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2020-05-14 00:00:25

How to become a lawyer in the USA?

How to become a lawyer in the USA?

Future lawyers in the USA go a long way: they spend more years on education (first general, then legal), invest considerable funds in their project and give all the best when obtaining a license. But, giving all your best to the maximum now, you will get much more in the near future! Let's learn more about the prospects and possible strategies.

How to become a lawyer in the USA: 6 steps to a brilliant career

So, you graduated from high school in Russia and decided to enter US universities in order to become a lawyer. Then you need to go through the following steps:

Step 1. Receive a bachelor's degree at the university in any specialty

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for admission to law school. You can study almost any field, but it is better to give preference to the humanities: history, business, English, philosophy, political science, journalism and economics.

Step 2. Pass the LSAT exam

LSAT is the main requirement for applicants: the results of a specialized exam for future lawyers will tell about the level of preparation of applicants and their personal qualities. LSAT includes testing and essays. For students, it is important to demonstrate critical thinking, reasoning, academic writing and reading skills.

Step 3. Take preparatory courses and submit the remaining documents

After undergraduate students often go to preparatory courses to tighten their tongues, study specialized subjects and gently adapt to the new learning environment. Before entering, you will need to collect a package of documents, including recommendations from teachers or employers.

Step 4. Get a Juris Doctor degree

Juris Doctor is the first legal degree recognized in the United States. At the moment, it can be obtained at 205 accredited law schools. It is important to study spending on education, the curriculum and choose a specialization before entering.

Step 5. Hand over the Bar Exam

Law school graduates pass a difficult exam and then receive a license. At the exam it is important to show not only knowledge of the judicial system, but also to show character, competence - everything that confirms your ability to represent the interests of others.

Step 6. Continue the education under any circumstances!

In America, novice lawyers have many opportunities to prove themselves and move up the career ladder. But only those who will withstand merciless competition and will constantly develop will win a big jackpot. Therefore, some graduates of law schools often begin to work as legal assistants in order to adopt their rich experience: with productive work, they can grow up to partner firms or open their own company. The second ones become judges or hold socially significant posts. Third, they decide to continue their studies in magistracy and doctoral studies. The choice is yours!

What does becoming a lawyer look like in practice?

Please note that you can "skip" to one of the stages, but only if you meet the requirements of universities.

Get your undergraduate degree from Arizona State University

In 2020, the top University entered the top 1% of the world's universities (Center for World University Rankings 2020). Briefly about the university:

  • Duration of study: 3-4 years
  • Cost: 33,000 $ per year
  • Maximum discount / scholarship: 15,500 $
  • Directions: business, history, English, philosophy, political science, economics.

Or in a university only for girls Simmons University. Such colleges are very popular due to their focus on female psychology and bear fruit: 20% of women in the US Congress are female college graduates. Briefly about the university:

  • Duration of study: 3-4 years
  • Tuition: 40,500 $ / per year
  • Maximum discount / scholarship: 20,425 $
  • Directions: international relations, philosophy, political science, sociology, principled leadership.

Getting ready for law school and taking the LSAT exam

The exam is held twice a year in accredited centers. You can prepare for it at special courses, for example, at the Legal English & Foundations of the US Legal System program from Boston University CELOP (costing from 10,000 $ for 6 weeks).

Get your first JD degree

The cost of studying at prestigious law schools is about 50,000 $ a year. Let's name a couple of the best law schools in the USA for these purposes:

  • University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Harvard law school
  • Columbia law school
  • Yale law school
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Get a master's degree in law

Master's programs are rightfully very popular among foreign students, because if you already have a law degree, it will take you only one year to study - and pay, respectively, too. Below is an example of the popular Master of Laws, LLM program at Northeastern University :

  • Program Duration: 12 months
  • Program cost: 52,800 $ per year
  • Discounts: possible in 20-40%
  • LLM specializations : Health Policy and Law, Human Rights, Intellectual Property and Innovation, International Business Law, Law and Economic Development.

Corporate lawyer

The main task of a corporate lawyer is to ensure legal transactions of the company. Simply put, as a consultant, he analyzes the activities of corporations for the rule of law, draws up contracts, gives recommendations on issues related to taxation, corporate security, and accounting.

Valuable skills and knowledge

A corporate lawyer has a heavy burden of responsibility, requires in-depth knowledge in various fields, which is why talented lawyers from this field are always worth their weight in gold.


The initial salary of a corporate lawyer will range from 30,000 $ to 100,000 $ per year. But graduates of top law schools can expect to pay several times more, an average of 165,000 $ per year. Forbes has compiled a list of top law schools whose graduates receive an average of 165,000 $ per year at the initial stage:

  • Columbia law school
  • Stanford University
  • University of Chicago
  • Harvard university
  • University of Virginia.

Not bad at all, agree!

Patent lawyer

Lawyers in the field of patent law work with individuals and legal entities, conduct patent information research, are engaged in the registration of trademarks, enter into license agreements and much more.

