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Alexandra Sabalier
April 02, 2020
2 min

How to Become a Lawyer in the United States

Lawyers act as legal advisors and/or defensors in representation of clients either in criminal or civil proceedings. These clients can include corporations, private citizens, or the government. In the United States, lawyers cannot represent clients in court proceedings either as defense counsels or as prosecutions until they are licensed under the state where they are practicing, at this point when they’re licensed they gain the title of Attorneys. What is the process then to become a lawyer, and eventually an attorney at law in the United States?

In the United States, the process of becoming a lawyer differs from many other countries, because the education system in the United States operates differently. If you have a legal driven mindset and are interested in following the path of a legal career in the United States, the steps you must take are as follow:

  1. Graduate High School
  2. Pass the SAT exam
  3. Earn a Bachelor’s degree with a major that is recommendable related to a legal subject
  4. Take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
  5. Attend Law School for an additional period of 3 to 4 years to earn a Juris Doctor degree
  6. Complete a clerkship or Intern for a Law Firm, Legal Organization, or Government Agency
  7. Take yourself a period of time to study for the bar exam- usually a 3 month period is advised to fully prepare
  8. Pass the bar exam with the required score in the state of your choice
  9. You’re licensed as an Attorney at Law

As a lawyer you may legally practice law as legal counsel after earning a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, which is a professional doctorate. However, you may represent a client in front of a court of law after being licensed as an Attorney at Law, which occurs after you pass the Bar Exam with a satisfactory score, and are admitted to the Bar in one of the states of the United States.

In addition to the educational requirements, prospective attorneys should have strong oral and written communication skills, have confidence when speaking in public, and be able to master the skill of working exceedingly well under pressure. Lawyers often work with clientele who are at a stage in which they are going through one of the most marking moments of their lives, which leads to highly stressful and emotional situations. For this reason it is extremely important for lawyers to possess the patience and empathy necessary to carry on the job with full diligence.

The practice of law has different branches, and the work carried in each of them will vary greatly. Therefore, the skills and personal traits required for each will vary as well. Usually, lawyers in the United States decide on which branch of the law they want to specialize and practice, after they have graduated from law school and have been exposed to a spectrum of classes, and maybe even after gaining experience as legal trainees by way of clerkships or legal internships.

For the different branches of law in which lawyers may specialize their practice in, the annual salary averages as follows:

  • Divorce attorney - $48k - $80k
  • Bankruptcy lawyer - $113k
  • Corporate lawyer - $66k - $170k
  • Civil Rights lawyer - $69k - $145k
  • Criminal lawyer - $78k
  • DUI/DWI attorney - $56k
  • Employment law lawyer - $65k - $175k
  • Estate law attorneys - $64k

Please note, these are averages. Salaries in the United States vary based on experience, location, and many other factors.

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