How to Become a Lawyer
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
Lawyers are essential to upholding the law in any country. It’s a job that offers great benefits, and will never be irrelevant. But law is also a demanding and competitive industry. If you’re wondering how to become a lawyer, you’re in the right place.
In this guide, we’ll go over the prerequisites to studying law, the benefits of each type of law degree, how much the process costs, and the skills you need to have to get hired.
What Is a Lawyer?
A lawyer, also known as an attorney, is someone who has graduated from law school and now works as part of a law firm. They are in charge of legally representing a client’s interests by interpreting and applying the law to the client’s case.
Lawyer Salary and Job Outlook
A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the average lawyer earns a salary of $126,930. Individual salaries will vary according to the lawyer’s education, work experience, location, and the types of clients they represent.
Judges and magistrate judges earn $141,080 per year, according to BLS. If you excel as a lawyer and continue your education in law, you may reach this level at some point in your career.
The law will never be outdated, so you can be confident that there will always be a demand for new lawyers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for lawyers are expected to grow by about four percent by 2029.
Entry-Level Lawyer Job Requirements
As an entry-level lawyer, you will get your first experience working at a law firm. To get to this level, you must be a law school graduate. You must also have experience in document management and as a listener or observer in court.
You will also need to have practiced in all phases of civil litigation, and you should have a strong understanding of data analysis. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for an entry-level lawyer is about $58,000.
How to Ace Your Lawyer Job Interview
Law firms are very strict when it comes to hiring. Working as an attorney is a serious responsibility, and it requires lots of skill and practical knowledge. If you manage to secure an interview with a firm, you should start preparing. Below are several questions that prospective lawyers are commonly asked in job interviews.
Common Lawyer Job Interview Questions
- What is your legal area of expertise?
- Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
- What are your motivations and goals at our company?
- Why did you choose to apply to this law firm?
- What experience do you have as an attorney?
- Can you work under pressure and meet deadlines?
What Degree Should I Get to Become a Lawyer?
A degree is an essential prerequisite to becoming a lawyer. All law firms require that their lawyers have both a degree and a certification. Some law schools require that new students pass an interview before they’re admitted. So, before choosing a college, make sure you’re aware of what you need to do to get accepted.
Below, you will see a list of degrees that you can obtain on your way to becoming a lawyer. Be aware of the tuition costs, the number of years of study required, and the average salary that you can expect to bring in at each level.
Associate Degree in Legal Studies
An associate degree is one type of degree you can get on your way to becoming a lawyer. It will take approximately two years to get this basic degree. Most community colleges offer a version of this program.
One reason to get an associate degree is to save money. Studying at a community college is cheaper than attending a public or private university. With this lower-level law degree, you may be able to find work as a paralegal or legal assistant. According to PayScale, a legal assistant with an associate degree can make about $40,000 per year.
Juris Doctor (JD)
To enter law school in the US, you must already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. You must present this undergraduate degree as a prerequisite to get into a university law program. While obtaining this bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t matter which course of study you pursue. It can be journalism, math, physics, or any other area that interests you.
After you finish your bachelor’s, you must take an entrance exam to get into law school. This assessment consists of five multi-question sections designed to test your reading comprehension, public speaking, critical thinking, data processing, argumentation, and more.
A Juris Doctor law degree takes about three years to finish. There are currently more than 200 law schools in the US that are accredited by the American Bar Association. At this stage, you can select which type of law you want to study. For example, this might be family law, real estate law, criminal law, environmental law, or corporate law, among others.
In 2020, the average yearly tuition for a law school program was $40,244 for in-state students and $46,161 for out-of-state students, according to US News. With a JD in hand, lawyers earn about $92,000 per year, according to PayScale.
Master of Law (LLM)
To begin studying for your Master of Law Degree, you must already be a Juris Doctor. This stage takes one year to complete. Once you have this degree, you can get a position as a judge, a professor at law school, a lawyer, or a government worker.
In this degree, you will specialize in one area of the law. You can choose from options such as civil litigation, international justice, business, and property. A report from PayScale says that lawyers with this degree earn about $132,500 per year.
PhD in Law
This is the highest level of law degree. The purpose of this doctoral degree is to conduct new academic research dealing with the law. This is a very competitive degree to get into, and the work is very demanding. Generally, law schools only accept two or three PhD students per year.
If you want to get your PhD, you must already have a Master of Law, an excellent reputation at your university, and high grades. Some of the degree specializations you can choose at the doctoral level are philosophy in law, juridical science, jurisprudence, and comparative law.
What Does a Lawyer Do?
A lawyer must complete many tasks on a daily basis. Your duties will depend on many factors, such as your education and experience, and the company you work for. Below are a few common tasks you can expect to complete.
