Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Colorado

Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:

  1. Pursue your Colorado Undergraduate Pre-Law Education
  2. Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
  3. Find Law Schools in Colorado
  4. Take the Colorado State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
  5. Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Colorado Bar

Colorado Law Career Info

The Colorado Bar Association reports that there were 22,802 active members in the year of 2021. Members practice in a wide variety of legal specializations, including agricultural/rural law, business law, communications/technology law, criminal law, disability law, environmental law, family law, immigration law, juvenile law, labor/employment law, real estate law, trust/estate law, and water law. The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) of the U.S. Department of Labor reports the annual mean salary of Colorado lawyers in May 2022 at $168,680. There are 3.9 lawyers per 1000 people in Colorado. If you would like to become one of them, keep reading.

Step 1

Pursue Your Colorado Undergraduate Pre-Law Major

The Colorado Supreme Court Board of Law Examiners has not ruled that applicants to the state bar have any pre-legal education. But, because you must graduate from an American Bar Association (ABA) – accredited law school in order to become a bar member, you must have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. ABA-approved law schools require this for entrance.


Your undergraduate institution must be accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Requirements and Standards

Law schools encourage undergraduate study in any field, with no undergraduate major being better suited for future law school students than another. The ABA has recommended (but does not require) certain coursework that may help pre-law students. This includes:

  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Writing/English

Degree Options

You must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to enter an ABA-accredited law school. The major of your degree is not specified, but any major taken from or related to the above coursework would be helpful to your future in law school.

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Step 2

Take the Colorado LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

All ABA-accredited law schools insist that you pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, prior to enrollment. The six-hour test is offered four times annually at testing centers around the globe.

How to prepare

The LSAT website offers a variety of free study resources and materials to help you prepare for the LSAT. Other options for LSAT preparation include:

LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Colorado:

  • LSAT Test Prep, Kaplan Testing Center, University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Denver, and online
  • LSAT Prep Classes, GetPrepped!, University of Colorado at Boulder, Metropolitan State College of Denver and Colorado State University in Fort Collins
  • LSAT Prep Course, TestMasters, Boulder and Denver

Exam content

The LSAT is engineered to test abilities and skills that are necessary to be a success in law school and in your future career as a lawyer. These skills include:

  • Reading and comprehending complex texts
  • Verbal reasoning skills
  • Organizing and managing information
  • Drawing inferences from texts
  • Thinking critically
  • Analyzing and evaluating others’ arguments and reasoning

Application process

You must apply online to take the LSAT and pay the examination fee of $190. The test is given on Mondays and Saturdays in July, September, November and January. These testing centers in Colorado administer the LSAT:

  • Community College of Aurora
  • University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Argosy University-Denver
  • Community College of Denver
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Fort Lewis College, Durango
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  • Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction
  • University of Northern Colorado, Greeley
  • Western State Colorado University, Gunnison
  • Colorado State University-Pueblo

Receiving Your Score

The Law School Admission Council will email your LSAT scores to you about 21 days after you take the exam. The following are the median LSAT scores for students applying to Colorado law schools:

  • University of Colorado School of Law: 162
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law: 157

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Step 3

Go to Law School in Colorado

Application process

Passing the LSAT places you at the next step in the process of becoming a lawyer in Colorado. Now, you may apply to ABA-approved law schools. There are over 200 ABA-approved law schools in the United States, and each of them requires different things when you apply.

Credential Assembly Service

One of the things you might notice on the list above of requirements for application to ABA-approved law schools are the initials “CAS.” This stands for the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service, and virtually all ABA-approved law schools require that you use this service when applying for enrollment.

The CAS helps you to organize your credentials and streamlines the application process for applicants and law schools. Using the online account that you created with the LSAC when you signed up for the LSAT, you can upload college transcripts, writing samples, letters of recommendation, and other necessary documents. The CAS will gather these documents and compile a brief summary of the undergraduate institutions you attended. The CAS then creates law school report(s) and sends them electronically to the law schools to which you apply (electronic applications to ABA-approved law schools are also submitted through the CAS).

CAS can also be used to verify and evaluate transcripts for college credit earned outside of the U.S. or Canada. The LSAC charges a fee of $195 for its Credential Assembly Service.


The Colorado Supreme Court Board of Law Examiners has ruled that, in order to take the examination to become a member of the bar, you should have graduated with your first professional law degree from an ABA-accredited law school. (There are rules for graduates from unaccredited or foreign law schools, which will be discussed later). ABA-approved law schools in the United States are listed here. Under the Board’s rules, you need not graduate from an ABA-approved law school in Colorado, as long as the school is ABA-approved and in the United States, its territories, or Canada.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Colorado

Two law schools in Colorado hold ABA approval as of 2018:

Course requirements

Foundation courses that you will find in an ABA-approved law school will include contracts, civil law and procedure, criminal law and procedure, writing, real property, torts, Constitutional law, and the history and goals of the legal profession. Additionally, Colorado requires that you complete a six-hour course in professionalism within six months of bar admission. This in-person course must be jointly sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association and the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel and will count towards your first Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirement. To find courses, click here.

