Educational Paths for Prospective Attorneys

After graduating from the Birmingham School of Law, with internships and clerking experience, Amy embarked on an extraordinary journey that led her to the far reaches of Alaska.

There, she honed her legal expertise as a member of the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General office. Upon returning to her hometown in Wiregrass, Alabama, she carved her path in the legal world by establishing her own firm.

Specializing in divorce, child custody, and family law cases, Amy has become a beacon of support for those navigating challenging legal matters. From her college triumphs to her impactful legal career, this journey has been one of dedication and unwavering commitment to serving others in their time of need.

Marshall’s path to becoming an attorney represents the variety of routes that over 1.3 million people in the U.S. take to become a lawyer. No two paths to practicing law are exactly the same, but they share very important steps along the way.

Impressive Skillsets

Lawyers play essential roles in various fields, including tax law and family law, criminal law, corporate law, and even legal work for philanthropic organizations, according to The Dwoskin Family Foundation.

That means prospective attorneys must develop wide-ranging knowledge and skills to practice law effectively. In addition to general analytical, research, problem-solving, and communication skills, some often need to understand basic finance and accounting concepts.

Such skills are developed quickly in college. The overwhelming majority of lawyers earn a bachelor’s degree and then move on to law school.

Bachelor programs generally include all the required education prospective lawyers need to qualify for law school, however, one doesn’t necessarily need to enroll in a specific or common pre-law major, such as political science, finance, sociology, criminal justice, or psychology, to get into law school but certain majors do provide a significant leg up. But it all starts with a thorough college search.

Test Time

After undergraduate studies, the next challenge is the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the longtime standard to assess law school readiness.

At one time, U.S. law schools required passing the LSAT to gain admission, but now several schools, including Harvard Law School, accept the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) exam as an alternative. Students in graduate school usually take the GRE prior to applying for work in various law fields.

Next Stop: Law School

Admission to law school means pursuing a juris doctor (JD). In the U.S., a JD is nationally accepted as a degree for practicing law. JDs are offered by over 200 law schools that have been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Many law school students choose JD programs that offer curriculums focused on their specific law interests so they can concentrate on certain fields. Popular law school concentrations include family law, labor law, civil rights law, and health law. Usually, students complete law school in three years.

Amy C Marshall Lawyer

Pass the Bar

Regulations for practicing law vary from state to state, but the majority require lawyers to not only graduate from a law school approved by the ABA but pass a state’s bar examination in order to begin practicing in that state.

Bar exam guidelines also vary by state, but it’s usually a two-day test that includes finishing the Multistate Bar Examination before moving on to a writing exam that covers an array of legal matters.

The final decision is up to the state board of bar examiners, who review each candidate’s character, educational history, competence, and ability to effectively represent clients.

And There’s (Maybe) More

Passing a state’s bar exam may not mean a lawyer’s education is over. A graduate’s first job out of law school is usually as an associate in a firm where they gain mentorship from more seasoned lawyers. Some are selected to become firm partners after years of practice, while others, like Marshall, launch their own law office.

There are also master’s and doctoral levels of education lawyers may pursue. Two of the most common choices, a Master of Law (LLM) and Ph.D. program, usually appeal to lawyers who want to include research and other forms of scholarship in their careers.