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What You Need to Know About Law School in America

2nd July 2015 Posted by: Francesca Turauskis

SINCE the Declaration of Independence was created, lawyers have had a very high standing in American society and education for the profession is very thorough. Studying law in the USA can open many doors for you both in America and internationally, but American law school is different to law studies elsewhere in the world. Here is our guide to what you need to know about law school in America.


Before You Apply

The American Bar Association (ABA) emphasises that there is no set path to becoming a lawyer, but a US law degree is equivalent to postgraduate training and you have to have an undergraduate degree before you can apply. Your undergraduate degree can be in any subject, but law schools look for good debating, writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills, so develop these during your undergraduate degree or with extra curricula activities.

International students will need to have an FI-Visa to study in America. They will also need to show financial documents to prove they have the funds to pay for studies and support themselves and, if English is a second language, they will have to prove their proficiency through a TOEFL exam. Everyone who applies to law school will have to provide references, either from your undergraduate degree or related employment.

Which Law School?

There are over 200 ABA approved law schools in America and there are many factors to consider when applying. Costs vary by school and some schools offer bursaries, so this may be a crucial factor for some people. It is also important to consider where you want to live and work after your degree as it will be easier to find work in the same state that you studied your degree in. Some schools have better reputations in certain types of law, so if you want to specialise it is important to do your research. Most people will apply to more than one school initially to have a greater chance of being accepted.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

Once you have chosen the schools you want to apply to, you will need to sit the LSAT exam. This exam is crucial to gain a place at a law school and tests you on skills such as comprehension, logical and verbal reasoning. The LSAT is 175 minutes of multiple-choice questions and thirty-minutes of writing and you will lose points for answering a question wrong. Your score is one of the most important factors in your application, so it is important to prepare thoroughly for the exam. The exam is held four times each year and there are many materials and practice tests to help you.

Attending Law School

The two main types of law qualification in America are the Juris Doctor (JD) and the Master of Law (LLM) - you can find out about the differences between each type by following this link. Many students say that law school is a challenge, particularly in the first year. Curriculums vary by school, but lessons focus on analysing legal issues, reading cases, as well such things such as civil procedure, contracts and legal writing. Many schools use the Socratic method, where the professor selects students to respond on the spot to a case-based question. This intimidates many students, but you should not be afraid to speak up if asked. Law degrees lasts approximately 3 years full-time, or 4 years part-time.

The Bar Examination

After you finish your law degree, you have to take a bar exam for the state you want to practice law in. The exam usually lasts two days, but the exam is set by the individual states so it varies across the country. As the individual states set the bar exam, 23 of the states will only allow you to practice if you have taken their exam. If you intend to practice in multiple US states, investigate which ones allow you to hold bars from elsewhere. It is often easier to prepare and pass if you studied in that state. Once you have passed the bar, you will be awarded a Certification to Practice Law which allows you to practice as a lawyer in that state, and you will also be a recognised lawyer in many other countries.

So, those are the basic things you need to know about law school in America. Want to find a good law school for international students? Click here!


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