State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Careers Information in Alaska

Many of Alaska’s lawyers who have practiced law in other states claim that practicing law in Alaska is better than practicing law in any other state. This is attributed largely to the quality of the trial courts and judges sitting on the trial bench. As judges in Alaska are appointed and not elected, many lawyers feel that this helps the state maintain more highly qualified judges that have consistency and depth. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development states that the average lawyer in Alaska brings home about $9721 monthly, or $116,652 annually. Furthermore, the Department predicts moderate growth for opportunities for lawyers to continue throughout the state with many job openings available. You must, however, follow the proper steps if you wish to become a lawyer in Alaska, which are outlined below.
 

Step 1

Undergraduate Pre-Law Education in Alaska

The Alaska Bar Association regulates the licensing of lawyers in the state. Under rules of the Alaska Bar, pre-legal education is not required in order to become a lawyer. However, if you wish to be accepted into a law school approved by the  American Bar Association (ABA) or Association of American Law Schools (AALS) (which is a requirement for admission to Alaska’s bar), you must receive at least a bachelor’s degree prior to entry to law school.  

Accreditation

You must graduate from an undergraduate institution that is accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. All law schools, regardless of their approval status, usually require that your undergraduate school is accredited by a known agency such as the ones recognized here.

Requirements and Standards

The receipt of an undergraduate degree denotes to both the ABA and the AALS that you have achieved a degree of intellectual maturity and accomplishment necessary for law school success. While neither the ABA nor the AALS sets coursework requirements for undergraduate education, certain coursework and areas of skill/knowledge are suggested to be helpful for future success in law school. They include: The ABA does not set requirements nor does it set standards for undergraduate pre-law education. It does state, however, that some basic areas of knowledge helpful to an attorney should be covered. Coursework should cover and include:

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Research skills
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Task organization skills
  • Promotion of justice
  • Public service
  • Management skills
  • Critical reading skills
  • Reading comprehension skills

Degree Options

Just as coursework for an undergraduate pre-law degree is not specified by the ABA or the AALS, majors are not spelled out. However, ones that are suggested to be helpful include political science, government, history, English, philosophy, business, and economics.


Pre- Law Advisor

If your undergraduate college or university has a pre-law advisor on staff, utilize his or her services to help you choose the best courses, minors and majors to help you later in law school. The pre-law advisor has knowledge of what you will need to be prepared for in law school and can assist you in selecting courses to help you get there.

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Step 2

Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Alaska

Before you can be accepted for admission into an ABA or AALS-approved law school, you must pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This should be taken after you receive your undergraduate degree.

How to prepare

Practice tests and sample questions are offered at the LSAT website that can help you prepare for the real exam. The Official LSAT Prep Test offered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is a very helpful and free resource.  Prep classes and courses can be very hard to find in Alaska. Other helpful preparation materials for the LSAT include:

LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Alaska:

Exam content

You will be tested on your knowledge and abilities in three main areas on the LSAT:

  • Reading Comprehension – Read long, complex passages and answer multiple-choice questions based upon your comprehension and understanding of those passages
  • Analytical Reasoning – Read statements, draw conclusions and make deductions from those statements.
  • Logical Reasoning – Read materials and critically evaluate them to answer questions.

Application process

Applications to take the LSAT are accepted online by the LSAC. The LSAT is given on Saturdays and Wednesdays in June, October, December and February. Not every test center offers the LSAT on every date, so plan accordingly when choosing a testing center. In Alaska, centers include:

  • University of Alaska-Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508
  • University of Alaska-Fairbanks, 505 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775
  • University of Alaska-Southeast, 11120 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK 99801

Fees

You must pay the LSAC a fee of $160 to take the LSAT. This may be done online by credit card or through the mail by check or money order, to: Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street,
Newtown, PA 18940.

Receiving Your Score

You will receive your LSAT score by email about three weeks after the exam. The lowest possible score you can get on the LSAT is 120, and the highest possible score is 180. If you receive a score less than 145, your chances of being accepted into an ABA-approved law school are slim.

Limitations

If you are dissatisfied with your LSAT performance, you may retake the test. However, you are not permitted to take the LSAT more than three times in two years, even if you cancel your exam score after the test and it is subsequently not reported to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Exceptions can be made if requested in writing. Email your request as an attachment to LSACinfo@LSAC.org or fax it to 215-968-1277. The LSAC will send you a return email to let you know if your request to retake the test has been approved or denied.

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Alaska

Application process

Once you have passed the LSAT, you are ready to begin submitting applications to law schools. Currently, there are no ABA- or AALS-approved law schools located within Alaska. However, you are encouraged to apply to approved law schools in nearby states. Consult this list of admission services required by ABA-approved law schools across the country.  A map of ABA-approved law schools in the United States can be found here.

