So You Want to Study Law in the USA

by Denisse Romero

Perhaps you have always wanted to become a lawyer or perhaps after countless episodes of Boston Legal, you are just now entertaining the idea of becoming a lawyer. Add that to the fact that you want to pursue this profession in the US, and you have a great goal that requires commitment, passion and effort. Studying law can open many doors – people who obtain a law degree can go and practice law as an attorney, but they may also find careers in other fields such as politics, diplomacy, economics, business, and education. The rewards are plenty, but before you embark on this journey, it is important that you understand your goals and what it will take to achieve them. The admissions process for law schools in the US can be a bit complex and for some students, it can also be intimidating. So, let’s explore more about the law school application and admissions process.

Law School 101

In various countries, students start their law studies right after high school or secondary school. Most universities in other countries only require a high school diploma or the equivalent in that country to admit students to their law faculties. Studying law in the US is quite different from that international format. Law is a professional academic field, the equivalent of a graduate degree in other parts of the world.

Law schools are part of public or private universities that grant Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees. Law schools may also grant other graduate law degrees such as Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees for students who have already obtained their Juris Doctor.

The Juris Doctor program typically lasts 3 years for full-time students and 4 years for part-time students. First-year (1L) students usually take courses in legal writing, contracts, torts, criminal law, constitutional law, and other courses. Most students feel that the first-year is the “hardest” and the most intense because of all the core courses, exams, and the Socrates method used in most of their classes where students are cold called by the professor to state a case or respond to a case-based question. Although some international students may be scared to speak up in classrooms, most foreign students do fine in these classes. Many classes are divided into smaller sections for courses such as Legal Writing. Students should use this opportunity to meet classmates, make friends, and practice speaking in front of an audience.

Most second-year students (2L) focus on other activities such as Law Review, Moot Court, and other extra-curricular activities that offer a lot of practice. This is extremely important for most 2L students since they need to start looking for legal internships for the summer months between the second and third years. These internships are very important since some of them will lead to full-time employment after graduation.

Third-year students (3L) focus on taking electives such as international law, immigration law, antitrust law, intellectual property law and others that serve as specialization courses. Third-year students also focus most of their time in obtaining employment and studying for the bar exam. In the US, a Juris Doctor is not enough to practice law. JD graduates must take the bar exam for the state where they plan to practice. Contact the American Bar Association (ABA) for more information about American Bar exams.

Law School Application 101

Before we learn about the application process, it’s important to choose a few schools that meet your criteria. Rankings help, but you should also visit their websites, visit the schools, talk to current students, graduates, and learn as much as you can. Attorneys and law school counselors usually suggest that students attend law school where they intend to practice. Laws in the US differ from state to state, so students should keep that in mind.

So, what are the requirements to apply to law school?

1. A Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (4-year university degree) in any subject. Yes, you can be a Spanish major or an Engineering major and still be eligible to apply to law school.

2. Register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) – Nearly all ABA-approved law schools (and some non-ABA-approved schools) require that their applicants register for and complete their applications through the LSDAS.

3. LSAT scores

4. Recommendations

5. TOEFL scores if English is not your native language

6. Financial documents showing proof of funds for the academic year – You only need this if you are applying for an F-1 visa.

So, if you are still really interested in going to law school, here are some things you can do next:

1. Check out the LSAC website for more information about Law Schools

2. Check out Law School rankings

3. Go and talk to a lawyer and research what it’s really like to be an attorney and practice law

4. Check out the websites of a few law schools and research their admissions requirements

5. Start studying for the LSAT

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33 comments to So You Want to Study Law in the USA

  • Yomi Opokiti

    Hi. I am a 17 year old college student in the U.K. I was wondering is there any means where I could study alaw degree in the USA? i think it would be brilliant to study american law as well as british law as I want to move to the USA later on in life. Please could you help by giving me datails of what I could do or what I may need in order to Apply for American Universities who may offer International Law courses? ….. hope to hear from you soon,thank you.

  • Sindhu

    I am a law graduate from India and would like to do law courses from US..I want to Persue paralegal certification course.So what all are the procedures and which university us having this program.

  • Darryl Low Jia Wei

    Hi, I’m from Malaysia and I’m doing diploma in business at the moment, and the fact is that I’m interested in do law for my degree levels. I was wondering what do I need or enquire to get myself into law school. As well as what are the requirement of CGPA to be able to admitted into a law school. Thank you.

  • Keveine

    Hey!! I live in Jamaica but i wanna study LAW in the US….. If i have already done LAW school in JAMAICA, do i have to do over law school in the US or just do their bar exam???????

  • Amr

    Dear Denisse
    Thank you for the article, it was a good beneficial read. I have the following query however.

