Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 22,680 lawyers were employed in Pennsylvania in May 2011, averaging an annual mean wage of $137,910. Those working in the Philadelphia metropolitan area averaged the highest yearly wage, at $152,220. Law specialties for attorneys in Pennsylvania include worker’s compensation law, bankruptcy law, government law, consumer protection, taxation and environmental law. The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners reports that students at Pennsylvania law schools fared generally well on the most recent bar exam, with 80% of Drexel University law students attempting the exam for the first time passing; 100% of law students from the University of Pennsylvania law school passing; and 87.5% of law students from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law passing the bar on the first try. Follow the steps below if your desire is to become a member of the Pennsylvania Bar.
Under the rules of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners, you must receive your pre-legal undergraduate education from an accredited college or university prior to attending law school. You need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to enter law school.
Your undergraduate college or university must have accreditation from a regional or national accreditation agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Not only the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners but also the American Bar Association (ABA) requires this for entry into an ABA-accredited law school after you graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Requirements and Standards
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners and the ABA have not specified any requirements for your undergraduate pre-legal education besides national accreditation of the college or university where you receive your education. Regardless of your major, there are some courses that you should enroll in prior to law school, such as:
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners and the American Bar Association both require that you obtain at least a bachelor’s degree prior to admission to an ABA-accredited law school. The major of this degree is not mandated by either organization. However, some majors lend themselves more aptly to future law school success. These include political science, governmental relations, history, economics, business, and human relations.
Pre Law Advisor
Your undergraduate college or university may have a pre-law advisor as part of its faculty. It is this person’s job to steer you in the right direction as you choose your major, minor and electives. A pre-law advisor can assist you in taking courses during your undergraduate education that will help to ensure your future success in law school.
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners requires that you graduate from an ABA-approved law school. Entry into such a school requires that you pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). This standardized exam lasts for a half-day and is offered quarterly at testing stations worldwide.
How to prepare
Preparation for the LSAT is important so that you are ready for the types of questions and topics on which you will be tested. You can view free study resources at the LSAC (Law School Admission Council) website, including practice tests and sample questions. For additional readiness to take the LSAT, you may wish to enroll in LSAT exam preparation courses, such as the following that are offered throughout Pennsylvania:
LSAT Exam Preparation in Pennsylvania:
Skills that you will need to succeed in law school are determined when you take the LSAT. You must complete four areas:
Application to take the LSAT must be done online. It is administered in the United States twice weekly (Wed and Sat) during the following months: October, December, February and June. Not every test center offers the LSAT during each month, so plan ahead and register accordingly. LSAT Test Centers in Pennsylvania include:
The fee to take the LSAT is currently $160 (April 2012 figures). You must pay fees online when you register to take the LSAT by credit card, or mail your check or money order to the Law School Admission Council, 662 Penn St, Newtown, PA 18940.
Receiving Your Score
You should receive your LSAT scores by email three weeks after the exam. Your lowest possible score is 120, and highest possible score, 180. If for some reason on exam day you want to cancel your scores, so that they are not reported to the Law School Admission Council, there is a box on the answer sheet to do so. If you decide after the test that you want to cancel your scores, this may be accomplished in writing up to six days post-test by requesting cancellation via mail to 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 when your score has been cancelled.
The LSAC sets a limit on the number of times you may take the LSAT in two years. Currently, that limit is three times, and even if you cancel your score, the time that you took the LSAT is still counted. Exceptions may be made, of course. You can request an exception to this rule by emailing a request as an attachment to the LSAT at LSACinfo@LSAC.org, or by faxing your request to 215-968-1277. Include the date you want to take the LSAT in your request. The LSAC will email you with their decision of denial or approval of your request.
Law School Application process
Now that you are over the LSAT hurdle, you are closer than ever to becoming a member of the Pennsylvania Bar! Next, you must submit your law school application(s). The LSAC can assist you in this regard, as they are storing LSAT scores and you have an account online with their organization. Most law schools that are ABA-accredited require that you use the services of the LSAC in applying to law school. You may consult this list of services provided by the LSAC that ABA-approved law schools insist upon applicants using to fulfill admission requirements.
Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
One of the most important services offered by the LSAC is their Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This time-saving LSAC service organizes your documents and credentials and even applies to the law schools of your choice for you. Three components of the CAS exist:
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners requires that you receive your Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an ABA-accredited law school in order to gain membership in the Pennsylvania Bar. This school must be located in the United States, Canada, or any U.S. territories. The only way that you may seek bar admission if you graduated from an unaccredited school is if you are already a member of the bar of a reciprocal state and meet Pennsylvania’s reciprocity requirements (see Step 4 below).
(A Bachelor of Laws degree is the Canadian equivalent to a Juris Doctor degree).
