Becoming a lawyer is a challenging journey that requires a considerable amount of effort and should be taken seriously.


In the United States, acquiring a license to practice law usually involves years of rigorous study and training, resulting in substantial student loan debt due to the high cost of law school.

However, a legal career can be financially rewarding, with lawyers in the U.S. earning an average annual salary of $127,990 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How to Become a Lawyer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here are some key steps involved in becoming a lawyer.

Step 1: Learn About Legal Jobs and Careers

If someone is considering a career as a lawyer, it’s important to conduct thorough research on the legal profession first.


The “Discover Law” portal by the Law School Admission Council provides valuable information about what it’s like to work as a lawyer and how to prepare for law school. 

According to Linda Sugin, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York, students should also reach out to lawyers in their community to gain insight into the different job options available in the field.

There are various specializations to choose from, including aviation law, sports and entertainment law, corporate law, real estate law, immigration law, and criminal law. 

Linda emphasizes that lawyers are in a service profession, and their primary role is to assist clients. Aspiring lawyers must consider their social and emotional skills, personal resilience, and intellectual abilities.

Additionally, they have a responsibility towards all legal institutions and the democratic system. Young people with strong ethical values, personal integrity, and a commitment to justice possess essential attributes for a successful legal career.

Step 2: Develop Communication and Reasoning Skills and a Strong Work Ethic

After deciding that a career in law is a good fit, students should search for academic and extracurricular experiences that can help them acquire skills necessary to become a successful lawyer.

Since law schools do not require specific undergraduate coursework, students from different academic backgrounds have the flexibility to choose the college courses that interest them the most. 

Steven Freedman, associate dean of admissions at the University of Kansas School of Law, suggests that aspiring lawyers should take several upper-level humanities classes, as reading, writing, and research skills acquired in those courses are crucial to most legal professions.

Courses in social science are also helpful, as they can help cultivate societal awareness and teach people skills.

It is also beneficial to take analytical courses in philosophy or STEM fields such as science, technology, engineering, or math, as logical reasoning is a fundamental component of the legal profession.

“I don’t think that students benefit much by taking a pre-law curriculum in undergrad,” Sugin says, “What law students need to do is read carefully, think critically, and communicate effectively. Those are the three most important things.” 


One excellent way to prepare for a career in law is to participate in a speech and debate team or a mock trial team. These extracurricular activities can help students learn to argue persuasively, and drama also provides solid preparation for a legal career since the performing arts emphasize public speaking skills. 

Even an activity that initially appears unrelated to the practice of law, such as playing a sport, writing for a school newspaper, or doing volunteer work, could prove useful to aspiring attorneys if it helps them develop personal discipline and collaboration skills.

Step 3: Study for the LSAT or GRE

The LSAT is the most common law school entrance exam that most aspiring law students take. However, some law schools may also accept the GRE.

Generally, the higher the LSAT score, the more competitive you are as a law school applicant. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that admissions committees consider other factors besides test scores, and they take a holistic approach to reviewing candidates.

While there’s no single factor that guarantees admission or rejection, LSAT and GPA can be particularly important in gaining admission to law schools. Therefore, it’s crucial to take both tests seriously and strive for a high score.

Step 4: Get Into Law School and Earn a J.D. Degree

Law school admissions are highly competitive, so applicants should be aware of the selectivity of the school they are applying to. Admissions officers consider several factors when evaluating candidates for a J.D. degree, including college GPA, test scores, personal statement, and resume. 

Experts in the legal industry recommend that J.D. applicants attend a law school with a track record of preparing graduates for their desired career. Judith Szepesi, a partner at the Nicholson De Vos Webster & Elliott intellectual property law firm in Silicon Valley, suggests that prospective law students should compare the cost of the degree with probable future earnings to assess the return on investment.

Traditional full-time J.D. programs typically last three years and are rigorous, especially during the first year. Experts advise that students should look for a law school that best fits their needs as different law schools have different cultures, academic emphases, and alumni networks. It’s important to understand that entering different law schools means entering different communities.

Step 5: Get Admitted to the Bar Where You Intend to Practice

To become a lawyer in the United States, one must pass the bar exam in the state where they wish to practice law. Each state has its own set of requirements for the bar exam.

Wisconsin offers “diploma privilege” to graduates of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and Marquette University law schools, which exempts them from taking the exam.

The bar exams are considered to be quite challenging, and it is important for aspiring lawyers to take them seriously and study diligently, according to experts.

Law students should strive to learn as much as they can during their time in law school, as this knowledge will be essential when preparing for the bar exam, says Elena Langan, who is the Dean and Professor of Law at Touro University’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in New York.

Langan also suggests that law students should aim to master the material they are taught, rather than simply trying to get good grades. In essence, students should start preparing for the bar exam from their very first day of law school.