What is A Law (JD) Degree?
To become a Lawyer and an Attorney at Law you will need to complete a JD degree in law and then pass the Bar Exam to be able to argue cases in court. That’s about 7 years of college work after high school plus the time to prepare for and pass the bar exam. As you probably already know, Law is part of the Criminal Justice system which looks at how laws are applied and how alleged criminals are brought to justice. Criminal Justice is a more hands-on, skilled-based field that focuses on the whole law enforcement system: how laws are enforced and how criminals are rehabilitated. As part of that system, attorneys give clients legal advice, prepare court documents, negotiate disputes, and argue law cases before a judge or a jury.
Anyone who earns a JD in Law degree is considered to be a Lawyer right after they earn the degree. To practice law, though, in most places you need to pass the bar exam to be admitted to the Bar. Then you’ll be able to argue cases in court and be called the Attorney for a particular person or organization. To become a lawyer, you need to get a Bachelor’s degree first—the particular major doesn’t matter, but most future lawyers choose something like political science, criminology, or English—and then get a qualifying score on the admission test to apply to law school to earn a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.).
Courses you will take in law school in the first year of study will be important basics like constitutional law, contracts, civil procedures, criminal procedures, torts (private disputes)—things like that. You will learn primarily by reviewing cases and responding to questions from professors. In the second and third years of study your knowledge will be broadened by comparing and contrasting existing laws to gain perspective in their uses, by learning some of the skills needed in the field like investigation and negotiations, and ending with some elective courses in specialty areas of the student’s choosing.
The video below discusses a “typical” program, so it should help regardless of which school you are considering.