In order to get into any law schools in California, the State Bar of California requires all applicants to have at least 2 years of undergraduate college education, or around 60 semester hours from an accredited educational institution.
You can also take the College Level Exam Program (CLEP) as an alternative. If you’re a bit unsure of your qualifications, you can send over a copy of your transcript and a $100 check to the State Bar of California and have them evaluate everything before you continue. You can send it to this address:
State Bar’s Office of Admissions, 1149 S. Hill Street; Los Angeles, CA 90015-2299.
It’s also advantageous because the Bar doesn’t have any requirements for what type of undergrad degree that you had. However, if you decided to take a CLEP instead, the Bar has a few requirements such as passing the College Composition and Modular and Pass the exams on two of any of the following five subject matters:
- Humanities (with composition and literature)
- Science and mathematics
- Foreign language
- History and social science
Those are just the basic stuff and they might seem a bit intimidating. Luckily, some institutions have pre-law advisors onboard to assist you. Take advantage of this if you can access one. They can help you with writing letters of recommendation and gathering all of the documentations that you need, as well as help you find scholarships and grants you might be eligible for.
The LSAT in California
The Bar doesn’t necessarily require you to have an undergrad degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association. But, you have to take and pass the Law School Acceptance Test (LSAT) from your preferred law school’s state before you can attend classes. Requirements vary from school to school, but if you don’t pass the LSAT, you can’t start your path towards being lawyer yet.
The official website for the LSAT has practice questions and answers posted. If you want a more intensive preparation, there are a few workshops and seminars that you can attend within the state of California:
- LSAT Prep Forum at UCLA
- LSAT Prep Course at the University of California–Irvine
- LSAT Test Prep at the California State University–Sacramento
To give you an idea of the contents of the LSAT, there are four parts to it:
- Reading Comprehension – This lasts for 35 minutes, containing 27 questions related to four different reading passages. You’re also given 25 minutes to write an essay about a passage.
- Analytical Reasoning – 25 questions in 35 minutes. This provides you with questions that test your decision-making and reasoning abilities.
- Logical Reasoning – This has two sections that has 25 questions combined for 35 minutes. This is different from analytical reasoning, as this one requires you to use logic for abstract ideas and evaluating arguments.
- Essay Section – 35 minutes of you expressing your ideas in writing. This is a test of your ability to form a solid argument based on facts that you’ve identified.
The LSATs are administered during the months of February, June, October, and December, every Saturdays and Wednesdays. However, keep in mind that not all test centers have scheduled exams on certain dates. Make sure you check with your preferred location before settling on your schedule. For the February 2015 tests, the fee is now $170, excluding other fees. You can lay this fee via credit card when you register online or via check or money order to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).
You can expect to receive your LSAT score three weeks after you take it. It will be emailed to you directly and because of confidential clauses, you won’t be able to ask the LSAC about your score over the phone. If you have a pre-law advisor, you can also authorize him or her to receive your score instead.
Best Law Schools in California
Congratulations! You’ve passed your LSAT! Now you can finally apply to the best law school in California and fulfill your dreams. Requirements differ from school to school, but there’s always the mandatory documents and fees that you have to provide such as:
- Transcripts – Get official copies of your transcripts from all institutions where you got credit and submit it to the LSAC office in Pennsylvania.
- Evaluations and Letters of Recommendations – The LSAC will need the names of individuals that you’d like to evaluate and recommend you. They will provide you with official forms that must be filled out and sent back by those individuals.
- CAS Fees – As of 2015, the charge for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) is $165 and can be paid online. This consists of LSAC services such as making summaries of your transcripts, printing out official evaluation and letters of recommendation forms, and submission of applications on your behalf.
Now that’s out of the way, you may now be wondering about accreditations and such when it comes to the top law schools. The State Bar of California is pretty lenient when it comes to whether or not you choose a school that’s accredited. Keep in mind that if a school is accredited by the American Bar Association (the same agency that approves paralegal programs), it is automatically approved by the State Bar. Some of these schools include:
- Stanford Law
- Pepperdine University School of Law
The schools not accredited by the ABA are commonly those that went through the meticulous accreditation process of State Bar instead. These schools include:
- Trinity Law School
- JFK University
- Ventura College of Law
But what if they’re not accredited by the State and/or ABA? This is where unaccredited online law schools come in. Not being accredited doesn’t mean that they’re not good schools or they’re fly-by-night institutions— they’re still registered under the State Bar, and they may include distance learning or correspondence education instead. Some good schools include:
- Taft Law School
- California Southern University
- University of Honolulu School of Law
If you’re more focused on just learning a branch of law rather than being an attorney, there are also online courses that you can take up. An amazing program is Concord Law School’s juris doctor program, which meets all the requirements of the State Bar of California and is available online.
There are still a lot for you to learn once you step foot into a top law school in CA — these are all major steps in the process. The true learning in becoming a lawyer will come when you start practicing it, and that’s an experience well worth going for.