How To Become a Lawyer

Brandi Glass
9 min read
Lawyers Looking at Documents

Although you see them in movies and streaming shows all the time, lawyers are a diverse group of professionals who take on many roles besides defending clients in court. Lawyers are essential for society, helping uphold justice, interpret the law, and protect clients and companies.

But being a lawyer is no easy task – pursuing this career path takes years of dedication and thousands of dollars. If you want to know how to become a lawyer but are unsure where to start, read on. We go over everything you need to know about how to become a lawyer, including lawyer salary ranges, types of lawyer jobs, lawyer education requirements, and building out your lawyer resume.

What is a Lawyer?

A lawyer is a legal professional licensed to practice law. They represent clients in legal matters, provide guidance and advice, and advocate in court proceedings or negotiations. Lawyers work under specializations, such as criminal, tax, or intellectual property law. They protect their clients, look out for their best interests, and ensure that they receive fair treatment.

Attorney vs Lawyer: There is a difference between an attorney vs lawyer. An attorney practices law after passing the bar exam, getting a license, and meeting all state requirements. A lawyer has a formal law education but has yet to pass the bar exam.

Paralegal vs Lawyer: There is also a difference between a paralegal vs lawyer. A paralegal supports lawyers and does much of their paperwork, but they cannot practice law and don’t have a license.

What Does a Lawyer Do?

A lawyer’s job is to uphold justice, protect client interests, and ensure the proper following of legal procedures. A lawyer’s work involves understanding complex legal concepts and staying updated on new laws and regulations. They also research legal issues, draft documents, negotiate settlements, and represent clients in court.

How to Become a Lawyer

To become a lawyer in the United States, you must start with a bachelor’s degree in any subject. Lawyer education requirements are typically similar in every state, except for the bar exam. After you graduate, you must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a standardized test that measures your law aptitude. Once you have your LSAT score, you can apply to accredited law schools for the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.

After finishing law school, you must pass the bar exam. The bar exam assesses your knowledge of state-specific and general legal principles. Each state has its requirements and format, including a combination of multiple-choice questions, essays, and performance tests.

Some states also require that you pass a character and fitness evaluation, which assesses your moral character. It involves a background check, interviews, and a review of your past conduct.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer in the United States takes about seven to eight years. This timeline includes completing your bachelor’s degree and completing law school. After graduating from law school, you need a few months to prepare for the bar exam in the state where you plan to practice.

Prep times differ, but most people dedicate at least two months to studying for the exam. Remember that this timeline can change depending on factors like part or full-time study or delays in passing the bar exam.

How Long is Lawyer Training?

Lawyer training takes approximately seven years, including four years for a bachelor’s degree, three years for law school, and a few months for bar exam preparation. This timeline does not account for delays or additional time between stages. Examples include taking breaks between undergraduate studies and law school or re-taking the bar exam if you don’t pass the first time.

A Day in the Life of a Lawyer

Serious businesswoman hurrying with documents from courthouse

A typical day in a lawyer’s life differs depending on their practice area. However, there are some common elements across the profession. Generally, a lawyer’s day begins with reviewing their schedule, checking emails, and prioritizing tasks.

They research legal issues, review and analyze documents, and prepare for client meetings. They also engage in phone calls or video conferences throughout the day to discuss case updates, collaborate with team members, or consult with experts.

Drafting legal documents, such as contracts, pleadings, or memoranda, is often a significant part of a lawyer’s daily work. They might negotiate settlements, strategize for trials, or represent clients in court, administrative hearings, or mediation sessions.

Depending on the practice, a lawyer’s day often extends into the evening as they catch up on paperwork, communicate with clients, or prepare for the next day’s tasks. If you work in a law firm, you may delegate some of your tasks to paralegals who can perform the more repetitive or mundane research.

Lawyer Salary: How Much Does a Lawyer Make?

Lawyer Salary: The average lawyer salary in the U.S. is $109,468 annually.

  • Immigration Lawyer Salary: The average immigration lawyer salary in the U.S. is $72,050 a year.
  • Corporate Lawyer Salary: The average corporate lawyer salary is $141,517 annually.
  • Medical Lawyer Salary: The average medical lawyer salary in the U.S. is $151,488 annually.
  • Patent Lawyer Salary: The average patent lawyer salary in the U.S. is $155,977 annually.

Lawyer Salary Ranges

Lawyer salary ranges in the U.S. are between $87,290 - $118,490 annually.

How Much Does a Lawyer Make an Hour?

If you make $134,794 a year, you make $64.80 an hour. If your annual salary is $109,468, your hourly rate is $54.73.

Is Becoming a Lawyer a Good Fit for Me?

Not everyone can be a good lawyer, but some people almost seem like they were born to be lawyers.

To be a good lawyer, you must be good at analyzing complex legal issues, identifying facts, and applying the law to specific circumstances.

You must also communicate effectively and be comfortable presenting arguments, explaining complex concepts in simple terms, and adapting your communication style. Strong interpersonal and organizational skills are a must to be a good fit for this profession, as you will meet with several people and go to court.

If you are unsure if this job is right for you, try speaking with practicing lawyers, participating in legal internships, or attending law school open houses. These activities help you better understand the profession and whether it aligns with your interests, goals, and personality strengths.

Where Can a Lawyer Work?

Lawyers can work in virtually all settings depending on their expertise and career preferences. Many lawyers work in private practice, either as solo practitioners or as part of law firms. Lawyers can also work as in-house counsel for corporations and other organizations.

