State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Careers in Arizona

According to the Arizona State Bar Association’s 2011 Annual Report, the total number of active lawyers in Arizona that year was 16,390 (an increase of 397 over 2010’s total). Maricopa County had the most practicing members of the bar, at 10,951, followed by Pima County with 2346 active lawyers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor quoted the average lawyer’s salary in Arizona that year at $124,220. Lawyers in Maricopa County (the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale metropolitan area) averaged a yearly salary of $130,460; while those working in the Pima County area (Tucson metropolitan area) earned an average of $100,630 a year. If you would like to learn how to become a member of Arizona’s state bar and be eligible to practice law in Arizona, the following steps should help you to achieve this goal.
 

Step 1

Complete Your Arizona Undergraduate Pre-Law Schooling

The State Bar of Arizona does not require nor specify any pre-legal education for its members. However, it does require members to be graduates of law schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA-approved law schools typically require applicants to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Accreditation

Your undergraduate college or university must be accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. ABA-approved law schools demand that your undergraduate degree come from such an accredited institution.

Requirements and Standards

Because schools do not have a major called “Pre-Law,” there is not a standardized major or course of study that you should take to prepare for law school. You should take courses that personally interest you, improve your analytical ability, and help to hone your oral communication and writing skills. Coursework that you should take as a pre-law student includes political science, government, philosophy, mathematics, English, computers and human behavior.

Degree Options

Degrees are not pre-set for pre-law majors. The minimum degree you must have for entrance into an ABA-approved law school is a bachelor’s degree. The following undergraduate majors have been shown to help students the most when applying to law school:

  • Political Science, History, Economics, Government, Philosophy and English.

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Pre- Law Advisor

Your undergraduate college or university may offer a pre-law advisor or pre-law department. Their purpose is to advise students who plan to attend law school after graduation on choosing coursework, majors and minors to help them achieve those goals.

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Step 2

Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Arizona

All ABA-approved law schools insist upon applicants passing the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. This is the next step in your quest to become an Arizona lawyer. You must sign up to take the LSAT, which is offered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) four times yearly and usually takes about three and a half hours to complete.

How to prepare

Materials provided free of charge on the LSAT website can help you to prepare to take this standardized test that is so important in your law school endeavors. Additionally, there are preparation courses offered in Arizona for a fee, including:

LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Arizona:

Exam content

There are five sections of multiple-choice questions on the LSAT, as well as a 30-minute writing sample. You are given 35 minutes to complete each multiple-choice section. On the LSAT, you will encounter three different kinds of questions:
Reading Comprehension—You will read about four passages and answer approximately eight questions on each passage, based upon your comprehension and understanding of the passage.
Analytical Reasoning- Some students call this section Logic Games. There are about 24 of these questions arranged into four sets of analytical problems that you must answer. 
Logical Thinking- You will complete about 25 questions in this section, testing you ability to perform logical reading and deductions.

One section of the LSAT will not be scored, but you will not know which section this is. In addition, your writing section is not scored, but is examined closely by the law schools to which you apply.

Application process

Applications to take the LSAT must be filed online. It is given in February, June, October and December on Saturdays and Wednesdays. These testing centers in Arizona offer the LSAT (though not every center offers the test on every day):

  • Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff
  • Gateway Community College, Phoenix
  • Phoenix College, Phoenix
  • Phoenix School of Law, Scottsdale
  • Arizona State University, Tempe
  • University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Arizona Western College, Yuma

Fees

You must pay the LSAC $160 to take the LSAT (usually paid online via credit card when you register).

Receiving Your Score

Your LSAT scores will be emailed to you by the LSAC approximately two to three weeks after you complete the exam. Your score may range from 120 to 180, calculated by the number of correct answers on the four scored sections.

Remember, the LSAT is just another tool you will use to gain admission to an ABA-approved law school. Schools will also look at your undergraduate record, character and other qualities you have exhibited in the past and to which your references will attest.

