How to Go From Being a Paralegal to a Lawyer

It typically takes at least seven years of post-secondary education to become a lawyer.

It typically takes at least seven years of post-secondary education to become a lawyer.

Paralegals work side-by-side with lawyers performing tasks such as legal research and drafting legal documents. Because of the increased career opportunities and earning potential associated with a career as a lawyer, many paralegals decide to become lawyers. Even though paralegals may have an impressive understanding of the law and the legal process, they still need to follow the same steps that anyone else must complete to become a lawyer -- there are no shortcuts for paralegals.

Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year university or college. While you do not have to have a specific major to become a lawyer, it may be useful to take courses in English, political science, criminology, legal studies and philosophy.

Apply to law schools that have been accredited by the American Bar Association. Most ABA accredited law schools will require you take the Law School Admission Tests (LSAT), which is a standardized exam that tests your logical reasoning and reading comprehension skills.

Earn a juris doctor degree from an ABA-accredited law school. This degree will usually take three years to earn. While a law student, consider working as a legal clerk at a law firm or government agency and participating in internship and law school clinic programs. Such experiences may help you find employment as a lawyer after graduating from law school.

Gain admittance to the bar in the state where you want to practice law. Most state bars will require that you pass a bar examination and undergo an extensive background check.

Pay any required fees to your state bar.

Comply with any continuing-education requirement that your state may have. As of 2011, 45 states required attorneys to take continuing-education courses every year or every third year.


  • Several states, such as California, do not require that applicants attend law school to take the bar examination. Check with your state's bar association to see your state's specific requirements.

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About the Author

Lisa S. Kramer is a licensed attorney practicing civil litigation and estates and trusts law in southern Florida. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude. Kramer earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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