The duration to become a lawyer in the United States is 7 years. This means that for a bachelor’s degree, you will spend four (4) years and then three (3) years in law school.
Below is a summary of the steps to take if you want to become a lawyer in the United States:
First, get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. The bachelor’s degree must include courses in English, government, history, public speaking, economics, and math.
Second, you must take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to enter Law School. The law school lasts three years. Make sure you attend an ABA-accredited law school.
Finally, prepare and write the bar exam in your state or state where you plan to practice. Once you pass the bar exam, you must pass your bar association’s character and fitness test to be officially admitted to the bar. This takes a few months and depends on how clean your background is.
Admission to a law school
A prestigious law school easily receives 15-30 applications for each place available on its benches. The faculties remain discreet about their admission criteria, but we can partially guess them:
1.The marks received by the candidate during his university course;
2. The “value” of the candidate’s university degree. All other things being equal, a summa cum laude degree in international relations from Harvard will place its holder in a better position than a candidate with a more ordinary degree from a less reputable university;
3. Experience and professional success. An accomplished New York City Ballet ballerina is possibly more fortunate than a successful candidate armed with a degree in the epistemology of quantum physics, but without any experience;
4. And finally, last but not least, the candidate’s score for the LSAT. This is a crucial parameter because it is statistically normalized for all candidates of all origins, and allows them to be compared all on the same basis.
Admissions committees also look for things that will differentiate applicants. An otherwise average candidate who has successfully run an AIDS clinic deep in the bush will come out of the ranks. The files of candidates holding a doctorate (Ph.D.) are filed separately. Committees also seek diversity in all its forms.
To earn a law degree, a candidate must accumulate a minimum of 86 credits over three years. This corresponds to approximately 15 units per semester. Each course counts as an average of three credits, resulting in five courses per semester. But there are also courses of 1, 2, 4, and even 5 units.
Some courses are compulsory
The students mostly follow them in the first year: constitutional law, criminal law, contract law, civil procedure, evidence system (evidence, what is admissible or not in a trial, both civil and criminal), law of the property (especially land), obligations (wrongs), professional liability, and legal research methods. The other courses are at the candidate’s choice and depending on what the professors decide to teach each semester (some semesters have more choices than others, depending on the circumstances).
There are many variations in the format of free courses: it can be classic courses, research projects, or “clinics” that are open to the outside. Participants in an immigration clinic will help indigent people settle their marital status. There are also penal clinics for young offenders, civilian clinics for domestic violence, and even environmental clinics to help populations (especially rural) living on contaminated sites.
A three-credit course corresponds to three hours of lessons per week. The form varies with the teacher, but most favor some form of dialogue with the students. This is called the Socratic Method, the most classic version of which was illustrated in the movie The Paper Chase. A course revolves around the discussion of one or more judgments, which illustrate as many points of law.
Students prepare for class by reading the judgments, the relevant excerpts of which are reproduced in casebooks. Each excerpt is followed by notes which summarize variants of the problem, citing the corresponding judgments. Some teachers use a rigorous Socratic, Professor Kingsfield-style method (which looks a bit archaic now), and others look more for a casual dialogue with the class. It is rare to attend “lectures”, where the teacher speaks without any interaction with the students, even in an amphitheater where more than a hundred of them are standing.
Attendance at classes is theoretically compulsory, which does not mean that no one is dropping out. Some teachers make students point in; most don’t. On the other hand, all expect students to come to the prepared course, that is to say, having read the judgments and reflected on their findings. Professors often ask their questions haphazardly in the lecture hall and the unsuspecting student looks pitiful.
Examinations and grades
There is only one exam at the end of the course, on which the student’s mark is entirely based. The form of the exam varies. There may be multiple choice quizzes, long or short essays, or both. Some professors give a mini-research project to be carried out in 24 hours, the result of which is presented in a thesis.
Whatever the formula, it is impossible to pass without a good knowledge of the subject at the time of the exam. The student must support continuous work during the semester to hope to achieve good results in his exams. In addition, exam results are statistically normalized. Knowing your subject is not enough to get a good grade; you have to know her better than the others. A student can master his subject very well and still finish with any grade if the level of his class is very high.
