State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Careers in California

According to figures provided by the American Bar Association, 22,172 attorneys held licenses to practice in Maryland in 2011. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the annual median wage of Maryland lawyers in 2011 was 100,330. Lawyers working in the Wilmington, DE/MD/NJ metropolitan area earned the highest salaries in the state, averaging $152,910 annually.

Criminal lawyers in Maryland are kept busy, as FBI statistics indicate that in 2010, 31,620 violent crimes were committed across the state, along with 173,051 property crimes, including 36,542 burglaries, and 118,458 larcenies/grand thefts.
Accident and personal injury lawyers were busy litigating civil issues related to the 103,734 total vehicle accidents that occurred, according to data provided by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

Likewise, family lawyers were busy with asset and child custody disputes surrounding the 13,933 divorces that took place in Maryland in 2009, according to the National Vital Statistics Report.

As indicated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement report of 2004, which showed that 4475 foreign nationals immigrated into Maryland that year, immigration lawyers are not lacking in business either.

Take the following steps to join the ranks of these Maryland attorneys and become a licensed member of the Maryland Bar Association:
 

Step 1

Get Your Maryland Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Maryland State Board of Law Examiners follows the requirements of the American Bar Association (ABA) regarding undergraduate pre-legal education necessary to be admitted to an ABA-approved law school.

Accreditation

The undergraduate school from which you graduate should be accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This type of accreditation will ensure your acceptance into an ABA-approved law school.

Requirements and Standards

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. These include:

  • History and associated social, economic, political and cultural factors that have influenced the development of American society
  • Basic understanding of American political thought and the American political system
  • Basic financial and mathematical skills
  • Basic understanding of social interaction and human behavior
  • Understanding of the diversity of cultures beyond the United States and of world events

Degree Options

In order to gain admission to an ABA-accredited law school, you must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The ABA does not recommend any specific discipline or major to prepare you for admission, but it does note that your undergraduate studies should help you develop your research and writing skills, problem solving and analytical skills, and be in a major that challenges and interests you. Traditional undergraduate majors of law school students include history, political science, philosophy, English, business and economics.


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Pre Law Advisor

Many undergraduate institutions have an on-staff Pre-Law Advisor. This faculty member is specifically trained to assist students who plan to pursue law school after receiving an undergraduate degree. Your Pre-Law Advisor can assist you in choosing courses that will give you the best foundation for law school. 

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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Maryland

In order to become a member of the Bar of Maryland, you must graduate from a law school approved by the ABA. To be accepted into an ABA-approved law school, you must first pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, a half-day standardized test given four times per year at testing centers around the world

How to prepare

Because the LSAT tests basic analysis and reasoning skills, preparation may be difficult. However, the LSAT website offers free materials to test-takers to help them prepare for the exam, including sample questions with answers and explanations. Take their practice tests and time yourself to get ready for the real LSAT exam.

LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Maryland:

Exam content

The LSAT measures skills that are vital to your success in law school. Three areas are covered in the test:

  • Reading Comprehension – this section contains material you must read and comprehension questions you must answer based on that material. It measures your understanding and insight of long, complex passages that reflect those you will encounter in law school.
  • Analytical Reasoning – this section contains statements that you must read and then make deductions and conclusions. It measures your ability to make complex analyses and solve legal problems.
  • Logical Reasoning – this section contains material that you must read and then answer questions based on your critical evaluation of the material. It measures your ability to think critically, draw supported conclusions, use analogy to reason, apply rules and principals, and identify strengths and flaws in an argument.