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Pennsylvania
Below is a list of Pennsylvania law schools holding ABA accreditation, along with the application fee and number of credit hours required to earn a J.D. degree:
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners notes that the following subjects are tested on the state’s bar exam and should therefore be covered in your law school curriculum:
Under ABA rules, you must complete at least 83 semester hours of college credit or 129 quarter hours of college credit. As you can see from the list above, all Pennsylvania law schools require more hours than the minimum to earn your J.D. degree:
Online Law Degrees
Under ABA standards for accreditation of law schools, your law school must offer you many opportunities to participate in off-site practical experience activities. You usually will not participate in an internship or other off-site experience until you have completed at least one year of law school. These can be through any of the following:
Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiner rules state that bar admission in Pennsylvania is possible if you have the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree or the Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B.) degree (which is normally found in Canadian law schools). Other law degrees offered by Pennsylvania law schools, along with the schools that offer them, include the following:
Graduates of Foreign Law Schools
If you graduate from a law school outside of the United States (and therefore outside of the ABA’s accreditation boundaries), the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners may admit you to the Bar if:
Once you have graduated with your J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, you are ready to take the Pennsylvania Bar Examination. It is given twice each year in February (in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas) and July (in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg areas).
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners provides Bar Exam review information on its website. Various test prep organizations offer Pennsylvania Bar Exam preparation courses. They include Kaplan and Barbri. Other PA Bar Exam preparation courses and reviews are held by most law schools, including:
You will take the Pennsylvania Bar Examination over a period of two days, and cover the following content:
You must file online to sit for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. Based on your responses on the application, you may be required to submit Supplemental Documents (along with an Amendment to Application form for each document) and Third-Party Documents (which must also be accompanies by an Amendment to Application form). Documents that you may need to submit or have submitted by a third party include:
Mail all supporting documents to: Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners, 601 Commonwealth Ave, Suite 3600, P.O. Box 62535, Harrisburg, PA 17106-2535. When the Board accepts your application, you will receive an email.
Filing Deadlines and Fees
Character and Fitness Determination
Once you file your application to sit for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, you authorize the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners to conduct a fitness and character investigation. They must find that you have a history of honesty, trustworthiness, reliability and diligence. The Board may contact your schools, employers, police agencies, credit agencies and other sources to make this determination. The determination will not be finalized until after you have passed the Bar exam.
Results of the February Bar Exam will be released in April, and of the July Bar Exam, in October. You will be notified of your score by mail. To pass, you must have combined MBE and Scaled Essay/PT scores of 272 or more. If you pass, your name is published on the Press Release of Successful Applicants. Pass rates for recent exams are as follows:
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
After you pass the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, you will receive a Certificate Recommending Admission to the Bar. You then have six months to submit an Application for Admission to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania along with your certificate to the Pittsburgh office of the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania within six months of the date on the certificate. After six months, your certificate lapses and you must pay a fee and undergo another character and fitness evaluation. If you do not file to become a member of the Bar within three years of receiving your certificate, you must take and pass the bar exam again. You will be admitted to the Bar in a court ceremony to be held in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.
According to Rule 204 of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners, if you are licensed to practice law in another state, you may seek admission to the Pennsylvania Bar if you meet all of the requirements below:
Kudos to you on passing the Pennsylvania Bar Exam! As you can see from the passing statistics listed above, this is no easy task. You have proven that you can work hard and deserve a plum job as an attorney in Pennsylvania. But where do you want to work? Should you open your own practice? Join a small firm? Work for a larger conglomerate? The choices are endless in a state the size of Pennsylvania.
If you join a smaller firm or start an independent practice, you might want to join the Solo and Small Practice Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. This organization is especially designed for independent practitioners and smaller law firms, and publishes a quarterly newsletter on law office management, automation, technology, and more.
Larger law firms can be a great way for new attorneys to enter the legal profession in Pennsylvania. Many well-known firms exist in the state, such as Reed Smith LLP in Philadelphia, Burleson LLP in Canonsburg, Fox Rothschild LLP in Exton, Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia, and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Philadelphia
Alternatively, maybe you would rather become legal counsel for a nonprofit organization or legal assistance association and give back to the community? Many groups exist that may be in need of legal services, including HIAS Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania in Norristown, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Education Law Center in Pittsburgh, and the Children’s Advocacy Project of York.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor projects that about 639 new jobs for lawyers will be available throughout the state each year from 2008 through 2018.
Legal specialty certification
Some members of the Pennsylvania Bar choose to specialize in a legal area, serving a certain population. With proper training, experience and sometimes passing examinations, certifications for many legal specialties are approved by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, including:
Requirements for maintaining license
Once you have your law license in Pennsylvania, you must maintain it by completing 12 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) each year. This includes a mandatory one hour of ethics courses. The rules and regulations that CLE must meet are listed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board.
Court Systems in Pennsylvania
The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania consists of:
Elective membership organizations
Think about becoming a member of one of the following professional organizations for Pennsylvania lawyers:
Lawyer Career Specialties
|PA Active Lawyers||22,680|
|Average Annual Wage||$137,910|