Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Maryland
Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:
- Get your California Undergraduate Pre-Law Education
- Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
- Go to Law School in Maryland
- Take the Maryland State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
- Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar
Law Careers in Maryland
According to 2017 figures provided by the American Bar Association, 38,800 attorneys practiced in Maryland that year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the annual median wage of Maryland lawyers in 2017 was $105,450. Lawyers working in the Silver Spring/Frederick/Rockville metropolitan area earned the highest salaries in the state, averaging $132,540 annually. Those in the California/Lexington Park area earned higher than average salaries as well, at $122,140 per year. If you want to join the ranks of these Maryland attorneys and become a licensed member of the Maryland Bar Association, read on.
Get Your Maryland Undergraduate Pre-Law Major
The Maryland State Board of Law Examiners follows the requirements of the American Bar Association (ABA) regarding undergraduate pre-legal education necessary to be admitted to an ABA-approved law school.
The undergraduate school from which you graduate should be accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This type of accreditation will ensure your acceptance into an ABA-approved law school.
Requirements and Standards
The ABA does not set requirements nor does it set standards for undergraduate pre-law education. It does state, however, that some basic areas of knowledge helpful to an attorney should be covered. These include:
- History and associated social, economic, political, and cultural factors that have influenced the development of American society
- Basic understanding of American political thought and the American political system
- Basic financial and mathematical skills
- Basic understanding of social interaction and human behavior
- Understanding of the diversity of cultures beyond the United States and of world events
In order to gain admission to an ABA-accredited law school, you must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The ABA does not recommend any specific discipline or major to prepare you for admission, but it does note that your undergraduate studies should help you develop your research and writing skills, problem-solving and analytical skills, and be in a major that challenges and interests you. Traditional undergraduate majors of law school students include history, political science, philosophy, English, business, and economics.
Pre Law Advisor
Many undergraduate institutions have an on-staff Pre-Law Advisor. This faculty member is specifically trained to assist students who plan to pursue law school after receiving an undergraduate degree. Your Pre-Law Advisor can assist you in choosing courses that will give you the best foundation for law school.
LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Maryland
In order to become a member of the Bar of Maryland, you must graduate from a law school approved by the ABA. To be accepted into an ABA-approved law school, you must first pass the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, a half-day standardized test given four times per year at testing centers around the world.
How to prepare
Because the LSAT tests basic analysis and reasoning skills, the preparation may be difficult. However, the LSAT website offers free materials to test-takers to help them prepare for the exam, including sample questions with answers and explanations. Take their practice tests and time yourself to get ready for the real LSAT exam.
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Maryland:
- LSAT Prep Workshop, University of Maryland Office of Extended Studies, University of Maryland – College Park, 1125 Cumberland Hall College Park, MD 20742
- LSAT Test Prep – Princeton Review, Towson University, 8000 York Rd, Towson, MD 21252-0001 and online
- LSAT Test Prep, Allegany College of Maryland, 2401 Willowbrook Road, SE | Cumberland, MD 21502-2596
The LSAT measures skills that are vital to your success in law school. Three areas are covered in the test:
- Reading Comprehension – This section contains material you must read and comprehension questions you must answer based on that material. It measures your understanding and insight of long, complex passages that reflect those you will encounter in law school.
- Analytical Reasoning – this section contains statements that you must read and then make deductions and conclusions. It measures your ability to make complex analyses and solve legal problems.
- Logical Reasoning – This section contains material that you must read and then answer questions based on your critical evaluation of the material. It measures your ability to think critically, draw supported conclusions, use an analogy to reason, apply rules and principles, and identify strengths and flaws in an argument.
You may apply to take the LSAT online. In the United States, the LSAT is offered on Saturdays and Mondays in November, January and March. Register early, because not all testing centers offer the LSAT on each date. In Maryland, testing centers are located within the following cities:
- Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold
- Morgan State University, Baltimore
- University of Baltimore, Baltimore
- University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Baltimore
- Harford Community College, Bel Air
- University of Maryland – College Park, College Park
- Frostburg State University, Frostburg
- University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Princess Anne
- Washington Adventist University, Tacoma Park
- Towson University, Towson
- Mc Daniel College, Westminster
As of December 2018, it costs $190 to take the LSAT. Fees are payable by credit card when you register online.
