By Jonathan Feniak, Esq., MBA
Becoming an attorney can be a rewarding way to make a positive impact on people's lives while performing a complex but fulfilling job. Whether you're driven by a passion for justice, a keen analytical mind, or a desire to advocate for others, you can expect the journey from the moment you apply to law school to when become a lawyer to be transformative.
Applying to a school of law requires careful planning and attention to detail. Getting into law school starts with earning an undergraduate degree. You're not required to have a specific undergraduate major to become a lawyer, though many pre-law students choose to major in political science, philosophy, or history. The key thing that law schools look for is that you completed and excelled in a well-rounded undergraduate program.
You'll also need to take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT assesses your critical thinking, logical reasoning, and analytical skills. Achieving a high LSAT score is crucial for gaining admission to top schools. You should strive for at least a 150, but if you're looking to attend a top-ranking school, a score of 160 or higher is ideal.
The next step is crafting your law school application. Research schools carefully to find ones that align with your goals, then prepare a compelling personal statement, get strong letters of recommendation, and come up with a well-written résumé that highlights your academic achievements and extracurricular activities.
Once you've submitted your applications, like when you were applying to undergraduate programs, you'll want to explore your financial aid options thoroughly. Look at where you're accepted, make sure that the program you want to enroll in is financially feasible, and then make your commitment.
Once you step into the world of law, you'll find yourself immersed in a world of intellectual challenges and personal growth. Your program will typically span three years, during which you'll cover a comprehensive curriculum that delves into a variety of legal topics, including in-depth case analysis, legal research, and writing. Make time for activities like mock trials or the school's law review as well, as these can provide opportunities to develop practical skills and cultivate a strong professional network. And once you have a semester or two under your belt, look for internship and externship opportunities that can give you hands-on experience with law firms, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations, which can also help you to forge valuable connections.
In your final year of school, you'll need to prepare for and take the bar exam, which you must pass to become a licensed attorney. The exam is given over a two-day period and is notoriously difficult; depending on the specific state exam being given, pass rates can be as low as 40%. Fortunately, you are allowed to take the exam more than once.
The legal profession offers a broad spectrum of career paths, though the one people usually think of first is litigation. As a litigation attorney, you'll advocate for clients in court, presenting cases and offering legal counsel in areas like civil, criminal, or family law. You could also become a corporate counsel, advising corporations on legal matters such as contracts, regulatory compliance, and mergers and acquisitions. Some attorneys focus their careers on social justice, working for nonprofit organizations, legal aid societies, or government agencies focused on public welfare. There also is the intellectual property defender path, which involves protecting intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights, for individuals and corporations. Some attorneys are environmental stewards, who focus their practice on legal issues related to environmental protection, sustainability, and compliance with environmental regulations. If you want to help people navigate family legal matters, including divorce, child custody, and adoption, then you should consider becoming a family law attorney. And those with a knack for numbers may find themselves at home as tax attorneys, providing guidance on tax compliance and representing clients in tax-related disputes.