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If you enjoy thinking analytically, finding solutions to complex problems, and challenging yourself intellectually, consider law school. Lawyers engage in several types of work in several fields, from health care to business to entertainment. As an undergraduate, you may explore aspects of the law and justice system through a variety of majors, including legal studies, criminal justice, political science, and history.
Students must gain acceptance to attend law school after they complete their bachelor's degree. As students and professionals, they will confront social, political, philosophical, and historical issues alike, and they should develop strong communication skills. A lawyer's diverse tasks can include reviewing documents, conducting research, preparing for trial, putting together a business deal, defending a client, and confronting ethical dilemmas.
Classes and Assignments of a Law Student
An individual's undergraduate course work may significantly differ from their course work in law school, depending on his or her major. Schools do not offer prelaw majors, but prelaw advising programs can guide students on what courses to take and how to apply to law school. Liberal arts majors, such as government, philosophy, economics, or history, serve as good preparation because assignments strengthen writing and communication skills. Students should also develop reading, researching, and critical thinking skills. Regardless of their major, students should work or intern with a law firm or a legal rights organization. They should also consider joining a legal studies association on campus.
In law school, students will analyze court cases and engage in intense discussions on various legal issues. Students will begin by taking core courses in areas such as constitutional law, property law, torts, and civil procedure. Later, they will specialize in fields such as tax, labor, and corporate law.
Degree Levels for a Law Student
- Bachelor's. Since there is no prelaw major, students can select from an array of undergraduate majors, law-related or otherwise. Political science and government may relate most directly, but other liberal arts majors like anthropology or journalism can also build skills essential for any lawyer.
- Juris Doctor (J.D.). Students who complete law school receive a J.D., which is considered a first professional degree. Law school typically takes three years to complete, although it may take longer for those who attend on a part-time basis. Students often gain practical experience by participating in legal clinics and moot court competitions. Upon completion, students must complete a written bar examination to receive a license to practice law. They should take the exam in the state in which they plan to practice.
- Doctoral. Doctoral degrees in law-related fields are also available; these Ph.D. degrees do not require a J.D. Examples include Ph.D. degrees in jurisprudence and social policy or in justice, law, and society. They focus on the scholarly study of legal ideas and institutions from historical, economic, philosophical, or sociological standpoints. They may involve policy analysis, and they do serve as preparation for teaching legal studies at the undergraduate or graduate level. Candidates must complete a dissertation.
A Future as a Law Student
Law students may work in vastly different areas, overseeing legal transactions, arbitrating civil disputes, or arguing criminal cases. Those who plan to teach or conduct research may pursue advanced law degrees, while others choose to pursue joint degree programs, which require an additional semester or year of study. Joint degree programs are offered in a number of areas, including business administration and medicine. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly earnings of lawyers were $129,440 as of May 2010. However, actual earnings may vary based on skill, experience, employer, location, and other factors.
- Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates (Best salary!)
- Paralegals and legal assistants
- Legal secretaries
- Law clerks
- Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers