State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Career Information in Kentucky

The American Bar Association lists 12,579 active lawyers in Kentucky as of 2011. Workforce Kentucky predicts about 178 openings per year for lawyers across the state from 2008 through 2018. This represents an increase for employment in this profession of 8.6 percent. The greatest percent change in the number of jobs available each year for lawyers will be in the Pennyrile area (also known as the Mississippi Plateau), with an increase of 18.4 percent. The next highest area of increase is the Buffalo Trace and Gateway areas, with a projected increase of 16 percent. Northern Kentucky should see an increase of 14.9 percent in jobs for lawyers during this period. The Lincoln Trail area (including Louisville, Frankfort and Lexington) is projecting an increase of 14 percent for lawyer jobs. If you wish to claim one of the many jobs that are expected to become available for lawyers in Kentucky over the next several years, keep reading.
 
Step 1

Get Your Kentucky Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions does not call for undergraduate education. The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions stresses the importance of graduating from a law school approved by the American Bar Association. You must obtain at least a bachelor’s degree before entering any ABA-approved law school.  

College Accreditation

National or regional accreditation by an agency listed with the U.S. Department of Education is mandatory before you will be accepted into any ABA-approved law school.

Requirements and Standards

Pre-law undergraduate education does not have any rules or limits imposed upon it by the ABA. You should take coursework that challenges and interests you. Recommended fields to take courses in include economics, philosophy, political science, English, communications, psychology, and sociology.

Pre-Law Degree Options

The ABA does not require a specific major for your undergraduate degree. Some majors may be more helpful to your future success as a lawyer than others may be. Undergraduate majors taken from the above-listed disciplines have shown to help students the most in law school and beyond.


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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Kentucky

All ABA-accredited law institutions mandate that you pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test prior to enrollment. It is a six-hour-long standardized test offered four times annually at examination centers all over the world.

How to prepare

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) offers free study materials on the LSAT website that will help you get ready to take the LSAT. If you wish to take formal, paid LSAT preparation courses, the following options are open to you in the Kentucky area:  
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Kentucky:

Exam content

The content of the LSAT includes:

  • Reading Comprehension – You must read a complex passage and answer questions based upon that passage
  • Analytical Reasoning– This may involve various types of logic games, including ordering games, characteristic games, grouping games, spatial games, networking games, and map games
  • Logical Reasoning–This involves critical reasoning, deductive reasoning and finding logical fallacies and/or conclusions from arguments.
  • Writing Sample – You must write an essay during the LSAT on a given topic. This essay is not scored as part of the LSAT but is sent to the admissions personnel at the ABA-accredited law schools to which you apply.

Application process

LSAT applications are accepted online at the LSAC website, where you must create an account and pay the testing fee of $160. You may take the LSAT in June, October, December or February (over a two-day period each month).  Centers throughout Kentucky that administer the LSAT include:

  • Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Bowling Green, KY 42101-1000
  • Centre College, 600 W Walnut St, Danville, KY 40422-1394
  • Gateway Community & Technical College, 1025 Amsterdam Rd, Covington, KY 41011
  • University of Kentucky, 101 Main Building, Lexington, KY 40506-0032
  • University of Louisville,2301 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY 40292-0001
  • Morehead State University, 25 MSU Farm Drive, Morehead, KY 40351
  • Murray State University, 218 Wells Hall, Murray, KY 42071-3318
  • Eastern Kentucky University, 521 Lancaster Ave, Richmond, KY 40475-3102

Receiving Your LSAT Score

Approximately 21 days after taking the LSAT, you will receive your score via postal mail. The lowest score possible is 120, and the highest score possible is 180. The University of Louisville usually accepts students with LSAT scores between 152 and 158. Northern Kentucky University’s students have median LSAT in the 151 to 156 range. 

