Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Ohio
Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:
- Receive My Ohio Undergraduate Pre-Law Education
- Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
- Attend Law School in Ohio
- Take the Ohio State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
- Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar
Law Careers in Ohio
According to the Office of Criminal Justice Services of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, violent crimes in Ohio increased by just 1.4 percent from 2015 to 2016. The violent crime rate in Ohio is lower than that of the national rate of violent crime. It is notable that from 2015-16, the murder rate in Ohio increased 25.2 percent; rape increased 2.6 percent; robbery decreased by 0.8 percent; aggravated assault increased 1.9 percent, and property crime decreased 1.5 percent. If you wish to become a criminal lawyer in Ohio, it is important to understand the state’s crime statistics. Of course, many other types of lawyers practice in Ohio, including those specializing in workers’ compensation, property law, wills and estates, and civil law. The only way to achieve the goal of becoming a lawyer in Ohio is to know the steps to take to reach that goal. Keep reading to discover this path.
Get Your Ohio Undergrad Pre-Law Major
The Office of Bar Admissions of the Supreme Court of Ohio requires that you obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in one of the following ways:
- Prior to law school admission
- Subsequent to law school admission by completing coursework and credits supplemental to those of your law school curriculum, if your academic record is approved by the Court
- Through participating in a joint bachelor’s/law degree program approved by the Court that takes at least seven years to complete and results in the awarding of a bachelor’s degree and a law degree
Under the rules of the Office of Bar Admissions of the Supreme Court of Ohio, one of the following accreditation agencies must approve your undergraduate college or university:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges–Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges–Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
If you received your undergraduate education in a foreign country, you must submit an education evaluation completed by a Court-approved education evaluation service. This evaluation must prove that you have completed at least three years of full-time, post-secondary education in order for your education to be equivalent to undergraduate standards of the Court. Review the Court’s Guidelines for Requesting Evaluation of Foreign Education for details.
Requirements and Standards
Your undergraduate education must culminate in a bachelor’s degree. The coursework and major you select is entirely up to you. Some undergraduate courses may better prepare you for law school than others. These include courses in political science and government, history, business and economics, communications, philosophy, and social science.
You must have a bachelor’s degree that took at least three years of full-time schooling to complete. This degree may be a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in any subject in which you are interested and that challenges you.
LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Ohio
When you have obtained your bachelor’s degree, the next step on the road to law school is to pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). The six-hour-long standardized admission examination is necessary in order to gain entrance into any American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law school in the nation.
How to prepare
You can find free study resources provided by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) at the LSAT website. If you wish to take a formal LSAT review course, resources in Ohio include:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Ohio:
- LSAT Prep Course, Ohio University, Athens and online
- Khan Academy Official LSAT Prep, online
- University of Akron LSAT Prep, University of Akron, Akron
- LSAT Hacks, online
The LSAT is structured in the following manner:
- Two Logical Reasoning Sections, each consisting of about 25 questions and having 35 minutes to complete. In this section, you will analyze statements for possible errors in logic.
- One Analytical Reasoning Section, also known as the Games section, consisting of about 24 questions and having 35 minutes to complete. You are asked to solve complex logical deductive puzzle games in this section.
- One Reading Comprehension Section, of about 27 questions, with 35 minutes to complete. Read complex passages and answer questions based upon those passages.
- One Experimental Section, with 35 minutes to complete. This section is one of the above sections repeated, but you will not know which section it is. Although experimental questions are tried out by the LSAC in this section, complete every section of the LSAT as if it counts towards your score.
- One Writing Sample, with 30 minutes to complete. You are given a topic and asked to write an essay on that topic. Although this section does not count toward your LSAT score, it will be sent to law schools for their review when you apply.
