State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Careers in Alabama

The American Bar Association notes that in 2011, Alabama had 13,876 resident and active attorneys practicing within the state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor quotes the average Alabama lawyer’s mean yearly salary in May 2011 at $115,230. Lawyers working in certain areas of the state made more than average, including the Dothan area, where they averaged $172,970 per year; the Huntsville area, where lawyers averaged a mean yearly wage of $137,880; the Birmingham-Hoover area, where attorneys averaged $128,330 per year; and Mobile, where lawyers earned a mean annual wage of $127,360. Opportunities for lawyers in Alabama abound. If you would like to cash in on some of the many opportunities for attorneys in the state, read on.
 

Step 1

Get Your Alabama Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Board of Commissioners of the Alabama State Bar mandates that you complete your undergraduate education and receive a minimum of a bachelor’s degree prior to entering law school. If you attend a non-American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school, you must provide proof of your pre-legal education to the Board at the time you apply for bar admission.

Accreditation

Your undergraduate institution should be accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It is vital that your school holds this type of accreditation for validation of your undergraduate education when you apply to law school.

Requirements and Standards

The Board does not set requirements for pre-legal education, but follows the ABA’s recommendations. Classes that you should take, regardless of the major you choose, should include the following topics:

  • History
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Sociology
  • World cultures
  • Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Mathematics

Degree Options

If you do not graduate from an ABA-approved law school, the Board requires that you present confirmation of receipt of a bachelor’s degree from an institution that was accredited by any standard national or regional accrediting agency at the time you received the degree. This degree must be received prior to your entry into law school. A major is not specified, but it can be extrapolated from the course requirements suggestions above that any of the topics listed there would be appropriate undergraduate majors for pre-law students.


  
  

Pre-Law Advisor

If your undergraduate college or university offers the services of a pre-law advisor, take advantage of them. A pre-law advisor can help you to make the best choices in courses, minors and majors to ensure your future success in law school.

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Step 2

Alabama LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

If you wish to gain entrance into an ABA-approved law school (which is not required by the Board but is highly recommended), you must pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. This test is offered four times annually around the world.

How to prepare

Use the free services offered at the LSAT website to help get ready for the LSAT exam. Practice tests and sample questions and answers can assist you in preparing for the exam. If you would rather pay for LSAT preparation, the following courses are available in Alabama:

LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Alabama:

  • LSAT Test Prep, Testmasters, locations in Auburn, Huntsville and Birmingham
  • LSAT Test Prep Classes, Kaplan, Birmingham
  • LSAT Test Prep Course, Auburn University, Office of Professional & Continuing Education, 301 OD Smith Hall, Auburn, AL 36849
  • LSAT Test Prep, LawPreview.com
  • LSAT Test Prep, Get Prepped

Exam content

There are three sections to the LSAT:

  • Reading Comprehension – Tests your ability to read complex materials and answer multiple-choice questions based upon what you have read
  • Analytical Reasoning – Also known as the games section, this section asks you to play reasoning games in which you must make an analysis to find the correct answer.
  • Logical Reasoning – Also known as the arguments section, this section asks you to evaluate arguments and find conclusions, identify incorrect assumptions, and discover faulty logic.

Application process

Applications to take the LSAT are taken online. It is offered on Saturdays and Wednesdays in June, October, December and February, but not at every test center on each Saturday and Wednesday of each month. Test centers in Alabama include:

  • Auburn University, 301 OD Smith Hall, Auburn, AL 36849
  • Miles College, 5500 Myron Massey Boulevard, Fairfield, AL 35064
  • Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, AL  35294-1150
  • Spring Hill College, 4000 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL 36608
  • University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688
  • Auburn University at Montgomery, P.O. Box 244023,  Montgomery, AL 36124-4023
  • Faulkner University, 5345 Atlanta Highway, Montgomery, AL 36109
  • Alabama A & M University, 4900 Meridian St. North, Huntsville, AL 35810-1015
  • Troy University, Troy, AL 36082
  • University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487

Fees

You must pay a fee of $160 to take the LSAT. Fees may be paid through your online account with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) by credit card or by check or money order payable to the LSAC.