The second-year interviews
The first year is often the hardest because everything is new and the students are under pressure. But the first semester of the second year is also demanding. This is the time when law firms and businesses come to campus to interview students to recruit them. Each student begins the process in August by submitting their CV to all firms and companies that interest them.
They make their choice and the interviews (30 minutes each) begin as soon as classes resume. So you have to juggle both.
If the on-campus interview goes well, it may be followed by an invitation to visit the offices for a series of more in-depth interviews. If the practice in question is across the country, that means a plane trip, a night in a hotel, a dinner out, etc., with all the time it gnaws at the study — but it is an exit.
Large law firms look for the best students everywhere and are not afraid to deploy the necessary resources. The more prestigious a law school, the more numerous and more prestigious the firms that will come to interview there, even if the firm is at one end of the country and the faculty at the other.
The process leads to summer internship offers. Traditionally, offers are for a 10 to 12-week internship, and a student who receives multiple offers must choose one and decline the others. Some Texas firms offer two internships of 6 weeks each. This allows candidates to discover two workplaces, each of which will have its own internal culture, and possibly to make a choice. Indeed, if the internship goes well, it ends with a job offer.
These summer internships are very popular because they are very well paid, and they open the door to prestigious positions as lawyers (associates) in firms. It is also possible to obtain internships in small firms, in companies (generally large ones), in public prosecutors’ offices, and also in courts. These last two categories of internships are not as well paid, but do very well on a C.V.
Students submit their CVs in August and receive internship offers in October-November of their second year. The internships take place during the summer preceding the third year. The jobs are offered at the end of this summer, to start work in September of the following year, after the end of classes and the bar exam. In short, the process takes two years between the first meeting and the first day at work. It is a big investment of time and money for employers, and also a big gamble for students.
The summer internship
It’s a trial period that is not easy, but one in which the trainees have a blast. The goal is to allow the firm to gauge the intern and vice versa. The intern is assigned projects that test their ability to elucidate legal issues, write a dissertation or contract, work in a team, etc. There are also several “social” events (social events, which are hugs, parties, and outings) that allow people to meet in a more relaxed setting.
Preparation for the bar exam
Most candidates take a bar preparation course given by a specialized body. Students finish their course at the beginning of May, rest for two or three weeks, and take the course (which lasts one month) in June-July before appearing at the bar. The mornings are spent in class and the rest of the time in individual study. The bill, which is not light, is traditionally taken care of by the firm or the company which awaits the recruit.
Judicial internships (judicial clerkship)
Some students choose to work for a year in a court as judicial clerks before starting in a cabinet. These are highly sought-after positions, as clerics work directly with judges and gain a lot of experience during their year. The larger the court, the more coveted the internship. The places of choice are of course those at the Supreme Court of the United States. There is never a conflict between an offer of an internship in a court and an offer of work in a firm. The latter will wait for the intern for a year without flinching because a judicial clerkship is always welcome.
Financial Implications of Studying Law in the US
It’s no secret that studying law is expensive, and college isn’t free for students in the United States. Most students borrow money from banks to finance their studies, at interest rates subsidized by governments. The loans are repayable over 10 years after graduation. Many students graduate with heavy debts hanging down their nape.
The LL.M. program is a one-year program, mostly attended by students from foreign countries. The LL.M. is also the “gateway” to the United States for foreign lawyers. A foreigner registered with the bar of his country of origin, holder of an LL.M. can, under certain conditions, sit for the examination of the bar of certain States. The lawyer must have a green card or, in some states, a work visa.
For foreign students preparing for the LL.M., it is recommended to think carefully about the choice of courses. Choose courses that interest you, taught by good teachers.
Do not hesitate to knock on their doors to ask them for details about their courses before choosing. The teachers are welcoming and seek to recruit students for their lessons. Also, check out the sites or files that summarize the course evaluations made by the students.
Either way, take one, see two legal research and writing training courses. You will learn how to use databases to find the judgments you need to support or refute a legal proposition. In the Anglo-Saxon customary law system where judgments are law, this is a capital competence.
On the other hand, these courses also contain an element of writing, and it’s a great way to learn the understated and compact writing style popular with American legal circles