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5 Requirements for Becoming a Lawyer (That You Might Not Know)

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By Betty Wang, JD on August 13, 2013 10:27 AM

What are all the requirements for being a lawyer? There are, of course, some obvious ones (like passing the bar), but aside from that, are there more?

There are, but they may not be conveniently handed to you on a neat checklist. Until now.

Yes, what follows is a real list, and not a cheeky "best shoes for ambulance-chasing" type of list that waxes poetic about cliched attorney traits. But seriously, and especially if you're thinking about law school (or if you're currently in law school), here are some requirements for being a lawyer that you may not know about:

  1. Take -- and pass -- the bar. But you knew that already (and if you didn't, you really, really need to do some research). Remember that alongside the fact that it's a challenging (read: very challenging) test, the bar has its own set of requirements. This includes paying for it, being mentally prepared for it, and having an ample supply of caffeine and proper study snacks.
  2. Go to law school. Unless you happen to live in one of the few states that don't require a traditional legal education, you're not going to be albe to get around this. Before you take the bar, you'll need a J.D. Law school typically spans three long, grueling years. But for those of you with other obligations, there are some that may offer part-time or evening programs that may take four or five years instead.
  3. Have a passing MPRE score. Yes, that's right, another test. Regardless of which state you intend to practice law in, you need to have a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam in addition to passing your state's bar exam. Luckily, the MPRE is far shorter (only a couple of hours on a Saturday morning), far cheaper (usually less than $100), and administered more often (three times a year) than the bar. On the downside, though, it's still a pesky standardized test.
  4. Be of sound moral character. Yes, this is a requirement, and it can't just be according to your mom and grandma. The respective state bar in your state must officially deem you of sound moral character and fitness. Essentially, it's a (really detailed, intense) background check. Because these often take a while to confirm (even if you have absolutely no moral character issues), they should be filled out early-on during your 3L year, if not sooner.
  5. Know why you want to be a lawyer. This one may not be a "real" requirement, but, seriously, it should be. Do your research ahead of time and confirm that you're going to law school, and preparing for a career as a lawyer, for all the right reasons. Otherwise, it's a lot of time, a lot of money, and, let's be real, a lot of sanity down the drain for nothing.

Okay, now you're ready. Well, sort of. After you tackle everything on this list, at least. Good luck, future barrister!

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