Credential Assembly Service

The LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service must be utilized when you apply to any ABA-approved law school. These guidelines can help you to make the most of this valuable service:

  • Transcripts: All official transcripts from every institution in the United States that you have ever attended must be mailed from that institution directly to Law School Admission Council,662 Penn Street,PO BOX 2000-M,Newtown PA 18940-0993. Regardless of whether or not you received a degree, diploma or certificate, the LSAC needs transcripts from every school you attended and received credit. If you attended schools outside of the United States, those transcripts must be mailed directly to  Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 8502, Newtown PA 18940-8502.
  • Letters of Recommendation and Online Evaluation Services: Give the LSAC names of persons who have agreed to provide you with recommendation letters and online evaluations. Print forms from the LSAC to give to your letter writers, who must submit these forms with their recommendation letters directly to the LSAC at the above address. The LSAC will help you submit online requests to your evaluators to complete online evaluations of your character and work.
  • Fee: The LSAC charges $155 for usage of its Credential Assembly Service. You may pay this fee through your online LSAC account. It covers transcript summarization, law school report creation, letters of recommendation and online evaluation processing, and application electronically for the ABA-approved law schools you select.

Accreditation

The Alaska Bar Association requires all applicants to have graduated from an AALS- or ABA-approved law school in the United States. There are 200 law schools across the country holding ABA accreditation and listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. A list of AALS- approved law schools may be found here.  

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Alaska

  • There are currently no ABA-accredited law schools in Alaska.

AALS-Accredited Law Schools in Alaska

  • There are currently no AALS-accredited law schools in Alaska.

Course requirements

ABA Standard 302 mandates that a law school’s curriculum must cover these areas:  

  • Substantive law
  • Legal analysis and reasoning
  • Legal research
  • Problem solving
  • Oral communication
  • Legal writing
  • Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association
  • History of the profession
  • Other necessary professional skills
  • Internships and live client interactions (possibly through pro bono work or moot court)

The ABA also states that each year in law school must last at least 130 days over at least eight calendar months. You must complete 58,000 minutes of instruction time, equal to about 83 semester hours of credit or 129 quarter hours of credit, in order to graduate from an ABA-approved law school. You must be enrolled in an ABA-approved law school for at least 24 months to get your Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, but it may take no longer than 84 months.

AALS Membership Requirements for approved schools do not specify coursework, but rather that the approved law school must have a rigorous, broad, deep curriculum; academic freedom; scholarship; recognition of diverse viewpoints; varied methods of instruction; and offer courses from a wide variety of fields.

Degree Programs

Rules of the Alaska Bar state that all applicants for bar admission must have a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree or an L.L.B. degree (Bachelor of Laws, the foreign equivalent of a J.D. degree).

Online Law Degrees

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Step 1

Take the Alaskan State Bar Exam

 You must be at least 18 years old and have a J.D. or L.L.B. degree in order to apply to sit for the Alaska Bar Exam. The exam is given over three days in February and July each year, in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.
Before you are allowed to take the bar exam, the Alaska Bar requires you to attend a live presentation on attorney ethics. You will be notified when this course is offered, in the Anchorage area. If you cannot attend this course, contact the Bar office.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

You must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). You must obtain a scaled score of at least 80 on the MPRE.  Bar rules state that you may take the MPRE as a law school student, before taking the bar exam, or after taking the bar exam. The MPRE is given in March, August and November. Alaska test centers for the MPRE are:

  • University of Alaska-Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508
  • University of Alaska-Fairbanks, 505 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775
  • University of Alaska-Southeast, 11120 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK 99801

Graduates of Non-ABA Law Schools

If you graduated from a non-ABA approved law school, you may still be eligible for bar admission in Alaska. If you passed the bar exam in another state and actively practiced in that state as a bar member for at least five years, you may take the Alaska bar exam without further legal education.

Foreign Law School Graduates

If you graduated from a law school outside of the United States, you must submit proof to the Alaska Bar of the following prior to taking the Alaska bar exam:

  • The principles of English law were taught at your law school
  • Your law school meets ABA approval standards
  • You successfully completed one year at an ABA-approved law school, including:
    • one course in U.S. Constitutional Law
    • one course in U.S. Civil Procedure

Affidavit of Review

Before you may take the Alaska bar exam, you must file an Affidavit of Review with the Alaska Bar Association. Signing this Affidavit verifies that you read and familiarized yourself with the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct (ARPC) in accordance with Alaska Bar Rule 64.

Preparation

The Alaska Bar Association does not recommend any vendor for preparation for the bar exam. They do, however, list the following Alaska bar review courses on their website:

The National Conference of Bar Examiners provides free study materials to prepare for the two national parts of the Alaska bar exam, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT).

Exam content

The first day, you will take the Alaska essay examination for three hours. These three long-answer essay questions require substantial legal analysis, and answers should demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of Alaska law.  You will then complete six short-answer essay questions for the next three-hour session of the exam. Essay topics may include any of the following as they relate to Alaska law:

  • Business Organizations 
  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law (State and Federal)
  • Contracts (including Chapter 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code)
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law 
  • Real Property
  • Torts (including Products Liability)

You will spend three hours on the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). These questions give you a File and a Library and require you to complete a task described in a memorandum.

The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) is the final portion of the Alaska bar exam you must pass. It is given in February and July only, and consists of two sessions of three hours and 100 multiple-choice questions each. The Alaska bar does not allow you to transfer MBE scores from other jurisdictions or from prior MBE exams you may have taken.
                 
