How To Become a Lawyer

What Does a Lawyer Do?

Lawyers are integral to society — they are involved in everything from buying a home, to writing a will, to prosecuting and defending people in a court of law. Though the work is broad in scope and can vary depending on individual practice, the key responsibilities of a lawyer are to advise, defend, strategize and negotiate in a wide range of legal matters.

Steps to Become a Lawyer

Regardless of what you want to specialize in, the requirements for becoming a lawyer in the U.S. are mostly universal; however, there are some requirements that vary by state. Here is an overall guide on how to become an attorney:

  1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program
    To apply to law school, you must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university. Your area of study does not have to be in any particular major; students who are successful in law school come from various educational backgrounds, including history, political science, philosophy and education.

  2. Take the LSAT or GRE
    Completing the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a core requirement for getting into law school — here’s our study guide to help you prepare for the LSAT. Some law programs will allow you the flexibility to choose between taking the LSAT or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). The results of your exam are used by admissions officers as an objective measure for assessing if you are a good fit for the university. 

    To learn more about the GRE vs. LSAT, visit our “GRE for Law School” page. 

  3. Find a Law School
    Next, you will want to find and apply for law schools. There is a lot to consider when choosing a law school, including location, student-to-faculty ratio, faculty and school reputation. No matter which school you choose, you will want to make sure that it is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), meaning the school has been vetted by a panel of experienced lawyers to ensure it provides a high-quality legal education. In many states, if you do not attend an ABA-accredited school, you cannot take the bar exam.

  4. Earn a Juris Doctor Degree From an ABA-Accredited School
    Once you apply and have been admitted to law school, you will work toward earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Your experience will vary depending on where you attend school. Currently, there are more than 200 ABA-accredited law schools, most of which offer programs on campus, as well as a select few ABA-accredited law schools that allow students the flexibility to earn their J.D. degree online.
    The Online Hybrid J.D. program at the University of Dayton is the third ABA-approved online hybrid degree program in the nation. The program prepares students to sit for the bar exam and pursue a career upholding the rule of law.

  5. Pass the Bar Examination
    While the requirements to take the bar exam vary by state, most states require students to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school to sit for the exam. The exam is usually a two-day process, covering various legal matters, and comprises a variety of question types, including essays. In most states, once you pass the bar exam, you are officially qualified to practice law.

Pursue a Career Upholding the Rule of Law

Learn more about earning an Online Hybrid J.D. from the University of Dayton School of Law.

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Skills Needed to Become a Lawyer

According to the ABA, the following lawyer skills will prove helpful to anyone looking to pursue a career in law. Do not be discouraged if you do not possess all of these attributes — law school will help you further develop these skills:

  • Problem-solving and critical reading
  • Writing, editing and researching
  • Oral communication and listening
  • Public service and promotion of justice
  • Relationship-building and collaboration

Job Opportunities for Lawyers

A J.D. degree can take you on various career paths, from advocating for human rights to acting as counsel for a tech startup. No matter what you are passionate about, a legal education can pave the way for a rewarding career that aligns with your interests and goals.

Common Types of Attorneys

Because the law affects so much of what we do in our everyday lives, there are a lot of different types of lawyers. Here are a few of the more common lawyer jobs:

  • Defense Attorneys – represent and defend the accused in a court of law
  • Corporate Counsel – work for corporations, advising business executives on legal issues
  • Environmental Lawyers – may work with advocacy groups or government agencies to advise on issues and regulations related to the environment
  • Tax Lawyers – help navigate complex tax regulations on income, profit and property for individuals and businesses
  • Intellectual Property Lawyers – deal with law related to patents, trademarks, inventions and creative works such as music, books and movies
  • Family Lawyers – advise clients in a variety of legal family matters, including adoption, child custody and divorce

Salary Information 
The average lawyer salary in the U.S. in 2020 was $144,970. 1

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyer job growth is expected to rise 9 percent from 2020 to 2030. While law firms will continue to be among the largest employers of lawyers, BLS projects that corporations will increase their in-house legal departments to help cut legal costs. This shift is expected to increase the demand for lawyers in a variety of industries, including finance, healthcare and consulting. 2

Become a Lawyer

Take the first step today by requesting information about the Online Hybrid J.D. from the University of Dayton School of Law.

Request Information

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2020 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States, on the internet at (visited January 2022)arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Lawyers, on the internet at (visited January 2022). arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference 

Citation for this content: University of Dayton’s online J.D. degree.