How to Become a Lawyer: Facts, Job Description, Salary & Education

We hope that you are ready for a slew of bad lawyers jokes because that’s what you’re in for if you travel down the road to become a lawyer. Sure, you’ll probably be able to tune all of them out as you put the bad guys in jail, fight for the innocent and rake in those steep hourly fees. If you’re cool with the never ending litany of one liners and the random family member calling you for legal advice, then keep on ready. Today we are going to brief you on how to become a lawyer!

How to Become a Lawyer


Becoming a lawyer will probably be one of the hardest things that you will have do. There are very high competition rates in the profession, not to mention the lengthy time that it takes to complete the process. All in all this can be a pretty rewarding profession and one of the highest paying jobs out there. Here are the steps required to become a lawyer.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a lawyer is earning a bachelor’s degree. There aren’t any specific bachelor’s degrees that are required to become a lawyer, but there are some degrees that will help to prepare you for law school. Gearing your undergraduate degree in criminal justice, political science or even psychology may help you later on down the road. Taking classed in English, history, sociology and economics may also prove to be useful when you are deciding what kind of lawyer you would like to be. We have been told by some of our lawyer friends that it is also pretty important to get good grades while working on your bachelor’s degree. The better your grades are, they high your chances of getting accepted into a good law school are.

Step 2: Show the LSAT Who’s Boss

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a rather difficult standardized examination that anyone that wants to go to law school must take. It is a requirement that is set forth by the American Bar Association (ABA). Your scores on the LSAT will weigh heavily on your admission to law school along with other factors of course. We took at look a practice LSAT test and it seems like the majority of the questions cover areas like analytical reasoning, logical reasoning and reading comprehension. If you’d like to see what the official LSAT prep test looks like, too bad. Ok, we are just kidding! If you’d like to see it just click right here!

Step 3: Enroll in the Law School of Your Choice

Pretty much every state will require you to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association in order to legally practice law. To get into law school you will need to have a high grade point average, decent LSAT score, standout entry applications and the desirable extracurricular activities on your transcripts. You will spend about 3 years in law school and will cover a great many areas of law.

The first year of law school is primarily devoted to learning the foundations of law. In your second year you can begin taking specialized classes that will help you to determine which area of law you would like to practice once you a big shot lawyer. You will take courses in contracts, law and family relations, law process, constitutions and law process. Your last year of law school will help you to prepare for the transition from school to practicing law for real.

Step 4: Pass the Bar Exam

Once you toiled away in law school for 3 years and learned everything that you can learn, you will be ready to take the dreaded bar exam. Each state requires that this exam be passed in order to call yourself a lawyer and practice law. If you live in a state that has adopted the Uniform Bar Exam, count yourself lucky because that will enable you to practice law in any other state that also accepts that exam. The National Conference of Bar Examiners prepares the exam that is loaded with questions from Multistate Essay Examination, Multistate Bar Examination and Multistate Performance Test. There are some states that may even allow you to take the bar exam before you’ve completed law school. This is kind of a cool thing because it will let you hit the ground running and open you up to all those bad lawyer jokes earlier than all your peers.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?

So let’s recap the schooling that is required to become a lawyer so we can see how long it takes.

Most people require 3 to 4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree and law school is a firm 3 years to complete. That brings us to a grand total of 7 years to become a lawyer. Sure, it’s a long time, but it could be worse. It takes doctors 12 years of schooling, so at least you get a break and you don’t have to smell that icky hospital smell every day.

Lawyer Salary

We generally think of lawyers with sharp suits and fancy cars, but do lawyers really make that kind of money or is this just something that we have created as a society? We’ll take a look at what the Bureau of Labor Statistics has to report for their earning and let you be the judge of that.

As of May 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national median salary for a lawyer is $114,300 a year. New lawyers that are just starting out are reported to earn $55,170 a year and senior lawyers are reported to earn upwards of$190,000 a year. Now that you have seen these figures, do you see a Porsche in your future?


Types of Lawyers

One thing that you will need to decide for yourself sometime during law school, if you don’t know beforehand, is what type of lawyer you’d like to be for want of a better phrase. There are a billion (slight exaggeration on our part) different types of law to practice, so we won’t bore you to tears with all of those details. Instead we’ve picked some of the more interesting ones. Take a look!