The LSAC accepts LSAT applications online. You may select the month in which you want to take it (November, January, or March) and your preferred day (Monday or Saturday). Ohio LSAT examination centers are:
- Ohio Northern University, Ada
- University of Akron, Akron
- Cedarville University, Cedarville
- University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati
- Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland
- Ohio State University, Columbus
- University of Dayton, Dayton
- Wright State University, Dayton
- Oberlin College, Oberlin
- Miami University, Oxford
- University of Toledo College of Law, Toledo
- The College of Wooster, Wooster
- Youngstown State University, Youngstown
Receiving Your Score
You will receive your LSAT score by mail about 21 days after the test. The lowest score you can get is 120 and the highest, 180. Examples of median LSAT scores accepted by law schools in Ohio are:
|University of Akron School of Law:||152|
|Capital University Law School:||149|
|Case Western Reserve University School of Law:||159|
|University of Cincinnati College of Law:||155|
|Cleveland State University–Cleveland-Marshall College of Law:||153|
|University of Dayton School of Law:||148|
|Ohio Northern University — Claude W. Pettit School of Law:||149|
|The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law:||159|
|The University of Toledo College of Law:||151|
Go to Law School in Ohio
Ohio Law School Application process
After passing the LSAT, you are ready to begin the process of applying to the ABA-approved law schools of your choice. Choose from over 200 of them listed in the LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. Ohio’s bar admission rules state that you must graduate from an ABA-approved law school located in the United States or receive a foreign equivalency evaluation of your law education if it was obtained in a foreign country.
Credential Assembly Service
The Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) is a valuable tool that is mandatory to use when applying for enrollment at an ABA-approved law school. The CAS assists you in collecting transcripts from your undergraduate college and from any institution that you have attended and received college credit up to this point. The CAS also helps you contact people to write your letters of recommendation and online evaluations. The CAS will prepare law school reports for up to five law schools you choose and will process your applications to these schools electronically.
The Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio state that you must graduate with a law degree from an ABA-accredited law school. If your law school was in a foreign country, you must have your legal education evaluated by a Court-approved education evaluation service. Additionally, you must submit a transcript that shows you have completed 30 credits hours at an ABA-approved law school within no longer than a 48 month period. Review the Court’s Guidelines for Requesting Evaluation of Foreign Education for further information on the evaluation process and Court-approved evaluation agencies, World Education Services, and Education Credential Evaluators.
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Ohio
These law schools in Ohio are ABA-accredited:
- University of Akron School of Law, 302 Buchtel Common, Akron, OH 44325-2901
- Capital University Law School, 303 E. Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215-3200
- Case Western Reserve University School of Law, 11075 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106
- University of Cincinnati College of Law, PO Box 210040, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0040
- Cleveland State University–Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, 1801 Euclid Avenue, LB 138, Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
- University of Dayton School of Law, 300 College Park, 112 Keller Hall, Dayton, OH 45469-2760
- Ohio Northern University — Claude W. Pettit School of Law, 525 South Main St, Ada, OH 45810
- The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, John Deaver Drinko Hall, 55 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1391
- The University of Toledo College of Law, 2801 West Bancroft Street, MS 507, Toledo, OH 43606-3390
Courses that you must take in your ABA law school curriculum, as proscribed by the Court, include:
- Legal ethics/professional responsibility (at least 10 classroom hours)
- Substance abuse (at least one hour)
- Legal research and writing
- Conflict of laws
- Business associations
- Constitutional law
- Wills, trusts and estates
- Criminal procedure and law
- Family law
- Civil procedure and law
- Federal income taxes
- Uniform Commercial Code (Articles II, III & IX)
- Real Property
- Personal Property
Online Law Degrees
(For students who choose to focus on a subset of law other than an attorney.)
Clinical experience is a vital part of most ABA-approved law school curricula. You might work in a real-life law office, government agency, or non-profit organization to gain experience you cannot learn simply by sitting in a classroom. Some law schools also offer in-house legal clinics in which you work with poor clients in a lawyer’s capacity. You will be assessed on your clinical performance and assigned a grade by a supervisor and/or law school staff.
The Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio state that you must have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or L.L.B. degree from an ABA-approved law school (or, if your degree is from a foreign law school, have an education equivalency conducted and complete the correct type and number of courses at an ABA-approved law school).
Law Student Registration
You must register as a law student with the Office of Bar Admissions by November 15 of your second year of law school. Complete the Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission. Instructions to complete all of the forms you need, as well as the forms themselves and additional documentation you must submit, may be found here. As part of the registration process, you will be completing the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Character Questionnaire online. You must also obtain a fingerprint card from your law school or local police department and complete it, and return it to the Office with your registration materials. Make sure all documents that must be notarized are executed properly. Enclose a $75 fee by certified check or money order only, payable to the Supreme Court of Ohio and the correct fee for the Character Questionnaire, by check or money order only, listed on the NCBE website and payable to the NCBE. Additional documentation that you may be sending includes:
- A certificate executed by the dean of your law school when I first began studying law
- A certified transcript of college credits showing completion of a bachelor’s degree before entering law school
- Original and one copy of the Applicant’s Character Questionnaire
- Fingerprint identification card
- Two original separately executed General Authorization and Release forms
- Three original separately executed NCBE Authorization and Release forms
- Original Authorizations to Release Substance Abuse (7B) and/or Mental Health Records (7C) (if applicable from answers to Character Questionnaire)
Mail everything to Office of Bar Admissions, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 South Front Street, 5th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431.
