State By State Requirements to Become a Lawyer

Law Careers in Utah

The Utah State Bar is made up of many different types of lawyers, according to information provided by members for its 2011 membership survey. While about 18 percent of members are solo practitioners, 17 percent work in a small firm with two to five attorneys. Sixteen percent work for government, while 10 percent are acting as in-house counsel. The most popular areas of legal practice among bar members who participated in this survey, in descending order, are bankruptcy,  intellectual property, judiciary, personal injury, antitrust law, debtor/creditor law, criminal law, probate, and real property. If you think becoming a Utah lawyer in one of these areas, or another area, is a goal you wish to strive for, read on.
 

Step 1

Get Your Utah Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Utah State Bar Office of Bar Admissions does not require any pre-legal undergraduate education. But, if you wish to attend an ABA-accredited law institution as the regulations of the Office stipulate, you must have a bachelor’s degree prior to applying for enrollment.

Accreditation

Before any ABA-accredited law school will allow you to enroll, it will check to make sure that your undergraduate degree is from an accredited college or university. If your school is accredited by a recognized agency listed with the U.S. Department of Education, such as a national or regional accreditation organization, most ABA-approved law schools will accept your undergraduate education.

Requirements and Standards

There are no prerequisites on undergraduate courses that you must take prior to entering law school. Some undergraduate courses, like criminal justice, philosophy, government, political science, and communications, may help you more than others once you get to law school.

What are the Degree Options?

As long as you have a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) from an accredited college or university, ABA-accredited law schools will accept your education as valid. You need not have a bachelor degree in any certain field.


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Step 2

LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Utah

The next phase of your quest to become a Utah lawyer is to pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). It is given four times annually at testing centers across the United States.

How to prepare for the LSAT

Free study aids are available at the LSAT website and will greatly help you in preparing to take this important test. Other study resources for the LSAT in Utah are:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Utah:

Exam content

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) administers the LSAT, as a standardized test necessary to be admitted to all LSAC member /ABA-approved law schools. There are five 35-minute long sections of multiple-choice questions in this half-day test. Four of the five sections count towards your overall LSAT score. There is one reading comprehension section, one section in analytical reasoning, and two sections in logical reasoning. A fifth section repeats one of the above sections and is experimental and unscored, but you will not be able to tell which is the unscored section. You must also complete a writing sample at the time you take the LSAT. This is not included as part of your overall LSAT score but is sent to law schools to which you apply.

Application process

The LSAC requires that you apply online to take the LSAT. It is administered in June, October, December and February, on Saturdays and Wednesdays, at the following examination centers throughout Utah:  

  • Southern Utah University, 351 West University Blvd,Cedar City, UT 84720
  • Utah State University, Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-1400
  • Weber State University, 3750 Harrison Blvd, Ogden, UT 84408-1137
  • Utah Valley University, 800 West University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058
  • Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602
  • University of Utah, 201 Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9008

Receiving Your Score

About three weeks after you take the exam, you should receive your LSAT score by mail. It will fall in the range from 120 to 180. ABA-approved law schools in Utah typically accept students with the following median LSAT scores:

  • Brigham Young University – J. Reuben Clark Law School:  163
  • University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law:                     161

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Utah

College Application process

The tertiary step in your expedition to develop into a Utah lawyer is to attend an approved law school. Utah requires that you attend a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). There are a few exceptions, which will be noted in Step 4. You do not have to attend law school in Utah--as long as it is ABA accredited, you may select any of the over than 200 ABA-accredited law schools listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.

Credential Assembly Service

All candidates for enrollment to law school must first register with the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS). CAS requires that you have all of your official transcripts from all schools attended (undergraduate and graduate) sent directly to them. They will also help you to collect letters of recommendation and other necessary documentation that law schools ask for when you apply. The CAS will compile all of your data into a concise but complete law school report to send to the schools to which you apply. They will produce up to five such reports for you.

