4 Crucial Steps to Become a Lawyer in California


Becoming a California lawyer is one of the most prestigious and well-paid jobs sought out by millions of people all over the world. But wanting to become a lawyer and actually working towards achieving this long-term goal are two different things.

So, what does it really mean to be a lawyer and which steps need to be taken to become one?

What is a California Lawyer?

A California lawyer’s job is to act as a legal defense representing different types of clients in civil or criminal proceedings, as attorneys for a plaintiff in civil proceedings, or they can also act as prosecutors representing the government in criminal proceedings.

As a lawyer, you will be required to initiate or work on lawsuits representing private citizens or companies and corporations. Depending on your choice, you might work for the government or simply serve in an advisory position. Regardless of which direction you go, and who you choose to represent, you still will be required to take a couple of heavy steps before you attain this title and obtain your dream career.

Steps to Become a Lawyer

The late-night study, countless hours of work, a ton of research and complete devotion are all part of the must-have package of becoming a lawyer. You are officially a lawyer and you can legally practice law after completing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree – a professional doctoral degree and successfully passing the Bar Exam in the state or states in which you will practice and work.

Although becoming a lawyer itself can be the ultimate goal, for many people, becoming a lawyer is the stepping stone towards opening your door for many other careers, such as becoming a corporate attorney, a prosecutor, corporate executive, teaching law at colleges and universities, running for judge, or even entering politics. Regardless of what your ultimate goal is, first you will need to go through these steps to obtain your lawyer title.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

This can be in any subject. Most of the law schools will require you to have a bachelor’s degree for admission, however, most of them won’t require a specific major. Typically, people choose political science, pre-law or liberal art degrees as common choices as they are still in the orbit of law and will serve as somewhat of a base for further education.

Step 2: Pass the LSAT

LSAT which is short from Law School Admission Test is a necessary, half-day standardized test administered seven times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. If you want to become a lawyer you not only need to take this test, but also, you should get a good score.

LSAT will put to test and asses your critical reading, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and persuasive writing skills which are the required key skills that are necessary for law school. All ABA-accredited law schools and common law schools will require you to pass this test. The better the score, the higher the chances of getting into a better law school.

Step 3: Attend Law School to Acquire Juris Doctor Degree

A Juris Doctor degree – the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree or JD for short, is a graduate-entry professional doctoral degree that you will need to get as it represents the professional recognition that the holder has a doctoral degree in law. This is the minimum educational level for lawyers and without it, you won’t be able to take the bar test nor practice law in most states.

Going to an ABA-accredited school is the most prestigious route to becoming a lawyer. On one hand, you will not only get a higher, more secure education but also you will have more doors open for you in the future as many law firms only accept graduates from ABA-accredited schools. Furthermore, research shows that grads from ABA-accredited law schools earn bigger salaries as well.

However, there is an exception to this rule, as in some states, like in California, you might get accreditation and take the Bar Exam if you attended a school ABA or CBA-accredited or even an unaccredited school. But the catch is, the California Bar Exam is most certainly the toughest in the U.S. and has rightfully earned the title of “exclusionary bar” as it not only measures competence but also regulates the number of lawyers who can practice in the state.

Step 4: Take the MPRE and Bar Exam

MPRE, which is short for Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, is a required 2 hour, 60-question, multiple-choice ethics examination which you need to take (excluding Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico) before your Bar Exam. This is developed by NCBE and it is available only 3 times a year. Once you pass, you will need to take the Bar Exam.

The Bar Exam is the ultimate test, oftentimes more than half of the applicants fail. This test consists of multiple-choice and essay questions that evaluate your knowledge of state law and your ability to apply the law under various different fact scenarios. Once you pass it, you will be able to work as a California lawyer.

It is always good that you complete a clerkship at a local law firm while you are doing your tests and studies. Many law-firms offer internships and some of them may even offer you a job once you pass all the exams. With a law internship, you will be able to gain experience and practice and become more familiar with the job.

If you’d like to learn more, call us or visit our Sonoma County Law Firm in Santa Rosa.