Pass the Ohio State Bar Exam
After receiving your law degree from an ABA-accredited law school, if you are 21 years of age or older, you may apply to take the Ohio bar examination.
Non-ABA Approved Law School Graduates
The only non-ABA-approved law school graduates permitted to take the bar exam in Ohio are those who have graduated from a foreign law school and had the appropriate education equivalency evaluation completed (see below). If you graduated from a law school in the United States that was not ABA-accredited at the time of your graduation, you are not eligible to take Ohio’s bar examination.
Graduates of Foreign Law School
If you completed your legal education outside of the United States, you must have the World Education Services or Education Credential Evaluators evaluate your legal education for equivalency. Additionally, you must complete 30 credit hours in specified law subjects at an ABA-approved law school. Only after completing these requirements will you be approved by the Court to take Ohio’s bar exam.
Ohio will begin administering the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) as of July 2020. In 2019, Ohio still administers part of the UBE, and the National Conference of Bar Examiners website offers free resources to help you prepare for the national parts of Ohio’s bar exam. This includes the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). The Ohio Board of Law Examiners also offers free study aids for the bar exam here. Paid bar review courses in Ohio in which
- Bar Exam Prep Research Guide– Case Western Reserve University School of Law
- About the Ohio Bar Exam– The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
- Ohio Bar Exam Overview– University of Akron School of Law
It will take you two and a half days to complete the Ohio Bar Exam. On the first day, you will complete six essay questions in the morning and the Multistate Performance Test in the afternoon. Day two is devoted to the Multistate Bar Exam. On the third morning, you will complete six more essay questions. Topics that may be covered on the Ohio Bar Exam include:
- Essay subjects:
- Business Associations: Agency/ Partnership and Corporations
- Commercial Transactions
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law (includes Criminal Rights)
- Legal Ethics
- Criminal Law
- Real and Personal Property
- MPT skills/subjects:
- Using a given file and library, complete an assigned task, such as:
- Writing a memorandum
- Writing a brief
- Writing a client letter
- Writing a contract provision
- Writing a will
- Writing a discovery plan
- Writing a settlement agreement
- Using a given file and library, complete an assigned task, such as:
- MBE subjects:
- Criminal law/procedure
- Constitutional law
- Real property
File the Application to Take the Bar Examination. You must complete the forms online, print them and have the applicable forms notarized, and submit the application to the Bar Admissions Office. If you want to take the February bar exam, file your application by November 1. If you want to take the July bar exam, file the application by April 1. When you have completed the application, you must submit the following to the Office:
- Completed Application form
- Original plus one copy of the Applicant’s Supplemental Character Questionnaire
- Applicant’s Affidavit (signing this states that you have read the Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio, the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Code of Judicial Conduct and that you have not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law)
- Law School Character Certificate completed by the dean of your law school, that certifies that the dean attests to your character, fitness, and morality to practice law
- Examination fee of $358 payable by certified check or money order only, to the Supreme Court of Ohio
Everything above must be submitted to Office of Bar Admissions, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 South Front Street, 5th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431.
For the July 2018 Ohio Bar Exam, the following are first-time test-taker pass rates from Ohio law schools:
|University of Akron School of Law:||65%|
|Capital University Law School:||71%|
|Case Western Reserve University School of Law:||81%|
|University of Cincinnati College of Law:||79%|
|Cleveland State University–Cleveland-Marshall College of Law:||93%|
|University of Dayton School of Law:||70%|
|Ohio Northern University — Claude W. Pettit School of Law:||71%|
|The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law:||88%|
|The University of Toledo College of Law:||84%|
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
Before you can be admitted to the Ohio bar, you must take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a scaled score of 85 or above. You may take the MPRE before or after the Ohio bar exam but must pass it before you can be admitted to the bar. Contact the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) for information on scheduling the examination.