Accreditation

The Utah State Bar Office of Bar Admissions requires that the law school from which you receive your first professional law degree is approved, which means that it must be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Foreign law school graduates may be excepted from this rule, which will be explained later in Step 4.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Utah

Two law schools in Utah are ABA accredited:

Course requirements

The Utah State Bar Office of Bar Admissions expects that you will complete the following foundational law coursework while in an ABA-approved law school:

  • Constitutional law
  • Civil procedure and law
  • Criminal procedure and law
  • Legal ethics
  • Evidence

Online Law Degrees

Internship

Most law schools also require that you complete some sort of practical work experience during your law school years. Each school’s mandates on this are different. In your clinical program, you may be exposed to law clinics where you work with real cases, off-campus law offices in which you assist real-life attorneys, governmental agencies in which you work in a legal capacity, or other real-life situations in which lawyers in Utah might find themselves. Your practical work will be graded by a member of your law school’s faculty as well as by an on-site supervisor.

Degree Programs for Lawyer Career

You must obtain your first professional law degree, a Juris Doctor (JD) (also known as a Doctor of Jurisprudence) before taking the Utah bar exam. Your school may offer other options in addition to the JD, including concentrations and dual degrees. Check with your school for its opportunities in this area. For example, the University of Utah offers:

  • JD/MBA Dual Degree
  • JD/MPA Dual Degree
  • JD/MPP Dual Degree
  • JD/MSW Dual Degree
  • Global JD Program

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Step 4

Take the Utah State Bar Exam

After obtaining your law degree, and if you are at least 21 years of age, you are eligible to take the Utah bar examination. If you have not yet completed all requirements for your degree, but will complete them prior to taking the exam, you may still apply to take the exam. You must file a certificate of law school graduation with the Bar by 30 days before the bar exam.

Residency Requirement

While Utah does not have a residency requirement per se, you must be able to prove that you are a legal United States resident prior to taking the bar exam.

Non-ABA approved law school graduates

Under certain circumstances, the Bar may approve graduates of non-ABA approved law schools to take the bar exam on a case-by-case basis. Additional education may be required to be completed prior to taking the exam.

Graduates of Foreign Law Schools

If you are a graduate of a foreign law school, you must meet the following requirements prior to taking the Utah bar exam:

  • Have graduated from a foreign law school in a country where the principles of English common law form the basis of jurisprudence
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have been admitted to practice law in an English common law foreign jurisdiction
  • Have actively practiced law there for at least two years
  • Within 24 consecutive months, have completed 24 semester hours of credit at an ABA approved law school, with a grade of C or better, in a core or survey course in:
    • Constitutional law
    • Civil procedure
    • Criminal law or procedure
    • Legal ethics
    • Evidence
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) (see below)

Preparation

The National Conference of Bar Examiners website offers information to help you prepare for the following portions of the Utah bar exam: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). Other preparation resources for the Utah bar exam include:

Exam content

You will take the Utah bar exam over a two-day period. One day is devoted to writing (seven hours), while the other day is devoted to the multiple-choice MBE (six hours).

Day One of the exam, the written component, consists of eight essay questions and two MPT questions. You have 30 minutes to answer each essay question. Essay questions will have both MEE and Utah essay topics, and may include:

  • Business Associations
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts and Sales (Uniform Commercial Code Article 2)
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Federal Civil Procedure
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Trusts and Estates
  • Uniform Commercial Code Articles 3 and 4 (Negotiable instruments) and Article 9 (Secured Transactions)
  • Administrative Law
  • Business Associations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Creditors and Debtors
  • Ethics

The MPT is allotted one and a half hours per question. It consists of performing a lawyer’s task and involves skills such as problem solving, analyzing facts, legal analysis, reasoning, written communication, organizing and managing a legal task, and recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas.

