Law schools of all levels of academic prestige exist in every corner of the United States. To become a lawyer, a person must first attain a degree from a standard four-year college or university program, and then apply to law school. Nearly all law schools require the applicant to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), whose scores they consider in addition to the applicant’s university grades and other credentials.
Law school commonly lasts for three years. The curriculum covers basic legal principles, contracts, torts, property law, procedure, evidence, criminal law and other areas, depending on the school. The top students in the school commonly get the chance to become editors of the school’s “Law Review” publication, a prestigious position which increases their value in the job market.
After law school, graduates take a special test, which may last up to several days, called a “state bar examination.” Most states combine sections of the exam they all share with state-specific sections. Most law school graduates enroll in special preparatory courses for the bar exam. If they pass the examination and survive an honesty review by the state’s bar association, they will be “admitted” to practice law in that state.
The generalized term “the bar” refers to lawyers while the term “the bench” refers to judges.
Note that no on-the-job training, as is mandatory in the case of medical education, is required in the American legal education system. Furthermore, specialized educational certification is not required if a lawyer wishes to claim he or she is a specialist in any particular area of the law. Three years of law school and admission to the bar are the only legal requirements.
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