Law School & the Legal Profession
The practice of law can be a very fulfilling profession. Lawyers and others in the legal profession play an influential and important role in society. Having a diverse group of legal professionals is key to ensuring quality legal representation and protection for all sectors of the public.
Legal jobs are available internationally and nationally in both the public sector (state, federal, county, city, and other public entities) and in the private sector (solo practice, small, medium, and large law firms and in-house at companies).
If you’re interested in becoming a lawyer, you will need to take an entrance exam (LSAT), apply to and graduate from law school with a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) from law school, and pass a Bar examination in the state you plan to practice. Attending a law school full-time generally consists of three years of study, while part-time can take longer.
A J.D. is also a desirable and useful degree for several other professions, including business, legal writing, judgeships, political office, and teaching.
The legal profession also includes various non-lawyer jobs. Among these are legal assistants and paralegals. There are approximately 65 colleges and universities that offer paralegal/legal assistant degree programs in California. Other legal jobs that do not require a law degree include hearing representatives in some administrative adjudications, legal document assistants, legal secretaries, and administrative staff for which many schools provide training.
Many students work as legal interns or law clerks in legal settings during college or law school in order to obtain exposure to the profession to assist their career decision-making.
Get Started with a Pre-Law Prep Program
While not required, you can apply to pre-law programs, which are dedicated programs committed to preparing first-generation and underrepresented students to attend law school. These programs provide support with the law school application process, test preparation, and with information on career pathways. Check out the below programs and make note of the application timeline.
Tip: Review different pre-law programs to determine eligibility and then join their email newsletter so that you will be notified about application deadlines.
Applying to Law School & Taking the LSAT
With some exceptions, you will need to have earned an undergraduate degree and taken the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) before applying to law school.
The Law school admission process is competitive and law schools generally consider your undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores to determine your likelihood of success in their programs. Factors such as life experience and diversity may also inform law school admissions decisions. Students can find information on the GPA and LSAT score ranges accepted by various law schools on each school’s website. Applicants submit applications to the law schools of their choice.
The LSAT tests the skills necessary for success in the first year of law school, including reading comprehension, reasoning, and writing. The test consists of two parts: a four-section multiple-choice test that includes reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions, and a written essay.
Deciding on a Law School
There are many different law schools, and it’s recommended to apply to multiple schools as the process is competitive. Generally, it’s recommended to attend a law school accredited by the American Bar Association vs. a non-accredited one. In California, students also attend California-accredited and non-accredited law schools and go on to successful careers. In many states, prospective lawyers cannot take the Bar Exam unless they have attended an accredited law school. It’s important to do research ahead of time to understand the schools available and weigh the pros and cons of each one. Additionally, there are many types of legal specialties, so you may want to review the law school curriculum to ensure it aligns with your career goals. Some law school programs require full-time attendance and others allow for part-time. It’s worth attending law school info sessions in addition to researching each school’s website to learn more before applying.
Financing Law School
Law school requires a significant financial investment and most law students graduate with some outstanding loans. There are various resources for covering the costs of applying to and attending law school as well as obtaining support during the Bar Exam. These include financial aid (need and merit-based scholarships and grants, loans, and work-study) from law schools, private institutions, federal and state governments, student savings, and work during law school. The Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) or state-run financial aid programs available to undocumented students such as the California Dream Act are the launching point for law school financial aid; individual law schools may require supplemental financial aid applications.
Licensing by the State Bar
Upon completing your Juris Doctor (JD) degree program, you will need to take and pass a Bar Exam, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), and receive a positive Determination of Moral Character from the State Bar to receive your license to practice law.
For students attending a non-accredited law school, additional exam requirements may be in place. For example, law students in California who attend a non-accredited law school must take and pass the First Year Law Students examination, also known as the “baby bar” after their first year of law school. This is a prerequisite to proceeding with their law school education.
In California, the Bar Exam is a two-day examination given twice a year in February and July. It consists of three sections: 200 multiple-choice questions, known as the Multistate Bar Examination, five one-hour essay questions, and one 90-minute performance test.
The MPRE is a two-hour, 60-multiple-choice exam that tests an applicant’s knowledge of attorney ethics rules. It is administered three times a year.
Tip: If you’re interested in attending law school or becoming licensed outside of California, check the website(s) of the law school you’re interested in for details on applying and licensing.