Day Two, consisting of the MBE, asks 200 multiple-choice questions on the following legal areas:

  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts
  • Constitutional Law

Application Process

The first step in applying to take the Utah bar exam is to register online with the Bar. You must then complete the Application for Admission. Along with the completed application:

  • Affix a passport-sized, recent photo of yourself to the front page
  • Sign each area where required and have notarized where required
  • Submit the Certificate of Law School Graduation to the dean/registrar of your law school to complete and return to the Bar (form included in application packet)
  • Complete and submit the FBI Background Check Form (form included in application packet)
  • with your completed fingerprint card to Federal Bureau of Investigation - Request for Background Check, ATTN:  Special Correspondence Unit, 1000 Custer Hollow Road,Clarksburg, WV  26306, along with a certified check or money order payable to the US Treasury for $18
  • Provide a copy of your driving record for the past three years
  • Have six Character Reference Forms completed, (forms included in application packet) three by individuals who know you well, and three by attorneys who know you well. These must be submitted by the references directly to the Bar
  • Enclose the proper application fee ($550 for students taking bar exam) via certified check or money order to the Utah State Bar submitted by the deadline (by October 1 for the February exam and by March 1 for the July exam). See additional fees and late fees here.
  • Submit one original and one copy of the completed application and all supplemental documents to Utah State Bar, Office of Admissions, 645 South 200 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84111-3834

Pass Rates for Utah Bar

It generally takes about eight weeks to receive your Utah bar exam scores by mail after you take the exam. The written portion of the exam and MBE portion raw scores will be converted to scaled scores. The maximum scaled score you can get on each portion is 200 points. You must have a combined scaled score of 270 to pass the Utah bar exam.
Results of previous Utah bar exams are as follows (per Adaptibar):

  • 2002:     84 percent of all test-takers passed the bar exam
  • 2003:     87%
  • 2004:     87%
  • 2005:     86%
  • 2006:     83%
  • 2007:     81%
  • 2008:     83%
  • 2009:     83%
  • 2010:     82%
  • 2011:     84%

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

Within 2 years of taking the Utah bar exam, you must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a scaled score of at least 86. You must apply online with the NCBE to take this test, offered four times annually in locations throughout Utah. 

Admission on Motion

If you are already a licensed attorney elsewhere, you may be eligible for Admission by Motion (without taking the Utah bar exam). You must meet these conditions:

  • Have been admitted by exam to the bar in another US jurisdiction that allows reciprocal admission of Utah attorneys and are a member in good standing (see this list for reciprocal jurisdictions)
  • Be at least age 21
  • Hold a JD from an ABA-approved law school
  • Passed the MPRE with a score of at least 86
  • Have actively practiced law in that jurisdiction for five of the past seven years
  • Be of good moral character

Applications for admission by motion can be submitted at any time throughout the year. They take three months to process. You must submit the application with a fee of $850. Use the same Application for Admission used by exam applicants.

Attorneys Exam

If you meet the above qualifications but have only practiced for four of the past five years, you may elect to take the Attorney Bar Examination. This contains only the written portion of the Student Bar Examination. You must receive a scaled score of at least 135 to take this exam, which costs $850.

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

Once you pass the Utah bar exam, you will be notified of the time, place and date of your bar admission ceremony. Licensing ceremonies are held twice yearly, in May and October. You must take an oath and sign the roll of attorneys maintained by the clerk of the Supreme Court. This must be completed within 18 months of filing your Application for Admission to the Bar.

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Step 5

You’ve Been Admitted to the Utah Bar

Wow- you’ve done it! You are now a licensed lawyer and member of the Utah State Bar! As a new admittee, you must complete a mandatory New Lawyer Training Program (NLTP) within your first year of practice. This program pairs new lawyers with more experienced lawyers for individual, personal guidance in learning lawyering skills, judgment, professionalism, ethics and civility necessary to practice in a competent manner. Through the NLTP, you will learn to build developmental networks and long-term mentoring relationships that will help you throughout your career as a Utah lawyer.