Receiving Your Score
If you have an account at LSAC.org, your LSAT scores will be emailed to you about three weeks after you take the exam. If you do not have an account with LSAC.org, a hard copy of your scores will be mailed to you about four weeks after taking the test. The lowest score you can get on the LSAT is 120, and the highest is 180.
You may cancel your LSAT score beginning the day after the test, up to six days after taking the LSAT. You must log onto your LSAC.org account and do so during regular business hours in order to cancel your score. No refunds will be issued.
You may not take the LSAT more than three times in two years, even if you cancel your exam score and it is not reported to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).
Go to Law School in Maryland
Featured Law School:
Congratulations on passing the LSAT! You’ve taken your first real step towards becoming a lawyer in Maryland. Now it’s time to apply to law school. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is through LSAC, as they already have your LSAT scores and you should have an online account with them by now.
Credential Assembly Service
You must use LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service if applying to an ABA-approved law school. Once you have taken the LSAT and created your LSAC online account, follow these steps:
- Transcripts: The Credential Assembly Service will help you to gather and have all of your official college transcripts sent to them at a specified address. Transcripts must be sent directly from the institution to LSAC. They should include all institutions from which you have received credit, including:
- Community colleges
- Undergraduate institutions
- Graduate institutions
- Law, professional, and/or medical institutions
- Institutions where you took evening or summer courses
- Institutions where you took classes but did not receive a degree
- Institutions where you took college-level courses while in high school
- Institutions that sponsored overseas study
- International institutions
- Letters of Recommendation and Evaluation Services: You will be given instructions in your online account and must:
- Provide names of those who will provide you with a recommendation/evaluation
- How many letters each person will submit, and their content
- Law school s to which you wish to apply and which letters are assigned to be sent to each
- Print recommender forms to give to your recommenders, which must accompany the letters they send to LSAC
- Submit online requests for evaluations through LSAC, who will email your evaluators and ask them to complete an online evaluation
- Follow the specific instructions for the school to which you wish to apply.
- Fee: You must pay LSAC a fee of $195 for the Credential Assembly Service. This is payable online through your LSAC account and covers summarization of your transcripts, creation of your law school report, processing of your letters of recommendation and evaluations, and electronic application processing for all ABA-approved law schools
The Maryland Bar Association requires all lawyers to graduate from an ABA-approved law school located within one of the United States (does not necessarily have to be in Maryland). Currently, 200 law schools across the country are ABA-approved. For a complete listing, view the LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. For detailed information on how the ABA approves law schools, read their Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Maryland
Currently, two university law schools in Maryland hold ABA accreditation:
- University of Baltimore School of Law, 1420 N Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201
- University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, 500 W Baltimore St, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
ABA Standard 303 states that the curriculum of a law school must include coursework from the following areas:
- Substantive law
- Legal analysis/reasoning
- Legal research
- Oral communication
- Writing in a legal context
- History, structure, goals, values, responsibilities, and rules of the legal profession including the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association
- Substantial instruction in other necessary professional skills
- Live client and/or real-life practice experiences such as clinical or field placements and pro bono work
Additionally, one academic year in a law school must consist of at least 130 days covering at least eight calendar months.
In order to graduate, the ABA says that you must complete at least 58,000 minutes of instruction time, with 45,000 of those minutes consisting of attending regularly scheduled classes at your law school. Usually 700 minutes of time equals one credit, so 58,000 minutes of instruction would equal 83 semester hours of credit or 129 quarter hours of credit.
If you are enrolled in more than 12 class hours per week, you may not be employed for more than 20 hours per week.
The time that it takes to earn your JD degree must be at least 24 months, but no longer than 84 months, under ABA rules.
Online Law Degrees
(For students who choose to focus on a subset of law other than an attorney.)
You must participate in an off-site internship or field placement program while attending law school. This will not occur until you have completed at least one year of your J.D. program. You will not be compensated for this work experience, which, under ABA rules, may include a field placement in real-life legal experiences, law review, moot court, and directed research programs. A faculty member of your law school will evaluate your performance through on-site visits.
