Lawyers working in the U.S. often hold a respected position in the heart of the public. To become a great lawyer, a person needs to have good public speaking skills as well as the desire to change the world for the better for their clients.
There is also no easy way to becoming a lawyer in the United States. The lawyer title requires many years of schooling as well as passing rigorous exams and working several years as a junior associate in their respective law disciplines.
In this article, you will learn more about the basics of how to become a lawyer in the United States, what jobs are available for those who have graduated from law school, how much you will make after graduating from law school, and some essential information you need to know about taking and passing your Bar Exams.
Steps to Becoming a Lawyer in the USA
It is no secret that getting a law degree in the US can be tough. For those not familiar with the field, a law degree is actually called a juris doctor degree and is often abbreviated as JD.
Before you can even enroll in law school, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree first. There are no limits as to what bachelor’s degree you choose to study as the American Bar Association has confirmed that people with all types of undergraduate backgrounds have been admitted into law school.
The next step after getting a Bachelor’s degree is to write the LSAT exam. LSAT stands for the Law School Admission Test, and as its name suggests, is an exam that is used by law school admission officers to admit new students each year.
For the lucky students who are admitted into law school, they must now spend three years completing courses for law school. After finishing law school, the next step is to pass the Bar Exam.
Only after passing the bar exam can a law student finally practice law as an associate lawyer. After several years of work as an associate lawyer, they will be able to work independently or become partners in a law firm.
Jobs for Law School Graduates
Law school graduates have a wide range of jobs available that they can do. Since most people enter law school with the expectation of becoming working lawyers upon graduation, we will review some traditional jobs for lawyers.
For those not interested in working as a lawyer right after graduation, we have also listed some non-traditional jobs the graduate can pursue that can lead to equally rewarding careers.
Intellectual Property Lawyer
These lawyers work to protect intellectual property by helping creators and artists get rightfully paid for their hard work. Intellectual property lawyers can work at law firms as consultants, or within a particular company that is planning on filing patents for their latest inventions.
Immigration lawyers should understand the U.S. immigration law by heart as they must advise potential immigrants to the U.S. on how best to apply to stay and immigrate to the United States. This position is also highly in demand due to the high volume of immigrants vying to get into the United States.
Environmental lawyers help companies and individuals navigate the ever-changing environmental laws as countries around the world are paying more attention to degrading environmental conditions than ever. Environmental lawyers can work for government agencies, environmental nonprofit organizations, or for companies that have been affected by changing environmental laws.
Trial lawyers attend criminal trials and must speak in front of a small or large court audience. They should have a certain charisma that will hold the attention of the entire court from the judge to the jury and any spectators and media that may be in the audience.
This is a non-traditional career for law school graduates. But keep in mind that a great number of U.S. politicians have graduated from American law schools and have worked as lawyers. That includes past presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. This is because law and politics often go hand-in-hand, making lawyers the ideal political candidate or employee as they will have an in-depth understand of the law affecting the political conditions in the country.
This is another non-traditional job for someone who graduated from law school. However, working as a technical writer can also be a rewarding career as the job entails explaining complicated technical knowledge to a general audience. Technical writers with law background can specialize in working for patent companies preparing patents or for the government to review technical documents.
Salaries of Lawyers in the United States
Once a lawyer graduates from law school and passes the Bar Exam, they need to gain experience working as an associate lawyer first. After several years of working as an associate, they will have a chance to become partners in a firm.
Like any other profession, the salaries of lawyers will differ depending on whether he or she is an associate or a partner or if they work for themselves in their own law firm or for someone else. Based on research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall average annual salary of lawyers in the United States in 2018 is $120,910. This is equivalent to $58.13 per hour.
As for employment outlook for lawyers in the United States, it is actually projected to increase by six percent between 2018 and 2028. On the other hand, competition for lawyer jobs is also projected to increase over the next ten years because more law students are graduating from law school than there are law jobs available.
Tips on How To Secure a Good-Paying Law Job
Since lawyers at larger law firms tend to have higher salaries, you can choose to apply to work for these larger law firms if you are interested in securing a high-paying lawyer role. Here are some tips on how to get a job for one of these law firms.
The first tip step is to do your research on the law firms you are interested in working for. This will benefit you during the application as well as interview process. Interviewers like to ask you what you know about the firm, so you should have an answer prepared.
The next tip is to prepare yourself well for that interview so you can win over your future employer by convincing them you will be fit for the job.
There are many interview practice questions online and you can also look them up based on the law firm that's interviewing you. Make sure to prepare answers to these interview questions so that you know them by heart.
The last tip is to fake it until you make it as it will help raise your self-confidence levels. You will stand out amongst other people who may not look as confident and sure of what they are doing.
All About the Bar Exam
So you've studied hard and passed all your classes in law school. Now the last hurdle that stands between you and a law career is that Bar Exam. What exactly is the Bar Exam and how do you go about preparing for it? We will answer these questions below.
The Bar Exam stands for the is a two-day test that all aspiring lawyers must pass before they are allowed to work as a lawyer in the United States. The Bar Exam itself is different depending on the U.S. State you write the Exam in and is completed over the course of two days.
The first part of the Bar Exam consists of the Multistate Bar Examination which is designed and created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. It contains the same questions no matter which U.S. State you take the Bar Exam in, except for the state of Louisiana. The Multistate Bar Exam is also available to be taken twice a year.
The second part of the Bar Exam tests on knowledge relevant to the particular U.S. State you are taking the exam in. This is because each U.S. state has its own unique laws, so the location a law school graduate completes the bar exam also determines which state he or she will be allowed to practice law in.
The third and final part of the Bar Exam is called the Multistate Performance Test and is designed to test a lawyer’s ability to use their skills in realistic situations. Not every jurisdiction in the United States requires future lawyers to take this part of the Bar Exam before they can practice law.
Tips on Studying for the Bar Exam
The first tip to studying for the Bar Exam is to focus on quality over quantity. It is recommended that you should plan to study for around 400 hours before you write the Bar Exam, but these 400 hours should be quality study hours where you are not distracted and completely focused the entire time.
The second tip is to delete distracting applications on your smartphone or tablet. This way, you will not be distracted by notifications from social media or other applications when you are focused on studying.
The third tip is to review past Bar Exam questions. You can also speak to people who have taken the Bar Exam in previous years to get a better idea of what type of questions will be asked. This will ensure you are fully prepared before the big day and no question will come as a complete surprise.