Receiving Your Score

The LSAC will email your LSAT scores to you approximately three weeks post-exam. You can get a low score of 120 or a high score of 180. The University of Alabama School of Law typically accepts applicants with LSAT scores between 158 and 165. Remember, however, that LSAT scores are just one factor that contributes to your acceptance at law school. LSAT scores are not perfect predictors of law school performance, per information gathered by the LSAC.

Limitations

You may only take the LSAT three times in two years (even if you cancel your score and it is not reported to the LSAC). If you wish to take it more times than that, appeal to the LSAC via email at LSACinfo@LSAC.org or fax it to 215-968-1277 with the date you wish to take the test again. The LSAC will email you to let you know if your request has been approved or denied.

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Alabama

Application process

Once you have passed the LSAT, you are ready to apply to law school. If you are applying to an ABA-approved law school, consult this list of admission services required by ABA-approved law schools in the United States.

Credential Assembly Service

All ABA-approved law schools (and some non-ABA approved law schools) require you to use the services of the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service . This service helps you to organize transcripts, recommendation letters and evaluations for your admission packages. Ask all institutions that you have attended, even if you did not receive a degree, to mail official transcripts to Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 2000-M, Newtown PA 18940-0993. If you attended any institutions outside of the United States, Canada, or the US territories, have those transcripts sent to Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 8502, Newtown PA 18940-8502.

Give the LSAC names of persons who have agreed to provide you with letters of recommendation and online evaluations. The LSAC will help you coordinate and gather these documents to include with your law school applications.

The LSAC charges $155 for the Credential Assembly Service, which covers transcript summaries, law school reports, and online electronic applications to the law schools of your choice.

Accreditation

The Board of Commissioners of the Alabama State Bar does not require that the law school from which you graduate is ABA accredited. However, most future employers look more favorably upon graduates of ABA-accredited law schools. For a complete list of ABA-accredited law schools across the country, consult the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Alabama

The following law schools in Alabama hold ABA accreditation as of May 2012:

Course requirements

The Board does not specify courses that should be included in ABA-approved law school curriculum. However, for graduates of law schools outside of the United States, its territories or jurisdictions, the Board does specify the following coursework is required (which means that it is assumed by the Board that this coursework has been taken by all applicants to the Alabama State Bar):

  • 24 semester hours in legal studies covered on the Alabama bar examination, including (but not limited to):
    • Alabama civil litigation including:
      • Appellate practice
      • Civil procedure
      • Arbitration
      • Remedies
    • Business associations
    • Real property
    • Family law
    • Torts
    • Federal civil procedure
    • Conflicts of law
    • Constitutional law (Federal and Alabama)
    • Criminal law and procedure
    • Evidence
    • Wills, trusts and estates
    • Uniform Commercial Code

The Board has mandated that you must attend law school for at least three academic years consisting of 30 weeks per year. An academic year must consist of at least 130 calendar days covering at least eight months. This should equal 56,000 minutes of instructional time, or 80 semester hours of credit. 

Online Law Degrees

Internship

All ABA-approved law schools, and most non-ABA approved law schools, will require that you participate in some sort of field placement or internship while in your final years of law school. You will be placed into a real-life legal setting and have your work evaluated by on-site supervisors as well as by faculty from your law school. This is a great time to network for future job prospects after your law school graduation.

Registration with the Bar

You must be registered with the State Bar as a law student prior to beginning your internship. The Bar requires that you register with the Board within 60 days of starting law school. If you register online within 60 days of starting law school, there is no fee. If you register between 60 and 180 days of starting law school, the fee is $50. If you register between 180 and 390 days after starting law school, the fee is $100. If you register with the Bar after 390 days, the fee is $250.

