No matter where you live, law is a highly respected field. It’s also a notoriously long and difficult path to tread before you can start practicing. So, what training or degree do you need to be a lawyer? It all depends on where you are in the world. Keep reading to find out.
Most lawyers start out by obtaining an undergraduate degree. For those in the USA and Canada, there are no undergraduate degrees in law – that comes later. All that matters is that you graduate university with the critical thinking, teamwork and communication skills required for your entrance into law school.
For those in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, it’s possible to study a Bachelor of Law in your undergraduate studies. The team at LegalVision New Zealand lawyers have confirmed that either a 3- or 4-year degree is the norm, depending on where you’re studying. This course will set you up with the foundational knowledge you need to progress into the law field, although just like those in the US and Canada, the work hasn’t stopped after obtaining your degree.
Juris Doctor Law Degree
After you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree, prospective lawyers in the USA and Canada will need to be admitted to a law school to complete their Juris Doctor, or JD. This is usually a 3-year degree, and although you need to have an undergraduate degree to enter, this isn’t a postgraduate degree – it’s another undergraduate.
To be eligible for entry into a law school in Canada and the USA, students will need to sit and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). To prepare, students can take a free online test offered by the maker of the test, the Law School Admission Council. Some students also opt to get tutored by private companies to prepare for the test.
Once accepted, students are officially attending law school. They’ll study the ins and outs of the field, and most likely get some experience working in the field through summer jobs and internships.
Juris Doctor degrees are also available in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. However, they’re more aimed towards those students who completed something other than a Bachelor of Law in their undergraduate studies. There are also other pathways for those with an unrelated degree, such as a Graduate Diploma in Law.
What Happens After University?
Whether you’ve graduated with your Juris Doctor or Bachelor of Law, the next step towards becoming a lawyer is to get certified.
The USA & Canada
In the USA and Canada, after you’ve graduated law school then you’ll need to pass the bar exam. This is a test administered by the government and differs depending on the state or province in which you live. Lasting for two days, its aim is to test your knowledge on a wide range of legal issues. It’s the last step of the education you need to start working as a lawyer.
In the UK, once you’ve got your law degree, you need to decide whether you’re going to become a barrister or solicitor, as there are two different tests. Barristers are the ones who defends or advocates for someone within the court – they need to sit the Bar Professional Training Course. Solicitors conduct all their work outside of the courts and are required to sit the Legal Practice Course to qualify.
Australia & New Zealand
After graduating with a law degree in either Australia or New Zealand, you’ll need to get through some more practical training before sitting the certification exams. In Australia, it’s the Practical Legal Training course, and in New Zealand, it’s known as the Professional Legal Studies course. After completion, students will need to sit the equivalent of the USA bar exam to become certified to start practicing law.
Salary of a Lawyer and Future Growth
Once you’ve completed all the steps above, congratulations, you can officially start working in the law field. You might only need a Bachelor of Law to work as a lawyer, but the grueling tests you need to sit make it feel like a lot more. It’s a tough road to become a lawyer, but an incredible achievement to start off what can be a very rewarding career.
As a lawyer, there’s a large amount of room to grow in your career, and plenty of areas to specialize in. From corporate law to intellectual property, there’s an incredible breadth of challenging directions to head in. As such, there’s also a lot of room for your salary to grow as well – lawyers are some of the highest paid professionals in the world.
Further Studies – Master of Law
While not necessary to practice law, if you’re looking to specialize in a certain area of law, then a master’s degree is a great option. Generally, these give you an in-depth look at advanced areas of law, giving you a leg up when it comes to working yourself into a specialty.
Most countries also require lawyers to undertake continuous education to stay certified as a lawyer. The aim is to ensure that all lawyers are staying up to date with the latest changes in the field and continue to expand their legal knowledge. This means that a lot of lawyers will be studying a few courses from the master’s degree over a few years.
Overall, to become a lawyer all that you really need is an undergraduate degree in law. But add on all the other exams and continuous education, and it’s a long road before you can start practicing.