How to Go to Law School and Become a Lawyer
Going to law school is the first step to become a lawyer
Law School Courses, Classes, Careers and the Bar
. Law school is a three-year program of full-time, concentrated study that leads to the JD degree. You usually need a college degree to apply for law school, but sometimes exceptions are made for special students. You are not required to take any special courses in college to become a lawyer. To go to law school, your next step is to take the Law School Admissions Test, affectionately known as the LSAT. The LSAT test does not focus on law or legal concepts, but on logic problems and puzzles, which test your ability to reason logically. Here we clear up your questions about going to law school, classes, courses and possible careers when you become a lawyer.
- How to Get Into Law School
- What Are the Top 10 Law Schools
- Choose a Specialty When You Become a Lawyer
- The Classes You Need at Law School
- How to Study in Law School
- What Are Law School Courses Like
- Summer Jobs Prepare You to Become a Lawyer
- Extracurricular Activities at Law School
- Law School Graduation
- Law School Prepares You for the State Bar Exam
How to Get Into Law School
Preparing to go to law school
involves more than watching the movie Paper Chase
. The next step is to choose the best law school for you. As you review law school catalogs and web sites, keep in mind that they are sales tools. In law school, the students won’t be so good looking and the professors won’t be so fascinating. You should prepare a list of three law schools you want to apply to. On your list of law schools include:
Decide which law school you can afford
- the dream law school, which has the cream of the candidates to choose from
- the reasonable target school, a law school that is more affordable and more convenient
- and the safety school, a law school which will be happy to admit someone of your caliber.
, and where you want to live while you are a student. Then apply to the law schools of your choice. The application form will ask for a personal statement of what you’ve done and what you hope to do. You’ll probably fill out a financial aid application, too. Ask your college professors for letters of recommendation.
What Are the Top 10 Law Schools
The U.S. News & World Report has the most respected ranking of law schools
. Yale is likely to be at the top, with Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, New York University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Berkeley, University of Michigan and University of Virginia in the top ten tier. Perhaps you have a strong school preference. You know that, if they accept you, you would definitely enroll. This makes you a good candidate for the early decision program, so apply before that deadline. If you have good grades in school, and good scores on the LSAT, and good recommendations from your teachers, the school will send you a letter of congratulations: “We are happy to welcome you into the Law School Class.” You’ve been accepted.
Choose a Specialty When You Become a Lawyer
Choose the specialty you want to study in law school
. This decision will affect your course of studies in school and your career choices after law school. There are many specialties in the practice of law. When you become a lawyer, what area of the law appeals to you? Do you want to concentrate on public interest law, which might lead to a job in the public defender's office or a job with a non-profit organization like Legal Aid? Or will you become a lawyer at a large law firm, concentrating your studies in that direction? After law school, do you see yourself working as a lawyer in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, insurance defense, environmental, antitrust, or securities law, or real estate. Do you see yourself as a litigator? At many firms, cases are settled long before they reach the courts. As you begin law school, consider the opportunities open to you as a criminal lawyer, divorce lawyer, immigration lawyer, bankruptcy lawyer, employment lawyer, adoption lawyer, real estate lawyer, maritime lawyer, estate planning lawyer, entertainment lawyer, trademark lawyer, personal injury lawyer, disability lawyer, medical malpractice lawyer or corporate lawyer. When you become a lawyer, which field of law will you work in? And which field of law is most useful in your state?
If you plan to use student loans to pay for law school
, the loans must be repaid after graduation. Some jobs for lawyers do not pay a high salary, like jobs with a non-profit organization or a public service group. Ask your law school if they have a loan forgiveness program for people doing public interest work after graduation.
The Classes You Need at Law School
Your first year of classes at law school
introduces the fundamentals. Later on, in second and third year, you can take clinical classes and do pro bono work. Law professors teach by using case studies. Each case is the story of a real life or imaginary legal situation. You are expected to unravel the case, to form an opinion and to defend your opinion. In law classes the goal of the professor is to teach you the law and, more important, to teach you to think like a lawyer. The Socratic method is sometimes used in classes. Socrates used to teach by asking students a series of questions that would force them to arrive at their own answers by building a chain of reasoning.
