State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Job Information in New Jersey

Information published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the US Department of Labor (DOL) indicates that New Jersey has the fifth highest concentration of jobs and location quotients for all states for the lawyer occupation (as of May 2011). BLS figures indicate that in May 2011, there were 20,100 lawyers employed in New Jersey, representing employment of 5.33 per 1000 jobs for lawyers in the state. Lawyers in New Jersey also earned one of the highest annual mean wages for lawyers working anywhere in the United States. The average yearly salary for a New Jersey lawyer in May 2011 was $129,650. If your dream is to become a practicing attorney in the state of New Jersey, read on.
 

Step 1

Get Your New Jersey Undergrad Pre-Law Major

The New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners does not require that you complete any undergraduate education prior to enrollment in law school. It does, however, require that you graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). All ABA-accredited law schools mandate that you have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree before entering law school.  

Accreditation

Under ABA orders, you must receive your bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Your school must be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Requirements and Standards

As long as you receive your undergraduate degree from an accredited institution, it does not matter what courses you take or what major you choose. There are some courses that tend to help students perform better in law school when taken in undergraduate school. These include philosophy, political science, business, economics, psychology, English, communications and mathematics.

Degree Options

You must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to enter into law school. It need not be in any specific major.  Undergraduate majors culled from the above mentioned coursework areas often produce law school students who are successful.


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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in New Jersey

You have achieved the first step towards becoming a lawyer in New Jersey – receiving your undergraduate degree. It is now time to take the six-hour standardized LSAT (Law School Admission Test). You must pass this exam before admittance to any ABA-accredited law school can occur.  

How to prepare for LSAT

You will find many helpful free study materials at the LSAT website. Other resources that may help you prepare to take the LSAT in New Jersey include:  
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in New Jersey:

LSAT Exam content

As an aspiring lawyer in New Jersey, the LSAT is one of the most important tests you will ever take. It tests your knowledge of three critical areas:

  • Reading Comprehension – your abilities in dissecting information, skimming passages to receive the author’s main point, recognizing types of questions, recognizing styles of writing (argumentation, etc) and being able to make comparisons and analogies will be tested here.
  • Critical Reasoning – you must be able to recognize arguments and use the six types of reasoning to evaluate that argument (i.e., generalization, analogy, deductive argument, causal reasoning, business thinking and identifying assumptions)
  • Analytical Reasoning - also called “Logic Games,” this sections test your analytical abilities using four types of games (single-linear, multiple-linear, grouping, and networking).

Application process

LSAT applications are processed online. You must also pay the $160 examination fee online.  The LSAT is given quarterly on Saturdays and Wednesdays at the following New Jersey testing centers:

  • Rutgers-The State University, 406 Penn, Camden, NJ 08102
  • The College of New Jersey, 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing, NJ 08628-0718
  • Brookdale Community College, 765 Newman Springs Rd, Lincroft, NJ 07738-1597
  • Rutgers-The State University, 83 Somerset St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1281
  • Rutgers-The State University, 249 University Avenue, Blumenthal Hall, Newark, NJ 07102
  • Burlington County College, 601 Pemberton-Browns Mills Road, Pemberton, NJ 08068-1599
  • Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Jim Leeds Rd, Pomona, NJ 08240-0195
  • Seton Hall University, 400 S Orange Ave, South Orange, NJ 07079-2697
  • Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Rd, West Windsor, NJ 08550-3407
  • Montclair State University, 1 Normal Avenue - 855 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ 07043-1624
  • William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne, New Jersey 07470

Receiving Your Score

You can expect to receive your LSAT score via mail about 21 days after the exam. The score range is 120 to 180. Median LSAT scores that New Jersey law schools accept (per ABA Law School Data) are:

  • Rutgers-Camden:         160
  • Rutgers-Newark:           158
  • Seton Hall University:   159

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Step 3

Apply to Law Schools in New Jersey

Application Process and Accreditation

You are ready for Step 3 of the process in becoming a New Jersey lawyer- applying to the ABA-accredited law school of your choice. Remember, under the rules of the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners, before you can take the state’s bar exam, you must graduate with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an ABA-accredited law school anywhere in the United States (not necessarily in New Jersey). There are more than 200 ABA-accredited law schools nationwide, and they are listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.  

Credential Assembly Service

Formerly known as the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) is vital to use when applying for enrollment at any ABA-accredited law institution. It will help you to gather, coordinate, and send law school applications with all necessary supporting documentation (such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and evaluations) The CAS charges $155 for usage of this valuable service, and the fee includes applying electronically for you to your chosen ABA-accredited law schools. Although the CAS standardizes the procedures and process, check with your individual law school’s requirements for admission to ensure that you send the proper number and types of documents when applying for enrollment.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in New Jersey

Three law institutions in New Jersey are ABA-accredited:

Course requirements

These subjects should be included in any ABA-accredited New Jersey law school, as they may be tested on the state’s bar examination:

