If you are considering a future career as a lawyer, you will probably be wondering how long it may take you to become one, how much they earn, what does the process of education and training entails.
Pursuing a career in law is highly prestigious, and it is a huge commitment, not just financially, but also time. After all, lawyers represent, and are the public image of the society, together with police officers, doctors, etc.
They bring order and peace to the society, and they carry a huge load on their shoulders by deciding who to prosecute. If they did not build their cases well and an innocent person gets prosecuted, the scale of justice will tilt towards injustice, bring chaos to the society.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Lawyer in the USA?
To become a lawyer in USA, it will typically take 7 years of post-high school education. You need to earn an undergraduate degree, in other words, a Bachelor’s degree first. This will typically take 4 years of university or college education. You will only be qualified admission into law school if you meet this criteria. The type of Bachelor’s degree does not matter as much, as long as it covers courses in English, Public Speaking, Government, History, Economics, and Mathematics.
Following that, you need to take the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT for short before becoming a law student. It is very important that you attend an ABA-accredited law school. After admission into law school, you will be undertaking the degree known as the Juris Doctor degree, or J.D. degree. Law schools usually take 3 years, followed by the bar examination, which is is an examination administered by the bar association of a jurisdiction that a lawyer must pass in order to be admitted to the bar of that jurisdiction.
The total amount of education time after earning a Bachelor’s degree depends on whether you attend law school as a full-time or a part-time student, and whether you pass the bar exam on the first attempt. To graduate law school, it can take students anywhere from 2.5 years to 5 years, depending on one’s tolerance for the intense course work.
The difficulty of the bar exam depends on where you are taking the exam, for exam, California and Delaware. California bar exam has the lowest pass rates, and for Delaware, it has the highest score requirement to pass. As you can see, not every state imposes the same requirements, so choosing where you want to practice law can significantly affect the time it takes to become a lawyer.
It is not common for law students to retake the bar exam after failing on the first try. To name a few famous examples, Former First Lady Michelle Obama failed her bar exam on her first attempt after graduating from Harvard Law School. Hillary Clinton failed the first time and passed on her second bar exam after graduating from Yale Law School. John F. Kennedy Jr. took the bar exam 3 times before passing on his third attempt.
After you pass the bar exam, you need to be officially admitted to Bar. This involves passing your State’s Bar Association’s character and fitness review. This usually takes a few months, depending on one’s background. Generally, one will take 7 to 8 years to become a lawyer in the USA.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Lawyer in the UK?
The pathway to becoming a lawyer in the UK is more complicated and less straightforward. Lawyers are divided into solicitors and barristers, each with multiple paths available. There is the direct entry and the non-law graduate entry pathway.
To clarify what a solicitor or barrister is, barristers tend to practice as advocates representing clients in court, whereas solicitors tend to perform the majority of their legal work in a law firm or office setting.
Direct Entry Path:
To become a Solicitor through the direct entry path, it typically takes 6 – 7 years. You will first need to earn the LL.B. (Hons), which is the qualifying law degree. Law degree in UK, the LL.B., is an undergraduate degree, not a graduate degree like that of in the USA. The LL.B. takes 3 years to complete.
Secondly, you will need to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) which normally takes 2 years of education. There is a fast-track course available, which takes 1 year instead of 2 years to complete, and you need to have a First Class and a Second Class degree to be qualified.
Lastly, you will need to take a trainee contract with a law firm for 2 years. You will only be granted admission into the Law Society of England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland after competition of this contract.
To become a Barrister under the direct entry path, one must complete the LL.B. (Hons), whcih takes 3 years of education. Following that, one must complete the Bar Professional Training Course, or BPTC for short. This takes 1 year. One will then go for ‘Pupillage’ under a practicing barrister and that will typically last for a year. If you tally the years up, it will take about 5 years to become a Barrister in the UK.
Non-Law Graduate Entry Path:
As for the non-law graduate entry path, it takes longer years to become a solicitor or a barrister. One will first earn an undergraduate degree, and that usually takes 3 years of education. One then has to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law, either CPE or GDL, and that takes 2 years. After acquiring these credentials, one will follow the same process as the direct entry path to become either a solicitor or a barrister, and it will take and average of 10-12 years to become a solicitor and 10-11 years to become a barrister.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Lawyer in Australia?
In Australia, the pathway to becoming a lawyer is similar to that of the UK’s, but shorter. The requirements are a Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree; a practical legal training (PLT); Legal Practice Admission; and a Practicing Certificate.
LLB or JD:
The LLB program is an undergraduate law program, and takes an average of 4 years to complete. This program covers the requirements for practicing law in Australia, and that is the “Priestley 11”, which are the 11 areas of basic legal knowledge.
The JD degree are for students that already have an undergraduate degree, and it will typically take 3 years to earn the JD degree.