Immigration Law

As an immigration lawyer you will be in charge of cases that specifically involve issues with immigration such as: aiding a client in getting a visa, keeping a client in the country or assisting in immigration marriage cases. You may also be of use to employers that may have run into problems for hiring immigrants that may not have the proper legal paperwork to work legally in the United States.

Divorce Law

This one is pretty self explanatory because well divorce lawyers obviously help people complete the process of divorcing their spouse. Your main job here will be to represent your client effectively and facilitate communication between all parties involved. There will be times when you are required to aid in the division of assets as well.

Custody Law

Here is another pretty obvious form of law and it goes hand in hand with divorce law for the most part. As a custody lawyer, you will help to resolve custody issued among divorcing, divorced and non married parents. This can be a hard type of law to practice for some because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

Employment Law

Employment lawyers can be pretty handy for companies to have around, especially if there are any disputes over termination or wages. As an employment lawyer you may also be tasked with drafting contract to protect both the employer and the employee.

Injury Law

Injury law seems to be one of the most common forms of law to practice. A an injury lawyer you will work with clients that have sustained injury in accidents, on the job or in a commercial place. You may also serve as council for those that are on the receiving of these complaints as well.

Entertainment Law

As an entertainment lawyer you will be the guy that Charlie Sheen calls when he’s had too much tiger blood and needs someone to make sure he doesn’t get fired from another show. There will also be a lot of protecting clients from things like libel, privacy and copyright law.

Intellectual Property Law

Working in intellectual property law you will work with clients that are having issues with copyrights, patents and trademarks. You may also aid clients in obtaining all of the aforementioned forms of intellectual property protection.

Traffic Law

Traffic lawyers help people to settle various traffic disputes such as auto accidents. There may also be times that your job will be to aid clients in cases where speeding tickets and other traffic violations go to court.

Business Law

Business lawyers are probably pretty busy guys and gals. In this capacity you may help clients to establish lawful business practices and aid them in any protection they might need. You may also run into times when you are tasked with prosecuting a business. A common form of business law is bankruptcy law. You may be aiding a business in the process of filing for bankruptcy in this case.

Criminal Law

If you opt to be a criminal lawyer you will either be a defense lawyer or a prosecuting lawyer. Essentially what that means is that you are either going to help someone that is being accused of a crime or you are going to be the one that is trying to prove that they are guilty.

A Few Sample Law Schools

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Pop Quiz Time, Kids!

Today we have not 1, not 2, but 3 quizzes for you to take! We know that you didn’t exactly come to us to do to have to use your brain for much more than idle reading, but we’ve got a real treat for you today.

We found quizzes that will help you to answer three of the most common questions that people ask themselves when they are considering becoming a lawyer. Those questions are:

See our quizzes are totally helpful and they are kind of fun to take too. If you have a few minutes to spare give them a try, especially if you really are considering becoming a lawyer and would like to see what your results are. To take each of the quizzes all you have to do is click on the bullet points above. We made it nice and easy for you today because we’re givers like that. Have fun and feel free to share the results with us!

Welcome to Law School! Watch this Video…

This is a really great video and it’s probably just what new law school students need to hear to quiet their nerves. This full was thrown together by a group of Westlaw Account Managers that have been through the exactly what you will go through if you decide to pursue a career as a lawyer. We can’t think of a more qualified group of people to tell you what to expect during your first year of law school.

Sit back, put up your feet and watch this short. You can take a look at it right here on our page or click right here to go to YouTube.

10 of the Most Influential Female Lawyers in the World

We often hear a lot about well known male lawyers, so we thought we would tell you all about some of the influential female lawyers. These ladies have busted glass ceilings and paved the way for lawyers of both genders. Here is  a list of a some of the awesome lady lawyers that we think are pretty awesome and worth reading about.

Hilary Clinton

Former first lady and possible presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton actually started her career after she graduated from Yale Law School. Clinton has been named as one of the most influential lawyers in American twice so far. She was also a major contributor to both the Adoption and Families Safe Act and the Act of Independence of Family Care in America.

