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How Many Years of College to Be a Lawyer?
If you are interested in starting a career as a lawyer, you might be wondering how many years of college it involves. Law is a complex field, and the professionals who work in the area are highly respected professionals who have studied hard. There are several steps towards becoming a lawyer, but exactly how long will it take?
The Answer? Seven Years
The team at LegalVision New Zealand lawyers have confirmed for us that it will take seven years of college to become a lawyer. After high school, prospective lawyers will need to complete an undergraduate degree, which usually takes 4 years. After that comes law school – another 3 years. Finally, law students need to complete their state’s bar exam to get licensed and start practicing as a lawyer.
For students in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, there’s less time spent at university, but more time spent doing practical work experience. In both cases, becoming a lawyer involves a lot of training.
Earning Your Undergraduate Degree
As a prerequisite to get into law school, prospective students will need to obtain an undergraduate degree. In the USA, this is generally takes 4 years, although in places like the UK and Australia, most bachelor’s degrees are completed in 3 years instead.
So, what subject should you study at college to prepare yourself for law school? The good news is that there’s no required major to gain admission into law school. However, some majors are better than others at preparing students for the rigors and difficulty of law school. To seriously prepare yourself, it’s recommended to study one of the following majors at college:
- Political Science
In general, the critical thinking, communication, and written skills you’ll get from your college undergraduate degree will serve you well in law school. However, some law schools do look at how tough your undergraduate degree was and take it into consideration with your application. They also look at your GPA, so make sure your undergraduate degree is something that you like to boost your chance of success.
When applying to law school, students will also need to sit the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The scores from this test are the single most important factor in your application to law school, so it’s a serious business. Being prepared is essential, and most students will spend 3 to 6 months preparing for the exam. This means following a strict study plan, getting to know the format of the exam, building an understanding of the concepts that crop up in the LSAT exam, and, finally, taking and reviewing practice exams.
Some students even hire private tutors to increase their chances of a high score. Different law schools have different LSAT score requirements for admission, so make sure to check the required admission score for your desired law school.
Earning your Juris Doctor Degree at Law School
Once you’re in law school, you can expect to spend another 3 years earning your Juris Doctor degree. Rather than be considered a postgraduate degree, the Juris Doctor is just another undergraduate degree.
In the first year of law school, you’ll build up a foundational knowledge of the different types of law: contract, employment, property, constitution, criminal, civil, and more. Through electives, students can begin to dabble in and get a feel for different specialties within the law.
In the second and third years of law school, more complex law subjects are studied. Topics like human rights and family law require far more nuance and are left for the final years of law school after students have built up their foundational knowledge.
Over the course of law school, students will also take classes in the skills needed to become a successful lawyer. Subjects like legal writing, research, and critical analysis will also be covered. For practical experience, there are also opportunities for internships, as well as moot courts.
For students in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, the Bachelor of Law is the equivalent of the Juris Doctor degree earned in the United States.
Certification as a Lawyer
After graduating from law school, students will then need to pass the bar exam. Usually, you’ll want to spend another 8–10 weeks studying for the exam as it’s notoriously difficult. Many students also decide to enrol in extra classes after graduating law school to help them prepare for the bar exam.
The bar exam is a 2-day affair, and the content differs from state to state in the US. The test has 200 questions that revolve around the foundations of the law. There’s also an essay portion of the exam, and students might need to also pass a character assessment to prove they are fit to practice law.
One of the biggest surprises for students who become certified lawyers is that their schooling isn’t one. Most states in the USA (and countries around the world) require lawyers to take so many classes every year to meet the requirements of their accreditation.
The justification for continuing education is that lawyers need to be kept up to date with the evolving state and federal laws.
How Much Does a Lawyer Make?
Lawyers can generally expect a decent salary after gaining some experience. Salaries differ depending on where you practice law, but according to Indeed.com, the national average salary for the USA is $119,988.
Salaries also increase as you gain experience and begin to specialize in a certain topic, like corporate law or intellectual property law. Salaries also change from state to state. The highest paying states are California, New York, and Massachusetts.
Do I Need a Master of Law?
In today’s competitive job market, it can be hard to find a position in the field you want. A master’s degree could be the key to unlocking further pathways to start working in a specialization in law, like tax law or intellectual property.
A Master of Law, also known as LLM, gives you an advanced and in-depth look at your chosen area. This will open employment opportunities for your future, leading towards a much more fulfilling career.
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