Becoming a lawyer without law school

The reason you are here is simple – you want to become a lawyer and you don’t want to, or, for whatever reason, can’t go to law school and spend 8+ years preparing for this vocation. Is it possible? The answer is yes, though some limitations may apply. Let us explain.

How does one go about doing this?

There is a little known way to become a lawyer without going to law school. You can do it by being self-taught and reading the law. The process itself is longer, and potentially more strenuous. However, it doesn’t end there. You need to go through an apprenticeship program, which differs depending on the location.

Speaking of location, there are only four states that allow you to skip law school. They are California, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. If you have already completed one or two years of law school, you are welcome to try out Maine, New York or Wyoming.

You also need to find a mentor, a practicing lawyer or judge, who will supervise you and help you to become a full-fledged lawyer. Why is this difficult? Aside from different criteria for the lawyer in question, they are investing their personal time in your potential progress. Some persuasion may be required.

As an apprentice, you must work a designated number of hours a week, for a period of weeks in a law practice. Your mentor must possess a fixed amount of law experience and you must spend a certain number of hours directly supervised by this person. As much as it is frustrating to see terms such as “it depends”, or “a certain/fixed/designated number/amount of”, the fact of the matter is that rules and regulations regarding this and many other topics significantly differ from state to state.

For example, you will not see a penny for your apprenticeship in Virginia, while in Washington you have to get paid for your work. Additionally, you have to pass a “Baby Bar” in California. We are not making this up, and there is nothing particularly baby-like about it – it has a significantly low pass rate, which can be discouraging, especially when you consider that California has the hardest Bar exam to begin with.

Why should you do it?

There are several famous people who did not, in fact, go to law school. One of them was Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father who is considered to be the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Another famous example is Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe is such a well-known example of a self-taught law practitioner, that there is a website dedicated to helping people become lawyers without law school –

The main reason people undertake this enterprise is that it saves money in the long run. The bar exam along with other expenses may cost an arm and a leg, but this is nothing compared with the college debt you may amass during your three years in law school. Just remember that this is a challenge that should not be taken lightly, as it requires dedication and self-reliance.