Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:
If you want to become a lawyer, the District of Columbia is a great place to get your start. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor notes that the District of Columbia was the top-paying state among all states in which lawyers worked in May 2011. The 29,010 lawyers working in DC at that time averaged an annual mean wage of $161,050. Additionally, the District also had the highest concentration of lawyer jobs of any state in the country, with 45 of every 1000 jobs being lawyers. The American Bar Association reported 49,207 active resident attorneys working in DC in 2010 and 50,440 in 2011. If you want to start a career as a lawyer in the District of Columbia, following the steps in this document will help you to achieve your goal.
The Committee on Admissions of the District of Columbia Courts handles over 3500 applications to the District of Columbia Bar each year. There are three ways to join the DC Bar: apply for admission by examination, apply for admission by motion (without examination) and apply to become a special legal consultant (SLC). First, we will cover the examination route, as it is the most common way to become a member of the DC Bar. Later in Step 4 of this document, we will cover the other two methods of admission to the bar.
The Committee on Admission does not require that you graduate from an American Bar Association approved law school, nor is specific pre-legal education required. However, if you later wish to be enrolled in an ABA-approved law school, the undergraduate pre-legal education you receive should include at least a bachelor’s degree and be from an accredited institution.
Check to make sure that the undergraduate college or university you attend is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This type of accreditation may be on the national or regional level, and will assist you in your later quest for acceptance into a law school, whether or not that school is ABA-approved.
Requirements and Standards
Because the District of Columbia does not mandate pre-legal education of any type, it has set no requirements or standards for such. The American Bar Association has noted that undergraduate pre-legal education should cover certain areas, however. Topics that you should study during your undergraduate years to improve your chances of law school success include:
The District of Columbia’s Committee on Admission does not require that you obtain any kind of pre-legal degree, nor does it require that you graduate from an ABA-approved law school. However, if you do wish to become enrolled in an ABA-approved law school, you need at least a bachelor’s degree. Your major may be in any area you choose, but if it is in one of the above-mentioned areas, you should fare better in law school.
Pre Law Advisor
If you choose to complete undergraduate pre-law education, your school may offer a Pre-Law Advisor. This person will help you in choosing the courses and major that will best prepare you for law school.
The District of Columbia’s Committee on Admission does not require that you graduate from a law school that is approved by the American Bar Association to become a DC bar member. However, most law schools, both ABA-approved and non-approved, require you to pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, prior to law school admission. Check your intended school’s examination requirements to make sure.
How to prepare
Preparing for the LSAT may be done by studying free materials at the LSAT website and by taking their practice tests. You may also opt to enroll in LSAT examination preparation courses offered in the District of Columbia, each of which charges a fee for enrollment.
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in District of Columbia:
Three major areas are tested in the LSAT:
The LSAT is given in the United States twice weekly in February, June, October and December. The LSAT is not offered on each date at each testing center, so when you apply online, make sure the center at which you wish to take the test offers it on the day of your choice. Testing centers in the District of Columbia include:
The fee to take the LSAT is $160 (as of April 2012). You may pay this fee online by credit card at registration, or by mailing a check or money order to the Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street, Newtown, PA 18940.
Receiving Your Score
The Law School Admission Council will email your scores to you three weeks post-exam. The lowest possible LSAT score is 120, and the highest, 180. If for some reason you wish to cancel your LSAT scores on exam day, a box on the answer sheet may be checked. If you decide up to six days after the test to cancel your scores, this may be done so in writing by mailing the Law School Admission Council, Score Cancellation, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 2000-T, Newtown, PA 18940-0995 or by faxing your cancellation request to 215-968-1277. The LSAC will email you once they have canceled your scores.
You may take the LSAT a maximum of three times every two years, even if you cancel your scores. To request to take the exam more than three times in 24 months, email an attachment to LSACinfo@LSAC.org requesting the date you would like to retake the LSAT, or fax your request to 215-968-1277. The LSAC will email you with their decision to deny or approve your request to retake the test.
Once you have passed the LSAT, you are ready to apply for entrance into law school. If you are applying to a law school accredited by the ABA, consult this list of services that each school requires for admission. If you are applying to a non-ABA approved law school, contact your school directly for its requirements.
Credential Assembly Service
ABA-approved law schools (and some non-ABA approved law schools) require that you utilize the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS). Take the following steps to use the CAS:
The District of Columbia Committee on Admission does not mandate that you graduate from an ABA-approved law school. If you choose to apply to an ABA-accredited school, there are about 200 across the United States from which you may choose. The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools can help you decide where to apply.
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in District of Columbia
The following District of Columbia law schools hold ABA accreditation:
Non-ABA Accredited Law Schools
If you choose a non-ABA accredited law school, you may be eligible to take the DC Bar Exam if you complete a minimum of 26 semester hours in subjects that are tested on the exam. These semester hours must be earned at an ABA-approved law school. You must have these credits approved by the Committee on Admissions, 500 Indiana Avenue N.W., Room 4200, Washington, D.C. 20001.
Online Law Degrees
Foreign Law Schools
If you graduate from a foreign law school, you may be eligible to take the DC Bar Exam if you complete a minimum of 26 semester hours in subjects that are tested on the exam. These semester hours must be earned at an ABA-approved law school. You must have these credits approved by the Committee on Admissions, 500 Indiana Avenue N.W., Room 4200, Washington, D.C. 20001.
