A Short Guide to Continuing Education for Attorneys

One of the most specialized areas of work in America is law, which means that it requires a rigorous and often lengthy education. An attorney’s education starts early and can technically continue indefinitely — long after the college years are over.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for lawyers are expected to increase 10% between 2012 and 2022. The average median salary for a lawyer was $114,300 in 2013.

Nearly every state in the U.S. requires that an individual earn a high school diploma and then a four-year degree. Additionally, the individual must earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from an American Bar Association (ABA) approved law school before being able to sit for the bar examination and applying for a license to practice.

The Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) has been produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners since 1972. In 2013, the MBE was part of the exam in 54 jurisdictions. It costs an average of $300 to take the bar exam, but not all of those who take it pass.

An average of 55,200 people pass the bar exam each year, but it’s still around only three-quarters of those who take it. Only about 76.5% of people who take the bar pass it, and the percentage by state can vary; for example, only about half of people who take the bar in the State of California pass.

Since there are so many different areas of law, if an attorney wishes to specialize in a certain area he or she has the option to enroll in Masters of Law (L.L.M.) degree programs. Requirements for the L.L.M. do vary by law school, but it typically requires 21 to 26 credits.

Beyond college, lawyers also engage in what is usually referred to as Continuing Legal Education (CLE). Though requirements vary by state, most attorneys are required to complete a certain amount of CLE training in a given amount of time. These can usually be completed a number of ways — through self-study or online classes, attending seminars, or teaching CLE courses.

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