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Can You Be a Lawyer Without a Law Degree?

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While some US states allow aspirants to practice law without a full-fledged law degree, the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar only allows applicants with a professional law degree to appear for the Illinois State Bar exam. Students have to be well versed in Illinois Bar Exam subjects to clear the exam with good scores.

Illinois is home to the prestigious University of Illinois, school of law, one of the most reputed law schools in the US. Around 640 students enroll in the prestigious law programs offered by the University every year. While you cannot be a lawyer without a law degree, there are several related courses and careers you may pursue that do not require a JD or LLB.

Lawyers deal with complex legal issues and offer legal advisory services to clients. Formal education and practical training under qualified academicians and legal experts equip lawyers with the necessary skills to tackle different real-life legal conflicts.

Aspiring lawyers in Washington, California, Vermont, and Virginia can become practicing lawyers without completing their law degrees. However, they may need to undergo evaluations, apprenticeships, internships, and other informal procedures based on the specific state’s laws.

The fees required for this route are significantly lower than those required for law school. Hence, the legal apprenticeship route allows students to avoid heavy law school debt and gain practical experience.

Additionally, students also build strong legal networks and connections in the process. Supervising lawyers may have to appear for specified monthly exams or work with practicing attorneys in the initial stages of their career.

Most other states, including Chicago, require students to have a JD or a LLB. In the past, the Illinois Bar allowed aspiring lawyers to register with courts in Illinois without going to law school.

You may note that some of Illinois’s most prominent lawyers, including Abraham Lincoln (like most lawyers of his time), did not go to law school. The applicant was allowed admission based on an oral examination conducted by a panel of legal experts.

While this option makes becoming a lawyer more accessible to all people, it certainly has its downside. Clients may find it difficult to trust an attorney who does not possess sound legal education.

Why Do You Need a Law Degree?

Litigations, trials, and arbitrations require detailed knowledge of different legal provisions and sections. Law courses like JD and LLB are designed to educate students on different specializations and detailed sections under each of these specializations.

The Illinois Bar Exam subjects help students understand civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, family law, and evidence. The benefits of obtaining a strong law degree are many.

Aspiring lawyers in Washington, California, Vermont, and Virginia can become practicing lawyers without completing their law degrees. However, they may need to undergo evaluations, apprenticeships, internships, and other informal procedures. Click To Tweet

Recognized in All States

Students who have law degrees like JD, LLB, and LLM are qualified to appear for bar exams and work as lawyers in all legal states. Fortune 500 companies and other prominent MNCs prefer candidates with law degrees for legal counsel openings and other positions.

Graduates have the option to pursue careers in academia, media, corporate law, industry, and practically any other sector. Students who choose the legal apprenticeship route may find it challenging to compete with students from reputed nationally and internationally accredited law schools.

The undergraduate Juris Doctor program at the University of Illinois, school of law, includes three years of full-time study. Students who attend this program can attend the bar exam in all 50 US states.

Exposure and Experience

Students gain plenty of exposure by attending law schools. Additionally, law schools help students develop their analytical skills, critical thinking capabilities, and reasoning ability. In Illinois, students preparing for the state bar exam prepare Illinois Bar Exam subjects like civil procedure and criminal law using a practical approach.

The questions mimic real-life situations. Students will have to think fast and choose the correct option in a limited time. Additionally, a JD or LLB makes students eligible to apply for advanced law programs like LLM and MSL.

Exams like the MPRE conducted by the Illinois Bar revolve around professional ethics topics. Students are required to answer questions on client confidentiality, conflict of interest, and other similar aspects.

Exam Scores are Transferable

Illinois Bar Exam scores are transferable. Students can transfer MBE and UBE scores to another jurisdiction. This arrangement makes it convenient for students to attend and clear bar exams in other states. The prestigious NCBE formulates the UBE exam format and other procedures.

Wrap Up

Students must attend law school, obtain a law degree, and pass the Illinois state bar exam to become an Illinois lawyer. You may note that paralegals and informal legal consultants do not require a law degree.

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