Lawyers in the United States are required to have a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school, although some states allow lawyers with a bachelor’s degree in another field to practice law after completing a postgraduate law course.
Admission to law school in the United States is typically competitive, and most law schools require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test. Once admitted, lawyers must complete a three-year program at an accredited law school to earn a Juris Doctor degree.
After graduation, lawyers must pass a state bar exam to be licensed to practice law in that state. Some states require additional exams, such as the Multistate Bar Examination, to be licensed to practice law in that state.
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1. Undergraduate Degree
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for admission to law school. Although you can study any undergraduate major and still be eligible to apply to law school, many students choose to study pre-law or a similar field that emphasizes critical thinking and argumentation skills. Some common majors for pre-law students include political science, philosophy, history, and English.
2. Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degree
After completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to attend an accredited law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. During your three years in law school, you will take courses in constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal research and writing.
You will also have the opportunity to participate in clinical programs and internships, which can give you valuable experience working with clients and handling cases.
Most lawyers work in private law firms, but some work for corporations or the government. Lawyers who work in private law firms typically work on a variety of cases, including business litigation, personal injury, and family law.
Lawyers who work for corporations typically specialize in one area of law, such as tax law or labor law. Lawyers who work for the government typically work for a specific agency, such as the Department of Justice or the Internal Revenue Service.
There are many different paths that lawyers can take to find employment. Some lawyers choose to start their own private practice, while others choose to work for a large law firm. Still, others choose to work in the public sector, such as for a nonprofit organization or the government. No matter what path lawyers take, they all must complete a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and pass a state bar exam to be licensed to practice law.
3. Advanced Law Degrees
After earning your J.D. degree, you may choose to pursue an advanced law degree, such as a Master of Laws (LL.M.) or a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.). These degrees are not required for admission to the bar or for practice, but they can give you specialized knowledge and skills in a particular area of law.
For example, if you are interested in tax law, you might pursue an LL.M. in taxation. Or, if you want to teach law or conduct legal research, you might get an S.J.D.
The Best Undergraduate Degrees to Become a Lawyer
As you can see, there are a few different paths you can take to become a lawyer. But what is the best undergraduate degree to help you get there? While you can study any major and still be eligible to apply to law school, some majors may better prepare you for the rigors of legal education and practice.
Here are a few of the best undergraduate degrees for aspiring lawyers:
A major in political science can give you a strong foundation in the study of government and politics. You will learn about the structure and function of governments, as well as the political theories that guide them. You will also develop critical thinking and research skills that will be useful in law school and in your future career.
Like political science, a major in history provides a broad understanding of the world and its governments. You will learn about different cultures and societies, as well as the forces that have shaped them. Your research and writing skills will also be sharpened, which can be helpful in both law school and your future career.
An English degree may seem like an unlikely choice for a future lawyer, but it can actually be quite beneficial. You will learn to analyze and interpret complex texts, as well as to write clearly and persuasively. These skills will be useful in law school and in your future career, whether you are writing legal briefs or arguing cases in court.
A philosophy degree can help you develop strong analytical and argumentative skills. You will learn to critically examine complex ideas and to construct logical, well-reasoned arguments. These skills will be useful in law school and in your future career as a lawyer.
An economics degree can give you a strong foundation in the principles of micro- and macroeconomics. You will learn about economic theories and their real-world applications. You will also develop analytical and problem-solving skills that can be useful in law school and in your future career.
A degree in business administration can give you a strong foundation in the principles of business. You will learn about management, finance, and marketing. You will also develop valuable skills in areas such as teamwork, leadership, and decision-making. These skills can be useful in both law school and your future career.
A degree in criminal justice can give you a strong foundation in the study of crime and criminology. You will learn about the causes of crime, as well as the laws and policies that are designed to prevent it. You will also develop critical thinking and research skills that can be useful in law school and in your future career.
As you can see, there are a number of different majors that can be beneficial for aspiring lawyers. But ultimately, the best undergraduate degree for you is the one that interests you the most and that you feel you will excel in. So take some time to explore your options and find the major that is right for you.
No matter what undergraduate degree you choose, make sure you enroll in a program that challenges you academically and helps you develop the skills you will need to be successful in law school and your future career.