Associates Degrees
Job Training and Career Qualifications
Lawyers

What sort of associate's degree can you have to become a lawyer?

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2008-11-23 04:06:20

Formal requirements to become a lawyer usually include a 4-year

college degree, 3 years of law school, and passing a written bar

examination; however, some requirements may vary by State.

Competition for admission to most law schools is intense. Federal

courts and agencies set their own qualifications for those

practicing before or in them. Education and training.

Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after

high school-4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of

law school. Law school applicants must have a bachelor's degree to

qualify for admission. To meet the needs of students who can attend

only part time, a number of law schools have night or part-time

divisions. Although there is no recommended "prelaw" undergraduate

major, prospective lawyers should develop proficiency in writing

and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking

logically-skills needed to succeed both in law school and in the

law. Regardless of major, a multidisciplinary background is

recommended. Courses in English, foreign languages, public

speaking, government, philosophy, history, economics, mathematics,

and computer science, among others, are useful. Students interested

in a particular aspect of law may find related courses helpful. For

example, prospective patent lawyers need a strong background in

engineering or science, and future tax lawyers must have extensive

knowledge of accounting. Acceptance by most law schools depends on

the applicant's ability to demonstrate an aptitude for the study of

law, usually through undergraduate grades, the Law School Admission

Test (LSAT), the quality of the applicant's undergraduate school,

any prior work experience, and sometimes, a personal interview.

However, law schools vary in the weight they place on each of these

and other factors. All law schools approved by the American Bar

Association require applicants to take the LSAT. As of 2006, there

were 195 ABA-accredited law schools; others were approved by State

authorities only. Nearly all law schools require applicants to have

certified transcripts sent to the Law School Data Assembly Service,

which then submits the applicants' LSAT scores and their

standardized records of college grades to the law schools of their

choice. The Law School Admission Council administers both this

service and the LSAT. Competition for admission to many law

schools-especially the most prestigious ones-is usually intense,

with the number of applicants greatly exceeding the number that can

be admitted. During the first year or year and a half of law

school, students usually study core courses, such as constitutional

law, contracts, property law, torts, civil procedure, and legal

writing. In the remaining time, they may choose specialized courses

in fields such as tax, labor, or corporate law. Law students often

gain practical experience by participating in school-sponsored

legal clinics; in the school's moot court competitions, in which

students conduct appellate arguments; in practice trials under the

supervision of experienced lawyers and judges; and through research

and writing on legal issues for the school's law journals. A number

of law schools have clinical programs in which students gain legal

experience through practice trials and projects under the

supervision of lawyers and law school faculty. Law school clinical

programs might include work in legal aid offices, for example, or

on legislative committees. Part-time or summer clerkships in law

firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments also

provide valuable experience. Such training can lead directly to a

job after graduation and can help students decide what kind of

practice best suits them. Law school graduates receive the degree

of juris doctor (J.D.), a first professional degree.

Advanced law degrees may be desirable for those planning to

specialize, research, or teach. Some law students pursue joint

degree programs, which usually require an additional semester or

year of study. Joint degree programs are offered in a number of

areas, including business administration or public administration.

After graduation, lawyers must keep informed about legal and

nonlegal developments that affect their practices. In 2006, 43

States and jurisdictions required lawyers to participate in

mandatory continuing legal education. Many law schools and State

and local bar associations provide continuing education courses

that help lawyers stay abreast of recent developments. Some States

allow continuing education credits to be obtained through

participation in seminars on the Internet. Licensure.

To practice law in the courts of any State or other jurisdiction, a

person must be licensed, or admitted to its bar, under rules

established by the jurisdiction's highest court. All States require

that applicants for admission to the bar pass a written bar

examination; most States also require applicants to pass a separate

written ethics examination. Lawyers who have been admitted to the

bar in one State occasionally may be admitted to the bar in another

without taking another examination if they meet the latter

jurisdiction's standards of good moral character and a specified

period of legal experience. In most cases, however, lawyers must

pass the bar examination in each State in which they plan to

practice. Federal courts and agencies set their own qualifications

for those practicing before or in them. To qualify for the bar

examination in most States, an applicant must earn a college degree

and graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar

Association (ABA) or the proper State authorities. ABA

accreditation signifies that the law school, particularly its

library and faculty, meets certain standards. With certain

exceptions, graduates of schools not approved by the ABA are

restricted to taking the bar examination and practicing in the

State or other jurisdiction in which the school is located; most of

these schools are in California. Although there is no nationwide

bar examination, 48 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, the

Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands

require the 6-hour Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) as part of

their overall bar examination; the MBE is not required in Louisiana

or Washington. The MBE covers a broad range of issues, and

sometimes a locally prepared State bar examination is given in

addition to it. The 3-hour Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) is

used as part of the bar examination in several States. States vary

in their use of MBE and MEE scores. Many States also require

Multistate Performance Testing to test the practical skills of

beginning lawyers. Requirements vary by State, although the test

usually is taken at the same time as the bar exam and is a one-time

requirement. In 2007, law school graduates in 52 jurisdictions were

required to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility

Examination (MPRE), which tests their knowledge of the ABA codes on

professional responsibility and judicial conduct. In some States,

the MPRE may be taken during law school, usually after completing a

course on legal ethics. Other qualifications. The

practice of law involves a great deal of responsibility.

Individuals planning careers in law should like to work with people

and be able to win the respect and confidence of their clients,

associates, and the public. Perseverance, creativity, and reasoning

ability also are essential to lawyers, who often analyze complex

cases and handle new and unique legal problems.

Advancement. Most beginning lawyers start in salaried

positions. Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and

work with more experienced lawyers or judges. After several years,

some lawyers are admitted to partnership in their firm, which means

they are partial owners of the firm, or go into practice for

themselves. Some experienced lawyers are nominated or elected to

judgeships. (See the section on judges, magistrates, and other

judicial workers elsewhere in the Handbook.) Others become

full-time law school faculty or administrators; a growing number of

these lawyers have advanced degrees in other fields as well. Some

attorneys use their legal training in administrative or managerial

positions in various departments of large corporations. A transfer

from a corporation's legal department to another department often

is viewed as a way to gain administrative experience and rise in

the ranks of management. For the source and more detailed

information concerning this subject, click on the related links

section (U.S. Department of Labor) indicated below this answer

box.


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