Your mentor can help you in making a decision about where you want to work. You might decide to start your own practice, begin a practice with a colleague, or join an established legal firm. Firms across Utah with well-respected names include corporate and real estate firm Ray Quinney & Nebeker PC in Provo and Salt Lake City; corporate law firm Stoel Rives LLP in Salt Lake City; the multipractice Christensen Law Firm in Draper; criminal defense lawyers Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP in Salt Lake City; and bankruptcy/creditors rights specialists Dorsey & Whitney, LLP in Salt Lake City.

As a Utah lawyer, you may also opt to work for a for-profit or non-profit company. Many non-profit organizations exist across the state that may need legal assistance from time to time. They include Special Olympics Utah in Salt Lake City; Utah Association for Justice in Salt Lake City; Prevent Child Abuse Utah in Ogden; International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City; and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome in Farmington.

The 2011 Utah State Bar Member Survey found that an overwhelming majority (91 percent) of members was white, and a majority (76 percent) of members was male. The Bar is actively working to recruit new members of varying ethnic backgrounds and females, in order to increase diversity in the legal profession in Utah.

Legal specialty certification

As a Utah lawyer, you may choose to specialize in various areas of the law. Under Utah Rules, you must become certified as a specialist by an organization that has been accredited by the ABA before advertising yourself as such. ABA-approved certification organizations include:  

Requirements for maintaining license

The Utah State Bar CLE (Continuing Legal Education ) Department requires all lawyers to complete 24 hours of CLE every two years. This must include two hours of ethics and one hour of professionalism. Your New Lawyer Training Program satisfies the first year’s CLE requirement. For more information email mcle@utahbar.org.

Court Systems in Utah

Utah State Courts are organized like this:

  • Utah Supreme Court: Utah’s highest court and the court of last resort; has original jurisdiction to answer questions of state law and to issue extraordinary writs; has appellate jurisdiction to hear first degree and capital felony convictions from the District Court and civil judgments other than domestic cases; also reviews formal administrative proceedings of state agencies. Located in Salt Lake City.
  • Utah Court of Appeals: hears all appeals from the Juvenile and District Courts (except from small claims department of District Court); determines appeals from District Court in domestic relations cases, and in criminal matters of less than a first degree or capital felony. Reviews appeals of administrative proceedings by state. Usually held in Salt Lake City, but the Court of Appeals travels a few times each year and holds court in different areas of Utah.
  • Utah District Courts: Utah’s trial court of general jurisdiction, 71 judges serve in Utah’s eight judicial districts. Has original jurisdiction to try all civil cases, all criminal felonies, domestic relations cases, and issue extraordinary writs. Also serves as an appellate court to review informal proceedings from administrative agencies. Judicial districts include:
    • 1st: Box Elder, Cache and Rich Counties
    • 2nd: Davis, Morgan and Weber Counties
    • 3rd: Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele Counties
    • 4th: Juab, Millard, Utah and Wasatch Counties
    • 5th: Beaver, Iron and Washington Counties
    • 6th: Garfield, Kane, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne Counties
    • 7th: Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan Counties
    • 8th: Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah Counties
  • Utah Juvenile Courts: Courts of special jurisdiction, with exclusive original jurisdiction over children under age 18 who violate federal, state or municipal laws, as well as over dependent, neglected or abused children. It may determine child custody, support and visitation, terminate parental rights, authorize treatment for mentally ill or retarded children.
  • Utah Justice Courts: County and municipal courts that hear class B and C misdemeanors, violations of ordinances, small claims, and infractions committed within the boundaries of their jurisdiction.

Elective membership organizations

Here are a few other membership associations for Utah attorneys with which you might wish to associate yourself:

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Utah Resources

General Resources

Law Exams

Lawyer Career Specialties

  Utah Statistics:
 
UT Active Lawyers 6,778
Average Annual Wage $123,070

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