How To Become a Lawyer Online in the United States
Can You Go to Law School Online?
How Long Does It Take To Get a Law Degree Online?
8 Steps To Becoming a Lawyer Online
How to become a lawyer varies slightly from state to state. If you’re interested in completing a JD and taking a bar exam, research the requirements in the state where you hope to practice using the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2020 from the National Conference of Bar Examiners [PDF, 10.6MB]. Different states have varied views on letting online students sit for the bar. (This may change if the ABA begins to more widely accredit online programs, however.)
If you want to attend a hybrid program, consider reviewing the state requirements where those schools are located. However, you may take a bar exam in a different state than where you went to school. Some students may graduate from a program in one state and return home to take the bar there.
Certain steps are the same across the board. However, following these steps won’t guarantee that you’ll become a lawyer. But understanding the path is beneficial in helping you decide if this is the right career for you.
- Take the LSAT
A majority of law programs require an LSAT score for admission, though some accept a GRE score. You may be able to take the test online through the LSAT Flex, according to the Law School Admission Council.
Many people consider the LSAT a challenging test, and because it costs $200, you don’t want to have to take it too many times. You may want to get yourself a good LSAT study guide or take a prep course. LSAT scores range from a lowest possible score of 120 to the highest possible score of 180. The higher your LSAT score, the better. You may consider looking at the median scores for matriculants at the programs you’re interested in to give yourself a general goal.
- Apply to Law Schools
Once you have a good LSAT score, you may apply to your preferred law schools online. A number of schools currently have ABA waivers for online programs. Several other law schools have partially online programs that don’t need an ABA waiver.
Be sure to research the school’s ABA accreditation for an online program. If you’re not sure if a school is accredited, consider reaching out to the school directly.
- Complete an ABA-Approved Program
Completing your three- or four-year program is one of the most important steps to becoming a lawyer since you can’t practice without a degree.
During this time, you might also want to look for volunteer and work experience in the legal field. Internships, fellowships and clerkships are available to law students and allow you to gain firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to work in law, according to the ABA. It may help you narrow down the kind of law you’d like to practice and which areas interest you most.
- Pass the Ethics Exam
Every jurisdiction, except Wisconsin and Puerto Rico, requires you to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) before becoming a licensed attorney.External link:open_in_new This is a two-hour, 60-question multiple-choice examination that measures candidates’ comprehension of established standards related to the professional conduct of lawyers. Typically, the MPRE is taken before the bar exam. However, you may sit for the bar before passing the MPRE, but you’ll have to pass the MPRE before a state swears you in.
- Apply To Take the Bar Exam
Becoming a lawyer requires applying for the bar exam and being approved. Bar admission rules vary by state. If you want to practice in a state that doesn’t traditionally let online students sit for the bar, you will have to make a formal appeal. While the bar is historically an in-person exam, changes may have been made in recent years. Just remember to check the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website for updates
- Pass the Bar
The bar exam is generally considered to be a lengthy, difficult test. According to recent ABA data, about 75% of candidates pass the bar the first time they take it.External link:open_in_new Take a look at our Bar Exam Study Guide to learn more about the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), the components of any bar exam and tips on how to study effectively. Many students enroll in a structured bar prep course following their last semester of law school.
- Be Sworn In
The final, official hurdle to becoming a lawyer is an in-person swearing-in ceremony. The ceremony consists of another lawyer making a motion to admit you to the state’s bar that a judge will then grant. Most states have you take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the profession.
There may also be a fee associated with the ceremony. Each jurisdiction varies, so you’ll need to research yours for any additional details.
- Complete Continuing Education and Pay Your Dues
Once you graduate from law school, pass the bar, are sworn in and—depending on your state—receive your attorney number or bar card, you can begin your career as a lawyer. But your work isn’t over just yet.
Lawyers are required to complete mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) credits and pay annual fees. These requirements vary by state, so you’ll want to do your research. Plenty of MCLE opportunities are online.External link:open_in_new