If you need a lawyer, it's important to hire the best lawyer for your situation. Generally, this means that it's a lawyer whose practice area is in the same area as your legal matter, and it's a lawyer you can afford. It's best to research the lawyers you're considering hiring, and once you've narrowed the field, it's helpful to have an initial consultation with a couple of your top choices. FindLaw's Questions to Ask a Lawyer section provides guidance about interviewing a lawyer before hiring him or her and how to research the disciplinary record of an attorney. You can also find useful links to state bar associations, which regulate the practice of law within their state.
Professional Requirements to Become a Lawyer
Being a lawyer carries a lot of responsibility, so it's no surprise that it takes a lot of hard work to become a lawyer. Each state has its own requirements for becoming a lawyer, but some commonality exists among the states. The first two steps to becoming a lawyer are earning a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) and taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Then, the person must attend and graduate from law school. There are some states that have legal education alternatives to law school, so it's important to check the law school requirement in your state.
After graduating from law school, you must pass the state bar exam. Even if a person has passed the bar exam in one state, in order to practice in another state, he or she must take and pass the bar exam in that state as well. The bar exam is a very rigorous test, which is about 6 hours of testing per day over the course of 2-3 days, depending on the state. The test involves multiple choice questions and essays on various areas of law meant to test a person's understanding of the law and capacity for logical thought.
In addition to the requirements mentioned above, a person must also pass a moral character and fitness test. This test involves the state bar reviewing your academic conduct at law school, any disciplinary actions against you in college or law school, and any criminal history. Each person must also provide both personal and professional references and work history.
Once a person successfully passes all of the educational and testing requirements, he or she must take an oath to uphold the laws of the state and the U.S. Constitution. Lawyers must also take part in continuing education in order to keep up to date with current laws and remain in good standing with the state bar.
Interviewing a Lawyer
It's important to interview the lawyer you want to hire to help you with your legal matter. Often times, lawyers will provide free or low-cost initial consultation. You can find out by call the attorney's office or looking on the attorney's website to see if he or she provides a free consultation. This consultation allows you to give some details of your case and ask some basic questions about the attorney. An initial consultation can help you decide if you want to proceed with your matter with a lawyer, and if the particular lawyer is the right one for you.
One of the first things you'll want to ask a lawyer is about his or her fees. It's important to know what you will be billed for and what payment options the lawyer provides. This is an important question because it will allow you to determine if you can afford the lawyer's services.
It's also a good idea to ask the lawyer about his or her legal career. It's good to know how many years the attorney has practiced law, and what type of cases the attorney generally handles. It would also be helpful to know who the lawyer's typical client is. For example, if a lawyer usually works with businesses and you're an individual, the lawyer might not be the right one for you. Finally, it can be helpful to ask if the lawyer has represented cases similar to yours, and what the outcomes of those cases were.