For students who want to hone their ability to conduct legal research, analyze and communicate complex issues, and advocate for and negotiate with people.
To practice law in the United States, lawyers must complete undergraduate school, matriculate to law school, obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.), and pass the bar examination in at least one state. Obtaining an accredited J.D. degree is typically a three-year, full-time commitment. Law schools admit students from all academic backgrounds, and many law school applicants take at least one gap year between college and law school to build work and life experience.
Students considering a law career must assess how a law degree aligns with their values, interests, and goals. Connecting with alumni empowers pre-law students to learn more about a typical work day for practicing lawyers, the challenges and rewards of practicing law, qualities and skills that foster success in the profession, and the impact the profession may have on lawyers’ personal lives. Shadowing a lawyer on the job may also enable students to assess if their expectations for the profession align with the reality of legal practice.
While no one academic pathway prepares students best for studying and practicing law, the ABA has identified 10 competencies that they expect to find in competitive pre-law applicants.
Most ABA-accredited law schools require that applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a digital standardized exam focused on assessing reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and writing. Since 2016, about a third of accredited law schools have chosen to accept the GRE—a digital individualized exam that assesses basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis, and college-level vocabulary skills—in lieu of the LSAT. Students who are unsure which exam is more appropriate for their needs and school lists should speak with the pre-law advisor.
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