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What Do You Study in College to Be a Lawyer?

by Maggie Lourdes, Demand Media

    Some heavy duty studying is required to become a lawyer. Attorney hopefuls generally must have bachelors' degrees before they can crack open the doors of law school. Law students are tied up full-time in law school for three years after undergraduate studies. Some lawyers go on to earn advanced law degrees, which gobble up another one to five years in study time.

    Undergraduate Studies

    Law schools usually aren't picky about what you study as an undergraduate in college. You can have a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. And, you can have majors and minors in English, math, chemistry, engineering, art or social studies. A law school applicant must have decent grades to get the nod for admission. For example, incoming law students at Michigan State University College of Law have median grade point averages of 3.5.

    Law School Courses

    Law degrees are comprised of a potpourri of legal studies. First-year law students usually study civil procedure, property, constitutional, tort and contract law. They also take legal research and writing courses. Upper-level course requirements ease a bit. Second- and third-year students call more of their own shots by choosing elective classes. They can dive into studies such as international, technological, family and business law. Internships and clinical work can also earn upperclassmen course credits.

    Master's Degrees

    Some lawyers keep hitting the books after law school to obtain specialized Master of Law, or LLM, degrees. LLMs target specific areas, such as taxation, business, real estate and finance law. Some lawyers pursue Doctor of Juridical Science degrees, called SJDs, after they wrap up their LLMs. SJDs are only offered by a handful of law colleges. SJDs require in-depth dissertations on specific legal topics. They take approximately five years to complete and boost your credentials for a legal teaching career.

    Bar Review Courses

    Law colleges encourage law students to take bar review courses at the end of their three-year stints. Bar review courses are the ultimate cram sessions. They are comprehensive reviews of the core classes required in law school. They give students a last-ditch refresher on topics tested on state bar exams, such as contract, property, criminal, tort and civil procedure laws.

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    About the Author

    Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.

    Photo Credits

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