In addition to these basic law courses, Colorado law schools also offer coursework and concentrations in the following areas:

  • Lawyering process
  • Environmental and natural resources law
  • International legal studies
  • Business law
  • Trial advocacy
  • American Indian law
  • Public interest
  • Intellectual property law
  • Jurisprudence

Online Law Degrees

(For students who choose to focus on a subset of law other than an attorney.)


You will participate in a field placement during your law school years. This may place you into a real law office, government setting, or another work setting for lawyers. Often, law schools offer clinics in which you get the chance to work with a specific population of clientele. These may include entrepreneurs, community law, environmental law, mediation and arbitration, and research centers. You may have the opportunity to represent indigent clients in litigation, under the supervision of faculty and/or supervisors in an on-the-job-setting.

Degree Programs

The Colorado Supreme Court Board of Law Examiners says that you must have your first professional law degree from an ABA-accredited law school. This is commonly known as a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree.

Unaccredited Law Schools

If you attended an un-ABA accredited law school, you may still be eligible for admission to the Colorado bar examination. You must meet the following criteria:

  • Your law school must be state-accredited
  • You must have been admitted to the bar in another jurisdiction in the U.S.
  • You must have practiced law in that jurisdiction for five of the past seven years

Foreign Law Schools

Did you attend law school outside of the United States? You may still be able to sit for the Colorado bar exam if you meet these requirements:

  • You have your first professional law degree from a law school located in a common law, English-speaking country
  • You were admitted to the bar of that country
  • You practiced as a lawyer in that country for five of the past seven years
  • You have filed a petition for determination of eligibility with the Colorado Board of Law Examiners

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Step 4

Take the Colorado State Bar Exam

You are now ready to apply to take the Colorado bar exam. You may apply to take the exam prior to completing law school but must make sure that your law school verifies this on the application and sends verification to the Board when you receive your J.D. degree. Download the Application to Login to register to take the Colorado Bar Exam here.


Because Colorado uses the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), much information on preparing for the national portions of the exam may be found at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website. The UBE consists of the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). If you would like to take a preparation course, check out the resources below:

Exam content

The Colorado Bar Exam lasts for two days – Tuesday and Wednesday – and is offered in February and July. There are three sections to the bar exam:

  • Multistate Essay Exam (MEE) – three hours and forty-five minutes for nine short-answer essay questions, given on Day 1. Subjects: Business Associations, Evidence, Commercial Transactions, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Public Law, Real Property, Torts, and Wills, Estates, and Trusts.
  • Multistate Performance Test (MPT) – two 90-minute questions that require you to use lawyering skills, given on Day 1. Subjects: Legal Analysis, Fact Analysis, Awareness of Professional Responsibility, Problem Solving, Research, and Writing
  • Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) – six-hour multiple-choice test of 200 questions, two sessions of three hours each, given on Day 2. Subjects: Contracts, Real Property, Criminal Law, Torts, Evidence, and Constitutional Law

Application Process

The Colorado Bar Exam Application Filing Fee is $710 as of 2018. Apply through the CiviCore Application Management System online. All information and necessary documentation will be explained to you as you file the application electronically.

You must also schedule an appointment to get fingerprinted electronically. Visit this link to do so.

Pass Rates

The Board reports the overall passing rate for the July 2018 Colorado bar exam as 70 percent.

Professionalism Course

The Board also requires that you complete a six-hour course in professionalism within six months of bar admission. Jointly sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association and the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, this course counts towards your first Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirement. To find courses, click here.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

You must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) with a scaled score of at least 85 before you will be admitted to the Colorado bar. The MPRE is given in Boulder and Denver in March, August and November. See the link above to apply for its next administration.

Admission by UBE Score Achieved in Another State

If you took the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in another state more than three years but less than five years ago, you may qualify for admission to the Colorado bar without taking the Colorado bar exam. You must meet these requirements.

Admission on Motion

You may be admitted on motion to the Colorado bar if you are licensed as a lawyer in another jurisdiction and meet these requirements:

  • You hold your first professional law degree from an ABA-approved law school
  • You are a member in good standing of the bar of another jurisdiction
  • You have actively practiced law in that jurisdiction for five of the last seven years
  • The jurisdiction in which you are licensed would allow reciprocal licensing of Colorado lawyers without the need to take that jurisdiction’s bar exam
  • You passed the MPRE with a scaled score of 85 within the past two years
  • You completed the six-hour course on professionalism required by the Board

Licensing and Admission to the Bar

You will be mailed your bar exam results about three months after the exam. If you passed, you need to attend the next mandatory admission ceremony, pay a $40 licensing fee (by check or credit card only, no cash accepted), and take and sign the oath of admission before the Clerk of the Supreme Court. Information on the upcoming ceremony will be sent with your passing exam scores.

