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Legal education in the USA


Studying law in the USA is very prestigious. This is because the entire education system in American universities is narrowly specialized and is aimed at studying the practical aspects of the subject. Subject to a responsible attitude to study, students come out of the walls of alma mater by professionals who are well versed in their specialty.

US Legal Education

The US legal education system begins with a four-year education at a classical university or college. At the end of one of the universities, the student receives a bachelor's degree and can delve into the study of a specialty at the law faculty. Here, studies last 3 years. As a result, a graduate with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree can already engage in a favorite type of legal activity. Of course, provided that one of the states joins the college of lawyers. To obtain a master’s degree, this sounds like Legum Magister (LL.M.) to Americans, it takes another 1 year to study a specialty at the law faculty. A one-year study at a university provides an opportunity for American students to get an education at a more prestigious university, and for a foreign specialist to “confirm” their diploma for work in the USA. Doctorate Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) in America receive "Masters" after 3-5 years of training and defending a dissertation.

The prestigious universities in the United States are Yale, Harvard, Stanford, New York, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Michigan, Chicago, Cornell, Virginia and Duke Universities. Studying at their law faculties is strikingly different from the usual Russian study of jurisprudence. For example, students come to lectures already prepared for the topic, and teachers only focus the audience on the main aspects of the material, and check the level of their understanding. Judges and partners of large law firms are invited to give lectures. The presentation of the material is focused on the practical application of knowledge and includes a critical assessment of the current model of legislation.

Documents required for admission and tuition

For admission to an American university, a Russian citizen needs to start preparing for about a year before the start of the school year. A complete list of documents that should be submitted for consideration is individual for each educational institution. Typically, these are:

  • application form (filled directly on the university website),
  • application essay (maybe several)
  • standard test results (TOEFL, SAT, GRE, etc.),
  • documents on education (translated into English, as well as notarized certificates or diplomas with additions),
  • letters of recommendation from teachers or employers.

Legal education in the USA is not a cheap pleasure. The annual tuition fee at a private university reaches 30,000 dollars, and at a regular university - from 15,000 to 20,000 dollars. Most students have huge debts after graduation, but the result justifies the means. A diploma from the American Law School opens for its owner the doors of the largest law firms, both the United States and other countries of the world.

US Undergraduate Law Degree

How to become a lawyer in the USA? To get started, get a diploma in another specialty. America really has a special look at jurisprudence. A professional in this field should have not only a university education, but also a real life experience. For this reason, in America there is no right to a bachelor's degree. Law studies only begin four years after graduation from a university or college.

You can get a bachelor's degree in any field. Some law schools take into account the previous specialty, so a degree in economics, statistics, political science or sociology can play into the hands at the time of admission. For other schools, past qualifications are completely irrelevant. So you need to choose a faculty based on the preferences of specific schools, and even better, based on your personal interests. Jurisprudence is a multidisciplinary profession, any occupation you can weave into your future specialization. For example, with a bachelor's degree in music or art studies, become an intellectual property lawyer.

Juris Doctor (JD)

At the end of the undergraduate students enroll in the Juris Doctor program. You can get your first law degree in the USA within three years by studying in law schools. Schools are private and work autonomously or public and are located in the structure of the university. The entire course combines subjects of general and specialized profiles. The program itself is designed for those who are just starting to study in the field of law, but recently, foreigners who already have a law degree, coming to America, first enter the basic JD. This is due to the fact that the Juris Doctor program is focused on American law, which helps to quickly get used to the local legislative and judicial systems.

Master of Laws (LLM)

Master of Laws is a one-year program for students who already have a degree in law. LLM involves a narrow specialization - students study a specific area of ​​law and do not affect general disciplines. The course is very popular among foreign lawyers. Firstly, it is shorter than JD. Secondly, it is more focused on foreign, rather than American law.

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)

The doctoral degree is rightfully given by the Doctor of Juridical Science program. It lasts from 2 to 5 years, depending on the specialty and school. In continuation of studies, students conduct their research and write a dissertation. SJD is academic in nature, after which you can start a career as a scientist or teacher in the field of law.

Features of studying in US law schools

To study jurisprudence in America means to study a specific area of ​​knowledge: administrative law, commercial law, human rights law, environmental law, international law, IT and media law, teaching, history of law and more. The most saturated in the number of general and basic legal disciplines is considered the first year of JD. From the third semester, students begin to teach their specialization. The subjects of general development - philosophy, history, ethics, psychology - go into the category of optional subjects, and their study depends only on the desire of the student himself.

Legal education in the USA also has a strong emphasis on practice. Classes are not clearly divided into lectures and seminars. Teachers and students interact constantly: discuss, analyze specific cases, and play trials. Pupils are not told how to speak correctly, build their speech and what techniques to use. They learn this literally on the go, during the lesson, at the same time developing their individual style and personal methods of doing business.

Admission to the Faculty of Law in the USA

The conditions for admission to a US legal school vary greatly with the conditions of any other specialties. Applicants must responsibly approach each requirement and take into account all the features and preferences of individual schools.

Basic conditions for admission:

Undergraduate diploma
Register for the LSAC (Law School Admission Council). This service passes applications for admission
GPA (Grade Point Average)
LSAT (Law School Admission Test). A special test that all applicants who enter the legal specialty pass. He estimates the student’s general level of intelligence: his critical thinking, ability to correctly analyze the situation and draw logical conclusions
TOEFL or IELTS (standardized English proficiency tests)
Motivation letter
Teachers' letters of recommendation
Interviews, work experience, entrance exams, etc. All additional requirements must be recognized separately for each university.

The cost of training for a lawyer in the United States.

Legal education is one of the most expensive in the United States. The cost of training in the most prestigious schools is 50-70 thousand dollars. A year of study at lesser-known universities will cost less, but it is unlikely to drop below 40 thousand dollars.

For this reason, educational lending is widely used. In some US schools, up to 90% of students study on loan. The legal profession in America is very highly paid, so it is expected that graduates will be able to quickly repay their debts.