Becoming an attorney and joining a Wall Street law firm might be your dream, but getting there takes at least seven years of school after graduation from high school. Only graduates with the top grades at the best law schools ever get considered for a position as an associate at a prestigious Wall Street firm.
If you are one of the lucky few who make it, associates at Wall Street law firms can earn starting salaries of as much as $180,000 a year. Before depositing your first paycheck as a lawyer, there are a few steps you need to follow to make your dream come true.
Making the grade as an undergraduate
Your ultimate goal is to get into law school, but before you do that, you must obtain a bachelor's degree. The major you select in college is generally not as important as the grades you achieve and the activities in which you participate. Law school admission officers like to see a combination of excellent grades and community involvement in the individuals they admit to their schools.
Applying to law school
While in college, you must take the Law School Admission Test that law schools require as part of the application process. Law schools review your application, your LSAT scores and a transcript of college grades to determine if you meet their admissions standards. Some schools even require you to participate in a personal interview.
Getting into law school means working even harder
Law school is three years of studying full time. Schools offer a course of studies that generally includes the following:
- Civil procedure
- Legal research and writing
- Property law
- Wills and estates
- Criminal law
- Constitutional law
Some law schools offer additional courses in corporate law, tax law, admiralty law and family law. Students might also be required to participate in clinics operated by the school to provide legal services to members of the community who cannot afford the services of an attorney.
Graduation and the dreaded bar examination
Upon graduation from law school with your new Juris Doctor, you must take the bar examination in the state in which you intend to practice law. The examination tests your knowledge of the law with particular emphasis on the law of the state administering the test. The bar examination is a two day ordeal in many states.
If you pass the exam, you must submit a written application to the state requesting admission to practice law. Part of the admission process usually entails a personal interview.
The process for admission to practice law can differ dramatically from one state to another. Depending upon the rules in your state, you might be able to take the bar examination and seek admission to practice law without having first obtained a Juris Doctor from a law school.
You do not have to wait to be admitted to practice law before applying for your first job with a Wall Street law firm. Most law firms hire new associates even before they become lawyers.