How to Study in Law School
Your studies in law school will prepare you to become a lawyer
. For each case you study, you’ll prepare a brief which typically summarizes the facts of the case, sets forth the procedural background, identifies the specific issue and explains the reasoning behind the court’s decision. The professor will ask questions like: Did a contract even exist? If so, was the contract breached? Did the plaintiff lack standing to sue? You’ll learn legal principals and practices, topics like mutuality as to collateral estoppel, the test for justiciability, the sequence of pleadings in a civil case and the defenses to formation of a contract, just for starters.
In law school, you'll meet hot shot students
who seem to know every answer ahead of time. You’ll become part of the cutthroat student competition for grades. You’ll collect hornbooks and outlines, the Cliff’s Notes of law school, to help make sense of your textbooks. If you come across an unfamiliar word or two, Black’s Law Dictionary will define it for you. You’ll have computerized research services available, like Westlaw and Lexis.
In law school you’ll study torts
, which are civil wrongs that people commit against each other, actions that are negligent or stupid, but not criminal. You’ll learn about civil procedures
, the rules governing when, where and how you can sue people. You’ll learn a lot of Latin, even if it is a dead language, Quasi in rem
and res judicata
, and all that.
What Are Law School Courses Like
Your law school courses depend on the law school you attend
and the specialty you choose. Usually, you’ll take courses in Criminal Law, Property Law, Constitutional Law, Perspectives on Legal Thought, or Foundations of the Regulatory State. Civil Procedure class will teach you about due process. You can choose courses in Criminal Investigations, Copyright Law, Human Rights Law, Corporate Reorganization and Bankruptcy, Administrative Law, Financial Statement Analysis, Welfare and Poverty Law or Criminal Adjudication. As a law school student, you’ll take part in Moot Court, a pretend court which gives you a chance to research, to write briefs, and to think on your feet.
Summer Jobs Prepare You to Become a Lawyer
There are no law school classes during summer term
, but Career Services will help you find a summer job related to your legal studies that will prepare you to become a lawyer. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to clerk for a judge one summer and to review motions on various cases. And be sure to ask for a letter of recommendation from the judge you work with. You can use it on the next round of employment.
Your summer job after your second year of law school
could be as a summer associate at a prestigious law firm. The firm you work for during the summer may offer you employment after graduation. In this case, it’s up to you to choose the law firm carefully for your sumer job. You might rank the firms by size, prestige, practice area, and so on. When you become a lawyer, the law firm that hires you will pay you a six-figure salary and lots of perks, in exchange for 60, 70 or 80 billable hours of work each week.
Extracurricular Activities at Law School
Extracurricular activities at law school also prepare you to become a lawyer
. The most important extracurricular activity is your work on one of the many student-run academic journals. Law Review is the premier student journal. A position on Law Review is sought after, not because you want to work even harder, but because it distinguishes your job resume. Law Review is the single best measure of success in law school, and opens a lot of doors in the career world. Somewhere in your schedule, you’ll also find time for the mandatory pro bono work.
Law School Graduation
Finally, after three years of law school
, you'll appear at the graduation ceremony in a fancy cap and gown to receive your diploma, the reward for your studies, written entirely in Latin. You'll receive the degree of JD, Juris Doctor, which means Teacher of Law. This is the degree required to become a lawyer and be admitted to the bar.
Law School Prepares You for the State Bar Exam
As a graduate of law school
, you can begin working for the law firm of your choice. But don’t start celebrating yet. You don't actually become a lawyer until you pass the State Bar Exam. You can prep for the exam with a Professional Bar Review Course, or you can take your chances with the 70-30 average pass-fail rate. 70% of the candidates pass the State Bar Exam, but most of them took a Bar Review Course first. The State Bar Exam is a momentous two-day exam that tests you on contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence and real property. Most states have no limit on the number of times you can take the State Bar Exam. Eventually, many months later, you’ll get a notice that you've passed the State Bar Exam. That's when you officially become a lawyer.
Now you know what law school is like and how to become a lawyer
. Good luck, all the way.
I hope life brings you much success.
I wish you a very happy day.
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