Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Indiana
Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:
- Get my Indiana Undergraduate Pre-Law Education
- Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
- Apply to Law Schools in Indiana
- Take the Indiana State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
- Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar
Law Careers in Indiana
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute has compiled crime statistics for the state for over twenty years. These statistics can be helpful to prospective lawyers in Indiana if they wish to determine an area of the law in which to specialize. For example, these are a few of the crime trends published in 2000:
- One murder occurs in Indiana every 24.9 hours
- One forcible rape occurs in Indiana every 5 hours
- One robbery occurs in Indiana every 83.7 minutes
- One aggravated assault occurs in Indiana every 40.9 minutes
- One burglary every 12.8 minutes
- One larceny/theft every 3.6 minutes
- One motor vehicle theft every 24.9 minutes
- One property crime every 2.5 minutes
It is clear from these statistics that lawyers are highly necessary in Indiana. If you would like to discover how to become a lawyer and help improve Indiana’s justice system and reduce its crime statistics, read on.
Get Your Indiana Undergraduate Pre-Law Major
The Indiana Board of Law Examiners has not ruled on undergraduate education for admittees. However, the American Bar Association (ABA) mandates a minimum of a bachelor’s degree prior to entry into any ABA-approved law school.
When you apply to an ABA-approved law school, they will demand proof that you have graduated from an undergraduate institution that is accredited. If your undergraduate college or university is accredited by an organization listed on the U.S. Department of Education database, the ABA-approved law school to which you apply should accept such accreditation.
Requirements and Standards
Your undergraduate major has little bearing on your admission to law school. Most law schools are looking to see if you took challenging coursework in your undergraduate studies, and could care less about the actual concentration or major you took. However, there are some courses that certain ABA-approved law schools may look for in your undergraduate course work. These include:
- Political science
- Communications (oral and written)
The ABA requires that, when you apply to ABA-accredited law schools, you possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. This may be in any major you choose. Many pre-law students choose majors from the above-mentioned coursework options, but any challenging major should help you gain entrance to the ABA-approved law school of your choice following graduation.
Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Indiana
Once you have received (or are soon to receive) your undergraduate degree, you are ready to take the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. This standardized test must be passed in order to be accepted into any ABA-approved law school.
How to prepare
The LSAT website provides many helpful, free study aids to help you get ready to take the LSAT. If you want to take a LSAT Prep or Refresher Course, options throughout Indiana include:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Indiana:
- LSAT Preparation Workshop, Indiana University at Bloomington Health Professions and Prelaw Center
- LSAT Advantage-On Demand, Kaplan Test Prep video course
- LSAT Advantage Course, Indianapolis
- LSAT Free Practice Test, Kaplan at Indiana University, Bloomington
- LSAT Hyperlearning Course, Princeton Review
In the LSAT, you will encounter:
- Logical reasoning – two sections of arguments that you must dissect and analyze, determining strengths and weaknesses
- Reading comprehension- one section consisting of four passages of 500 words each, with about five questions per passage. Passages are usually on topics including arts, humanities, law, social sciences, and physical sciences. You must find the main idea in the passage, draw inferences, describe the structure, and find information.
- Analytical reasoning- one section, also known as “logic games.” These games concern matching, grouping and ordering elements. You must draw conclusions from statements based on a premise and conditions about the premise. .
- Unscored Variable section- experimental section that can be on any of the above. As you are taking the LSAT, you will not know which section is the experimental one, so you must do your best on every section.
- Writing sample- This section gives you a problem and two criteria for making a decision. You must write an essay favoring one option over the other. This essay is not scored by the LSAC and does not figure into your LSAT score. However, it is sent to the law schools to which you apply, and will be read by admissions personnel.