Application process

You may apply to take the LSAT online. In the United States, the LSAT is offered on Saturdays and Wednesdays in June, October, December and February. Register early, because not all testing centers offer the LSAT on each date. In Maryland, testing centers are located within the following cities:

  • Anne Arundel Community College, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD 21012-1895
  • Baltimore City Community College, 2901 Liberty Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215-7893
  • Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218-2688
  • Morgan State University, 1700 E Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21251-0001
  • University of Baltimore, 1415 Maryland Ave.,  Baltimore, MD 21201
  • University of Maryland-Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250
  • Harford Community College, 401 Thomas Run Rd, Bel Air, MD 21015-1698
  • Bowie State University, 14000 Jericho Park Rd, Bowie, MD 20715-9465
  • University of Maryland - College Park, 1125 Cumberland Hall  College Park, MD 20742
  • Hood College, 401 Rosemont Ave, Frederick, MD 21701
  • Frostburg State University, 100 Braddock Rd, Frostburg, MD 21532-1099
  • Hagerstown Community College, 11400 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21742-6514
  • College of Southern Maryland, 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata, MD 20646-0910
  • Stevenson University, 1525 Greenspring Valley Rd., Owings Mills, MD 21153-0641
  • University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, 11868 College Backbone Rd., Princess Anne, MD 21853
  • Montgomery College, 900 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD 20850
  • Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, 18952 E Fisher Rd, St. Mary’s City, MD 20686-3001
  • Columbia Union College, 7600 Flower Ave, Tacoma Park, MD 20912
  • Towson University, 8000 York Rd, Towson, MD 21252-0001
  • Mc Daniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD 21157

Fees

As of April 2012, it costs $160 to take the LSAT. Fees are payable via check or money order to the Law School Admission Council, or by credit card when you register online.

Receiving Your Score

If you have an account at LSAC.org, your LSAT scores will be emailed to you about three weeks after you take the exam. If you do not have an account with LSAC.org, a hard copy of your scores will be mailed to you about four weeks after taking the test. The lowest score you can get on the LSAT is 120, and the highest is 180.

If you take the exam, but do not believe you achieved a passing score, you may opt to cancel it so that it isn’t reported to the LSAC. You may cancel your LSAT score two ways: First, on the day of the exam, you may cancel your LSAT score on your answer sheet. Alternatively, you may cancel your score in writing up to six days after taking the LSAT, by mailing your request to Law School Admission Council, Score Cancellation, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 2000-T, Newtown, PA 18940-0995 or by faxing it to 215-968-1277. You will receive an email confirmation from LSAC when your score has been canceled.

You may not take the LSAT more than three times in two years, even if you cancel your exam score and it is not reported to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). If you wish to request an exception to this rule, write a request with the date you wish to take the LSAT and email it as an attachment to LSACinfo@LSAC.org or fax it to 215-968-1277. You will be notified by email if your request is denied or approved.

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Maryland

Application process

Congratulations on passing the LSAT! You’ve taken your first real step towards becoming a lawyer in Maryland. Now it’s time to apply to law school. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is through LSAC, as they already have your LSAT scores and you should have an online account with them by now. Check this list of services required or recommended by ABA-approved law schools across the country to make sure you complete all necessary requirements.

Credential Assembly Service

You must use LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service if applying to an ABA-approved law school. Once you have taken the LSAT and created your LSAC online account, follow these steps:

  • Transcripts: Have all of your official college transcripts sent to LSAC, Law School Admission Council,662 Penn Street,PO BOX 2000-M,Newtown PA 18940-0993. Transcripts must be sent directly from the institution to LSAC. They should include all institutions from which you have received credit, including:
  • Community colleges
  • Undergraduate institutions
  • Graduate institutions
  • Law, professional, and/or medical institutions
  • Institutions where you took evening or summer courses
  • Institutions where you took classes but did not receive a degree
  • Institutions where you took college-level courses while in high school
  • Institutions that sponsored overseas study
  • International institutions (if your degree was obtained outside the United States, Canada, or US territories, these transcripts should be sent to: Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn Street, PO BOX 8502, Newtown PA 18940-8502)
  • Letters of Recommendation and Evaluation Services: Your online account will allow you to submit online requests for evaluations through LSAC (LSAC will email your evaluators and ask them to complete an online evaluation). You will also have access to recommender forms to give to your recommenders, which must accompany the letters they send to LSAC. Your online account will include instructions asking you to provide:
    • Names of those who will provide you with a recommendation/evaluation
    • How many letters each person will submit, and their content
    • Law schools to which you wish to apply and which letters are assigned to be sent to each
  • Fee: You must pay LSAC a fee of $155 for the Credential Assembly Service. This is payable online through your LSAC account, and covers summarization of your transcripts, creation of your law school report, processing of your letters of recommendation and evaluations, as well as electronic application processing for all ABA-approved law schools.

