Becoming a lawyer is an ambitious goal that is attainable when you know what steps to follow to achieve it. Over the following pages, you will learn how to become a lawyer in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Canadian provinces and territories. All of the educational, experiential, entrance and licensing requirements as well as other factors needed to qualify to become a licensed attorney in each jurisdiction and to maintain that licensure are explained here.
District of Columbia
Lawyers are needed today more than ever before, within a side variety of specialties that have arisen due to recent changes in technology, foreign and domestic policy, and health care. More and more attorneys are receiving specialized training to become immigration lawyers, intellectual property specialists, environmental lawyers, and employment and labor lawyers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a projected increase of four percent in the amount of job opportunities available for lawyers is expected over the next decade, adding 32,300 new jobs by 2029. As of May 2019, lawyers in the United States averaged $122,960 per year. However, this comfortable salary does not come easily. Becoming a lawyer in any jurisdiction requires years of undergraduate and graduate education, passing challenging examinations, and maintaining licensure through continuing education.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a lawyer/attorney, choose the education level below that best suits your needs:
The first step towards becoming a lawyer in any jurisdiction is to obtain pre-law education, or get your undergraduate degree. There are no undergraduate majors that are guaranteed to ensure your future success in law school or as an attorney. However, the ABA suggests certain undergraduate majors over others, such as English, history, political science, philosophy, business, or economics. When choosing your undergraduate institution, make sure that it is accredited by a regional or national accreditation agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).
After completing your undergraduate education, you are ready to register to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This standardized exam is offered four times per year at testing centers worldwide. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exam is being offered online as of 2020-21. View this page for more information on preparing to take the exam, what to expect on exam day, and what scores are necessary to be admitted to an ABA-approved law school.
Once you have passed the LSAT, you will apply for and be accepted into the ABA-approved law school of your choice. As of 2020, there are 199 institutions and programs that confer the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree that have been approved by the ABA. When you registered to take the LSAT in Step 2 above, you will have created an account at LSAC.org. You also will have paid a fee to utilize the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) which will organize your admission documents and apply to ABA-approved law schools for you, streamlining the process.
Upon graduation from law school, you will become eligible to take the bar examination in the state in which you wish to become a licensed lawyer/attorney (as long as you meet all of your state’s other bar admission requirements, which you can find in the NCBEX Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements). You will wish to prepare well for your state’s bar exam, using resources that each state’s bar association suggests.
Now That You’ve Been Admitted to Your State’s Bar, make sure that you know your state’s continuing education requirements for maintaining licensure.
If your state offers legal specialization and this interests you, you might consider pursuing it. For example, California offers its own State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization that allows you to become certified in a variety of areas, including family law, maritime law and immigration law.
You should also consider joining elective membership organizations for lawyers in your state. Within most states, there are professional organizations for lawyers who specialize in certain areas, as well as for minorities such as women and African Americans.
Lawyer Career Specialties