Prospective lawyers must undertake a series of steps to practice law, including completion of undergraduate and graduate degrees, examinations and licensing processes. Prior to embarking in this journey, those interested should ask themselves why they want to become a lawyer and if they are willing to commit several years to studying law in order to do so. For those who answer affirmatively, the following guide outlines the various academic, skill building, and licensing steps required to begin a career practicing law.
Step by step guide to becoming a lawyer
What does a lawyer do?
The work of a lawyer is broad in scope as there is no singular occupation designated to the title. A spectrum of options is available, allowing legal professionals to pursue opportunities in corporate, private, government and international settings. In all cases, lawyers are well-trained advisors to their clients, providing support in a variety of legal matters, civil or criminal.
As advisors, lawyers represent clients in both legal issues and disputes. In doing so, lawyers conduct case law research, participate in formal hearings, draft and file legal documents, represent clients in a courtroom and provide general advice. As an example of the diversity within the field, lawyers may prepare mortgage papers, draft and file will and trust documents, defend a client in a criminal trial, or conduct research in international shipping disputes, all within a standard workweek. Lawyers often practice in a number of areas, including tax law, intellectual property, corporate law, criminal law, litigation, family law and environmental law.
What kind of skills are required?
Through educational training, lawyers develop a range of professional skills, most of which revolve around information. Lawyers must be able to consume, digest, analyze, and process vast amounts of data.
The Law School Admission Counsel has distilled important legal skills into six areas:
Lawyers should be keen researchers, able to decipher complex legal documents and case studies. Another major skill is communication, both verbally and in written form, which enables proper conveyance of ideas to clients, arbitrators, legal counsel, juries, and the general public.
- Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
- Pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
- Identify law schools and complete applications
- Earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree
- Pass the bar examination
- Advance your career