Accreditation

The Maryland Bar Association requires all law license candidates to graduate from an ABA-approved law school located within one of the United States (does not necessarily have to be in Maryland). Currently, 200 law schools across the country are ABA-approved. For a complete listing, view the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. For detailed information on how the ABA approves law schools, read their Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Maryland

Currently, two university law schools in Maryland hold ABA accreditation:

Course requirements

ABA Standard 302 states that the curriculum of a law school must include coursework from the following areas:

  • Substantive law
  • Legal analysis/reasoning
  • Legal research
  • Problem solving
  • Oral communication
  • Writing in a legal context
  • History, structure, goals, values, responsibilities and rules of the legal profession including the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association
  • Substantial instruction in other necessary professional skills
  • Live client and/or real-life practice experiences such as clinical or field placements and pro bono work

Additionally, one academic year in a law school must consist of at least 130 days covering at least eight calendar months.
In order to graduate, the ABA says that you must complete at least 58,000 minutes of instruction time, with 45,000 of those minutes consisting of attending regularly scheduled classes at your law school. Usually 700 minutes of time equals one credit, so 58,000 minutes of instruction would equal 83 semester hours of credit or 129 quarter hours of credit.
If you are enrolled in more than 12 class hours per week, you may not be employed for more than 20 hours per week.
Under ABA rules, the time it takes to earn your JD degree must be at least 24 months, but no longer than 84 months.

Online Law Degrees

Internship

You must participate in an off-site internship or field placement program while attending law school. This will not occur until you have completed at least one year of your J.D. program. You will not be compensated for this work experience, which, under ABA rules, may include a field placement in real-life legal experiences, law review, moot court, and directed research programs. A faculty member of your law school will evaluate your performance through on-site visits.

Degree Programs

The most common degree sought by law students is the J.D. (or Juris Doctor) degree, as it is necessary for admission to the bar in Maryland. However, other legal degrees are possible, including:
Academic degrees for nonlawyers:

  • Masters of Science or Masters of Studies (M.S.)
  • Masters of Professional Studies (M.P.S.)

Post-JD law degrees for lawyers:

  • Master of Laws (L.L.M.)
  • Juris Master (J.M.)
  • Master of Comparative Law (M.C.L.)
  • Master of  Jurisprudence (M.J.)

Academic-based and research doctoral degrees:

  • Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.S.D.)
  • Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.)
  • Doctor of Comparative Law (D.C.L.)

A listing of schools offering these degrees may be found here.

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Step 4

Maryland State Bar Exam and become an Attorney

After you have earned your J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school, and if you are at least 18 years of age, you may apply with the State Board of Law Examiners to take the Maryland General Bar Exam. The exam is given twice yearly, in February and July, over a period of two days (usually a Tuesday and Wednesday). The exam will take at least nine hours to complete, but not more than 12 hours total.

Waiver for Graduates of Non-ABA Law Schools

Did you graduate from a non-ABA law school and wish to take Maryland’s state bar exam? If you have already passed the bar examination in another state, are a member in good standing of that state’s Bar, and are qualified via education and experience to take the Maryland bar exam, you may request a waiver. Follow the procedure listed here to request a waiver.

Preparation

The Maryland Board of Law Examiners meets with local law school students each April to discuss the first part of the upcoming bar exam. Topics covered include how the exam is structured, types of essay questions to expect, what constitutes a good answer, and other preparation tips. Contact the Board office at (410) 260-3640 for the date of the next presentation. Examples of sample exam questions and representative good answers are also posted at the Board website.
Study guides to help you prepare for the second part of the exam, the MBE, are available from the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Exam content

The Maryland Bar Exam is in two parts. On day one, you will be taking the written test, consisting of 12 essay questions developed by the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners and one question from the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. You will have 25 minutes to write an answer for each question. The MPT question counts for twice as much credit as a single essay question.

