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What it takes to become an attorney

Country Counsel: Ag-related degrees can get you into law school.

Robert Moore

December 19, 2019

3 Min Read
lawyers meeting over contract
STATE REQUIREMENTS: Each state, including Ohio, has its own requirements to obtain a law degree.Pattanaphong Khuankaew/Getty Images

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become an attorney? Like any profession, there are specific requirements to become an attorney and remain an attorney. Perhaps you can understand attorneys a bit better if you understand what it takes to become one. Each state has its own requirements, but we will focus on Ohio.

As everyone knows, attorneys must go to law school. Law schools require a four-year undergraduate degree as a minimum requirement. The undergraduate degree can be in any major. Many students planning to go to law school will earn degrees in political science, history or English, as those majors are seen as good preparation for law school. However, I can attest that a dairy science degree from the College of Agriculture (now known as the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) at Ohio State University is adequate to get into law school.

LSAT comes first

Law schools also require anyone applying for admission to take the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT).  This test is not a test that measures knowledge. Instead, it is a skill-based test. The LSAT attempts to measure a person’s ability to think critically and logically, as well as analytical thinking skills. A typical question on the LSAT might tell you that 10 people are sitting around a table, and you are told Bill sits next to Joe, who sits two seats from Sally, who traded seats with Susie. Who is sitting between Joe and Sally? Basically, the LSAT attempts to identify people who have some skill at looking at a set of facts and being able to come to a logical conclusion.

Law school admission is based, in large part, on the applicant’s undergraduate grades and the LSAT score. There are many other factors that are considered by law schools, but there is no substitute for good grades and high LSAT scores. Law admission rates vary by schools; some examples are Harvard University, 15%; OSU, 32%, Ohio Northern University, 42%. Generally, the more elite the law school, the lower the admission rates, but it is difficult to get into any law school.

Law school usually takes three years to complete. The first year of law school is mostly about the foundational law classes: constitutional law, contracts, property and torts (civil liability). The second and third years include more elective classes, meaning the student can select which area of the law they want to explore. Some students might focus more on environmental law, while others focus on criminal law; but these are just areas of interest, not majors as with an undergraduate degree. There are not different kinds of law degrees; every graduate of a law school earns a Juris Doctorate (J.D.).

Bar exam needed, too

A law degree alone does not make an attorney. The final hurdle of the legal career path is the dreaded bar exam. No one is permitted to practice law in Ohio without passing the bar exam. This intensive, two-and-a-half-day test is given twice each year. The passage rate of the bar exam is usually around 65% to 70%. Can you image spending three years in law school and not passing the bar exam? The day the bar exam results are released is very stressful for those waiting for the results. A failing grade on the bar exam is not fatal to a legal career. The bar exam can be taken as many times as needed to pass.

Legal education does not stop with passing the bar exam. Attorneys are required to attend 12 hours of legal education each year. The education helps to ensure that attorneys stay current on changes in the law, as well as learning tips and strategies for practicing law from other experienced attorneys.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea what it takes to become an attorney. While there is not likely to be a prime-time TV show anytime soon about farm lawyers, I can attest that it is a challenging and rewarding career.

Contact Moore, an attorney with Wright & Moore Law Co. LPA, at 740-990-0751 or [email protected].



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