  • Contracts
  • Criminal law
  • Real property
  • Torts
  • Constitutional law
  • Evidence
  • Civil procedure
  • Agency
  • Conflicts of law
  • Corporations
  • Equity
  • Family law
  • Partnership
  • Uniform Commercial Code: Articles 2 (Sales), 3 (Commercial Paper), and 9 (Secured Transactions)
  • Wills, trusts, and estates
  • Zoning and planning
  • Disciplinary rules
  • Ethics (you must present evidence that you have passed an ethics course in law school, or pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) with a score of at least 75, when applying to take the New Jersey bar examination)

Online Law Degrees

Internship

Most, if not all, ABA-accredited law institutions require that you participate in some sort of practical experience during your tenure in law school. Depending upon your school’s practices, this may occur in an in-house legal clinic, on-site legal office or organization, or governmental agency. Wherever you are placed, you will have the chance to develop real-life, working skills necessary to succeed as a New Jersey lawyer.

Degree Programs

You must have a J.D. degree in order to sit for the state’s bar exam. Other degree options offered by New Jersey law schools (such as dual degrees and concentrations) that may increase your career opportunities after graduation include:

  • Seton Hall University School of Law:
    • JD Concentration in Health Law
    • JD Concentration in Intellectual Property
    • JD/Master of Arts in Diplomacy
    • JD/Master in Business Administration
    • JD/MD
  • Rutgers –University School of Law-Newark:
    • JD/MBA
    • JD/MA in Criminal Justice
    • JD/MCRP (Master of City and Regional Planning)
    • JD/MSW (Master of Social Work)

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Step 4

Pass the New Jersey State Bar Exam

If you are at least 18 years old, and have a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law institution, you are eligible to take the New Jersey bar examination.

Non-ABA approved law school graduates

Graduates of law schools not approved by the ABA are not eligible to sit for the New Jersey bar exam.

Graduates of Foreign Law Schools

Graduates of foreign law schools are not eligible to sit for the New Jersey bar exam.

Preparation

The New Jersey bar examination is multi-faceted, so preparing for the exam requires multiple resources. The national part of the bar exam (the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)) is best prepared for using free study materials available at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website. The New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners provides free sample questions and answers to help you prepare for the New Jersey essay portion of the bar exam  here. Other resources (not necessarily free) to help you get ready to take the New Jersey bar examination include:

Exam content

The New Jersey bar exam is a two-day event. The first day is concentrated on the MBE, 200 multiple-choice questions focusing on the topics of contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, real property, evidence, and torts. Day two consists of seven 45-minute long New Jersey essay questions. These questions test your ability to reason, analyze and express yourself like a New Jersey lawyer. Topics for the essay questions include the MBE topics and the subject areas listed under the course requirements in Step 3.

Application Process

The first step in applying to take the New Jersey bar examination is to create a registration account online. You will complete the Character & Fitness Questionnaire online and submit your signed and notarized Application for the Bar Exam, plus the following documentation:

  • Two original Authorization and Release forms (Form 1 and Form 2), signed and notarized
  • Certified check or money order with a $475 fee (if filing on time; late fees increase the cost to $750 and $1000, depending on how late you file) payable to the Secretary, Board of Bar Examiners
  • Certified copy of your driving history

Mail all information to Board of Bar Examiners, PO Box 973, Trenton, NJ 08625-0973. You will receive an acknowledgement packet from the Bar once they receive your application. Included in the packet will be information on completing your fingerprinting requirement and correcting any deficiencies in your application, plus obtaining other necessary information such as:

  • Law School Certificate
  • Proof of satisfaction of professional responsibility requirement (grade of C or better in an ethics course in law school or score of 75 or better on the MPRE)

Pass Rates

Adaptibar.com has discovered these passing rates for previous New Jersey bar examinations:

  • 2011: 77 percent of all test-takers passed
  • 2010: 76%
  • 2009: 77%
  • 2008: 77%
  • 2007: 73%
  • 2006: 73%
  • 2005: 70%
  • 2004: 69%
  • 2003: 64%
  • 2002: 63%

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

If you did not take an ethics/professional responsibility course in law school, you must obtain a passing score of 75 or greater on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). More information on the exam and signing up to take it can be found at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.

Admission on Motion

New Jersey does not recognize admission on motion (that is, admission without examination) to the state’s bar except in the following situations:

  • If you are already a licensed lawyer in another state and in good standing within that jurisdiction’s bar organization, you are eligible to practice law in New Jersey for up to two and a half years with an approved legal services program.
  • If you are a law school professor who has taught law full-time for the past five years at an ABA-accredited New Jersey law school, you can be admitted on mo­tion (without taking the examination). You must also have a J.D. or LL.B. degree from an ABA-approved law school and have already passed the bar examination in at least one other U.S. jurisdiction.

