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Study Law in the US

Study Law

The United States is a nation of laws, not of men.  This simple statement, pre-eminent among the founders of the nation as well as all statesmen since, refers to the USA as ruled by a set of laws that apply to everyone – not by the whims or desires of the powerful.  This "rule of law" is not easy to define and is often under attack, as power and privilege will try to get its way. But as a guiding national principle, there is none stronger or more influential in the USA, and lawyers are in many ways the guardians of this national mindset.

The practice of law in the United States has a proud history, integral to the founding of the nation and maintaining the rule of law, and many lawyers and law students from around the world want to study or practice law in the United States. The legal profession is largely self-regulated, as each state has a “Bar” that sets the rules for the practice of law in that state.  One important function of each state Bar is to provide a licensing structure that determines who is and is not allowed to practice law in that state, including non-US citizens.  In this Study Law guide, we describe the overall legal system in the USA, as well as provide practical guidance for foreign education lawyers and international students that want to study law or practice law in the USA.  Studying law can open many doors for you; you might go on to practice law as an attorney, or you might go on to a career in another field such as politics, diplomacy, economics, business, or education. The rewards of studying law are many, but it is a lone, intimidating, and difficult process, so it is important to know for sure that studying law is the right choice for you.

Law School in the US

Studying law in the United States is very different from studying law in many other countries. In various countries, students begin their law studies immediately following graduation from high school or secondary school; most universities in other countries require only a high school diploma or the equivalent in that country to admit students to their law faculties. In the US, however, law is a professional academic field, the equivalent of a graduate degree in other parts of the world.

Law schools in the US are part of public or private universities that grant Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees. The Juris Doctor program generally lasts three years for full-time students and four years for part-time students. The first year of law school is generally considered to be the most difficult because of the core classes, exams, and the Socrates method. The Socrates method is a method used in most law school classes in which the professor cold calls on students to state a case or respond to a case-based question. This intimidates many students, particularly international students, who might be afraid to speak up in class, but most international students do just fine.

Choosing a Law School

Choosing a law school in the US is an important process. It is important to find a school that suits you. Look at school rankings, but also remember to visit the schools’ campuses, if possible, talk to current students and graduates, and learn as much as you can about the school. It is generally recommended that you attend law school in the general area when you intend to practice.

Requirements for Application

In order to apply for law school in the US, you will need the following requirements:

  • A Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (4-year university degree) in any subject.
  • Register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) – Nearly all ABA-approved law schools (and some non-ABA-approved schools) require that their applicants register for and complete their applications through the LSDAS.
  • LSAT scores
  • Recommendations
  • TOEFL scores if English is not your native language
  • Financial documents showing proof of funds for the academic year – You only need this if you are applying for an F-1 visa.

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