After obtaining your LLB, students are required to complete a Practical Legal Training, or PLT. This takes about 6 months and there are also online courses available. Students will earn the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice after completion of the PLT. It is important to check your state’s Legal Admissions Board for approved PLT that you can take.
Legal Practice Admission:
You then need to get admission into Legal Practice, and this must be done within 5 years upon graduation, by applying to the relevant states’ Admissions Authority. Upon admission into the Legal Practice, you are qualified a job, but would not be able to practice as a lawyer in Australia.
In order to apply to the local Law Society for a Practicing Certificate, you must have a work experience of 18 to 24 months under the supervision of a practicing solicitor. Once you have the Practicing Certificate, you will be licensed to practice law as a solicitor. This process will take a minimum of 6 years of education and practice.
As for Barristers, students have to take the Bar Readers’ Course, and have to take and pass the bar exam first in order to gain entrance into the course.
Salary: How much do lawyers make & Job Outlook
Lawyer Job Outlook
Employment of lawyers is projected to grow by 6% over the next decade, and that is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs over the next 10 years is expected to be strong because more students graduate from law school each year than there are jobs available.
Law degrees: What degree do you need to be a lawyer?
The Juris Doctor, or J.D. degree remains the primary and most popular law degree, and it is not the only academic degree offered to law students. There is also the Master of Laws, and Doctor of Juridical Science.
The Juris Doctor, or J.D. degree consists of core and elective courses. The titles may differ in different law schools, and the core courses focus mainly on:
- Corporate law
- Commercial law
- Administrative law
- Comparative law, and
- International law
Law students can choose between different elective courses, based on their own interest, and this is carried out in the second and third year of law school. Elective courses focus mainly on:
- Taxation Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- Family Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Commercial, Business & Labor Law, and
- Advanced Torts
Lawyer Work Environment & Work Hours
The majority of lawyers work in private and corporate legal offices. Some work for federal, local, and state governments. Most lawyers work full time and many work more than 40 hours a week.
Types of Lawyers
Criminal Defense Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Criminal defense lawyers deal with the issues surrounding an arrest, a criminal investigation, criminal charges, sentencing, appeals, and post-trial issues, and they represent individuals and organizations who have been accused of a criminal offense, and you will defend for the public.
One requires 7 years of education and training to become a certified criminal defense lawyer.
Corporate Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Corporate lawyers are lawyers who specialize in corporate law, and they are experts in commercial law. They are responsible for ensuring that a company’s transactions comply with corporate laws and regulations. They may work at a law firm or as part of a company’s legal team. Duties include preparing documents, assessing partnerships, and negotiating deals. They use their knowledge of business and finance law to understand, defend, and uphold business matters related to businesses and corporate affairs. In other words, they represent a business entity or government to provide legal counsel and services.
Similar to the criminal defense lawyer, it will typically take 7 years of education and training, and if one decides to practice law globally, that will require and additional 2 years of earning a Master’s degree.
Patent Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Patent lawyers are specialists in intellectual property, trademarks, design rights, copyright laws and patents. They represent creators or companies in the patent application process, assist with patent infringement and act as litigators to protect their client’s rights to an invention, providing inventors with legal protection.
One will have to sit for the “Patent Bar” exam, and typically requires 7 to 8 years of education and training.
Family Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Family lawyers specialize in family and marital issues including divorce, custody, adoption, child abuse, child support, and domestic abuse. Similarly, it requires 7 years of education and training.
Immigration Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Immigration lawyers provide advice and guidance for matters such as visa applications, green cards, citizenship and naturalization, deportation issues, and employment for non-citizens. They also specialize in legal issues involving refugees, illegal citizens, and newcomers. They spend much lesser time handling civil disputes in court as compared to other types of lawyers.
Due to 2 years of additional education at graduate school, it will take approximately 9 years of education and training to become an immigration lawyer.
Real Estate Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Real estate lawyer are equipped to prepare and review documents relating to real estate such as purchase agreements, mortgage documents, title documents, and transfer documents. In a real estate transaction, sellers, as well as buyers, should be represented by lawyers to safeguard their rights and watch their interests. They support one’s claims and facilitate transactions.
Similarly, it requires 7 years of education and training.
Prosecutor Lawyer and How Long it Takes to Become One
Prosecutor lawyer works for a state or government organization and is responsible for starting legal proceedings and proving in court that the accused suspect had committed the crime. They stand for local, state or federal government in court. Their job duties involve trying cases, interviewing witnesses or victims, evaluating police reports, and performing legal research to plan the prosecution of each case.
Similarly, it requires 7 years of education and training.
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Typically, it will take you 7 years of post-high school education. The length of education and training to become a lawyer depends on the country and state of practice, as well as the type of lawyer that you wish to become. The education and training process is more complicated in the UK, as it depends on the type of path one takes.