What are the steps to becoming a lawyer in California?
Here are the steps to becoming a California certified lawyer that we recommend.
1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
Law school is a more advanced form of education (offered at the graduate level). Aspiring lawyers will almost certainly need to get at least a bachelor’s degree. There are no restrictions on the type of undergraduate degree you must obtain. A bachelor’s degree is designed to provide you with fundamental knowledge that will serve as the foundation for your time in law school.
2. Determine the LSAT prerequisites
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an entrance exam that applicants must take as part of the application process before being admitted to a law school. This exam focuses on assessing applicants’ ability to succeed in law school, including their thinking, understanding, and writing skills.
Schools like The Colleges of Law are increasingly not demanding LSAT scores as part of their applications. Check the admissions requirements of the law schools to which you are applying.
3. Go to law school.
Applying to law school or a legal degree program is the next step in becoming a lawyer. After you’ve been approved and enrolled, you’ll most likely pursue a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, also known as a Doctor of Jurisprudence.
A J.D. will prepare you for the California bar test and legal practice. You can also enroll in master’s and doctoral degree programs in law with a J.D.
The American Bar Association (ABA) accredits some law degree programs, which is a benefit that, while not required to become a lawyer in California, can be extremely useful if you plan to relocate or expand your practice outside of the state.
To become a lawyer in California, you do not need to complete a law degree program; however, attending law school can be extremely beneficial in preparing you for your bar exam and career.
Finally, try enrolling in a law school in California. While it isn’t required, it can make the bar test process go more smoothly. State bar exams are likely to include state-specific questions, so obtaining a degree in that state can ensure that your coursework matches the exam.
4. Obtain a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
Prior to taking the California Bar test, you must take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). The MPRE is unique in that it focuses on legal ethics rather than law history or facts.
Because the MPRE is only offered three times a year, you should plan beforehand.
5. Take the Bar Exam in California
In order to practice law in California, you must pass the California Bar Exam. The California Bar examines your legal knowledge on a variety of topics. The following legal themes are covered:
Associations of businesses
Criminal law and procedure
Proper preparation for the California Bar Exam often takes a lot of time and work, therefore the earlier you begin the better. After passing the California Bar, you are qualified to get a license to practice law in the state of California.
6. Maintain licensure
After passing the Bar test, your journey to certification is not over. Lawyers in California must renew their license every three years by completing a certain number of continuing education credits. Minimum Continuing Legal Education, or MCLE, is what these are called.
Every three years, 25 hours of MCLE in topics like ethics and competence must be logged. Learn more about the legal profession’s continuing education requirements in California.
Alternative paths to becoming a lawyer in the state of California
Nontraditional ways of entering the legal field are also permitted by the State Bar of California.
California, like many other states, allows people without a law degree to take the Bar Exam. This route into the legal system may be more convenient for those who cannot afford law school due to time or financial constraints.
If you do not have a J.D. from an accredited law school, there are a few other options for qualifying to take the California Bar exam. The State Bar of California lists the following as examples:
“At a registered unaccredited distance-learning or correspondence law school, four years of study with a minimum of 864 hours of preparation”
“A four-year program supervised by a state judge or attorney”
Therefore, opting for a long-term apprenticeship or other experience in the legal field can qualify you to become a lawyer in California without a law degree.