Becoming a lawyer is an incredible journey and one that is often quite confusing. What exactly is law school? How do you get in, how much does it cost, and what can you do afterward? Below we will explore many of the common questions that come up for students considering pursuing law school!
Do I need to have majored in “pre-law” or taken certain classes to apply to law school?
No! Law school requires no particular major or course of study prior to application. Every year, students from all different academic disciplines successfully apply to law school. You can learn more about what things to consider in deciding on a major here.
At the UW, “pre-law” is not a major, minor or series of courses. Law schools require no prerequisite courses, nor do they prefer any particular majors. Pre-law refers to anyone who is considering going to law school after completing an undergraduate degree.
What kind of degree do I need to become a lawyer? How long does it take?
A Juris Doctor (JD) degree is the degree you recieve when you complete your legal education. It typically takes three years to complete, though some law schools offer part-time programs that may take longer to complete and others offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their degree in less time. Many law schools also offer dual degree programs like JD/MBA or JD/MPA, which may take additional time as well. In most cases, these dual-degrees take less time to complete than if you were to get those degrees separately.
In Washington State, a student must have either a J.D. or have completed the Rule 6 program to take the bar exam. After obtaining a J.D. and passing the bar exam, graduates can practice any area of law (with the exception of patent law, which requires a technical undergraduate major or substantial coursework in science courses and a separate exam).
Do law schools offer non-JD programs or degrees?
Many law schools do offer other graduate-level law-related masters degree programs. However, it is important to note that such programs will *not* permit a student to sit for the bar exam or become a lawyer. There are also post-JD degrees, like the LLM (Latin Legum Magister), available for international students and JD holders who are interested in law school faculty careers.
Should I go to law school if I am not sure I want to practice law?
While a J.D. can also lead to a range of law-related careers in government, politics, business, higher education, alternative dispute resolution, consulting, public interest advocacy, and numerous other fields, if you are interested in earning a J.D. for any career other than the practice of law, make sure to investigate alternative pathways to that career, including other graduate degrees and work experience, to be sure law school is the most efficient path.
What is required to apply to law school?
Most law schools require students to submit all academic transcripts, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and an LSAT score. A minority of law schools will accept a GRE score instead of an LSAT score. Additionally, prospective law students must have completed their undergraduate degree prior to commencing their legal studies. A great way to learn more about the law school application process is to spend time exploring the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website. You can also dive deeper into the details of the application process here.
When should I apply to law school?
Generally prospective law students should plan to submit their law school applications the fall prior to when they hope to begin their legal studies. For students who hope to go directly from undergraduate student to law school, this is often (though not always) the fall of their senior year. You can read more about how to plan your application timeline here.
What is the LSAT?
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is required by most American Bar Association (ABA) approved law schools. A select minority of ABA approved programs will accept either the LSAT or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
The LSAT is not a test of legal knowledge, but rather a standardized measure of the verbal reasoning and acquired reading skills that law school hopefuls have developed over the course of their lifetime and education.
The LSAT is offered several times a year and consists of 5 35-minute multiple choice sections (4 contribute to the score, while one is a variable section used to test new questions) and a 35 minute un-scored writing section, which is taken separately. Ideally, current undergraduates planning to apply to law school in their senior year should plan to take the LSAT in either summer or fall of their final year to take advantage of early decision options, and no later than December for regular decision.
You can learn more about preparing for the LSAT here.