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Kentucky - Law Degree

Law School Application process in Kentuckly

Kudos to you for passing the LSAT! Now you are ready to begin applying to ABA-accredited law institutions. The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions prefers that you graduate from an ABA-accredited law institution in the United States – it need not be in Kentucky. There are more than 200 ABA-accredited law schools nationwide, listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. Each law school has its own requirements for admissions. Check out this list of services required by some ABA-approved law schools before you apply.  (Information for graduates of non-ABA-approved law schools and foreign law schools is provided at the end of this section).

Credential Assembly Service

The LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) is a handy and necessary tool when applying to any ABA-approved law school. This service helps you to gather all transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended thus far, as well as gathering recommendation letters and online evaluations of your character and work. The CAS also takes care of applying to the ABA-approved law schools of your choice. The LSAC charges $155 for usage of the CAS.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Kentucky

Three law schools in Kentucky are ABA-accredited:

Course requirements

You will take coursework in (but not limited to) the following areas:

  • Business associations
  • Constitutional law
  • Conflict of laws
  • Civil law and procedure
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Evidence
  • Federal law
  • Trusts and estates
  • Uniform Commercial Code

It must take you at least two years, but no longer than seven years, to earn your Juris Doctor (JD) degree, per ABA rules. This averages to about 83 semester hours in total.

Online Law Degrees

Internship

You will likely be placed into an internship of some sort during your time at law school. This may involve working in a school-based legal clinic serving indigent clients, working in a governmental agency or office, or working with real lawyers in tandem performing legal research. Your performance on your internship will be assessed by supervisors in the field as well as by law school faculty members.

J.D Degree Programs

The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions insists that you have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree before taking the state’s bar exam. It is preferred that this degree comes from an ABA-accredited law institution, but rules for graduates of non-ABA-accredited law schools and foreign law schools are listed below.  

Non-ABA- Approved Law School Graduates

If you graduated from a non-ABA-accredited law school, you may still be eligible to take the Kentucky bar exam. You must meet all of the following prerequisites:

  • You hold a J.D. degree from a school that is nationally or regionally accredited in the jurisdiction in which it is located
  • You have graduated from a course of legal study of at least three years and equivalent to that of an ABA-approved Kentucky law school (evaluation equivalency is conducted by the Board of Bar Admissions and paid for by the applicant)
  • You have worked actively as a lawyer for three of the past five years
  • You meet all other admission requirements (including moral character and professional responsibility)

Graduates of Foreign Law Schools

Did you graduate from a law school located in another country? You may still be eligible to take Kentucky’s bar exam if you meet these prerequisites:

  • Your education equivalency is evaluated by the Board of Bar Admissions (paid for by you) and determined to be equivalent to that of ABA-approved law schools in Kentucky
  • You submit a certified copy of your license that allows you to practice law in the country from which you graduated law school
  • You have practiced law in that country for three of the past five years

Milestones

The University of Kentucky College of Law offers checklists with milestones that you should complete at the end of each year of law school:

  • First Year:
    • Identify and comply with the bar admission requirements of the jurisdiction in which you wish to practice law
    • Determine the bar exam subjects for this jurisdiction
    • Consider applying for a bar exam review course as the cost will be lower now
    • Consider your state’s bar exam requirements when choosing coursework
    • Learn IRAC
    • Review your performance on law school final exams with professors
    • Begin learning to write clearly and effectively
  • Second Year:
    • Recheck and comply with the bar admission requirements of the jurisdiction in which you wish to practice law in case they have changed
    • Determine bar exam subjects
    • Consider bar exam requirements when choosing coursework
    • Plan ahead to have finances to cover bar exam and review courses
    • Check into applying for a bar exam loan if necessary
    • Plan to take off from work during the time that you will study for the bar exam
    • Plan to take the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam) during the summer after your second year of law school or fall of your third year (depending on your jurisdiction’s requirements). Apply to take the MPRE here.
  • Third Year:
    • Recheck and comply with the bar admission requirements of the jurisdiction in which you wish to practice law in case they have changed
    • Update any applications you made during your first or second year of law school
    • Negotiate with employers to pay for bar exam application or bar review fees
    • Enroll in a commercial bar review course
    • Register to take the MPRE (if you have not already done so)
    • Plan ahead to have finances to cover bar exam and review courses
    • Plan to take off from work during the time that you will study for the bar exam
    • Plan where you will live while studying for the bar exam. Avoid moving during this study period, as it will take time away from your studying.
    • Plan to study six hours per day for the bar exam (in addition to  daily time spent in bar review courses)
    • Reserve a room in the city in which you will take the bar exam (if necessary)
    • Book transportation (if necessary)
    • Plan to arrive to the location at least a day before the exam
    • Seek approval for any medication (even over-the-counter) that you may need to take during the bar exam
    • Study your jurisdiction’s instructions for the bar exam

