Practicing law is something that draws people of all kinds, no matter what personality or background they possess. It’s a profession that has a high status in society, and garners a great deal of respect in many social circles. Exactly what you have to go through to become a qualified lawyer depends first and foremost on two factors – where you study and where you want to practice.
The steps towards a career as a lawyer vary from country to country, so it’s important to first decide where you would like to practice law once you’ve got your qualification. If you have a degree from a different country, you might be forced to pass a qualification test in the new country before being able to practice, even with an international law degree. Some countries have transfer systems in place for lawyers who have qualified in other countries.
Becoming a Lawyer In The UK
In the UK there are two basic options when one wishes to become a lawyer. The simplest and most straightforward is getting a degree that qualifies you for practicing law. There are different types of degrees, not all of which actually qualify the student for law practice, so it’s important to check this before starting the program. Another option in the UK is to qualify either through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives or by taking the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law.
The first option is for people who already work in a legal office, and it requires a minimum of four GCSE’s. This is a very time consuming process of qualification, and it also sets high demands on the student’s academic abilities and the ability to maintain a CILEx approved legal employment. The second option (CPE/GDL) requires the student to hold a suitable vocational or academic qualification before completing the academic stage of legal training.
After completing academic training, the student must also complete a Legal Practice Course, which is the start of the vocational training. Following this, there is a period of recognized training, which is the final step before qualifying as a lawyer. This involves taking on a trainee position with a firm or organization authorized to take on trainees. The training period is normally set to two years.
Becoming a Lawyer in the US
The US process is a little different, and starts with the student passing the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. Before being able to apply at law school the student must also complete a suitable bachelor’s degree. At an ABA-accredited law school the student will then need to obtain a Juris Doctor degree, normally within three years of full-time study. Once the law degree is completed the student is eligible for taking the bar examination. The general rule in the US is that the graduate must hold a degree from an ABA-approved law school and then pass the state bar exam, before being able to practice law in the given state. Passing the bar is however no guarantee of being able to practice, as the state board of bar examiners will also consider the candidate’s other qualities, such as competence, educational background and character.
Other countries follow similar protocols to the US and UK, but the exact points vary between countries.