    I am a qualified lawyer at my home country, Jordan, and I intend to start applying to universities at the United States to complete a JD or an LLM degree.

    My first question is, do I need to complete the LSAT?

    Also, I am a bit concerned about financial aid; can you guide me as to where I can obtain financial aid or assistance from? I would also appreciate it if you can mention some of the scholarships offered to international students.
    Many Thanks

    • Denisse Romero

      Amr – If you are a qualified lawyer in Jordan, then you must already have a law degree (bachelor of laws?) from your country. If this is the case, then you are eligible to apply for the LLM. You need to go to this site to learn more about the LLM application process.

      For scholarships or financial aid, try researching and contacting different law schools and ask for information. Try the Scholarships resources we have on Also, try contacting your government and the US embassy in your country for any information on scholarships or education assistance for law studies in the US.

  • kerlester

    hi i jus finish a two year course of law in st vincent and the grenadines and want to further my studies in the states

  • Bolanle Dabiri

    Hi. i am a Nigerian and i want to apply for my juris doctor program in the u.s. what are the requirements?

  • gaurav

    Hi i have finished my 10+2(puc) education in India… i have a major desire to become a lawyer in US.. may i know whether i’m eligible to study law in US if so plz suggest me..

    • Denisse Romero

      You will need a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (12+4), LSAT scores, letters of recommendations, and other requirements for international applicants. Visit LSAC for more information. Good luck!

  • alberto olivares

    im about to graduate from highschool and i want to be a lawyer i was just wondering which bachelor degree would be recomended for somebody hoping to study law

    • Denisse Romero

      Look for pre-law programs at your university. These are specially designed for students wanting to go to law school and generally offer guidance through the whole admissions process. Some of the most popular majors among pre-law students are Political Science, History, English, Philosophy, Government. Any major with a strong focus on verbal, analytical and writing skills will successfully prepare you for law school. It is important for you to prepare by practicing these skills as much as you can – join speech/debate clubs, college journals/newspapers, and prepare for the LSAT.

  • I did BBM in India.I want to take the admission in any law university in US.Please let me know the procedure.

    • Denisse Romero

      Neeraj – It would be a good idea for you to take a look at the LSAC website (please see link above). Review all the admissions requirements for international applicants, and analyze the US law schools that match your criteria. Follow their individual guidelines and contact their admissions office for further specific information. Best of luck!

  • Anindya kanti gayen

    i am a engineer graduate from india.i want to take admission in any law university in me about the procedure and eligibility.

  • mercy Kalu

    I am a high school graduand hoping to become a lawyer. my parents are jobless but my elder brother is willing to train me if i secure admission. i am looking for USA school that will help me actaulise my dream. i am a nigerian living in nigeria

  • Vedika Berry

    Hi, I was wondering if i study law in India, can i practice Law in the United States? Or do i need to study further in the US?

    • Denisse Romero

      In order to practice law in the US, you would need to pass the bar exam for the state where you wish to practice. Most states require you to have a legal degree from an accredited law school. Many foreign graduates choose to complete their Master’s in Laws (LLM) in the US and sit for the bar exam after graduation. Here is an example of the requirements to sit for the bar exam in New York:

  • Matt Mustard

    I am a Canadian hoping to study (and eventually practice) law in the United States. Do you know if Canadians are eligible for articling as part of their student visa?

    • Denisse Romero

      Hi Matt. I believe articling only applies to law graduates who want to practice in Canada. As an F-1 student in the USA, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours on campus while the semester is in session. You can work up to 40 hours during breaks. However, you are eligible to work for one year as part of your Optional Practical Training (OPT) once you graduate with your LLM degree. You can also sit for the New York bar exam with your LLM…there are other states that also allow international LLM graduates to sit for their state bar exams. I would suggest that you find a program that allows international law graduates to complete requirements and prepares them to practice law in the USA. You could contact the Admissions or Career Services offices of the programs you are interested in for additional information. Good luck!

  • yogendra dubey

    I am a Law graduate from India I want to take admission in L.L.M.from any university in U.S.A what is the eligilibility let me know

    • Denisse Romero

      Hi Yogendra. LLM Admissions requirements vary, but generally, a law degree or its international equivalent with a minimum grade point average is necessary. Some LLM programs require completion of requirements to pass your country/state bar exam. Some also expect some level of experience. And some programs also require the LSAT and TOEFL for international students whose native language is not English. Recommendations are always a key part of the application process. An interview may also be required. As mentioned before, requirements vary and depend on each particular university/LLM program. Check out the websites of the schools you are interested in and review their LLM admissions requirements. Good luck!

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