Lawyers– also called attorneys– according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is “a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person licensed to practice law.” Some attorneys use the post-nominal Esq., the abbreviated form of the word Esquire.
Formal requirements to become a lawyer usually include a 4-year college/university degree, 3 years of law school, and passing a written bar examination. However, some requirements may vary by State. Competition for admission to most law schools is extremely competitive. Acceptance by most law schools depends on the applicant’s ability to demonstrate an aptitude for the study of law. They use undergraduate grades, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the quality of the applicant’s undergraduate school, any prior work experience, and sometimes, a personal interview.
Federal courts and agencies set their own qualifications for those practicing before or in them.
Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law school applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for admission.
To qualify for the bar examination in most States, an applicant must earn a college degree and graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) or the proper State authorities. ABA accreditation signifies that the law school, particularly its library and faculty, meets certain standards.
A year of tuition at a public law school is now over $20,000 a year, and average tuition at private law schools is around $35,000 a year.
To practice law in the courts of any State, a person must be licensed under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. All States require that applicants for admission to the bar pass a two-day written bar examination; most States such as Florida also require applicants to pass a separate written ethics examination. Florida requires attorneys to take continuing legal education classes.
The U.S. legal system does not draw a distinction between lawyers who plead in court and those who do not. Many other common law jurisdictions, as well as some civil law jurisdictions, do draw distinctions. The division of solicitor and barrister (advocate) found in the United Kingdom, and the division of advocate and civil law notary in France.