The most common degree sought by law students in the J.D. (or Juris Doctor) degree, as it is necessary for admission to the bar in Maryland. However, other legal degrees are possible, including:
Academic degrees for nonlawyers:
- Masters of Science or Masters of Studies (M.S.)
- Masters of Professional Studies (M.P.S.)
Post-JD law degrees for lawyers:
- Master of Laws (L.L.M.)
- Juris Master (J.M.)
- Master of Comparative Law (M.C.L.)
- Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.)
Academic-based and research doctoral degrees:
- Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.S.D.)
- Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.)
- Doctor of Comparative Law (D.C.L.)
A listing of schools offering these degrees may be found here.
Maryland State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
After you have earned your J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school, and if you are at least 18 years of age, you may apply with the State Board of Law Examiners to take the Maryland General Bar Exam. The exam is given twice yearly, in February and July, over a period of two days (usually a Tuesday and Wednesday). The exam will take at least nine hours to complete, but not more than 12 hours in total.
Waiver for Graduates of Non-ABA Law Schools
Did you graduate from a non-ABA law school and wish to take Maryland’s state bar exam? If you have already passed the bar examination in another state, are a member in good standing of that state’s Bar, and are qualified via education and experience to take the Maryland bar exam, you may request a waiver. Follow the procedure listed here to request a waiver.
The Maryland Board of Law Examiners publishes historical exam questions and answers on its website. Because Maryland administers the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) (starting with the July 2019 administration), preparation material can also be found on the National Conference of Bar Examiners website.
Starting with the July 2019 administration, the Maryland Bar Exam administers the UBE, consisting of the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), and Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The MBE is six hours long and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. The MPT consists of two 90-minute long skills-based exams. The MEE is six 30-minute essay questions.
Subjects covered on the UBE include:
- Analyzing facts
- Reasoning and legal analysis
- Trusts, wills and estates
- Real property
- Criminal law and procedure
- Civil law and procedure
- Constitutional law
- Conflict of laws
- Business organizations/associations
- Create an account at NCBEX.org.
- Create an account online in the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners’ eBar system.
- Have your undergraduate institution send a transcript to the State Board of Law Examiners (SBLE) showing that you have received an undergraduate degree.
- Complete and file the Character Questionnaire in the SBLE eBar system. This must be accompanied by your credit report, driving history, and other documentation that will be explained to you as you complete the questionnaire. The fee for the questionnaire is $350, payable by check or money order to the State Board of Law Examiners.
- Complete and file the Notice of Intent to take the UBE in Maryland. This will notify SBLE that you intend to sit for the UBE in Maryland. It can be accessed through SBLE’s eBar system. You will choose your exam date, time, and location here. You can also notify the SBLE if you need ADA accommodations and/or whether you intend to use your own laptop. Print and file a signed copy as well as submitting the Notice of Intent online.
- Make sure to file by the deadlines (Dec 20 for the February exam and May 20 for the July exam).
- Pay the Notice of Intent fee of $400 via check/money order payable to the SBLE.
After you have taken the exam, your results will be mailed to you. Enclosed with your results is an Affirmation, on which you must disclose any changes to the information you reported on your Character Questionnaire (including current home and business contact information). You must sign this Affirmation and return it to the Board within 10 days of its receipt, even if your information has not changed.
As the UBE has yet to be administered in Maryland, there is no pass rate published for the current bar exam in Maryland.
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
You must also take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Your score will be reported by NCBE to SBLE. Preparation information is available at the link.
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
No later than 24 months after the Court of Appeals verifies the Board’s report of your examination results, you must take the oath of office in open court at the Court of Appeals of Maryland in order to become licensed to practice in the state. You must pay a fee to the Clerk’s Office of the Court of Appeals for the preparation of the Bar Admission Certificate you will receive after your admission ceremony. After bar admission, you may practice anywhere in Maryland.