You must apply to take the LSAT through the LSAC online and create an account with them. The fee to take the test as of 2012 is $160, payable online via credit card or by money order or check payable to the Law School Admission Council. You may sign up to take the LSAT on Saturdays or Wednesdays in February, June, October and December. These centers throughout Indiana offer the LSAT:
- Indiana University, 107 S. Indiana Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405-7000
- Wabash College, 410 West Wabash Avenue, Crawfordsville, IN 47933
- University of Evansville, 1800 Lincoln Ave. - Evansville, IN 47722
- Indiana University-Purdue University, 2101 E. Coliseum Blvd. , Fort Wayne, IN 46805
- DePauw University, P.O. Box 37, Greencastle IN 46135-0037
- Indiana University School of Law, 211 South Indiana Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405-7001
- Indiana-Purdue University (IUPUI), 420 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202
- Ball State University, 2000 W. University Ave. Muncie, IN 47306
- University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556
- Indiana State University, 220 North 7th Street, 150 Tirey Hall, Terre Haute, IN 47809
- Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN 46383-6493
- Purdue University, 475 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2050
Receiving Your Score
It takes approximately three weeks to receive your LSAT scores in the mail after you take the test. The lowest score possible is 120, and the highest, 180. According to US News & World Report, the following are the median LSAT scores accepted by Indiana law schools:
- Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington: 164
- Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law: 155
- Valparaiso University Law School: 150
- Notre Dame Law School: 167
Go to Law School in Indiana
Passing the LSAT is the next step in your quest to become an Indiana lawyer. Now you must apply to ABA-approved law schools, as the Indiana Board of Law Examiners requires that you be a graduate of one of them when you take the state’s bar exam. There are more than 200 ABA-approved law schools in the United States. You may attend any one of them, not just ones located in Indiana. This list will tell you what each law school requires of you when you apply.
Credential Assembly Service
As an applicant to any ABA-approved law school, you must register for LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (CAS). The CAS helps to create law school reports to send to the schools to which you apply. It will forward your academic summary, LSAT scores, writing samples, copies of all transcripts, and copies of letters of recommendation to these schools for you. It is your responsibility to provide the CAS with information including:
- Transcripts from all institutions you attended and received college credit – both in the United States and elsewhere
- Names of persons who will write your letters of recommendation
- Names of persons who will provide online evaluations of your work and character
- Fee of $155 for the CAS (payable online through your LSAC account)
The Indiana Board of Law Examiners requires all applicants to take the bar exam to graduate from ABA-approved law schools. Consult the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools for information about ABA-approved law schools in the United States.
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Indiana
These law schools in Indiana hold ABA accreditation:
- Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington, 211 S. Indiana Ave, Bloomington, IN 47405-7001
- Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 530 West New York St, Indianapolis, IN 46202-3225
- Notre Dame Law School, 1329 Biolchini Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
- Valparaiso University Law School, 656 S. Greenwich Street, Wesemann Hall, Valparaiso, IN 46383-4945
Foundational coursework in any ABA-approved law school should include:
- Criminal law
- Legal research
- Legal writing
- Constitutional law
- Civil procedure
- Business associations
- Ethics and Professional responsibility (the Board mandates at least two hours must be taken in this prior to sitting for the bar exam)
It will take at least two but no more than seven years to complete all requirements for your Juris Doctor (J.D.) professional law degree. The ABA mandates that you complete at least 83 semester hours. Most Indiana ABA-approved law schools require an average of 90 semester hours for the J.D. degree.
Online Law Degrees
Clinical programs that you can expect to receive an opportunity to participate in will allow you to work with real-life clients in a legal setting. This may be through pro bono work, in legal aid clinics, in governmental or non-profit agencies, or in other settings in which lawyers work. You will be graded on your performance by in-field supervisors and faculty who will visit you on the job site.
The Indiana Board of Law Examiners requires that you have a J.D. degree to take the bar exam. You may find other degree options in Indiana’s ABA-approved law schools, including dual degrees and certificates. Some of these may be:
- J.D. /M.B.A.
- J.D./M.A. in English
- J.D./M.Eng. in Engineering
Advanced Law Degrees (obtained after receiving the J.D.):
- L.L.M. in International and Comparative Law
- L.L.M. in International Human Rights Law
- J.S.D. in International Human Rights Law
Programs of Study/Possible Concentrations in your J.D. Program:
- Business Law
- Criminal Law
- Global Law
- Ethics and Public Policy
- Public Law
Take the Indiana State Bar Exam
After receiving your J.D. from an ABA-approved law school, it is time to take the Indiana bar exam. This exam is offered in February and July. If you have less than five credit hours to complete to receive your J.D. degree, are within 100 days of graduation, have completed at least two hours of professional responsibility coursework, and have completed all other requirements for bar admission, you may also apply to take the bar exam.
