In the United States, prospective lawyers are required to earn college degrees and graduate from accredited law schools. A law student can attend a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) or a state authority. Some states allow law students to study law in law offices, instead of through accredited law schools. A few states allow law students to study law through correspondence schools. A selection of states require prospective lawyers to register and obtain approval from the State Board of Law Examiners before entering law school or during the first years of legal education.
Typically, four years of college and three years of law school education are required for prospective lawyers in the United States. In college, there is no particular pre-law major. However, prospective lawyers must develop logic, reading, writing, speaking, research, and analytical skills. Prospective lawyers are encouraged to take English, public speaking, government, history, and philosophy courses. Math, economics, computer science, and foreign language courses may be helpful as well. Graduating laws students are granted the Juris Doctor degree.
In addition to required education, each state sets its own requirements for becoming a lawyer. Each state requires prospective lawyers to be licensed or admitted to the bar. The highest court in the jurisdiction establishes rules for lawyer licensing and bar admittance. In all states, a prospective lawyer must take and pass a written bar examination to gain admittance to the bar. In some states, lawyer candidates are also required to pass written ethics examinations.
A lawyer must be admitted to the bar in each state in which he or she wishes to practice law. However, some states, on occasion, allow lawyers to be admitted to their bars without taking the state-specific bar exam. In such cases, the lawyer must meet the standards set by the particular jurisdiction. When an individual has graduated from a law school that is not accredited by the ABA, he or she is restricted to taking the bar exam in the state or jurisdiction in which the school is located. Federal courts and agencies create different standards for lawyers.
To become a lawyer abroad, a candidate is typically required to obtain a Bachelor of Laws degree. Often, legal education is administered by an undergraduate college department, sometimes called a faculty of law. Some countries require prospective lawyers to earn bachelor’s degrees in other subjects at the same time as they are pursuing law degrees. Frequently, lawyer candidates must also complete government-provided coursework, special examinations, and legal apprenticeships.