There are no secrets. My story is about becoming a North American lawyer with no law or college degree in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program (Sometimes LOSP). This is a history of legal education through reading law, including law office study, clerking, and independent study, starting with some history and background. North American common law evolved from English common law, each colony initially bringing trained lawyers from England, eventually choosing their court officer selection process, including selecting attorneys within the colonies/states. Most people become lawyers upon graduating. But they cannot practice law and become an “attorney” until they pass the standardized, written bar exam. Attending law school is a more advanced form of learning (offered at the graduate level). Aspiring lawyers will likely first need to obtain at least a bachelor’s-level education.
Apprenticeship programs, including clerkships law reading programs, have been touted as the fastest way to become an attorney, but most were oral before a court till recent times. For this article’s purposes, the generic word “lawyer” can be a person who practices law and includes other legal practitioners, including British solicitors or chartered legal executives. Lawyers can only be called “barristers” if they were “called to the Bar.” Ultimately, barristers can practice and advocate in higher and lower courts. Solicitors were, and still are, relegated to litigation and lower court advocacy. After passing the bar, these now barristers left law students and solicitors behind, outside the court’s symbolic “well.”
Over time, these barrister “attorneys” became advocacy specialists, committed to representing clients or courtroom processes and procedures. Sometimes clients would hire a barrister and a solicitor. Eventually, it became compulsory for the solicitor to choose and engage the client’s barrister for courtroom advocacy. The bar exam is a test that every aspiring lawyer must take to practice law. Although this is a requirement for working as a lawyer, some wonder whether completing law school is also a requirement. In law school, students take courses and earn a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) before taking the bar exam. In this article, we discuss whether you can take the bar exam without going to law school and potential ways to become a lawyer that do not involve completing the J.D. degree.
In some states, you can take the bar exam without first going to law school. However, most people attend law school in order to gain the knowledge they’ll need to pass the bar exam. If the state where you want to practice law does not require that you first attend law school, you should still consider whether you would be able to adequately prepare to take and pass the bar exam without a formal education. The traditional route of attending law school, taking the bar, and becoming a practicing attorney is what most students think of when they start considering a legal career. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options for becoming a lawyer that might benefit those on a more non-traditional path.
In this article, we will be discussing how exactly you may be able to become a lawyer without first going to law school. We’ll also be giving you the pros and cons of pursuing such a route so you can be better prepared to make your final decision and choose how you want to undertake a legal career. In most cases, the road to becoming a lawyer is paved with studying for the LSATs, compiling a competitive law school application, and undertaking the rigorous three year education that is obtaining a law degree. As soon as you have your Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, you will need to study for and take thein the jurisdiction you wish to practice; once you successfully pass and have been granted bar admission you are free to practice as a lawyer in the jurisdiction.
In most states and U.S. jurisdictions, you will need a law degree before you are eligible to take the bar exam. That being said, the states that offer alternatives to law school do not require a law degree before you sit for the bar. In these area s, you will need to meet the requirements of an apprenticeship program or have obtained a degree from an accredited law school before taking the bar, which offers more flexibility regarding your legal education. The states we discuss below do not require any type of law school or law degree before you are allowed to take the bar exam. The requirements for each state are different, so make sure you understand what an apprenticeship in that jurisdiction would entail before enrolling in one.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your undergrad study habits will cut it in law school. Comprehending a large amount of material covered in a short amount of time is a whole different ball game. Prioritize learning and memorizing material every single week as a foundational practice for your entire legal education. You’ll be much more successful on exams if you regularly memorize lessons in small increments rather than trying to cram at the last minute. You’ll also do better at recalling the knowledge when it’s time to apply it in legal debates and real-world situations. Applying what you’ve learned is a critical difference between success in law school and success in just about any other field you’ve studied. Bottom line:
if you’ve thoroughly studied the law over time, you’ll be much more prepared to pass your law school exams and that pesky little test known as the Bar. This may seem obvious, but as the saying goes, “80% of success is just showing up.” That’s true for the general public, but now you have to take it a step further if you want to venture into the realm of highly successful law students. Avoid absences. Show up, participate, and be an engaged scholar. If you find yourself tuning out the material, it’s highly likely you didn’t properly prepare before class; when you’ve done the reading, memorized the key lessons, and put thought into how you might apply what you learned, you’re much more likely to stay engaged during class.
Again, a big part of law school is about self-education; doing the pre-work should better help you focus and engage in class. Take the time and make little changes (more planned study time? A different study group?) when necessary to help you be fully present with your peers and professors. Successful law students are driven, passionate, and uniquely geared towards hard work, though they tend to reach even further heights of success by utilizing tips to work smarter, not just harder. Adopting some or all of the habits above can greatly help you in your legal studies and into your career path beyond.
As to background education prior to attending law school, one should feel no constraints in terms of concentration as an undergraduate. Usually a liberal arts education is beneficial; however, students with backgrounds ranging from accounting, business or philosophy, to engineering or biology also become effective and successful attorneys. The most important aspect of the undergraduate education for law school is receiving good grades in whatever field of concentration you choose, as well as developing your general communication skills. The most important function of an attorney is the communication of ideas, both verbally and in writing. Sometime prior to or during one’s senior year in college, the LSAT admissions test must be taken.
