Okay, this doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with bankruptcy or debt relief. But I was doing some presentations at local high schools in May and some of the students were considering a career in law. I’ve also had clients and friends ask what I had to do to become an attorney. I thought this would be a fine place to answer that question. I promise to get back to bankruptcy topics next time.
The first step was obtaining a college degree. I got my B.A. from Luther College in Decorah, IA. So far as I know, there is no “pre-law” degree; there are just courses you can take that will prepare you for law school. I was a music major, and I know other attorneys who majored in English, engineering, and political science. I don’t know of any law schools that require an undergrad major in any particular field. I would advise a college freshman considering law school to take extra writing classes, logic classes (or anything else that encourages critical thinking, like philosophy), and history courses.
As you may know, I taught music for awhile after I graduated from Luther. Some people work after graduation, others go straight from undergrad to law school. In either case, law school applicants must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is given four times per year and consists of five multiple choice sections (35-minutes per section) and a writing sample. Scores range from 120 to 180. The only people who will care about your score are the law school admission staffers. In fact, I don’t even remember my score anymore, even though it was quite important to me back in June of 2004. This site will show you what the average LSAT scores are for accepted students at various schools.
Once you’ve taken the LSAT, you apply to law schools. There are plenty of websites out there that explain how to get into the law school of your dreams, so I won’t bother. Suffice it to say, I was admitted to law school (it was called William Mitchell College of Law back then) and started in August 2005.
The typical law school “career” is three years of full-time study. Some students choose to work while in school and take a lighter class load, so school might last four years for them. Most schools require the same core classes the first year: Civil Procedure, Torts, Property, Contracts, and Legal Writing/Research.
There’s a lot of flexibility in the second and third years, when students take more classes that focus on specific areas of law. For example, I knew I wanted to practice bankruptcy law when I got out of school. In my second year, I took Bankruptcy, Creditor/Debtor Relations, Income Tax, and Secured Transactions. The rest of my classes in my second and third years were a mix of requirements (i.e. Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Evidence) and personal interests (i.e. Family Law, Legal History, Estates & Trusts). I really enjoyed law school and made some great friends. It was difficult, especially with the four-hour one-way commute each week, but definitely worth the hard work.
After graduation from law school, the only thing standing between me and a new career was the bar exam. Wisconsin allows those who graduate from one of the two state law schools (UW-Madison and Marquette) to practice law without taking the bar exam, but the rest of us are required to pass the exam. The bar exam is a two-day test that is given twice each year. I won’t bore you (or frighten you) with the details. Let’s just say that I didn’t do much but study from graduation in mid-May until the exam in late July. I found out in early September that I had passed and would be sworn in on October 6.
So that’s the story. College, LSAT, law school, bar exam. Those are the four basic steps to becoming a lawyer. It took a lot of hard work, but it was worth it to me. I hope you found this interesting. If you’re interested in going to law school, or are just curious about my experiences, please comment below. I’ll do my best to reply within a couple of days. Thanks for reading!