Application Process

File an Application for Admission to the Alaska State Bar. This application must be completed in its entirety, typed, and signed. You must submit a Character and Fitness Statement form for every employer and reference you list on the application. Do not mail or give these statements to your references – simply complete (type) the top portion of the forms, mail them to the Bar with your application, and the Bar will mail the forms to your references. Have your law school send to the Bar a certificate of graduation (not a transcript) certifying that you have completed their J.D. program. Complete the fingerprint card included in the application packet as instructed.

Fees

Submit your application fee of $800 with your application for admission to the bar.
Mail all application items and fees to Alaska Bar Association, P.O. Box 100279, Anchorage, AK 99510-0279.
You will be notified at least 10 days in advance of the bar examination if your application has been approved or denied.

Pass Rates

Exam results are usually announced about 90 days after you take the bar exam. For the February 2012 Alaska bar exam, the overall pass rate was 64 percent. The first time test taker pass rate was 79 percent. A total of 56 applicants took the exam, and 36 of them passed. Thirty-four of them were first-time applicants, with 27 passing. A complete list of those who passed may be found here.

Admission by Reciprocity

If you are a member in good standing of the state bar of certain jurisdictions, you may be admitted to the Alaska bar without passing the bar exam. You must still pass the MPRE with a score of at least 80, however. A list of jurisdictions that have reciprocity with Alaska is here.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

Within 60 days of being notified that you have passed the bar exam and completed all admission requirements (such as passing the MPRE), you must seek admission to the Bar. Swearing-in ceremonies are held approximately three weeks after exam results are released.

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Step 1

Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar

Congratulations on your new status as a licensed Alaska attorney and member of the Bar! In a state as vast as Alaska, opportunities for lawyers exist far and wide. You may decide to venture out on your own and start a solo practice. If so, the article “Marketing a Startup Solo Practice” may be of assistance to you in helping you to get the word out about your new law practice.

Law firms across Alaska that may be hiring attorneys at any time include DeLisio, Moran, Geraghty & Zobel, P.C. in Anchorage; Robinson Law Office, P.C. in Palmer; Hoppner Law Office in Fairbanks; Dillon & Findley in Juneau; and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Anchorage.

Corporations headquartered in Alaska that might be in need of legal assistance include Doyon Limited in Fairbanks, The Aleut Corporation in Anchorage, Koniag Incorporated in Kodiak, Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage, and TDX on Saint Paul Island.

Legal specialty certification

If you wish to pursue an area of legal specialty certification, the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification  is a great place to start. Certifications for qualified attorneys are available in civil, criminal, and family law; social security disability advocacy and civil trial law advocacy. You will be asked to apply and pass a certification examination before certification is granted. The Alaska State Coordinator for NBLSC is Ward Merdes, who can be contacted by phone at 907-452-5400 or by email at ward@merdes.com.

Requirements for maintaining license

In order to maintain your legal license to practice in Alaska, you must fulfill Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirements (MCLE) under Alaska Bar rules. This entails completing three hours of ethics courses each year. You are encouraged to earn nine additional MCLE credits each year, but this is not mandatory. You must report the three hours of ethics coursework you complete each year to the Bar.

Court Systems in Alaska

Alaska’s judicial system is unique in that it is unified, centrally administered, and totally state funded. There are no separate court systems at the municipal level. Four levels of courts exist in the Alaska Court System:

  • Supreme Court – the highest court in the state, hears appeals from lower courts and administers the entire judicial system for the state
  • Court of Appeals – three judges who hear  appeals in cases involving post-conviction relief, criminal prosecutions, juvenile delinquency, habeas corpus, extradition, probation and parole, the excessiveness or leniency of a sentence, and bail.
  • Superior Court – the trial court of general jurisdiction in Alaska. There are 40 Superior Court judges throughout Alaska’s four judicial districts. This court hears criminal and civil cases; serves as an appellate court for civil and criminal cases which have been tried in the district court; and hears cases involving:  juvenile delinquency or children in need of aid, property of deceased or incompetent people, involuntary commitments,   domestic relations, guardianships and conservatorships.
  • District Court- the trial court of limited jurisdiction, consists of 21 district court judges serving in three judicial districts. They hear cases involving small claims, misdemeanors, preliminary hearings, civil cases, domestic violence, extradition, perform marriage and notary duties, and more.

There are four judicial districts across Alaska, as follows:

  • First District: Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Juneau, Kake, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Skagway, Wrangell, Yakutat
  • Second District: Barrow, Kotzebue, Nome, Unalakleet
  • Third District: Anchorage, Cordova, Dillingham, Glennallen, Homer, Kenai, Kodiak, Naknek, Palmer, Seward, Unalaska, Valdez
  • Fourth District: Aniak, Bethel, Chevak, Delta Junction, Emmonak, Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Galena, Nenana, Saint Marys, Tok

Elective membership organizations

Think about joining one of the many professional voluntary membership organizations for attorneys in Alaska, including:

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Alaska Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Alaska Statistics:
 
AK Active Lawyers N/A
Average Annual Wage $116,652

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