Analyze and Evaluate Cases
As an attorney, your main task will be to deal with your clients’ cases. You will use your professional skills to hear people’s stories and evaluate the potential legal solutions. Your goal is to find a favorable resolution to their situation.
Lawyers also need to prepare contracts for their clients. This process consists of writing up transparent, legal, and fair conditions to establish the beginning of your work on a case, and to close the case.
As an attorney, you will represent your client in court. You must be prepared to defend your client’s interests, argue in their favor, and seek legal solutions to their problems. To do this, you will use all your knowledge of the law. You will present an argument using witness testimony and the defendants’ statements.
Essential Lawyer Skills
The judiciary is a complex and delicate system that must be respected by those who practice law. Making mistakes in a legal case will be bad for your clients and your reputation.
To become a lawyer, you must be able to deal with very stressful situations. Below are some of the essential skills you will need to become a successful lawyer.
Discipline is an important legal skill. As a law student, you will get an idea of the dedication it takes to study to become a lawyer. Regardless of what law firm you work for, you will be dealing with immense pressure and will need to meet deadlines.
Speaking and Writing Talent
Conveying a clear message through speaking and writing is key to winning a case. You must be confident when speaking during a trial. You must be aware that your statements can both help and harm your case, so you must be well prepared.
You will also need to have strong legal writing skills. To write up a contract, you must explain in detail all of the legal points for your client to consider. All of your punctuation and grammar must be perfect when writing contracts or filling out documents for your clients. Even the tiniest mistake could hurt your case.
Lawyers must be well organized in order to juggle their caseload. Daily activities may include writing, several courtroom visits, and lengthy meetings with clients, witnesses, and defendants. Most attorneys use software such as HoudiniEsq, MS Office, or MyCase to help them stay on track.
How to Become a Lawyer:
A Step-by-Step Guide
There is no correct path to becoming a successful lawyer. The level of success you achieve will depend on your performance, and how motivated you are to improve. Below is a basic outline you can follow to become a lawyer in the US.
Analyze Your Situation
First, you should determine what your options are for starting your journey to becoming a lawyer. This will depend on where you live, and your financial assets. If there isn’t a prestigious law school in your area, you may have to move in order to begin your education.
Also consider how you will pay for school, and if the average salary for an attorney in your city is enough to offset this cost.
Complete a Bachelor's Degree
In the United States, you must have a bachelor’s degree before you can start law school. This can be in any field that interests you. If you don’t want to get a bachelor’s degree, the only jobs you will be able to get in law are as a paralegal or legal assistant.
Take a Law School Admission Exam
After you have a bachelor’s degree, you must take an entrance exam to get into law school. These tests will assess your relevant skills and knowledge.
Attend an ABA-Accredited Law School and Pass the Bar
The American Bar Association evaluates and verifies all law schools in the United States. More than 200 schools in the country offer ABA-certified programs. This association will approve your degree, and you will have to pass the Bar Exam in your state before you can begin working as a lawyer.
After you graduate from law school and pass the Bar, you will begin your professional career as an attorney. You will most likely work at a law firm as a paralegal or legal assistant at first. In this position, you will visit the court, help expert attorneys, and organize documents.
Little by little, you will gain experience and will be able to take on your first client. Once you have enough experience, you may decide to start your own firm or offer private services.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?
The time it takes to prepare for your career as a lawyer depends on how determined you are. If you only want to work as a legal assistant, you may only need to spend two years at a community college.
To become a JD, you will need to spend four years getting your bachelor’s degree, plus three years in law school. If you want to become a magistrate, a supreme court judge, or land a legal position in government, you will spend 14 to 16 years studying.
Should You Become a Lawyer in 2021?
If you want to start a meaningful career and are willing to put in the effort to study, then you should become a lawyer. Your work will be rewarded with a high salary, good benefits, and many job openings to choose from.
Becoming a lawyer in 2021 is also a good idea because you can now study from home, which wasn’t possible until recently. The best online colleges offer law programs that come with professional certifications.
How much does a lawyer charge per hour?
The hourly rate for a lawyer varies by location and type of law practice. On average, however, lawyers charge $225 per hour for their services, according to Thervo, a firm that specializes in connecting customers to professionals in various fields.
Is a career in law difficult?
The difficulty of a law career depends on your skill level. Starting a law career is a demanding and time-consuming process. Once you are qualified to start working as a lawyer, you should already have the knowledge and skills you need to succeed.
How many hours a week does a lawyer work?
A lawyer works at least 40 hours per week.
How many lawyers are there in the US?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 813,900 people were working as lawyers in 2019.