Valuable skills and knowledge

Their work also requires the breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of intellectual property rights. Often you need to have a good understanding of engineering and biology, because such specialists will never be left without work.


The average salary for a patent attorney is 130,000 $ per year.

Criminal lawyer

In order to create a winning line of defense for his clients in court, the lawyer conducts his own investigations, communicates with a variety of people and negotiates when the life of another person is at stake.

Valuable skills and knowledge

It is important for a criminal lawyer to be able to think critically, be creative in solving problems and have developed communication skills.


Beginning state lawyers receive about 51,000 $ a year - this is several times less than the salaries of commercial lawyers. In a large firm, a lawyer after graduation will receive about 115,000 $ per year.

Tax lawyer

The tax lawyer represents companies and individuals in the tax services, monitors each change in the tax code and advises organizations on what they promise.

Valuable skills and knowledge

Accounting skills, mathematical abilities, analytical thinking and critical analysis.


About 100,000 $ a year.

Real Estate Lawyer

Lawyers from this field represent the interests of their clients in real estate purchase and sale transactions, and advocate for them in court.

Valuable skills and knowledge

Real estate lawyers spend half their time in the office checking contracts right down to every comma. For these reasons, attention to detail and advanced analytical skills are simply necessary for this work.

What are the main difficulties and pitfalls?

Your view on jurisprudence

America has its own view on jurisprudence: people in the USA believe that a lawyer should not only receive an education, but also have a wealth of life experience. For this reason, in the United States there is no bachelor's degree in law - only after four years of studying for a bachelor's degree in any specialty, students begin to study law in a law school.

Different laws in different states

Regardless of whether you are an alien or an American, you can only practice law in the state where you passed the Bar exam.

About legal activity in the USA for specialists with a legal education

It is almost impossible to get an education in another country and carry out legal activities in the USA: most states require 1 year to study at a law school. Yes, there are exceptions: California, New York, and Virginia.

Complicated License Exam

At the end of the JD curriculum, students prepare for the Bar exam to become a lawyer. The exam is very difficult and is carried out in several stages - even Americans often turn to tutors for help. A bar exam takes 2-3 days, depending on the jurisdiction and state chosen. On the first day, the student takes an exam according to general federal law, on the second day, he passes the test according to the laws in force in the state.

What degrees in law can be obtained in the USA

  • Juris Doctor is the first legal degree that students receive for 3 years at a law school. Law schools can be private, public or be part of a large university. The Juris Doctor program is designed for beginners to study law and is focused on American law: for these reasons, foreign students even with a legal education prefer it, it’s easier to get used to the American legislative and judicial systems.
  • Master of Laws ( LLM ) is an internationally recognized master's degree in law, which is obtained by students who already have a general law degree (Juris Doctor). Education under the program lasts 1 year, while studying, students study a specific area of law and acquire a narrow specialization
  • Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) is the next step for continuing to study law. The program is academic in nature - a doctorate will allow you to start a career as a teacher or scientist in the field of law. Duration: 2-5 years.

Law school

Law students in America focus on a specific area of knowledge. The first year of JD is the most eventful, it includes a huge number of disciplines, but starting from the 3rd year of study, students are increasingly focusing on the chosen specialization. US law schools are favorably distinguished by a bias in practice: students constantly interact with teachers, sort out specific cases and play trials. Moreover, many of the nuances of the work of lawyers - how to build your speech, what techniques to use - are caught on the fly.

Is it worth it?

Before obtaining a diploma, capable and hardworking graduates get a place in prestigious companies. Firms are interested in finding young professionals who can be studied "for themselves" and pay less. But even those who did not hit the barrel with honey will not remain without work. According to statistics, there are 4 lawyers for every 1000 Americans, and they don’t sit idle largely because of the income level: not a single major event in the life of an American without a lawyer, even indirectly, is solved.

Finally: US law education on screen

The foreign film industry produces interesting films and series on the work of lawyers. Many of them will completely capture your attention and help you immerse yourself in American culture, learn about the role of a lawyer in Western society, about professional ethics and allow you to decide for yourself what is true and what is fiction. Below are the five best series about students and novice lawyers:

  1. "How to Avoid the Punishment of Murder." The plot focuses on young and ambitious law students working on a variety of cases under the guidance of a talented lawyer Anna Liz Keating. The series was praised by critics and achieved success in the rankings.
  2. Force Majeure. The protagonist of the series ends up in a law firm and, thanks to the photographic memory, is gradually achieving success. There is one small “But” - he did not graduate from law school, which carefully conceals, but the truth gradually emerges. An excellent cast of the series is adorned by the spouse of Prince Harry Meghan Markle.
  3. "Companions". An easy series about two novice lawyers interrupting in cases of fines and hooliganism - and now new horizons are opening before them.
  4. "Garrow's Law".f An atmospheric series about the life of lawyers in the 18th century, about the difficulties they faced in the "draconian" era, about attempts to make justice more humane. Due to the breadth of issues, this British series is a must-see for future lawyers.
  5. "Fight" . The series is about women lawyers and their desire to succeed in the originally non-female profession.
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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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