To practice law, one needs to be admitted to their state bar by passing a written examination. Most states require aspiring lawyers to earn a juris doctorate (JD) degree from a law school before they are eligible to take the bar examination.
To be admitted to law school, a student needs a bachelor degree from university and a strong GPA and LSAT score, among other requirements. While many undergraduate institutions offer pre-law degrees, law schools do not require them for admission. Most schools look for students with broad liberal arts backgrounds.
Full-time law programs typically last three years, though many schools offer part-time law programs. After completing the JD program, students may elect to purse a LL.M, or a Master of Laws, degree for specialization, or the Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) for research opportunities.
After graduating from the JD program, students can take the bar examination in their state, though seven states (California, Maine, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming) accept study in a law office in lieu of a law degree as a prerequisite for taking the bar. All states except for Louisiana and Washington use the six-hour Multistate Bar Examination. Law graduates are also required to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam that tests knowledge of professional responsibility and judicial conduct. Some states permit this exam to be taken in school. Essays and other exam components are used in many states as well.
Continuing education is also very important for lawyers. In fact, 40 states require lawyers to pursue continuing legal education (CLE) courses to maintain licensure. The American Bar Association Center for Continuing Legal Education provides CLE opportunities in a variety of formats, including online and DVDs.
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