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Arizona

Application process

Now that you have passed the LSAT, you are ready to apply to ABA-approved law schools. All ABA-approved law schools require that you use the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) when applying. Follow these steps to utilize the CAS properly:

  • Make sure that all official college transcripts are mailed to the LSAC at 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 2000-M, Newtown PA 18940-0993. Include transcripts from all institutions you have ever attended and received credit, not just from institutions that granted you a degree, certificate or diploma. If you took coursework in an institution outside of the US, its territories, or Canada, have those transcripts mailed to the LSAC, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 8502, Newtown PA 18940-8502.
  • Provide the LSAC with names of those who will provide your Letters of Recommendation and Online Evaluations.  Describe the content of the letters that each person will submit, and to which schools you want each letter sent. Once the letters are written, the recommenders will mail them along with a special form directly to the LSAC, who will submit them to law schools for you. The LSAC will also email persons who have agreed to perform online evaluations for you and submit them to the law schools of your choice.
  • Pay the LSAC $155 to use their Credential Assembly Service. The fee can be paid online through your LSAC account. It also covers electronic processing of your applications to the ABA-approved law schools you choose.

Accreditation

Under rules of the State Bar of Arizona, you must graduate from an ABA-approved law school in the United States (not necessarily in Arizona) to become a member of the state’s bar. There are 201 law schools across the United States that hold ABA accreditation. They are listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Arizona

Three law schools in Arizona currently are ABA-accredited:

Course requirements

The ABA lists coursework and knowledge that all approved law schools must include in their curricula. These are:

  • Substantive law
  • Legal reasoning and legal analysis
  • Legal research
  • Problem solving
  • Oral communication
  • Writing in the legal context
  • Rules of the legal profession, its structure, history, values, goals and responsibilities (including the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association)
  • Other professional skills necessary to a lawyer’s success
  • Field placements, internships, externships, pro-bono work and other live client interactions must be offered to law school students

The ABA mandates that it must take you at least two academic years (260 days) to earn your Juris Doctor (JD) degree, but that it cannot take you more than seven years (84 months). You must complete 58,000 minutes of instructional time (83 semester hours or 129 quarter hours of credit).

In addition, the State Bar of Arizona has ruled that all applicants to take the bar exam must first complete a course on Arizona law.

Online Law Degrees

Internship

Depending upon your law school, you may be offered the chance to pursue an internship. This may be in a law office, government agency, law clinic, pro bono situation, or moot court setting. You may be able to work as a legislative intern for your state’s government to earn college credit. The contacts that you make during this practical experience will prove to be quite valuable to you after you graduate from law school.

Degree Programs

The State Bar of Arizona has ruled that all applicants to take the bar exam must have a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an ABA-approved law schools. Arizona’s ABA-approved law schools also offer varying degree programs for legal students. These include:

  • University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law:
    • L.L.M.  in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLIP)
    • S.J.D. – Doctor of Judicial Science in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLIP)
    • L.L.M. in International Trade and Business Law (ITBL)
    • S.J.D. in International Trade and Business Law (ITBL)
  • Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law:
    • M.L.S. – Master of Legal Studies
    • L.L.M. – Master of Laws

Online Law Degrees

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Step 4

Take the Arizona State Bar Exam

If you have your J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school and are over 21 years of age, of good moral character, and mentally, emotionally and physically able to practice law, the State Bar of Arizona welcomes you to take its bar exam. (The other two methods of admission to the Arizona bar, admission on motion and admission by transfer of Uniform Bar Exam score from another jurisdiction, will be discussed later in this step).

Preparation

Just as it was important to prepare for the LSAT, it is equally important to prepare to take the Arizona Bar Exam.  Arizona administers the Uniform Bar Exam, consisting of three national examinations. Free materials are available from the National Conference of Bar Examiners for the national portions of the exam (the Multistate Essay Exam, Multistate Bar Exam, and Multistate Performance Test).   

