The legal field is often thought of as one of the most difficult to pursue, and working as a lawyer is regarded as a challenging career by many. It takes a significant amount of time and effort to start working as a lawyer, and there are several steps that you must complete along the way. Our article gives you essential details about the average time it takes to become a lawyer and what you can expect along the way as you complete this process.
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Understanding the Average Time to Become a Lawyer
When it comes to figuring out the average time to become a lawyer, many individuals will assume that it only takes three years – the average three years of law school. However, it’s important to take into account educational requirements that must be completed to be admitted to law school, law school preparation time, and post-graduation requirements, like studying for and taking the bar exam.
To become a lawyer, you must complete at least four years of undergraduate education (enough to earn a degree in any field), two to four years of law school (this number depends on whether you work full-time in law school or not), and pass the bar exam in the state where you wish to practice as a lawyer.
From start to finish, you are looking at between six and eight years of education and examinations before you are able to practice as a lawyer. Of course, many individuals may have this timeline broken up as they pursue other careers after undergraduate school, but many others will proceed directly through their undergraduate education to law school.
Your Legal Education Timeline
Graduating law school and becoming a lawyer isn’t a quick process. Below, we give you an overview of the expected legal education timeline from start to finish.
Achieving an undergraduate degree is an important first step to becoming a lawyer, as the majority of law schools require that applicants at least have a bachelor’s degree before they are eligible for acceptance. You can achieve your bachelor’s degree in any field, but many students who are interested in a legal career will pick a related undergraduate field, such as business, political science, or international relations.
Depending on your course load and other educational work, you may complete your undergraduate degree within an average of two to four years.
Law School Preparation
Law school preparation includes selecting the law schools you wish to apply to, studying for the LSAT (and likely taking an LSAT prep course), and writing your personal statements or other application materials. You will need to submit your law school application packets within a certain timeline, and this process will often take a few months to a year or so depending on how much time you need to study to achieve the LSAT score you desire.
Once you’ve been accepted into a law school, it will take you approximately three years to complete your legal education; this is the most common timeline for an individual pursuing a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. However, if you are double majoring in law and another related field, you are attending law school part-time, or you are pursuing a legal degree different from a J.D., it may take you between two and four years to complete law school.
The Bar Exam
After you graduate with your legal degree, you will need to take the bar exam and pass in the state that you wish to work in. Passing the bar exam gains you admittance to the bar association in your chosen state, and this is a requirement for all lawyers who wish to legally practice.
On average, it takes a few months to study for and take the bar exam, though you might need to retake it if your first attempt didn’t yield a high enough score.
When you’ve completed all of the above steps, you are able to work as a lawyer. Typically, you will pursue a job placement throughout your time in law school, and completing the bar exam is the last step you need to start working with a specific firm or organization. However, if you aren’t sure of where you wish to work after passing the bar exam, it might take another few months to apply for and secure placement in a legal career.
How Do I Know If a Legal Career Is Right for Me?
Legal careers aren’t for everyone, but there are fortunately many different legal careers you can pursue once you have a law degree. Most people think of lawyers as individuals who attend court or provide criminal defense, though you may also be able to work with a business in corporate law, specializing in contracts, or work in a non-profit or government field.
You’ll know if a legal career is right for you if you’ve researched the type of law you wish to pursue, the educational courses sound interesting to you, and you are aware of the rigorous education it will take to achieve your J.D. degree. If all of these things sound interesting and attainable, then you will likely be happy and fulfilled in a legal career, making it the right choice for your lifestyle.
Pursuing Your Career Goals
Working as a lawyer is often considered a challenging, but fulfilling, career field. If you’re considering a legal education and a career as a lawyer, it’s important to know how many years it takes to become a lawyer and the steps you will need to complete to reach these goals. Reference our guide for more information on your legal education timeline and get to work pursuing your career goals.