When you register with the Bar, you authorize the Committee on Character and Fitness to conduct a character and fitness investigation of you. In the course of their investigation, they may request that you submit a set of fingerprints. Registration does not mean you are applying to take the Bar examination.

Graduates of Non ABA-accredited law schools

If you graduate from a non ABA-accredited law school, the Board requires that you have already been admitted to the state bar of the state in which that school is located and that you have practiced law for at least five years in that state as a member of the bar in good standing. If the law school you attended was outside of the United States, you must also have been admitted to practice law in that jurisdiction. Your curriculum must have included the coursework listed above.

Degree Programs

You must have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in  order to sit for the Alabama bar exam. Other degrees are offered by ABA-approved law schools in Alabama and include:

  • JD/MBA – combination of Juris Doctor and Masters in Business Administration
  • JD/MCE- combination of Juris Doctor and Masters in Civil Engineering
  • JD/MA- combination of Juris Doctor and Masters of Arts in Political Science
  • JD/PhD – combination of Juris Doctor and Doctorate in Economics
  • JD/MA – combination of Juris Doctor and Master of Accountancy
  • JD/MPA – combination of Juris Doctor and Master of Public Administration

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Step 4

Take the Alabama State Bar Exam

 If you are at least 19 years of age, have registered with the Alabama State Bar, have cleared the character and fitness investigation, and have earned your J.D. degree, you may apply to take the Alabama State Bar Exam. It is usually offered in Montgomery.

Preparation

Preparing for the Alabama State Bar Exam can help you succeed in passing it on the first try. There are many courses offered over the internet such as one provided by AmeriBar. There are also free study guides on the Internet.

Exam content

The Alabama Bar Exam lasts for three days. Two days of the exam consists of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which includes:

The third day consists of the Alabama Essay Exam.
You must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) with a score of 75 within 12 months before or 20 months after taking the Alabama bar exam.
Subjects on which you will be tested on the Alabama state bar exam may include:

  • Alabama civil litigation, including:
    • appellate practice
    • arbitration
    • civil procedure
    • remedies
  • Business associations
  • Federal civil procedure
  • Conflicts of laws
  • Constitutional law (Alabama and federal)
  • Contracts  
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family law
  • Real property
  • Torts
  • Wills, trusts, and estates
  • Uniform Commercial Code Articles 2, 3 and 9

Application Process

You must complete the application to take the Alabama state bar examination electronically. Make sure to include the proper fees (listed on the first page of the application). Complete the application in its entirety, furnishing the proper institutions, references, and employers that the Bar will contact on your behalf. Print and sign all four Authorization and Release forms as instructed. Fill out the special Forms (in the application Appendix) as necessary to answer questions on the application form.

Pass Rates

According to information published on the Alabama State Bar website, in the July 2011 administration of the bar exam, 78.7 percent of first-time test takers passed. In February 2011, 71.7 percent of first time bar examination takers passed the test..

Reciprocity

If you meet all of the requirements below, you may be admitted to the Alabama State Bar without taking the bar examination (i.e., by reciprocity):

  • You were already admitted to practice law in another state, territory or in the District of Columbia
  • You hold a J.D. or L.LB. degree from a school approved by the ABA at the time the degree was awarded
  • You have actively practiced law for five of the past six years
  • The state, district or territory in which you are licensed to practice law allows attorneys from Alabama similar reciprocity
  • You are a member in good standing of all jurisdictions in which you are licensed to practice law
  • You are not subject to any disciplinary action in any other jurisdiction
  • You possess good moral character and fitness
  • You have not taken and failed the Alabama bar examination in the past ten years
  • You are currently a permanent resident of the state of Alabama or intend to conduct the primary practice of law in Alabama for more than 75 percent of your time
  • You passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a score of 75 or better
  • You have paid the appropriate application fees to the Alabama State Bar

Additionally, if you have been a full-time teacher in an Alabama ABA or American Association of Law Schools accredited law school for the past three years, you may be granted reciprocity.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

You will receive your bar examination results by mail and the Supreme Court will also receive a list of those who successfully passed the exam. The results of this Bar Examination will be mailed to all examinees and a list of the successful examinees will be certified to the Supreme Court on the same day. When you receive your results, you will be notified of the formal Admissions Ceremony that you must attend to execute your written and oral Oath as an attorney.