If you wish to take a preparation course for the Arizona bar exam, check out the following:

Exam content

The Arizona Bar Exam is offered twice annually, in February and July. The first day of the exam consists of six Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) questions. These may cover any of the following subjects:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Trusts and wills
  • Business associations
  • Criminal procedure
  • Civil procedure
  • Family law
  • Contracts
  • Evidence
  • Commercial law
  • Torts
  • Real property
  • Criminal law

You will then have to complete two Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions. These are essay questions as well, and may cover the above topics.

The second day of the exam consists of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), which is 200 multiple-choice questions (190 of them scored). Subject matter covered may include Constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts.

Application Process

Apply online to take the Arizona Bar Exam and pay your application fee of $580 online. Exam applications can be only be accessed between January 15 to April 30 for the July exam, and August 15 to November 30 for the February exam. All documents that you mail to the Bar to support your online application must be received in the Bar office within five days of completing your online application. These include:

  • Declaration (signed and notarized)
  • Authorization and Release (signed and notarized)
  • Code of Conduct (initialed and signed)
  • Evidence of graduation with a J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school (one of the following):
    • Photocopy of your degree
    • Original, verified transcript
    • Original dated letter from your law school attesting to the date you received your J.D. degree
  • Original 2 in. x 2 in. passport-style photograph
  • Original completed fingerprint card (you must request this from the Committee on Character and Fitness by emailing them at attorneyadmissions@courts.az.gov.)
  • Court or bar document (if you were previously admitted to the bar in another jurisdiction)
  • Citizenship information (one of the following):
    • Copy of birth certificate
    • Copy of passport information page
    • Copy of valid driver’s license
    • Copy of completed I-9 form
    • Copy of certificate of naturalization
    • Copies of immigrant status if not a U.S. citizen

Submit the supporting documentation to Committee on Examinations, Supreme Court of Arizona, Administrative Office of the Courts, 1501 W. Washington, Suite 104, Phoenix, AZ 85007-3222

You must also begin an online character report and pay for this online. This authorizes the Committee on Character and Fitness to begin a background investigation. Because this takes three to four months, keep this in mind when planning your bar exam (although the report need not be completed prior to taking the bar exam).

Pass Rates

Pass rates for past Arizona bar exams as reported by the Arizona bar are as follows:

  • February 2011: 67% total pass rate (includes first-time and multiple-time test takers)
  • July 2010: 78%
  • February 2010: 63%
  • July 2009: 78%
  • February 2009: 61%
  • July 2008: 82%

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam

In addition to passing the Arizona Bar Exam, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a score of 85 within three years of admission to the Arizona Bar. The MPRE covers the American Bar Association Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC), Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC). This test is given in March, August and November in Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson. For more information or to register to take the exam online, click the link above.

Admission on Motion

You may be admitted on motion to the Arizona bar if you meet all of these requirements:

  • You have been admitted by bar exam to practice in another jurisdiction that also allows for reciprocal licensing of Arizona lawyers
  • You hold a J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school
  • You have practice law in one or more states for five of the past seven years
  • You have a passing score of 85 on the MPRE
  • You are a bar member in good standing of all jurisdictions in which you practice law
  • You are not subject to any discipline or pending disciplinary matter
  • You possess good character and fitness
  • You have completed the necessary course on Arizona law

For more information or to apply for admission on motion, click here.

Admission by Transfer of Uniform Bar Exam Scores

If you have already taken the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), you may be eligible for score transfer and admission to the Arizona bar if you meet these requirements:

  • You hold  a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school
  • You passed the UBE with a score of 273 or greater

You must still register to take the necessary course on Arizona law. You may begin your application for UBE transfer here.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

After you pass the Arizona bar exam and meet all other requirements, you will be notified of the time, date and place of your swearing-in ceremony. At the ceremony, you must recite the Oath of Admission. Once this is completed, you will be a full-fledged member of the Arizona bar.

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Step 5

Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Arizona Bar

Congratulations on becoming a member of the Arizona bar! Whether you are starting out and setting up your own practice or joining an existing law firm, there are resources available to help you in your career endeavors.  

The University of Arizona publishes this Guide to Arizona Practice Materials on the internet. It offers advice and resources for you if you are starting your own general civil practice, commercial law practice, real estate practice, domestic relations practice, criminal law practice, personal injury practice, and estate planning and other senior issues.