Now that You are an Attorney in Maryland
As a newly licensed attorney in Maryland, you have a big decision to make. Do you want to find work with a small firm, or set out as an independently practicing lawyer? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Sometimes joining a small or larger firm is a good way for new lawyers to become introduced to the legal profession. As a new lawyer in a small (or larger) firm, you most likely will start as an associate, and must work your way up to partner status, owning part of the firm. Some of the top law firms across Maryland include DLA Piper in Baltimore; Shulman, Rogers in Potomac; Venable, Baetjer & Howard in Baltimore; Joseph, Greenwald & Laake in Greenbelt; and Miles & Stockbridge in Baltimore.
Joining the legal department of a large corporation is another career opportunity for lawyers in Maryland. Major Fortune 500 corporations headquartered in Maryland that have legal departments include Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Discovery in Silver Spring, and Marriott International in Bethesda.
The Maryland Department of Labor predicts about 413 job openings from 2016 to 2026 for lawyers across the state, an increase of almost three percent.
Legal specialty certification
Now that you are a member of the Maryland Bar, you may choose to become certified in a legal specialty area. The National Board of Trial Advocacy sets standards and provides certification for specializations in civil, criminal, and family law, as well as social security disability advocacy and civil trial law advocacy. Your credentials will be thoroughly checked and you must pass another exam in order to become certified. Once certified, you must become recertified every five years.
Requirements for maintaining license
The Maryland State Bar Association does not require lawyers to fulfill continuing legal education (CLE) requirements to maintain licensure at this time. However, to maintain your law license in Maryland, you must fulfill three annual reporting requirements and pay associated fees:
- Client Protection Fund: To remain a member in good standing of the Maryland Bar, you must pay an annual assessment to the Client Protection Fund and maintain a current address with them. Their contact information is 410-630-8140.
- Pro Bono Reporting: You must also submit an annual report summarizing at least 50 hours of pro bono activities each year. Contact the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at 410-837-9379 x 3048 for more information.
- IOLTA Reporting: Annually, you must submit a report summarizing the status of any client trust accounts, even if you do not have any IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts). More information is available by calling 410-576-9494.
Court Systems in Maryland
The Maryland Judiciary court system consists of Appellate Courts, Circuit Courts, District Courts, and Orphans’ Courts.
Maryland Appellate Courts include:
- The Court of Appeals, the highest court in Maryland, in Annapolis
- The Court of Special Appeals, the intermediate appellate court, in Annapolis
Circuit Courts handle more serious criminal cases, major civil cases, juvenile law and family law cases, cases appealed from the District Court and Orphan’s Court, and domestic violence cases. A case may be heard by a judge only or involve a jury trial. Circuit courts are divided into eight Circuits consisting of the following county court systems:
- 1st Circuit: Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester
- 2nd Circuit: Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot
- 3rd Circuit: Baltimore County, Harford
- 4th Circuit: Allegany, Garrett, Washington
- 5th Circuit: Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll
- 6th Circuit: Frederick, Montgomery
- 7th Circuit: Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s
- 8th Circuit: Baltimore City
District Courts handle cases argued before a judge only, with no jury trials. Misdemeanors and certain felonies, domestic violence, peace order petitions, landlord-tenant disputes, small claims and other civil cases and replevin are heard here. District courts are divided into 12 districts across the state consisting of the following counties:
- District 1: Baltimore City
- District 2: Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester
- District 3: Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot
- District 4: Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s
- District 5: Prince George’s
- District 6: Montgomery
- District 7: Anne Arundel
- District 8: Baltimore
- District 9: Harford
- District 10: Carroll, Howard
- District 11: Frederick, Washington
- District 12: Allegany, Garrett
Orphan’s Courts is the state’s probate court handling wills and estates in Maryland. It consists of judges, three of whom sit in the city of Baltimore and in each of Maryland’s counties (except for Harford and Montgomery Counties, where Circuit Court Judges sit as Orphan’s Court Judges).
Elective membership organizations
You might want to consider joining one of the many elective membership organizations for lawyers in Maryland, including:
- The Women’s Law Center in Maryland
- Your county’s bar association (a listing of all county bar associations is at the bottom of this page)
- Maryland Hispanic Bar Association
- Maryland Defense Counsel, Inc.
- Women’s Bar Association of Maryland
- Maryland Bankruptcy Bar Association