Admission on Motion
If you are already admitted to practice law and a bar member of another U.S. jurisdiction, you may be eligible for admission to the Ohio bar without examination (otherwise known as Admission on Motion). You must meet the following requirements:
- Be a member in good standing of the bar of another U.S. jurisdiction
- Have practiced law full-time in that jurisdiction for five of the past ten years
- You have never taken and failed the Ohio bar exam
- You are a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- You intend to practice law in Ohio actively on a continuing basis
- You meet all other requirements for admission (i.e., character, MPRE score, etc)
If you meet these requirements, file an Application for Admission to the Practice of Law in Ohio Without Examination.
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
You should receive the results of the Ohio bar examination by mail within nine weeks of taking the February exam and within 12 weeks of taking the July exam. You will also be told of the date, time, and place of the admission of the oath of office and your induction ceremony. You must take this oath of office: “I, (your name), hereby (swear or affirm) that I will support the Constitution and the laws of the United States and the Constitution and the laws of Ohio, and I will abide by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. In my capacity as an attorney and officer of the Court, I will conduct myself with dignity and civility and show respect toward judges, court staff, clients, fellow professionals, and all other persons. I will honestly, faithfully, and competently discharge the duties of an attorney at law. (So help me God.)”
You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar
You have passed a major milestone in your life and career and are now a member of the Ohio bar! As a new admittee to the bar, you must comply with its New Lawyer Training (NLT) requirements. You must complete 12 hours of NLT by the end of your first two-year continuing legal education (CLE) reporting period. NLT courses are listed in the CLE Activity Search database. These NLT courses will introduce you to the everyday ins and outs of the practice of law in Ohio.
As a new lawyer in Ohio, you have a variety of career options. Should you open your own law practice, join an existing one, or even take a job with a for-profit or non-profit corporation? Many existing law firms throughout the state are looking for new legal talent. Some of the most recognizable names include Jones Day in Cleveland and Columbus; BakerHostetler in Cleveland; Squire Patton Boggs in Cleveland; Arter & Hadden in Cleveland; and Thompson Hine in Cleveland.
Ohio houses 25 Fortune 500 corporations as of January 2019, some of which may hire new bar members. Key players include Cardinal Health in Dublin, Kroger in Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati; Marathon Petroleum in Findlay; Nationwide Insurance in Columbus; Macy’s in Cincinnati; and Progressive Insurance in Mayfield Village.
Legal specialty certification
The Ohio State Bar Association will provide specialty certification services to Ohio lawyers who are qualified to practice in certain areas. Specialty practice areas include workers’ compensation law, federal taxation law, family relations law, and residential real property law. For more information on this process, contact the Ohio State Bar Association Certification Department.
Requirements for maintaining license
As an Ohio lawyer, you must complete 24 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) every two years. At least 2.5 of those hours must be in professional conduct. This must include 30 minutes on substance abuse, one hour on Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, and one hour on professionalism.
Court Systems in Ohio
Here is how the Ohio Judicial System is structured:
- Supreme Court of Ohio: Ohio’s highest court and the court of last resort, hearing appeals from the 12 district Courts of Appeals in the state. It also hears cases involving the death penalty; cases involving questions of the U.S. Constitution or the Ohio Constitution; and cases in which there are conflicting opinions from multiple courts of appeals.
- Courts of Appeals: There are 12 appellate districts throughout Ohio that hear appeals from the common pleas, municipal and county courts.
- The Court of Claims: This court is authorized to hear all civil cases in Ohio. Typically, it hears claims over contract disputes, property damage, personal injury, state officer/employee immunity, and wrongful imprisonment
- Courts of Common Pleas: Each of Ohio’s 88 counties has a Court of Common Pleas.
- General Division- has original jurisdiction in criminal felony cases and civil cases over $15,000.
- Domestic Relations Division-has original jurisdiction over divorce, marriage dissolution/annulment, spousal support, legal separation, and parental rights
- Juvenile Division- hears cases involving people under age 18 who are charged with crimes, as well as cases involving dependent or neglected children
- Probate Division- Has jurisdiction over wills and the supervision and administration of trusts and guardianships.
- Municipal and County Courts: These courts conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases, have jurisdiction over traffic and non-traffic misdemeanors and have limited civil jurisdiction over cases under $15,000.
Elective membership organizations
Think about joining one of these organizations that may be beneficial to your career as an Ohio lawyer:
- Ohio Employment Lawyers Association
- Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Southwest Ohio Trial Lawyers Association
- Ohio Association for Justice