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Step 4

Take and Pass the Kenucky State Bar Exam

You must have completed all requirements for your JD degree prior to sitting for the Kentucky bar exam. You must also meet the state’s Essential Eligibility Requirements to practice law, and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a scaled score of 75 or more before taking the Kentucky bar exam. Apply to take the MPRE here.

Preparation

Exam review material is provided by the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions at its website. Included are past Kentucky essay questions, information on studying for the national portions of the exam (the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) and the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE)). Bar preparation courses that you may take in Kentucky include:

Exam content

You will take the Kentucky Bar Exam over two days. The first day is devoted to essay questions, with six state essay questions in the morning and six MEE essay questions in the afternoon. Subjects that may be included on this part are:

  • Administrative Law & Procedure
  • Agency
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Corporations
  • Domestic Relations
  • Federal Taxation
  • Kentucky & Federal Civil Procedure
  • Partnerships
  • Personal Property
  • UCC
  • Wills & Trusts, and Future Interests
  • Plus the subjects from the MBE (see below)

The second day is devoted to the MBE, consisting of 200 multiple-choice questions. Subjects may include:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts/Sales
  • Criminal Law/Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

If you have already taken the MBE in another jurisdiction within the past three years, and obtained a scaled score of 132 or higher, you may arrange for these scores to be transferred to Kentucky.

Application Process

You must apply for admission to the Kentucky Bar online, creating a new online account when you do so. Once you begin your application, you may save it and come back to it any time to complete it. You will be given instructions if you must print out any forms to have notarized and mail in to the Office. You will also be told of any supporting documentation you must send in. After your application is complete, submit the application online by clicking the appropriate button. You must mail your application fee payable to the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions via certified check, cashier’s check, money order, law firm check or corporate check. (No credit cards or cash will be accepted). This fee must accompany the supporting notarized documents you mail to the Office. Mail to Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions, 1510 Newtown Pike, Suite 156, Lexington, KY 40511-1255. Along with your fee and other documents you must mail:

  • Application signature page, with passport photo taped, signed and notarized
  • Two Authorization and Release Forms, signed and notarized
  • Copy of your credit report no more than 60 days old
  • You must also submit criminal history records from every state where you have lived, worked or attended school for at least six months within the last five years
  • Check the Resources section of the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions website for information on obtaining the documentation necessary (such as criminal history and driving records)

After submitting an application, you will receive a confirmation email from the Office immediately. The status of your application (and approval to take the bar exam) will be listed on the “My Dashboard” page of your online account.

Bar Pass Rates

The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions has posted the following passing statistics for past bar exams:

  • February 2012: 69 percent of test takers passed the exam
  • July 2010: 78%
  • February 2010: 74%
  • July 2009: 79%
  • February 2009: 72%
  • July 2008: 80%
  • February 2008: 68%
  • July 2007: 81%
  • February 2007: 70%

Admission Without Examination

If you meet the following requirements you may qualify for admission to the Kentucky bar without examination:

  • You graduated from an ABA-approved law school with a JD degree
  • You have already been admitted to bar of another jurisdiction in one of the reciprocal states listed here
  • You have practiced law in that jurisdiction for at least five of the past seven years
  • The other jurisdiction has a similar policy that would allow Kentucky lawyers reciprocity without taking their bar exam
  • You obtained at least a 75 on the MPRE

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

It will take approximately nine weeks to obtain your bar exam scores by email. They will also be posted on the Office of Bar Admissions’ website. The Office will notify you of the date and location of your bar admission ceremony.