Topics that you will be tested on when you take the DC Bar Exam are mandatory to cover in your law school education. They include:
If you attend an ABA-accredited law school, you will participate in an internship, conducted off-site. You will get the chance to hone your legal skills by working in the real world, in a legal clinic, legal office, or other legal setting. Your performance will be reviewed by staff of your law school and by an on-site supervisor.
The District of Columbia Committee on Admissions requires that you have at least a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree or an L.L.M. (Master of Laws) degree to be eligible to sit for the district’s bar exam. There are other legal degrees you may earn that do not render you eligible to take the exam, however, or dual degree programs to increase your marketability and career opportunities after graduation. These include:
You are now ready to apply to take the District of Columbia Bar Exam. It is offered twice a year in February and July in a two-day period.
Various organizations throughout the DC area offer bar exam preparation courses and workshops. It is to your advantage to complete all of the preparation courses and simulations you can before taking the bar exam. Preparation resources include:
The District of Columbia Bar Exam is given over a two-day period in February and July. Three parts exist to the exam:
Fees and Filing Deadlines
If you are taking the bar exam in February, your filing deadline is in December. If you are taking the bar exam in July, your filing deadline is in May. All fees must accompany your application and be in the form of cashier’s check, money order or certified check only. Fees to be paid are as follows:
Mail all materials and fees to District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Committee on Admissions, 430 E Street NW, Room 123, Washington, DC 20001. You will receive a letter by mail acknowledging receipt of your application and with your examination ticket.
According to the Committee on Admissions, the pass rate for first-time Bar Exam takers in July 2011 was 64%. The overall pass rate was 46%. A list of those who passed the exam in July 2011 may be found here.
Special Note About the DC Bar Exam
The District of Columbia Bar grants immediate reciprocity to anyone who passes another jurisdiction's exam, as long as that exam includes the MBE and the applicant gets a scaled score of at least 133. Therefore, many law school graduates take the bar exam in another jurisdiction and then apply for member ship to the DC Bar based on the results of that exam.
Before admission to the Bar, you must complete a Mandatory Course on the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and District of Columbia Practice. For more information on this course, call 202-626-1315 or 1-877-33-DCBAR, ext. 3315.
Other Ways to Gain Entrance to the DC Bar
Application for Admission by Motion (Without Examination)
You are eligible to be admitted to the bar if you meet one of the following requirements:
If you meet either of these requirements, complete these steps to be admitted to the DC Bar:
Mail all of the above to District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Committee on Admissions, 430 E Street NW, Room 123, Washington, DC 20001.
Application for Special Legal Consultant
You may be admitted to the DC Bar as a Special Legal Consultant (SLC) without passing the Bar Exam if you meet all of the following requirements:
If you meet all of these requirements:
Mail all of the above to District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Committee on Admissions, 430 E Street NW, Room 123, Washington, DC 20001
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
After passing the Bar, you must take the Oath of Admission at a formal ceremony before a panel of judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to which you will be invited. It will be located in the Ceremonial Courtroom located on the Lower Level of the Historic Courthouse at 430 E Street NW.
Once you have passed the Bar Exam, you may apply for a hand-engraved wall certificate. The fee for this is $40, via certified check, cashier’s check or money order to the Clerk, D.C. Court of Appeals. Mail to Engraved Certificate Office, D.C. Court of Appeals/Committee on Admissions, 430 E Street NW, Room 123, Washington, DC 20001. Processing and delivery of your certificate will take up to four months.
Congratulations on being admitted to the District of Columbia Bar! Your career opportunities as a lawyer in DC are limitless, as it is the seat of federal government and of many and various agencies and organizations.
Many law offices, both small and large, exist in DC, as this is one of the top ten legal cities in the United States. Some newly licensed attorneys choose to join a larger practice to enter the world of DC law. A few of the more famous DC area law firms include Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP in DC; the Carlberg Law Firm in nearby Alexandria, VA; Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP in DC; WilmerHale in DC; and Ballard Spahr LLP in DC.
Larger corporations with offices in DC may also be in need of attorneys. Some of the giants in the area include GE Corporate, Hilton Worldwide (in McLean, VA), Sprint’s Government Affairs division in D, and Thomson Reuters in DC.
Working for the American Bar Association’s headquarters in DC might be a good way to start a career in the legal profession. Other advocacy groups in the area that employ lawyers include the American Diabetes Association in Alexandria, VA; National Wildlife Federation in Reston, VA; the American Association for Justice in Washington, DC; and the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC.
The government employs many lawyers as well. Opportunities may exist with the National Guard, the Department of Justice, the Securities & Exchange Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the International Trade Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Legal specialty certification
With the District of Columbia being such a large legal market, the opportunity for many specializations exists. Some DC universities, as well as agencies such as the American Board of Certification and the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification provide certification services so that you can practice with titles such as Civil Trial Advocate, Social Security Disability Specialist, Bankruptcy Specialist, Health Law Specialist, Intellectual Property Specialist, and Family Law Specialist.
Requirements for maintaining license
Under the rules of the District of Columbia Bar, as a lawyer and member of the Bar, you do not need to fulfill any continuing legal education (CLE) requirements to maintain your law license. However, the DC Bar’s CLE Program offers more than 90 programs to help lawyers in other states fulfill their CLE responsibilities. If you are interested in their programs, call them at 202-626-3488.
Court Systems in District of Columbia
The Court System of the District of Columbia consists of three basic parts:
Elective membership organizations
Since you are now a a member of the District of Columbia Bar, think about entering ito one of the following elective membership organizations that support lawyers in the District:
Lawyer Career Specialties
|DC Active Lawyers||29,010|
|Average Annual Wage||$161,050|