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Step 5

Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Colorado Bar

You are now a licensed lawyer and official member of the Colorado bar! If you are under the age of 38 or have been admitted to your first bar for less than three years, you are also automatically a member of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the Colorado Bar Association. This group can help you in setting up your own solo practice, finding a job within an existing firm or company, or deciding which direction to take in your new career as a Colorado attorney.

Colorado has its share of well-known and nationally famous law firms, as evidenced by inclusion of 409 of them in the recent U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Law Firms.” While it is impossible to list all 409 law firms that made the cut, some names that stand out include Alderman Bernstein LLC in Denver, Ballard Spahr LLP in Boulder, Cozen O’Connor in Denver, Cooley LLP in Broomfield, and Dentons in Denver.

Would you like to give back to others as you start your burgeoning law career? Many nonprofit organizations and legal assistance agencies would love to have your help. These include Colorado Legal Services, The Center for Trauma & Resilience, San Luis Vally Bar Association Pro Bono Project, Disability Law Colorado, Colorado Lawyers Helping Lawyers, Colorado Center on Law & Policy, and Arvada Teen Court. If you would like more information on any of these organizations, contact the Colorado Bar Foundation at 303-824-5329 or email [email protected].

Legal specialty certification

There are numerous areas of legal specialization in which you can become certified through the National Board of Trial Advocacy. These include civil, criminal, and family trial law; social security disability law, truck accident law, and civil trial law advocacy. Additionally, Colorado houses an organization that provides board certification in child welfare law, the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC). For more information, contact the NACC.

Requirements for maintaining license

In order to maintain your legal license in Colorado, you must fulfill Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements. This amounts to completing 45 hours of credit every three years, including seven hours in ethics.

Court Systems in Colorado

The Colorado State Judicial Branch Court System consists of Trial Courts and Appellate Courts

  • Trial Courts:
    • Water Courts – these courts have exclusive jurisdiction over cases relating to the determination of water rights, use and administration of water, and all other water matters. Seven water courts exist in each of the major river basins in Colorado:
      • Division 1: Greeley
      • Division 2: Pueblo/Colorado Springs
      • Division 3: Alamosa
      • Division 4: Delta/Montrose/Gunnison
      • Division 5: Glenwood Springs
      • Division 6: Steamboat Springs/Hot Sulphur Springs
      • Division 7: Durango
    • County Courts – these courts exist in each of Colorado’s counties and hear civil cases under $15,000, misdemeanors, traffic infractions, felony complaints, protection orders, and small claims.
    • District Courts – these courts hear civil cases in any amount, domestic relations cases, criminal, juvenile, probate, and mental health cases. There are 22 judicial districts in Colorado:
      • 1st: Gilpin and Jefferson Counties
      • 2nd: Denver County
      • 3rd: Huerfano and Las Animas Counties
      • 4th: El Paso and Teller Counties
      • 5th: Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake, and Summit Counties
      • 6th: Archuleta, San Juan, and La Plata Counties
      • 7th: Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel Counties
      • 8th: Jackson and Larimer Counties
      • 9th: Garfield, Pitkin, and Rio Blanco Counties
      • 10th: Pueblo County
      • 11th: Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Park Counties
      • 12th: Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral and Rio Counties
      • 13th: Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma, and Phillips Counties
      • 14th: Grand, Moffat, and Routt Counties
      • 15th: Baca, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Prowers Counties
      • 16th: Bent, Crowley, and Otero Counties
      • 17th: Adams and Broomfield Counties
      • 18th: Arapahoe, Elbert, Douglas, and Lincoln Counties
      • 19th: Weld County
      • 20th: Boulder County
      • 21st: Mesa County
      • 22nd: Dolores and Montezuma Counties
    • Denver Juvenile Court – located at 520 West Colfax Avenue, Room 125, Denver CO 80204, hears juvenile cases in the city and county of Denver
    • Denver Probate Court – hears all matters of probate, settlements of estates of deceased persons, the appointment of guardians, conservators and administrators, and settlement of their accounts, and the adjudication of the mentally ill in the city and county of Denver. Located at 1437 Bannock, Room 230, Denver, CO 80202.
  • Appellate Courts:
    • Colorado Court of Appeals– 22 judges sit on this court, the first court of appeals for decisions from the district courts, Denver Probate Court, and Denver Juvenile Court. It also reviews the decisions of state administrative agencies. It is located at 101 West Colfax Ave., Suite 800, Denver, CO 80202
  • Colorado Supreme Court – this is the state’s court of last resort that usually hears appeals from the Court of Appeals or cases petitioned directly to the Supreme Court. Seven justices sit on this court, located at 101 West Colfax Avenue, Suite 800, Denver, CO 80202.

Elective membership organizations

Now that you have your Colorado law license, think about becoming a member of one of these elective professional membership associations:

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023. 

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