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#165 How to become a lawyer (Pt. 2)

#165 Do You Want to Become a Lawyer - Part Two (mp3 file)


This message will discuss the following questions:

5-How long will you study to become a lawyer?

6-How should you choose a law school?

7-How will a law school decide whether to admit you?

8-What tests must you take in order to become a lawyer?

First, how long will you study to become a lawyer?

In California, the requirements for a legal education are graduation from an accredited law school, or four years of study in a law school, or by correspondence, or in a law office of a judge's chambers.

If you attend an accredited law school fulltime during the day, you probably can graduate in three years. If you study law in a part-time program or in an unaccredited school, you must study four years.

How long must you study before you can be admitted to law school? California law says you may study to become a lawyer only after you either complete two years of undergraduate study at an approved college, or show that you have the equivalent of two years of study. However, many law schools require four years of undergraduate study and a bachelor's degree.

Next, how should you choose a law school?

Choosing a law school is a big decision. You may want to talk with law school alumni - lawyers or judges - that you, your family or friends may know. Ask for advice, too, from your counselor at the school you are attending now. If possible, visit several law schools, and ask to sit in on some classes.

Write the alumni offices of various law schools for information on job placement, and for any available reports on the careers of the schools' graduates.

Look for law school bulletins at your public library, or write various schools for them. Read the bulletins' descriptions of the courses offered and required, and compare the choices available at different schools.

In addition to academic courses on various aspects of the law, many schools offer classroom training in preparing legal documents, arguing "cases" before professors and students, and other legal skills. Some schools will give you credit toward your degree if you work under the supervision of attorneys in clinics that serve the poor, senior citizens, prisoners or other groups. These clinics may be operated by the law school, or by groups that have special arrangements with the school for student participation. Also, a number of students participate in a "practical training of law students" program following state bar rules. This program provides an opportunity for qualified law students to obtain on-the-job training in law offices and courtrooms, under a lawyer's direct supervision.

If you need to work while you attend law school, find out where evening or part-time programs are available. Usually, students who attend full-time day programs should not work more than 16 hours a week.

You also may want to consider the tuition charges at various schools. If you are concerned about costs, be sure to ask schools for descriptions of all available financial aid, including scholarships, loans, and part-time jobs. You also should check how much your living expenses will be in the areas where various law schools are located.

Next, how will a law school decide whether to admit you?

The requirements for being admitted to law school vary at each school. However, you can expect schools to consider the grades you receive as an undergraduate, and your score on the law school admission test. The last is a national multiple-choice test, that attempts to predict how well you can be expected to perform during your first year of law school, by testing your ability to read, understand and reason logically, to recognize proper English, and to correct improper English.

Many schools consider letters of recommendation from faculty members of schools you have attended, and from employers and others who know you well. In addition, law schools may want to know about your extracurricular interests and community activities.

For a more complete idea of what to expect, read the sections on admissions requirements in law school bulletins. These bulletins also will tell you when to apply for admission to law school. Usually, you should apply nine months to a year before the school term begins.

Next, what tests must you pass in order to become a lawyer?

Before you can practice law in this state, you must pass the California bar examination and a multi-state professional responsibility examination. You also must be of good moral character, and be at least 18 years old.

The bar examination is a three day test, given twice a year at various places throughout the state. The test has three parts: one is a series of essay questions; the second is a multiple-choice test called the multi-state bar examination. The third part includes tests of practical skills - such as legal research, and negotiating and arguing cases. Ask your law school counselor about any changes in the examination, or write for information from the committee of bar examiners.

From 2000 through 2005, the bar examination was given 12 times. The lowest pass rate was 33 per cent, and the highest pass rate was 56 percent. If you fail the bar examination, however, you may take it again as many times as you wish.

The second test you must take before you can practice law in California - the multi-state professional responsibility examination covers legal ethics, the legal profession's rules of professional conduct and the code of judicial conduct. This examination is given three times a year.

In addition, everyone licensed to practice law in California must be of good moral character. As part of the committee of bar examiners' process of looking into your moral character, you will be required to fill out a personal history questionnaire when you apply to take the bar exam. The questionnaire requires you to give general background information, and to state whether you ever have been convicted of violating a law or ordinance, involved in a law suit, or disciplined by a school or profession. Fingerprints and references also are required.

You should know that very few people are denied admission to practice because they fail the moral character screening, however, if the committee believes your answers to the questionnaire may disqualify you from practicing law in California, it may hold a hearing. If, after the hearing, the committee still believes you do not possess the required moral character, it can refuse to recommend you to the California Supreme Court for admission to practice. In that case, you would be able to ask the court to review the committee's recommendation, before making a final decision.

For more information on the requirements to become an attorney in California visit the State Bar of California’s website at www.calbar.ca.gov.

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