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Licensing and Certification of Civil Attorneys

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How to Get a Law License

Because attorneys assist the general public with complex and sensitive issues, the practice of law is heavily regulated. Each state has a governing body, known as the state bar, which regulates the practice of law in the state.

An attorney must be licensed to practice law. Licensed attorneys may practice federal law and the law of the state where they are licensed. Attorneys cannot practice the law of another state unless they are also licensed to practice that state’s law.

Each state bar sets its own licensing requirements. Most states require candidates to pass a state bar exam, pass an ethics exam, and undergo a comprehensive background check.

A Legal Education

Before prospective attorneys can take the bar exam, they usually graduate from an accredited law school. Law school is typically a three-year program that teaches future lawyers the law, critical thinking, legal advocacy, persuasive writing, oral argument and their ethical responsibilities. When students graduate from law school, they receive a degree, known as a juris doctorate.

Graduating from an accredited law school enables candidates to take the state bar exam. Each state has its own bar exam.

Students who do not graduate from accredited law schools may have to satisfy additional requirements before they may take the bar exam.

The Bar Exam

The bar exam is a rigorous two or three-day written test held twice a year. It is comprised of multiple-choice questions, essay writing and legal skills assessment. Candidates who do not perform to a certain standard must retake the test in full. Depending on the state, on average, 15-60 percent of test takers do not pass the exam. Successful bar candidates typically devote two or three months to prepare for the exam.

Ethics Exam and Background Check

In addition to passing the bar exam, prospective attorneys must pass a multiple choice ethics exam and complete a comprehensive background check, which assesses a candidate’s character and fitness to practice law.

Continuing Legal Education

Because the law is constantly evolving, a license is only the beginning. To ensure that they maintain their skills and state abreast of developments in the law, attorneys must complete continuing legal education courses every year to maintain their license.

Attorney Discipline

Once attorneys are admitted to the bar, they must follow strict rules of professional conduct. If a lawyer violates a rule or commits malpractice, he or she may have her law licensed revoked or suspended.

How To Find Qualified Attorneys

It can be daunting to try and find an attorney to handle your sensitive legal issue. One approach is to call around to other attorneys practicing in a related geographic area. However, this can be time-consuming or impractical when you are dealing with a pressing legal matter.  In that case, a lawyer matching service can be a smart way to go.

Photo of page author Brandon Rose

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-22-2018 06:54 PM PDT

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