How long it takes to become a lawyer? [timeline breakdown]

This post covers How long it takes to become a lawyer

Are you considering a career in law but wondering just how long it will take to reach your goal?

From pre-law studies to passing the bar exam, the journey to becoming a lawyer can seem daunting.

But with dedication and hard work, it is possible to navigate the legal landscape and achieve your dreams.

Here, I’ll take a closer look at the timeline of becoming a lawyer, and what you can expect along the way.

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NB: Are you serious about becoming a lawyer and advancing in your legal career? Then you need to read this post. Inside, you’ll find a comprehensive guide that covers every step of the process, from start to finish. But for now, let me give you a quick overview of the timeline for becoming a lawyer.

Let’s get started

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How long it takes to become a lawyer

The timeline to become a lawyer varies by country, but generally, in the U.S. it takes 8 years of education and training. This includes a 4-year undergraduate degree, followed by a 3-year law degree and passing the bar exam. However, the actual time it takes may be shorter or longer depending on factors such as your academic performance, the law school you attend, and the requirements of the state in which you wish to practice.

8 years is when we start to count from an undergraduate degree.

What if we start from the first day you walk into your first-grade classroom?

Well it will take you more than 19 years to become a lawyer

  • Elementary and Secondary School (12-13 years)
  • Graduate from college (4 years)
  • Graduate from law school (3 years)
  • Bar exam (about six months)

Therefore, on average, it takes approximately 8 years to progress from an undergraduate degree to become a fully licensed lawyer.

However, when considering the journey from the very first day of first grade to becoming a lawyer, the timeline extends to a remarkable 19 years.

For the purpose of this post, I will meticulously outline the timeline from the undergraduate degree and beyond,

providing a clear and comprehensive understanding of the progression of education and career opportunities.

Undergraduate Degree: Duration (at least 4 years)

When it comes to finishing an undergraduate major before joining law school, it’s important to keep in mind that the timeline can vary depending on a few factors.

First and foremost, the major you choose can play a big role in how long it takes to complete your studies.

For example, if you choose a major like political science, you’ll likely have to take a variety of courses specific to the field, which can add extra time to your undergraduate studies.

Additionally, if you’re someone who changes majors or takes a gap year, that can also add extra time to your undergraduate studies.

Another thing to keep in mind it may take longer to complete your undergraduate degree because of your other responsibilities outside of school.

For example, if you’re working a full-time job or have a family to care for, that can make it harder to focus on your studies and finish your degree in the typical four years.

It’s important to be realistic about your own timeline and make sure you’re doing what’s best for yourself in order to be successful in your studies and in your future career.

During my undergrad, I talked with school counselors and asked what major would get me through college the fastest with my goal being to apply to law school.

I settled on philosophy, and it worked.

I got my bachelor’s degree quickly and was able to apply to law school earlier than expected.

I will not talk about The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) because when you are pursuing an undergraduate degree, you will usually complete the test while in college – so preparing for the LSAT doesn’t normally require additional time

Law school: Duration (3-4 years)

The timeline to complete law school can vary depending on the program you choose and your own academic progress.

Typically, law school takes 3 years to complete, but some universities offer a part-time program that can take longer, actually 4 years.

During your time in law school, you’ll be taking a variety of classes such as contracts, torts, property law, and constitutional law.

In addition to your classes, you’ll have to complete a certain number of hours of supervised practical training, which is also known as a clerkship.

You will also have an opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities such as a moot court, mock trial, or a law review.

These activities can be very time-consuming and can make it difficult to balance your studies with other responsibilities.

Bar exam: Duration (about 6 Months)

The timeline to take and pass bar exams can vary depending on the state you’re taking the exam in and your own preparation.

The bar exam is a two-day exam that covers a wide range of legal topics such as contracts, torts, criminal law, and constitutional law.

Before you can take the bar exam, you’ll have to meet certain eligibility requirements, such as completing law school and passing a character and fitness evaluation.

Once you’re eligible, you can then register for the bar exam and begin preparing for it.

Preparing for the bar exam can take a significant amount of time and effort.

You’ll have to study a wide range of legal topics and practice answering questions in the format of the exam.

It’s recommended to start preparing for the exam as early as possible, and some students take several months to prepare for the exam.

After taking the bar exam, you’ll have to wait for the results to be released.

The time frame for the release of results varies from state to state, some states release the results in a matter of weeks, while others take months.

Post-bar exam: Duration (several months)

After you’ve passed the bar exam, it’s time to finalize your journey to becoming a practicing attorney.

Some states require that you pass an ethics exam (a four-hour exam with 100 questions) before you can practice law.

This is a test that covers the rules and regulations that govern the legal profession. It’s typically a multiple-choice exam and can take a few hours to complete.

After you pass the bar and the ethics exam, you might also have to provide character references or contact info for each.

When that’s all done, you pay the dues and find a notary or Judge to swear you in.


The timeline for becoming a lawyer can vary, but typically it takes seven to eight years to complete pre-law education, law school, pass the bar exam, and be admitted to the bar.

It’s important to remember that the journey doesn’t end there, as you must also find a job and continue your education to maintain your license to practice law.

Further readings

Isack Kimaro
Isack Kimaro

Isack Kimaro brings over 7 years of extensive experience in professional writing. My career has been dedicated to mastering the art of clear, effective communication, essential for successfully professional correspondence.