Carol Moseley-Braun

 Breaking down doors is what Carol Moseley-Braun does. She is the first African American to ever be elected as senator and democratic in the United States. During her time as a lawyer she participated in the trial versus the State Board of Elections and she actually sued the council for the benefit of the African American derivatives.

Gloria Allred

Gloria Allred is a well known lawyer that stands her ground for women’s rights and she is also known for taking on controversial cases. She has a habit of stir things up a bit and notably wrote a letter to California’s Child Protective Services about Michael Jackson that prompted an investigation.

Shadi Sadr

Iranian lawyer and women’s rights activist, Shadi Sadr lands on our list for her dedication to ending the practice of stoning women to death in Iran. Never one to back down from a cause, Sadr has been arrested by Iranian plainclothes officers multiple times due to her political views.

Charlotte E. Ray

Charlotte E. Ray is pretty much the example of moxie and determination. She is best known for winning cases in the late 1800’s for women’s rights and for being one of the first African American lawyers. Her impact on the legal profession is so indelible that she was forever immortalized at Northwestern University Law School in 2006.

Karen DeCrow

Karen DeCrow is another fighter for the feminist movement, civil rights, women’s rights and gender equality. She is also a huge supporter of more women being included in the NASA’s recruitment for astronauts.

Stacey D. Phillips

Stacey D. Phillips is often referred to as a “super lawyer” and much of time as a lawyer has been spent aiding celebrities. She’s been legal counsel for Britney Spears, Bobby Brown and Darryl Strawberry just to name a few.

Fiona Shackleton

London based attorney, Fiona Shackleton, is the lawyer to call if you are a famous Brit that is going through a divorce. She has notably represented Prince Charles, Paul McCartney and even Madonna. Rumor has it that Fiona charges 500 pounds an hour which is about $800 an hour here in the U.S. (whoa, dude).

Laura Wasser

Still on the divorce lawyer train, but this time we are talking about America’s own Laura Wasser. When celebrities in the states get divorced and they want to have the most impact, they hire Laura Wasser. She has represented Kate Walsh, Angelina Jolie and Kiefer Sutherland.

Cherie Blair

Cherie Blair is more than just the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. She is actually a very successful civil rights lawyer and is well-known for her dedication to ending gender discrimination.

Final Grade

DSK lawsuit, New York

Now that we have heard the case details, we are ready to be the judge and the jury to determine if becoming a lawyer is really all that it is cracked up to be. We figured that if you can stomach the thought of taking the LSAT and if you think you can master the bar exam, then you can handle what we’ve got for you now. Here is our final grade for becoming lawyer!

Degree vs. Debt: A

Well you saw what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the earnings for lawyers to be, right? With that in mind you can totally see why we would grade the degree to ratio an A. Many students have to take out a few student loans in order to complete an undergraduate degree and go to law school, but the annual median salary definitely seems like it may allow for some loan payments. Just make sure that you reduce your debt before you fill your closet with all of those fancy lawyer suits.

Difficulty of Degree: C

Becoming a lawyer is hard work and not for those that are not willing and ready to put their all into the process. There are countless laws, statutes and ethical standards to remember. There will be nights when sleep is but a long lost friend that you miss terribly and your impending bar exam will seem like a cruel mistress that you have to appease. Remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel though and that you will get through it.

Happiness Quotient: B

Some types of law are definitely more stressful than other and we can imagine that there will be times when being a lawyer is anything but sunshine and rainbows. For the most part though, it doesn’t seem too bad. Most of your cases will be short and then you never have to think about them again. Those cases that are a bit more time consuming and taxing can be frustrating for sure, but just remember that you will be charging by the hour. It will surely make it all sting a bit less.

Job Outlook: B+

The job outlook for lawyers is about average and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reported to be about 10% from 2012 to 2022. This is about average job growth and totally accepted really. It means that you will have a certain amount of job security and that the market won’t be over saturated with every Tom, Dick and Harry trying to elbow in on your specific law practicing turf.

Sources and Recommended Reading

We must give credit where credit is due and our sources are as dear to us as a good punch line is to a bad lawyer joke. We know that there was a lot of information to take in here, so if you want a refresher definitely click on the links that we’ve provided below. There’s lots of good stuff there! Thanks for hanging out with us today and reading along.

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