MBE Transfer Scores

The New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners does not accept MBE scores from prior bar examinations you may have taken in another state.  If you plan to take New Jersey’s bar exam and will be taking the MBE in another state in their bar exam concurrently, you must arrange to have your MBE score transferred to New Jersey  by July 1 for the July bar examination or February 1 for the February bar examination. You may take the MBE in another jurisdiction on the Wednesday before the New Jersey essay portion of the examination.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

After passing the bar, you must sign the attorneys’ roll and take an oath prior to admittance to the New Jersey Bar. The oath swears that you will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of New Jersey, show allegiance to New Jersey, and includes the oath of office as an attorney. You may give an affirmation instead of an oath if you prefer. You must be sworn in no later than 90 days after passing the bar examination. Public swearing-in ceremonies are usually held about a month after examination results are published. You will be notified of the date of this

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Step 5

You’ve Been Admitted to the New Jersey Bar

Good Job on passing the New Jersey Bar Examination and becoming a licensed member of the New Jersey Bar! As a new member, you must complete 15 credit hours of continuing legal education (CLE) in five of nine subject areas during your first full two-year compliance period. Those subjects include:

  • New Jersey basic estate planning
  • New Jersey civil or criminal trial preparation
  • New Jersey family law practice
  •  New Jersey real estate closing procedure
  •  New Jersey trust and business accounting
  • New Jersey landlord/tenant practice
  • New Jersey municipal court practice
  • New Jersey law office management

Your first CLE compliance period begins January 1 of the year following the year you are admitted to the Bar.
Employment opportunities are vast for newly licensed lawyers in New Jersey. Well-known law firms in the state include McCarter & English, LLP in Newark; Gibbons, P.C. in Newark and Trenton; Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA in Woodbridge; Sills Cummis & Gross in Newark and Princeton; and Lowenstein Sandler P.C. in Roseland, Somerville and Princeton.

At least 20 Fortune 500 corporations exist throughout New Jersey and commonly hire attorneys. They include Medco Health Solutions in Franklin Lakes; Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick; Merck in Whitehouse Station; Prudential Financial in Newark; Honeywell International in Morris Township; Toys R Us in Wayne; and Chubb in Warren.

Lawyers Fund for Client Protection and Disciplinary Oversight Committee

As a bar member in New Jersey, you must pay an annual fee to finance the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection and the attorney discipline system. The Supreme Court of New Jersey determines this amount each year. The Fund provides reimbursement to clients who have financial losses because of dishonest attorney conduct. The Disciplinary Oversight Committee supports actions of the Office of Attorney Ethics such as the Random Audit Program and the Disciplinary Review Board.  All lawyers who are New Jersey bar members, including judges, government lawyers, and law professors, must pay this annual fee. You do not need to pay the assessment fee during the first calendar year of your admission to the bar. If you are a lawyer serving in the U.S. military, Peace Corps or VISTA, you are exempt from paying the annual assessment fee.

Legal specialty certification

Lawyers wishing to specialize in an area of the law may become certified. Under rules of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Board on Attorney Certification, in order to become certified to practice in a specialized area you must meet the following conditions:

  • Have been a member in good standing of the New Jersey Bar for five or more years
  • Have completed a certain amount of CLE courses in the past three years
  • Have demonstrated substantial involvement in preparation of litigation
  • Have demonstrated an untarnished reputation (through giving the Court a list of names of judges and lawyers who will verify your character and ability)
  • Pass a written examination on the specialty practice area

The New Jersey Supreme Court currently certifies lawyers in the following areas:

  • Civil trial law
  • Criminal trial law
  • Matrimonial law
  • Workers’ compensation law

For more information on legal specialty certification in New Jersey, contact the Board of Attorney Certification at (609)984-3077.

Requirements for maintaining license

As a licensed New Jersey lawyer, you must complete 24 credit hours of CLE every two years. AT least four of those credits must be in ethics and/or professionalism. You may take up to half of your CLE credit hours in alternative verifiable learning (AVL) formats (such as videotape, audiotape, on-line internet presentations, satellite simulcasts, teleconferences, videoconferences, and internet self-study). At least 12 of your CLE credits must be taken in a live instructor-based course.

Court Systems in New Jersey

There are various types of courts in the New Jersey judicial system:

  • New Jersey Supreme Court: The highest court in the state hears appeals from the Appellate Division, reviews the decisions of other state courts, and interprets laws that may be unclear or conflicting with other laws.
  • Superior Court: Also known as the trial court,the Superior Court hears cases of criminal, civil and family law are heard in the Superior Court. A Superior Court exists in each of New Jersey's 21 counties.
    • Appellate Division: No juries or witnesses are used in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. Judges hear arguments from lawyers on appeals from superior court cases. New Jersey has 36 Appellate Division judges in New Jersey.
  • Tax Court: This court reviews decisions of county boards of taxation on property tax, and of the State Division of Taxation on state income tax, sales tax and business tax.
  • Municipal Courts: This court hears the majority of the cases filed in New Jersey, including motor vehicle offenses; minor criminal offenses; cases involving hunting, fishing and boating laws; and minor disputes between neighbors.   There are 539 Municipal Courts in New Jersey.

Elective membership organizations

Other professional organizations in the state for which you may now be eligible for membership as a New Jersey lawyer include:

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New Jersey Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  New Jersey Stats:
 
NJ Active Lawyers 20,100
Average Annual Wage $129,65

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