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According to the American Bar Association (ABA), as of 2020, there were 1,328,692 resident, active attorneys practicing across the United States. This figure was down slightly from the prior year (by 1.7 percent). This is quite an impressive number, however, when you consider the fact that, when the ABA started keeping records in 1878, just 64,137 active lawyers practiced across the country.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor notes that, as of May 2019, the mean annual wage for lawyers practicing in the United States was $145,300. This translates to an average hourly wage of $69.86. Lawyers earning in the 50th percentile average $122,960 annually. Those earning in the 75th percentile average an annual salary of $186,350.
Becoming a lawyer is a methodical, step-by-step process that anyone can follow, as long as they know what is expected of them. Although becoming an attorney/lawyer in any state is a uniform procedure, each state does have its own requirements, and some states differ from others in these mandates.
In general, the first step towards becoming an attorney in any state is to obtain undergraduate, pre-law education. While this education can be in any major, there are some majors that lend themselves well to becoming a lawyer. They include political science, English, history, business, economics and philosophy. The main thing is that the school in which you obtain this bachelor’s degree 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).
Secondly, you must pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Passing this standardized test, which is given four times annually at testing centers worldwide, is required before you can be accepted into a law school that is ABA-approved.
Once you have passed the LSAT, you can apply to an ABA-approved law school. In order to be admitted to the bar in most states, you will need a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an ABA-approved law school.
Finally, after graduating from law school, you may apply to your state’s Board of Law Examiners to take that state’s bar examination. Consult the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2020 of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to find out the bar exam requirements of your state (or check our state requirements pages near the bottom of this page!).
Once you are a member of your state’s bar, you must complete the continuing education requirements of your state in order to maintain membership.
Lawyer Career Specialties