On day two, you will take the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. This is a six hour long exam consisting of 200 multiple-choice questions (190 of them are scored). Subject matter that will be covered includes Constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, and torts.

Application Process

  1. File an application online at eBar. You must file your application and pay the application fee at least two months before the date on which you plan to take the exam.
    1. You will print out a Part I Certification form to mail to your law school, who must return it to the Board by the application deadline.
    2. Part 2 is a Character Review release form, which you must print, sign and have notarized. This authorizes the Character Committee to perform a character and fitness investigation, through personal interview, interviews with your references, and whatever other methods of investigation may be necessary. If they find grounds to deny your application to take the bar exam, you will be notified and a hearing will be scheduled.
  2. File the Original Petition to Take Maryland Bar Exam, and pay the examination fee. This certifies that you are a graduate of or will graduate from an ABA – approved law school by the time you take the bar exam. If you have not yet graduated when you file this petition, immediately after taking the bar exam, you must have your law school send an official transcript to the Board verifying your receipt of your J.D. degree.
    1. You will file to take the exam at a laptop or handwriter site. If you use a laptop site, you must make sure to register your laptop with eBar.
    2. You will receive a Seat Number to take the bar exam on the date and at the location you have chosen.
      1. Testing locations may change each year. For 2012, the Maryland Bar Exam is being given in the following  cities:
        1. Rockville
        2. Baltimore
  3. All completed applications, fees, petitions and supporting documentation should be mailed to State Board of Law Examiners, 2011 F Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, MD 21401.
  4. If you wish to be notified that the Board has received your application filings, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The Board is not permitted to respond to phone calls or emails requesting this confidential information, under Bar Admission Rule 19.

After you have taken the exam, your results will be mailed to you. Enclosed with your results is an Affirmation, on which you must disclose any changes to the information you reported on your Character Questionnaire (including current home and business contact information). You must sign this Affirmation and return it to the Board within 10 days of its receipt, even if your information has not changed.

Fees

All fees must be paid via check or money order only and made payable to the State Board of Law Examiners. If you file your application on time, the fee is $225. If you file late, it is $275. There is also a fee to file the Original Petition to take the exam of $250. The Original Petition may be sent along with your application or after.

Pass Rates

There is no standard “passing” score for the MBE because pass/fail decisions are made by combining your MBE scale score and your essay test scale score. According to information compiled by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the first time test taker pass rate for the July 2008 bar exam was 88%, and the overall pass rate for that exam was 82%.

Professionalism Course

After you have passed the bar exam, you must take a mandatory Professionalism course. Information will be given to you when your exam results are reported. You must pay a course fee. You will be informed of the location and date of this course.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

No later than 24 months after the Court of Appeals verifies the Board’s report of your examination results, you must take the oath of office in open court at the Court of Appeals of Maryland in order to become licensed to practice in the state. You must pay a fee to the Clerk’s Office of the Court of Appeals for preparation of the Bar Admission Certificate you will receive after your admission ceremony.  After bar admission, you may practice anywhere in Maryland.

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Step 5

Now that You are an Attorney in Maryland

As a newly licensed attorney in Maryland, you have a big decision to make.  Do you want to find work with a small firm, or set out as an independently practicing lawyer? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

If you decide to go solo, you might want to read the Maryland State Bar Association’s “How to Start a Solo Practice.” It provides information on planning your business, billing, marketing and support for lawyers in private practice.

Sometimes joining a small or larger firm is a good way for new lawyers to become introduced to the legal profession. As a new lawyer in a small (or larger) firm, you most likely will start as an associate, and must work your way up to partner status, owning part of the firm. Some of the top law firms across Maryland include Piper & Marbury in Baltimore; Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker in Rockville; Venable, Baetjer & Howard in Baltimore; Joseph, Greenwald & Laake in Greenbelt; and Miles & Stockbridge in Baltimore.

