You’re here if you’ve been contemplating a future career with the word of law, specifically in the United States. Congratulations! To be very honest, you’re rather fortunate if you have more than an inkling of what you want to do for the rest of your life. That will probably make getting to where you want to be substantially easier. So let’s get started.
To become a lawyer, you need to become a law school. This isn’t quite like becoming a writer or even an engineer. Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates did just fine without their degrees. Most writers don’t have one in either creative writing or in journalism. They can depend only on their learning and skill sets to be successful at what it is they were destined to do. The Law is a little bit different. You see, you will need a degree. You will also need to take the Bar exam. It sounds rather intimidating at first, so let’s start with the basics
How do you know you’ll make for a good lawyer?
John Grisham novels and Suits mat have led you to believe that a sharp suit and the gift of the gab are sufficient to ensure a brilliant career with the word of the law. Not quite the case in our non-fictional unglamorous real world. What you really need is an astute mind. The ability to reason, the ability to learn, the ability to critically analyze – those are skills far more important to a lawyer. To be a careful, patient and deliberate reader is of most importance. Most lawyers rarely frequent courtrooms, their work occurs largely outside of it, perusing through dull documents that no one else will read till the wee hours of the morning. The gift of the gab, while a definite benefit, is rarely exercised.
Still interested? Let’s talk about how to get to Law School.
Most Law Schools in the USA will review your application in the context of your application essays, your internships, your work experience, your leadership and other activities, and most significantly – your undergraduate GPA and your LSAT scores.
In order to be eligible to apply to most Law Schools in the United States, you will be required to have completed four years of an undergraduate programs, what in most parts of the world is labeled the Bachelors’ Degree (interestingly named, huh?). Your GPA during those years, as well as your extra-curricular activities are of great importance at this point. This may have specific implications on how you plan your undergraduate career.
When choosing your undergraduate major, choose something that interests you. Ensure this, primarily because how you perform will matter! The field of study at the undergraduate level that you choose is of secondary importance. The admissions officials at Law Schools are only looking for degrees that trains you intensely in critical thinking and problem solving. And let me reiterate – your GPA matters! A challenging program in a challenging school is more likely to negatively impact your GPA, because you will be competing with the very best. While the admissions committee might be impressed by the fact that you undertook an undergraduate degree of a high difficulty level, you would do better to enrol in a program that is more likely to boost your GPA. Find your niche and excel – its the only way to win acceptance into the best legal programs of the world. Do ensure that you take classes and programs that test your critical reading skills and analysis skills simultaneously.
Let’s move ahead then, assuming you have your Bachelor’s degree and have taken problem solving and critical thinking classes, you now need to take the LSATs. The LSATs are the SATs for Law School. You’re tested on your verbal, critical thinking, comprehension and writing skills. You’re scored on a scale from 120 to 180, and needless to say, the higher the score the higher your chances of admission. =) Should you be applying from a country where English is not the native language, you would probably be required to take the TOEFL, a no-brainer if you can read this fluently.
Armed with your undergraduate degree, (hopefully) an accomplished CV and your LSAT score, you apply to Law School. Over the next three years at Law School, (allegedly what will be the toughest years of your life) you will earn your Juris Doctor, the Law Degree in the United States. Be prepared for long nights are studying, the Socrates method of cold-calling in class, and competing with brightest, most critical and unquestionably ambitious minds you would have ever met!
Now, if you thought that receiving the Juris Doctor from among the best universities of the world is not challenging enough, then there’s good news for you! In the weeks after graduation from Law School, you will be busy burying your heads inside a variety of books, preparing for the Bar exam. In the United States, each State has it’s own Bar exam. Certain States accept the Bar results of other states’ exams, but this is more the exception than the rule. Wisdom begs that you choose the state within which you are likely to practice, and then commence preparing for that exam. Most Law school programs have courses and programs that are Bar preparatory as well, to ease out the process of post-graduation. They want you to pass the bar too!
By this time you would have a better idea about what kind of law you want to specialize in – Criminal, Family, Human Rights, Environment and so forth. Don’t worry about all of this just yet, you will receive sufficient exposure to every kind of law well in time for you to make a deliberate and educated decision. That’s not something you should worry about just yet.
Here’s a list of the best Law Schools in the United States that you most definitely should consider, if you’re seriously contemplating a career in the Law.
Adios, and best of luck!
Note for Parents, Students, Counsellors: The information above was to the best of our knowledge at the time that this article was published. With every application cycle, or sometimes even during it, Colleges and Universities may change dates, policies, available majors and other relevant information. These updates will be reflected on the College and University websites themselves.
Please refer to the official college websites in addition to reading these articles. These articles are written only to provide general guidelines to students, not as a substitute for individual college websites.