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Step 5

You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar in Alabama

Congratulations on being a newly licensed member of the Alabama State Bar! You now must decide how to begin your law practice. Should you go solo? Join a smaller or larger firm? Work for a nonprofit or for-profit corporation? The Young Lawyers Section of the Alabama State Bar Association can help you make these momentous decisions.

Established law firms in Alabama which you might consider joining include Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville; Hand Ardenall LLC in Mobile, Birmingham, Jackson, Athens and Fairhope; and Lanier Ford Law Firm in Huntsville.

Major corporations headquartered in Alabama that may employ lawyers include CTG Power Systems International in Auburn, EBSCO Industries in Birmingham, S3 Inc. in Huntsville, Sync Innovation in Dothan, and SimplexGrinnell in Huntsville.

Legal specialty certification

Legal specialty certification can increase your career opportunities as an attorney practicing in Alabama. The Alabama State Bar has approved certain certification organizations to certify attorneys to practice within specialties. The following certification agencies and specialties are approved in Alabama:

Requirements for maintaining license

The Alabama State Bar requires all of its attorneys to fulfill Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements yearly to maintain licensure. You must complete 12 credit hours each year, with one credit hour of ethics required each year. In addition, new bar members must complete a mandatory six-hour course in professionalism during their first year, offered by CLE Alabama and Cumberland School of Law on alternating years. Participation is only counted if you attend live in –person events and meetings, webinars, and teleconferences. Self-study courses should be avoided, and online courses should be limited. You may search pre-approved courses here. All MCLE hours must be reported by attorneys online via your CLE Transcript as you complete your requirements.

Court Systems in Alabama

The Alabama Unified Judicial System consists of five levels:

  • District Court – with 67 districts and 103 judges across Alabama, District Courts have limited jurisdiction over misdemeanors and small claims. It has concurrent jurisdiction with Circuit Court in juvenile and civil matters between $3000 and $10,000, and exclusive jurisdiction in civil matters under $3000.
  • Probate Court and Municipal Court:
    • Probate Court- has 68 courts and 68 judges across the state. Limited jurisdiction over administration of estates, wills, guardianships, partition of lands, name changes.
    • Municipal Court – 273 courts and 279 judges across the state. Has limited jurisdiction over municipal ordinance violations.
  • Circuit Courts – 41 circuits and 143 judges across the state. These are the trial courts with general jurisdiction over all felonies, civil actions over $10,000, domestic relations cases. Concurrent jurisdiction with District Court in juvenile and civil matters between $3000 and $10,000.
  • Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals:

(334)229-0733. Five judges sit on panels. Handles civil appeals up to $50,000, domestic relations, worker’s compensation, appeals from administrative agencies, and civil appeals deflected from the Supreme Court.

(334)229-0751. Five judges sit on panels. Handle all criminal appeals, post conviction writs, and remedial writs for Criminal Trial Courts.

  • Supreme Court of Alabama, 300 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104. (334) 229-0700. Nine 9 justices sit in panels of five on the highest state court with appellate jurisdiction over all civil appeals over $50,000, appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission, and petitions for certiorari from the Courts of Civil and Criminal Appeals.

Elective membership organizations

Now that you are a practicing member of the Alabama State Bar, think about joining one of these elective professional membership organizations for attorneys across the state:

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Alabama Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Alabama Statistics:
 
AL Active Lawyers 13,876
Average Annual Wage $115,230
  

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