If you would like to join an existing law firm, contact some of the larger firms in Arizona to see if they are hiring. They include DLA Piper in Phoenix, Greenberg Traurig LLP in Phoenix , Snell & Wilmer LLP in Tucson and Phoenix, Clark Hill PLC in Scottsdale, The Cavanagh Law Firm in Sun City and Phoenix, and Goldberg & Osborne in Phoenix and Tucson.

Corporations are also often in need of legal help. Fortune 500 corporations housed in Arizona that could employ lawyers include Avnet in Phoenix, US Airways in Tempe, Insight Enterprises in Tempe, PetSmart in Phoenix and the Apollo Group in Phoenix.

Legal specialty certification

The State Bar of Arizona’s Board of Legal Specialization recognizes and certifies attorneys who wish to specialize in certain areas. To qualify, you must:

  • Have been admitted to practice law for at least five years (seven years for criminal law and real estate law specializations)
  • Have been admitted to the State Bar of Arizona for at least two years
  • Devote at least 50% of your practice time to the specialization (70% if specializing in family law)
  • Have been substantially involved in your specialization area for four of the past six years (five of the past seven years if specializing  in real estate)
  • Pass a written examination
  • Pass a peer review

Certification areas available in Arizona include:

  • Bankruptcy law
  • Criminal law
  • Estate and trust law
  • Family law
  • Personal injury and wrongful death
  • Real estate law
  • Tax law
  • Workers’ compensation law

For more information on legal specialization in Arizona, contact the Board of Legal Specialization at (602)340-7326 or email bls@staff.azbar.org.

Requirements for maintaining license

To maintain your Arizona law license, you must complete 15 credit hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) per year. Three of those hours must be in ethics courses. The State Bar of Arizona does not certify MCLE courses or providers. Lawyers in Arizona lawyers must review Arizona’s MCLE regulations and make their own determination that a program qualifies for MCLE credit. You must report your MCLE credits online yearly.

Court Systems in Arizona

Arizona’s court system has three levels:

  1. Justice Courts and City Courts - These are courts of limited jurisdiction.
    1. Justice Courts hear civil cases involving landlord/tenant disputes, collection cases, consumer complaints, negligence (such as motor vehicle accidents), and breach of contract cases. They also hear criminal cases of assault and battery, DUI, bad checks, violations of protection orders/harassment, and underage drinking. Justice courts hear civil and criminal traffic violation cases as well.
    2. City Courts or Municipal Courts hear misdemeanor criminal traffic cases, civil traffic cases, violations of city codes and ordinances, as well as issue protection orders and search warrants.
  2. Superior Court of Arizona -The statewide trial court and the general jurisdiction court in Arizona.  Hears equity cases, cases in which the value of property is $1,000 or more, felony criminal cases, some criminal misdemeanor cases, insolvency proceedings, nuisance actions, probate matters, divorces and annulments, naturalization, and other special cases not provided for elsewhere in the court system. Superior Courts are located in:
    1. Apache County
    2. Cochise County
    3. Coconino County
    4. Gila County
    5. Graham County
    6. Greenlee County
    7. La Paz County
    8. Maricopa County
    9. Mohave County
    10. Navajo County
    11. Pima County
    12. Pinal County
    13. Santa Cruz County
    14. Yavapai County
    15. Yuma County
  1. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court
    1. Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court, reviews trials and decisions appealed to them from the superior court. (Death penalty appeals and certain cases involving elected officials and county disputes are appealed directly to the Supreme Court).
      1. Division One is located in Phoenix
      2. Division Two is located in Tucson
    2. Supreme Court is the highest court in Arizona and the court of last resort. It is located in the Arizona State Courts Building, 1501 W. Washington, Suite 402, Phoenix, AZ
       

Elective membership organizations

Now that you are a member of the Arizona bar, you might want to join a voluntary professional organization for attorneys such as:

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Arizona Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Arizona Statistics:
 
AZ Active Lawyers 16,390
Average Annual Wage $124,220

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