Joining the legal department of a large corporation is another career opportunity for lawyers in Maryland. Major Fortune 500 corporations headquartered in Maryland that have legal departments include Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Constellation Energy in Baltimore, Marriott International in Bethesda,  Coventry Health Care in Bethesda and Host Hotels and Resorts in Bethesda.

The Maryland Workforce Advantage of the Maryland Department of Labor predicts about 115 job openings in the next year for lawyers across the state.

Legal specialty certification

Now that you are a member of the Maryland Bar, you may choose to become certified in a legal specialty area. The National Board of Legal Specialty Certification sets standards and provides certification for specializations in civil, criminal, and family law, as well as social security disability advocacy and civil trial law advocacy. Your credentials will be thoroughly checked and you must pass another exam in order to become certified. Once certified, you must become recertified every five years. Contact the Maryland State Coordinator of the NBLSC, Nathaniel Fick, at 410-321-6000 or nfick@neurolaw.com.

Requirements for maintaining licensure

The Maryland State Bar Association does not require lawyers to fulfill continuing legal education (CLE) requirements to maintain licensure at this time. However, to maintain your law license in Maryland, you must fulfill three annual reporting requirements and pay associated fees:

  • Client Protection Fund: To remain a member in good standing of the Maryland Bar, you must pay an annual assessment to the Client Protection Fund and maintain a current address with them. Their contact information is Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, 2011 Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, Maryland 21401 or call 410-260-3635.
  • Pro Bono Reporting: You must also submit an annual report summarizing at least 50 hours of pro bono activities each year. Contact the Pro Bono Resource of Maryland at 410-837-9379 for more information.
  • IOLTA Reporting: Annually, you must submit a report summarizing the status of any client trust accounts, even if you do not have any IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts). More information is available through Maryland Legal Services Corporation, 15 Charles Plaza, Suite 102, Baltimore, MD 21201 or by calling 410-576-9494.

Court Systems in Maryland

The Maryland Judiciary court system consists of Appellate Courts, Circuit Courts, District Courts, and Orphans’ Courts.
Maryland Appellate Courts include:

Circuit Courts handle more serious criminal cases, major civil cases, juvenile law and family law cases, cases appealed from the District Court and Orphan’s Court, and domestic violence cases. A case may be heard by a judge only or involve a jury trial. Circuit courts are divided into eight Circuits consisting of the following county court systems:

  • 1st Circuit: Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester
  • 2nd Circuit: Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot
  • 3rd Circuit: Baltimore County, Harford
  • 4th Circuit: Allegany, Garrett, Washington
  • 5th Circuit: Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll
  • 6th Circuit: Frederick, Montgomery
  • 7th Circuit: Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s
  • 8th Circuit: Baltimore City

District Courts handle cases argued before a judge only, with no jury trials. Misdemeanors and certain felonies, domestic violence, peace order petitions, landlord-tenant disputes, small claims and other civil cases and replevin are heard here. District courts are divided into 12 districts across the state consisting of the following counties:

  • District 1: Baltimore City
  • District 2: Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester
  • District 3: Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot
  • District 4: Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s
  • District 5: Prince George’s
  • District 6: Montgomery
  • District 7: Anne Arundel
  • District 8: Baltimore
  • District 9: Harford
  • District 10: Carroll, Howard
  • District 11: Frederick, Washington
  • District 12: Allegany, Garrett

Orphan’s Courts is the state’s probate court handling wills and estates in Maryland. It consists of judges, three of whom sit in the city of Baltimore and in each of Maryland's counties (except for Harford and Montgomery Counties, where Circuit Court Judges sit as Orphan’s Court Judges).

Elective membership organizations

You might want to consider joining one of the many elective member ship organizations for lawyers in Maryland, including:

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Maryland Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Maryland Statistics:
 
MD Active Lawyers 22,172
Average Annual Wage $100,330

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