license to practice law, you cannot provide legal advice, represent clients in court, or handle a variety of other legal matters. However, many tasks that were previously performed by lawyers are now performed by legal assistants who are supervised by lawyers.
Working as a lawyer entails assisting individuals or businesses in resolving legal issues, understanding regulatory issues, and making business or personal decisions.
A lawyer may assist in the drafting of a will, the collection of overdue bills, the advice of a divorce, the answering of questions about new federal broadcast regulations, the defense of a person accused of a crime, the help of a corporate executive in researching tax law and international trade, and much more. The time spent in school to become a lawyer is completely worth it.