Options to help you prepare for the Indiana Bar Exam include:
- Indiana Bar Exam Outlines, online
- Indiana Bar Outlines and Lectures, online
- Indiana Bar Review Courses, Law Bound Prep
- Bar Review Course, Indianapolis Bar Association
The National Conference of Bar Examiners website also provides sample questions for the national portions of the test, including the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).
The Indiana Bar Exam consists of:
- Indiana Essay section, which could ask questions on:
- Administrative law
- Business organizations
- Commercial law
- Family law
- Indiana Constitutional law
- Personal property
- Indiana Pleading and Practice
- Indiana Appellate Procedure
- Wills and estates
- Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which requires you to perform a lawyer’s task involving a file and a library. You may be asked to write a memorandum, prepare a legal brief, or other similar performance task.
- Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), which could include questions on:
- Constitutional law
- Contracts and sales
- Criminal law and procedure
- Real property
Complete the Application for Admission Upon Examination to Practice Law. Applications for the February administration of the bar examination will not be accepted before October 1, and for the July bar exam, applications will not be accepted before March 1. Along with your completed application:
- Submit originals and one copy of all applications and all attachments (including reference letters)
- Submit three reference letters from people personally familiar with your character and fitness
- Enclose $250 filing fee if filing on time or $500 if filing late (after April 16 for the July exam and after November 16 for the February exam) payable to State Board of Law Examiners
- Enclose a 2 in x 2 in passport-type photo of yourself not more than two years old
- Enclose a driving record from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles covering the past five years
- Send Form C3, Dean’s Affidavit, to the dean of your law school for completion. The Dean must submit the form to the Board twenty days before the date of the bar exam
- Mail the above to State Board of Law Examiners, 30 South Meridian St, Suite 875, Indianapolis, IN 46204
- Have your fingerprints taken:
- Go to a State Police station or Law Enforcement Facility that takes fingerprints
- Complete State Form 8053
- Submit the fingerprint card, State Form 8053 and a check for $10 payable to the State of Indiana to the Indiana State Police ,Criminal History Limited Check ,P.O. Box 6188 ,Indianapolis, IN 46206-6188
After your application is processed, you will be contacted with information on your Character and Fitness Personal Interview. This will be conducted in your county at least 30 days prior to the bar exam.
The Indiana Board of Law Examiners reports the following passing scores for the most recent bar exams:
- February 2012: 67% overall pass rate
- July 2011: 78% overall pass rate
- February 2011: 71% overall pass rate
- July 2010: 78% overall pass rate
- February 2010: 69% overall pass rate
- July 2009: 80% overall pass rate
- February 2009: 67% overall pass rate
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
You must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) with a scaled score of 80 within two years before or after the date you pass the Indiana bar exam. Consult the above link to register to take this exam, which is given in March, August and November in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Notre Dame and Valparaiso.
Attorneys Admitted to Practice in Another State
If you are already an attorney who is licensed to practice in another state, you may apply for admission to Indiana’s bar in three ways:
- Take the bar examination (see above)
- Apply for Admission on Foreign License if you meet these requirements:
- Practiced for five of the last seven years in your jurisdiction
- Intend to actively and predominantly practice law in Indiana
- Will practice for at least 1000 hours/year in Indiana
- Graduated from an ABA-approved law school
- You are in good standing in all jurisdictions in which you are licensed
- You pass Indiana’s character and fitness investigation/interview
- Apply for Business Counsel License if you meet these requirements:
- Have less than five years practice experience in another state
- Reside in Indiana
- Receive all your income from your employer
- You plan to practice predominantly in Indiana
- You plan to practice for at least 1000 hours/year in Indiana
- You are in good standing in all jurisdictions in which you are licensed
- You pass Indiana’s character and fitness investigation/interview
Foreign Law School Graduates
Foreign law school graduates are not eligible to take the Indiana bar exam.
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
You should receive your bar exam scores by mail about nine weeks after taking the exam. You will be told of the time and place of your swearing-in ceremony and admission to the bar. This is the oath you must take and subscribe to:
“I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead the court or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law; I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client at every peril to myself; I will abstain from offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged; I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.”