Local, state, and federal government agencies also employ lawyers to work as prosecutors or public defenders, representing the government or defendants in criminal cases. Finally, lawyers can work in the nonprofit sector, where they may provide legal services to underserved communities or work on civil rights, social justice, or environmental protection issues.

How to Apply for Lawyer Jobs

Fortunately, there will always be a demand for lawyers in the United States. Before starting your job search, ensure you have met the lawyer requirements, including completing your lawyer schooling and passing the bar exam. When applying for lawyer jobs, it is essential first to understand the lawyer positions available and their specific lawyer education requirements.

Once you have identified the lawyer career path that interests you, prepare a tailored lawyer resume using Rocket Resume that highlights your skills for a lawyer. Using a Rocket Resume template, a well-crafted lawyer resume emphasizes your legal knowledge and skills.

One of the perks of using Rocket Resume templates is that your resume always gets to the right hands. All Rocket Resume templates pass Applicant Tracking Systems quickly, with no glitches or issues.

After you finish your lawyer resume, prepare a customized cover letter for lawyer position jobs. The cover letter for lawyer position jobs should complement your lawyer resume without repeating its content. It should concisely explain your interest in the role, your qualifications, and why you believe you would be a strong fit.

As you research various lawyer job descriptions, always take note of the specific requirements to become a lawyer in those roles and tailor your application to address them. This step demonstrates your attention to detail and commitment.

When you are ready to apply, submit your lawyer resume and cover letter for lawyer position jobs through online job portals.

If you receive a call for an interview, prepare by reviewing common interview questions for a lawyer and considering how you would respond to them. This step helps you feel more confident and ready to discuss your qualifications, skills for a lawyer, and lawyer education requirements during the interview.

Generally speaking, you must understand the types of lawyer positions and their requirements available. Once you do, it’s time to tailor your lawyer resume from Rocket Resume and a strong cover letter and prepare for potential interview questions for a lawyer.

Rocket Resume Lawyer Template

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many years to become a lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer in the United States takes around seven to eight years. This timeframe includes completing a four-year undergraduate degree and a three-year law school program.

How to become a corporate lawyer?

To become a corporate lawyer, you must complete your undergraduate degree, take the LSAT, and join a law school for your J.D. degree. To specialize in corporate law, select relevant courses, such as contracts, securities regulation, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate taxation.

Participating in extracurricular activities like business law clinics can also enhance your knowledge. After completing law school, what’s left is to pass the bar exam, and you can start practicing as a corporate lawyer.

How hard is it to become a lawyer?

It is not easy to become a lawyer. Besides the years it takes to finish your education and take the LSAT and bar exams, the material is quite detailed. Although it is certainly not an impossible task and well worth the effort, you need to dedicate yourself to your studies to become a successful lawyer.

How to become a medical lawyer?

Becoming a medical lawyer, also known as a health care lawyer or medical malpractice lawyer, follows the same steps initially. These steps include obtaining your undergraduate degree, taking the LSAT, and graduating from law school with a J.D. degree.

In law school, you must take relevant courses such as health law, medical malpractice, bioethics, and health care regulation. After receiving your license, you must seek positions in medical law, which may include working at a law firm, in-house for a healthcare organization, or a government agency.

How to become a lawyer in California?

To become a lawyer in California, you must complete your undergraduate degree, take the LSAT, and get into law school for your J.D. degree. After completing law school, you must pass the California Bar Examination. This two-day test assesses your knowledge of general legal principles and California-specific laws.

California also requires that you pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). After passing these, you must complete a moral character application and undergo a background check. Once completed, you can start practicing law in California.

How many years of law school to become a lawyer?

Law school takes about three years to complete and receive your J.D. degree. However, this number factors into attending school full-time. If you are a part-time student, completing your program will take longer.

How to become a real estate lawyer?

To become a real estate lawyer, you must finish undergraduate school, take the LSAT, and graduate from law school. While in law school, take relevant courses such as property law, land use, zoning, real estate transactions, and real estate finance.

After completing law school, you must pass the bar exam. Once you pass the bar exam and fulfill individual state requirements, you can practice real estate law.

How to become a lawyer in Florida?

Once you complete your undergraduate degree, take the LSAT, and finish law school, you must pass the Florida Bar Examination. The Florida Bar Exam is a two-day test that includes the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and Florida-specific components, such as essays and multiple-choice questions.

Florida also requires that you pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Once you pass the bar exam and MPRE, you must complete a moral character and fitness investigation conducted by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. After satisfying these requirements, you can successfully practice law in the state.

How to become a patent lawyer?

To become a patent lawyer, you must get your undergraduate degree, take the LSAT, and finish law school with a J.D. degree. You must pass the Patent Bar Exam, also known as the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases. This exam tests your knowledge of patent laws, regulations, and procedures.

Besides the bar exam, you must take the Patent Bar Exam to represent clients before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). To be eligible for the Patent Bar Exam, you must have a technical background that meets the USPTO’s specific requirements.

How much does it cost to become a lawyer?

On average, the cost ranges from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost of becoming a lawyer varies depending on several factors, like where you go for undergrad school, your law school, the state you live in, and whether you received scholarships. However, it is no secret that becoming a lawyer is a costly endeavor that comes with much financial responsibility.

Get started with Rocket Resume today to create your lawyer resume!