Erudera's Complete Guide to Studying Law in The US
Reasons to Study Law in United States
Highly Ranked Law Schools
The United States is home to highly ranked law schools, which is one of the main reasons to study law here. Law schools in the United States, including the likes of Harvard, Yale, or Stanford, are cherished by employers across the country and beyond. American law schools are largely resourceful when providing students with the assistance they need to pursue a comprehensive law education. With a degree obtained from one of the many US law schools, you will be able to find your way into the law career you have always dreamed of. These universities have top international rankings - mainly due to their academic excellence and educational resources. However, what also distinguishes law schools in the US from other countries is the fact that they have exceptional experience with international students - and are ready to provide them with utmost support.
Countless Job Prospects
Pursuing a career in law is a rather challenging journey, but this must not discourage anyone who wishes to become a lawyer (or undertake any other law-related career path). The great thing about pursuing your law degree in the US is that you will be fully equipped to undertake legal roles and responsibilities. United States law schools will encourage you to bring out the best version of yourself, which is, after all, what most employers and careers paths require. Not every law graduate chooses to become a lawyer. Plenty of law graduates pursue careers in accounting, politics, investment banking, journalism, or even teaching. You are likely to excel at any of the careers mentioned above because US law courses are comprehensive enough to equip students with practical knowledge, theoretical expertise, and transferable skills to take up a wide array of career paths.
If you wish to practice law in the United States, one of the top reasons you should study law in the US is that you will enjoy a financially rewarding career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a lawyer’s median annual salary was $126,930 in May 2020. Specifically, the BLS reports that the lowest 10% earned less than $61,490 per year, while the highest 10% earned more than $208,000 per year. Salaries vary greatly depending on your professional experience and abilities. Postgraduate law courses in US law schools are a major attraction for students around the world. For example, as an international student, an LLM program will help you pursue a career in a specific area of law and provide you with insight into the legal system of the US.
Law School Structure in the United States
Law school in the United States is different from many other countries because there is no law program students can undertake right after graduating from high school. The process of becoming a lawyer in the United States is challenging but not impossible. In fact, the challenges simply make you better prepared for the job market and the legal world.
The steps you should follow to become a lawyer in the US include:
Pre-Law Education (Bachelor’s Degree)
The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in any subject you might see fit. However, what is important is that students choose something that will help them build their oratory, analytical, written, and critical thinking skills. Students from any discipline can get admitted to law school in the United States. One particular thing you should keep in mind during your bachelor studies is that your GPA will be an essential factor in the law school admission process, alongside the LSAT (elaborated below).
Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a crucial part of the admissions process in US law schools. The LSAT is a half-day standardized test designed for prospective law school candidates. The test does not measure any specialized knowledge. It tests the student’s ability to use reasoning, analytical, and logical reasoning. Basically, it is crucial to do well in this exam, especially if you wish to attend one of the prestigious, top-tier law schools. Law schools use this exam to measure the students’ chances of success in law school.
Law school in the United States is a three-year graduate program where students learn anything from constitutional law, civil procedure, criminal law, legal writing, research, etc. During the second and third years, students have the opportunity to choose their own classes based on their preferences and area of interest. After completing the three-year law program, students will obtain their Juris Doctor degree (J.D.), which allows them to sit for the Bar Exam (explained below).
Some law schools also provide students with the opportunity to undertake a one-year Master of Law (LLM) and academic doctoral degrees in law, known as Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD). LLMs are rather popular among international students.
After passing the bar examination in the United States, students will receive a license to practice law. The state board of bar examiners administers this examination, so students must contact this board in order to schedule their testing date. Since the state administers the bar, it would be a good idea to attend law school in the region where you intend to practice the profession. The license will give you authorization to practice law in the state you take the exam. If you wish to practice law in a different state or country, you must take a second bar exam.
Generally, academic requirements to study law in the United States include:
- A bachelor’s degree (4-year undergraduate degree in any subject).
- Academic transcripts
- LSAT (Law School Admission Test) scores. Minimum scores are specific to the respective law school.
- Minimum UGPA (Undergraduate Grade Point Average). Depending on the respective law school.
- Letters of recommendation.
- Personal statement.
- Proof of English proficiency (TOEFL). For students whose native language is not English.
- Other law school-specific admission requirements.
- Credential Assembly Service (CAS) reports.
Nearly all *ABA-approved schools, including some non-ABA-approved schools, require students to complete their application through the Credential Assembly Service (CAS).
CAS simplifies your law school application process by combining all of your transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other application documents. You will only need to send these documents one time to LSAC (Law School Admissions Council), the same council that administers the LSAT. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) combines both your documents and your LSAT scores and sends a full report to all the law schools you decide to apply to. ABA-approved school applications will be available through your CAS account.
Your CAS file should include the following:
- CAS account.
- LSAT score and writing sample.
- Letter of recommendation.
- Undergraduate transcripts.
- Application fee.
It is recommended that you register with CAS at least six weeks before applying to law schools. The subscription lasts five years, and you have to pay a registration fee (currently $195). This fee includes one report to one school, which means for every school you apply to, you should pay an extra $45.
*American Bar Association.
Degree Duration: How Long Does It Take to Study Law in United States?
To become a licensed lawyer in the United States, you should go through 4 years of undergraduate education (in any discipline) and three years of law school. Additionally, you will have to enter two important examinations throughout your journey towards becoming a lawyer. First, you will have to enter the LSAT (before applying to law school) and then the Bar Examination (after three years of law school) to obtain your license to practice. The bar exam will decide whether you are fully qualified to practice law in your jurisdiction.
Tuition Fees: How Much Does It Cost to Study Law in United States?
The cost of law school in the United States depends on where you pursue your law education. While some top-tier universities have higher tuition fees, some less competitive law schools provide more affordable tuition. The average cost of law school in the United States is approximately $49,548 at private law schools. On the other hand, public law schools charge an average of $28,264 for in-state students and $41,726 for out-of-state students.
For example, for one year at Harvard Law School, students are required to pay $67,720 in tuition alone (2021/22 fees), excluding accompanying expenses like personal allowance, book/supplies allowance, travel allowance, and student health allowance, to name a few. Of course, prospective law students can find lower tuition fees at many other academic institutions. There are numerous financing options available, such as specialized loans, grants, or scholarships to help pay for law school.
Law Career Prospects in United States
Although admission to law schools in the United States is competitive and law education might be challenging, there are plenty of opportunities to create the career you are looking for in the US. Studying law doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a lawyer. There are numerous career paths that a law graduate can pursue, such as politics, diplomacy, business, and economics, to mention a few. Statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that a career as a lawyer can be rather rewarding, financially speaking. A lawyer in the United States earns a median salary of $126,930 per year.