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Step 5

Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Kentucky Bar

Now that you have been admitted to the Kentucky bar, you must decide where you wish to work. Do you want to open your own solo law practice? Would you rather join an established law firm? Perhaps you would like to work for a for-profit or non-profit corporation. All of these avenues are available to bar members in Kentucky.

The Young Lawyers Division of the Kentucky Bar Association can help you in deciding which direction you wish your career to take. If you are a Kentucky lawyer who is 40 years of age or younger or have practiced law for 10 years or less (regardless of your age), you may join the Young Lawyers Division.

Established law firms throughout Kentucky are often hiring new talent. Some of the most famous firms include multipractice firm McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland in Lexington; multidisciplinary law firm Frost, Brown, Todd in Louisville; corporate law and civil defense litigators Boehl, Stopher & Graves in Paducah; civil, criminal and family lawyers Claycomb & Kidd in Richmond; and multipractice firm Blau & Kriege in Cold Spring.

Fortune 500 corporations in Kentucky that may be in need of legal help include health insurer Humana in Louisville; chemical company Ashland in Covington; electronics giant General Cable in Highland Heights; food services corporation Yum Brands in Louisville; and pharmaceutical company Omnicare in Covington.

Nonprofit organizations throughout Kentucky that may hire lawyers include the Centre for Nonprofit Excellence in Louisville; Center for Women and Families in Louisville; Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Foundation in Frankfort; Step by Step, Inc. in Lexington; and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.

Legal specialty certification

Various organizations exist throughout the country offering legal specialty certification to lawyers who wish to practice in a certain area. They include:

  • National College for DUI Defense, 334-264-1950 or thea@ncdd.com:
    • DUI defense law
  • National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, 502-637-7200 or aoldfather@oldfather.com:
    • Civil trial law
    • Criminal trial law
    • Family trial law
    • Social security disability advocacy
  • American Board of Certification, 319-365-2222:
    • Business bankruptcy law
    • Consumer bankruptcy law
    • Creditors’ rights law

Requirements for maintaining license

In order to maintain your law license in Kentucky, you must complete 12.5 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) annually. This must include at least two hours of ethics coursework. Contact the Kentucky Bar Association for further information.

Court Systems in Kentucky

The Kentucky Court of Justice consists of four levels of courts. They are, from highest to lowest:
Appellate Courts:

  • Kentucky Supreme Court – the highest court in Kentucky and the court of last resort, the Supreme Court hears direct appeals involving the death penalty, life imprisonment, and imprisonment for 20 or more years. Other appeals it hears come from the Court of Appeals. It is located in the State Capitol, Room 235, 700 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
  • Kentucky Court of Appeals - usually reviews cases that were decided in Circuit Court. Cases are not retried at the Court of Appeals level, just reviewed by the appellate judges. The Court of Appeals is located at 360 Democrat Drive, Frankfort, KY40601.

Trial Courts:

  • Circuit Court- Kentucky’s court of general jurisdiction hears all types of cases, including civil matters over $4,000, capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights, land dispute title problems and contested probates of will. This court may also issue injunctions, writs of prohibition, and mandamus to compel or prohibit acts. Circuit Court may hear appeals from District Court and administrative agencies.
  • District Court- court with limited jurisdiction, hears cases involving juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, traffic offenses, probates of will, felony preliminary hearings and civil cases under $4,00; as well as cases of guardianship, conservatorship, voluntary or involuntary commitment, child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence.

Elective membership organizations

Think about becoming a member of any of these organizations for lawyers in Kentucky that is applicable to your situation:

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Kentucky Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Kentucky Statistics:
 
KY Active Lawyers 12,579
Lexington Average Wage $127,000

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