Similar to the ACT or the SAT, the test is used by law schools in the admissions process. Many law schools determine admissions solely on the basis of a formula computing grades and the LSAT tests score together. However, there are some law schools that have other elements added on to that computation, whether it be for affirmative action purposes or other reasons. If you think you may be seriously interested in a law career, you may wish to consider contacting local law offices, legal service organizations or other law-related entities to see if they require any
assistance, even as a volunteer, during what time you have available. Any exposure you can gain in the field will benefit you in your future career. Loans are available to qualified students enrolled in the ML program. Terms of interest and repayment vary.
The Law School refers students to the Federal Direct Student Loan program, Graduate Federal PLUS Loan program, and various other alternative private student loan programs. Student loans may be used to cover tuition, fees, books, and other living expenses. Students who borrow government loans must maintain half time status (two classes per semester) for eligibility. Also, loans will enter into repayment after a student ceases to be enrolled at least half time. Most students will have a 6 month grace period before repayment begins. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for admission to law school. No singular field of study is recommended by the American Bar Association at this level. In fact, the ABA notes that students gain admission to law school from nearly every area of study, ranging from political science to mathematics. Common undergraduate majors for prelaw students include English, political science, economics, business, philosophy, and journalism.
There’s no correct major to pursue to get into law school. But according to legal educators, prospective J.D. students who take classes they enjoy report better GPA scores. And given the importance of your undergraduate GPA in the law school admissions process, focusing on coursework you enjoy can help you become a competitive candidate. In order to practice law, students must typically complete an undergraduate degree, earn a Juris Doctor (JD) diploma, and pass their state’s bar examination. Having an understanding of the types of law degrees available will allow students to make practical, informed decisions about whether or not to pursue a career in legal services and law. There are six advanced programs that lead to different occupations within the field. These include:
“The flexible Hybrid JD program is the ONLY program that makes it possible for me to fulfill my Active-Duty obligations and pursue a JD from an ABA-accredited school. Because of the demands of military life, not even a part-time JD program would allow me the flexibility to continue law school from anywhere in the world. UNH Franklin Pierce’s program offers a combination of asynchronous classes, synchronous evening classes, and minimal in-person requirements that accommodate even my busiest work schedule.” The Graduate Tax Program at the University of California, Irvine School of Law offers an innovative, one-of-a-kind LL.M. curriculum that instills students with both the doctrinal depth and the practical skills needed to practice tax law at the highest levels, in the United States or abroad.
The Graduate Tax Program aims to produce graduates who are prepared for careers as tax attorneys, judges, tax administrators and policy advocates, as well as markedly enhance the tax skills of those who are already members of the tax profession. In designing its innovative curriculum, the program’s founding tax faculty consulted tax practitioners, government administrators, tax policy advocates and other industry experts to develop a world-class educational experience at one of the premiere law schools in the United States. California has the highest employment level of lawyers of any state in the nation as of May 2017, per information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
At that time, 79,980 lawyers worked in the state, averaging an annual mean wage of $168,200 (making California the second highest-paying state in which lawyers work, District of Columbia is the first). Attorneys working in certain areas of the state made even higher than average salaries. For example, those in the Glendale-Long Beach-Los Angeles metropolitan area averaged $170,201 per year; while lawyers working in the San Mateo-San Francisco-Redwood City metropolitan area averaged $189,660 annually. Additionally, California is the first state in the country that offers certification in legal specialization areas to members of the Bar, offering them the opportunity to show their expertise in one of 11 areas of law practice (including admiralty and maritime law, bankruptcy law, criminal law and taxation law). Read on to discover how to join the almost 80,000 practicing attorneys in California.
In order to receive a J.D. degree from a State Bar-accredited law school, you must complete at least 1200 hours of study or 80 semester hours of credit over a period of at least 90 weeks of full-time study or 120 weeks of part-time study. This course of study must take you at least 32 months to complete but no longer than 84 months to complete. The school must provide at least six semester units of competency training through teaching practical skills. The curriculum must include the subjects tested in the California State Bar Exam and a course in professional responsibility. Therefore, subjects that must be taken are Constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, evidence, real property, remedies, community property, torts, business associations, professional responsibility, trusts, wills and succession.
However, there are no requirements for what type of undergraduate degree you must pursue. The purpose of a bachelor’s degree is to equip you with basic knowledge that will act as the bedrock for your time in law school. I became a lawyer without going to law school. Yes, that’s possible in California, through the Law Office Study Program (LOSP) administered by the State Bar of California, which allows study in a law office or judge’s chambers in lieu of law school. These days the LOSP (sometimes referred to as “reading the law” or apprenticing to become a lawyer) is an unusual path to becoming an attorney. Several years ago I was inquiring about any data available on this program and learned that those of us who obtained our licenses without going to law school represent a teeny tiny portion (a small fraction of a percent) of California licensed attorneys.