Becoming a lawyer is a very intensive process. A lawyer must have three to four years of undergraduate work to earn a BA or BS degree, which depends upon his or her major. This is known as a pre-law degree. Almost any major is acceptable, but many students choose political science, criminal justice, a social science, or a combination. Some universities also offer pre-law courses. A student must also have a high GPA to be considered first among applicants.
Once the student has received an undergraduate degree s/he must take the law-school-admissions test (LSAT) before s/he can apply to a law school. Some universities require the student to achieve a minimum score (120) on the LSAT before considering admission. The LSAT does not include law-related questions but focuses upon reasoning (both analytical and logical) and reading comprehension.
In addition to high GPAs and LSAT scores, law schools typically require admission essays that demonstrate desire and creativity. Another consideration that is high on the list is the applicant's level of community involvement.
Law school* generally requires three to four years of study, although choosing to practice in certain areas can add another year to one's studies. Upon graduation, the student will have earned a Juris Doctorate or a Doctorate of Jurisprudence, according to the term that the school uses. The abbreviation for either is JD.
The graduate will be required to take the American Bar Association (ABA) examination to become licensed to practice law. Once the student receives his or her license and decides upon a practice area, s/he will be interviewed by the law-examiners board in the state in which s/he chooses to practice. The cost to become a lawyer depends upon the requirements of each school and ranges from $150,000 to over $200,000.
Entry into the bar depends on each state's bar association*, which sets the requirements for practice in that state. In some states, graduation from the state law school gets qualifies the applicant for automatic entry. In most states, the applicant must pass the bar exam, which is typically two or three days long. Conversely, the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) takes one day and has 200 multiple-choice questions. Many states require that the applicant pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).
*Some states do not require that applicants have law degrees before taking the bar exam. Also, some law schools will allow entrance without a completed bachelor's degree, but the exceptions are becoming very rare.
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