Many people dream of being a lawyer. The lure of being the heroic Darrow against the tyrannical Bryan is tough to resist. There is much more involved in becoming a lawyer than many people suppose, however. The timeline for becoming an attorney begins in your freshman year of college.
The Undergraduate Level
Most law schools in the United States require prospective students to have completed a bachelor's degree. The degree does not necessarily have to be in criminal justice or other such legal field. The student should have an exemplary grade-point average and have achieved a fine score on the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT.
Law School Itself
The timeline for becoming an attorney after graduation is normally three years, after which the university will award you with a Juris Doctor. During that three years, you will study cases, write briefs, participate in mock trials, and develop the advanced critical thinking skills necessary for a successful career as a lawyer.
Before applying to law school, be sure to consult with your faculty advisor and the bar association of the state where you plan to attend law school. They can both help you with the application process and sorting out any legal problems you might have had up until the date you apply. It's easy to forget that speeding ticket you got as a freshman when you were late for class, but it's crucial to disclose such things on your application. Not disclosing something could result in sanctions, fines, or even, if you've already completed law school, the rescinding of your JD.
Most states also have rules about speedily completing your law school studies. If you feel you need more than three years to finish law school, it would be a very good idea to consult with the proper authorities to find out any options you have. There might not be any. You also might be able to fast track your study of the law. Again, talk to the right people to find out how to do so.
Is There Life After the JD?
There are law degrees beyond the JD. The first such degree is the Master of Laws, or LLM. Usually, it requires an additional year or two of study, during which you will take between 22 and 28 credit hours. Many times, students wishing to further their education in this way will also focus on a certain practice area or two. They go on to become not only Masters of Laws but also board-certified legal specialists in their chosen fields.
Should you wish to progress further, perhaps even become a law professor instead of a trial lawyer, there is the Ph.D. in Law, which is also known as the Doctor of Juridical Science. This super-advanced degree requires a minimum of yet another three years of intensive study, usually under the guidance and supervision of a panel of instructors who will oversee your classwork and advise you on your dissertation.
Your journey through law education can therefore last anywhere from three to eight years, depending on how far you want to take your studies. As with any career choice, it's best to make well-reasoned decisions based on the advice of professionals, friends, and family members. Remember, however, that you must do what's best for you. Good luck!