Is your career goal to become a lawyer?
If yes, you’ve made a smart choice. There are over 1.3 million active lawyers in the United States and they all play an important role in society.
What’s more, the law is a prestigious career. Well, it might no longer have the glitz and glamor it had decades ago, but it’s still one of the most rewarding careers.
But then, how long does it take to become a lawyer?
This is probably one of the tops questions ringing through your mind, especially if you’re not so keen on spending almost a decade in higher education learning institutions, much like doctors do.
To get an answer to your question, keep reading!
How Long Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?
If you’re looking for a quick answer, we’ve got you. It takes at least 7 years to become a lawyer. We say at least because in addition to the professional education you’ll need to obtain, you must also obtain a license to practice in your state. This involves taking a bar exam, which will take more time, usually a couple of months.
Your question is effectively answered, but don’t you want to know how those seven years come to be? You certainly do. Read on!
First Step: 4 Years in Undergraduate School
In some countries, it’s possible to pursue a law degree as your first degree (soon after finishing high school). In the United States, this is not possible.
The first step to becoming a lawyer is to go to undergraduate school and pursue a bachelor’s degree. Now, there’s no specific requirement as to the field of study, but it’s highly recommendable to pursue a bachelor’s in an area that’s related to law. They include criminal justice, public administration, history, political science, psychology, or economics.
That being said, it’s also important to consider the type of lawyer you’d like to become in the future. This can inform your choice of the first degree.
For example, let’s say you want to become a patent lawyer. In this case, you might want to stay away from any of the fields described above. You’ll want to get started with a degree in a scientific or technical field.
Or, let’s say you want to become a medical malpractice lawyer. Here, you’ll do yourself a big favor if you pursue a bachelor’s degree in the life sciences. In fact, the vast majority of medical malpractice lawyers are typically medical doctors who decided to become lawyers.
Now, a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete. However, it’s possible to complete a bachelor’s program in three years. An increasing number of colleges and universities are offering programs that take only three years to complete.
So, if you want to take the shortest time possible to become a lawyer, find a bachelor’s degree program that takes three years.
Second Step: 3 Years in Law School
After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step is to join law school and pursue a law degree, formally known as a Juris Doctor (JD).
Not so first, though.
Not everyone who wants to go to law school ends up in law school. Prospective law students must take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). You must register for your LSAT, and there are deadlines.
This means if you miss the deadline, you’ll only be able to register when the body opens up applications again. This will only increase the amount of time it will take you to join law school and continue your journey to becoming a lawyer.
Also, if you fail your LSAT attempt, you’ll need to retake it again. This increases the overall timeframe.
Now, you have passed your LSAT and secured admission to the law school of your choice.
In the first year of study, you’ll get familiar with common areas of law, but in the second and third years, you’ll have the opportunity to specialize in a certain area of law – unless you want to become a general practice lawyer.
For instance, you could specialize in personal injury law, where you’ll help people involved in a crash get compensated adequately. Or, you could specialize in business law and become a corporate attorney once you graduate.
Step 3: Getting a Licensed (A few Months)
The last step to becoming a lawyer is to obtain a license from the Bar in your state. There are different ways to be admitted to the Bar, depending on your state.
The most common way is to set a bar exam after you’ve applied for admission to the Bar. It’s also possible to be admitted without an examination through reciprocity.
Earning a Bar admission isn’t a lengthy process, but timelines vary from state to state.
Is it possible to fail a bar exam? Yes. In fact, it’s not uncommon to fail a bar exam at the first attempt. Unfortunately, failing will only lengthen the time it takes you to secure your license and start practicing.
Nonetheless, the Bar is the home stretch. The longer part of the journey is already behind you.
Start Your 7-Year Journey to Becoming a Lawyer
How long does it take to become a lawyer? 7 years.
You need 4 years in undergraduate school and 3 years in law school. Assuming you don’t defer your studies or fail anywhere along the journey, you should have your law license after 7 years.
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All the best and keep reading our blog for more career tips and insights.