What is Law School?
A law school (also known as a law center or college of law) is an institution specializing in legal education, usually involved as part of a process for becoming a lawyer within a given jurisdiction.
In the United States, law school is a postgraduate program usually lasting three years and resulting in the conferral upon graduates of the Juris Doctor (J.D.) law degree. Some schools in Louisiana concurrently award a Graduate Diploma in Civil Law (D.C.L.). To gain admission to a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), applicants must usually take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and have an undergraduate (bachelor's) degree in any major.:38 Currently, there are 203 ABA-approved law schools that grant the JD degree. There currently are eight law schools that are unaccredited by any state bar or the ABA but registered by the State Bar of California, 21 law schools accredited solely by the State Bar of California, 2 law schools accredited solely by statute in Alabama and 1 law school accredited solely by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Non-ABA approved law schools have much lower bar passage rates than ABA-approved law schools, and do not submit or disclose employment outcome data to the ABA. However, there are currently 10 ABA-accredited law schools that are currently out of compliance with the bar passage standard.
In 1869, Washington University School of Law became the first chartered law school in America to admit women.
According to a study by labor economists Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre, a law degree increases the present value of lifetime earnings in the U.S. by $1,000,000 compared to a bachelor's degree. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for lawyers in 2012 was above $130,000, albeit in a bimodal distribution. Salaries vary by geography, with higher average salaries in big cities—especially New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles—and lower salaries in rural areas. An unpublished table produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment rates among experienced lawyers are lower than those for most high-income occupations. BLS data also suggests that lawyer employment has grown slightly faster than other occupations, with lawyers comprising a growing share of the work force over the last decade.
However, not all recent law graduates work as lawyers. According to Simkovic and McIntyre's study of U.S. Census Bureau data, around 40 percent of U.S. residents with law degrees do not practice law. Law graduates are disproportionately represented in leadership positions in business and government. The National Association for Legal Career Professionals produces an annual report summarizing the employment of recent graduates of U.S. law schools at a single point in time, 9 months of graduation. Employment at that point is typically around 90 percent, although from 2009 to 2011, the numbers have been lower, at around 86 to 88 percent. Approximately 2 percent of graduates were employed in non-professional jobs. Approximately 75 to 85 percent work in jobs classified by NALP as "JD required" or "JD preferred", and another 5 percent work in other professional jobs. However, a law degree increases earnings, even including those who do not practice law.
While certain law schools are starting to accept the GRE, the majority of law schools require applicants to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Law School Admission Council initiated the LSAT-Flex.