Now that You’ve Been Accepted to the Indiana Bar
You’ve done it – you’ve passed the bar exam and are now a licensed lawyer in Indiana! As a new admittee to the Indiana state bar, you must complete a mandatory six hours of applied professionalism coursework in your first three years of membership. You may also want to consider joining the Indiana State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers section for a minimal fee. All members under the age of 36 are eligible for membership in this section. It can be an invaluable resource in helping you set up your own practice, familiarize yourself with the laws of Indiana, and in networking for jobs.
If you choose to join an established Indiana legal firm, you have many from which to choose. Names include Bose McKinney & Evans, specializing in trusts and estate law in Indianapolis; tax attorneys Hargrove Madden in Indianapolis; Bunger & Robertson, with a variety of specializations in Bloomington; Faegre, Baker & Daniels, with a variety of practice areas in Elkhart; Rudolph, Fine, Porter & Johnson, specializing in workers compensation law in Evansville; and the Sweeney Law Firm, specializing in medical malpractice and personal injury in Fort Wayne.
Companies in Indiana that typically hire lawyers in some capacity include pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in Indianapolis; metals company Steel Dynamics in Fort Wayne; Lincoln Financial Group in Fort Wayne; retailer and merchandiser Vera Bradley in Roanoke; insurers Baldwin & Lyons in Indianapolis; and health benefits company WellPoint, Inc. in Indianapolis.
Legal specialty certification
Only 126 Indiana attorneys were certified to practice in a specialty area of law as of 2006, according to a scholar at Valparaiso University. In Indiana, the ISBA’s Commission for Continuing Education regulates attorney specialization. To be recognized as certified in a field of law in Indiana, you must first be an active member of the bar in good standing, as well as be certified by an independent certification organization (ICO) approved by CLE. Furthermore, you must be incompliance with the Indiana Bar Certification Review Plan, the rules and policies of the ICO and the rules and policies of CLE. Approved areas currently include family law, elder law, consumer and business bankruptcy law, civil and criminal trial advocacy, and creditor’s rights.
Requirements for maintaining license
In order to maintain your law license in Indiana, you must complete 36 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) every three years, with a minimum of six hours completed each year. Three of your 36 hours must be in professional responsibility. For more information consult the Commission for Continuing Legal Education.
Court Systems in Indiana
The Indiana Judicial System consists of the following, from the lowest court to the highest court:
- Town Courts – consists of 27 courts in towns throughout the state, each court has exclusive jurisdiction of misdemeanors and infractions in the town and violations of town ordinances
- City Courts – 44 city courts across the state, with jurisdiction of misdemeanors and infractions in the city and violation of city ordinances
- Small Claims Court – located only in Marion County, the Small Claims Court hears civil cases under $6000
- Probate Court- located only in St. Joseph, the Probate Court has original and concurrent jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases, as well as appellate jurisdiction over appeals from city and town courts.
- Circuit Courts – 91 judicial circuits exist throughout Indiana, one for each of 90 counties (Ohio and Dearborn counties share a judicial circuit). The Circuit Courts have concurrent jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases, as well as appellate jurisdiction over appeals from city and town courts
- Superior Courts – Usually at least one in each of the 92 counties in Indiana. Superior Courts are trial courts with original and concurrent jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases, as well as appellate jurisdiction over city and town courts. They can also establish small claims cases and minor offense divisions
- Tax Court- exists only in Indianapolis, has exclusive jurisdiction in tax appeals. It is located at 115 W. Washington Street, Suite 960S, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
- Court of Appeals – exist in five districts across Indiana, and reviews final decisions of certain administrative agencies. It also has jurisdiction over appeals not taken to the Supreme Court.
- Indiana Supreme Court- Indiana’s highest court has the power to review and revise sentences imposed by lower courts. It also has exclusive jurisdiction in bar admission, discipline of attorneys, discipline of judges, court jurisdiction supervision, issuing writs, death sentence appeals, denial of post-conviction relief appeals for death sentences, appeals in cases in which a state or federal statute has been declared unconstitutional, and cases involving emergency, great public importance, or substantial questions of law. It is located at 315 Indiana State House, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
Elective membership organizations
Although you are a now a member of the Indiana Bar Association, you might also think about joining another beneficial professional membership organization for lawyers in the state, such as:
- Indiana Trial Lawyers Association
- Indianapolis Bar Association
- Indiana Employment Lawyers Association
- Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association
- Women Lawyers Association