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How Long Is Law School?

We already know becoming a lawyer is no easy task (and if you don’t know, allow us to introduce you to the LSAT). But, have you ever wondered how long it actually takes? If you’re thinking about practicing law, it’s important to know how long law school is. Not only is it a big time commitment, but it’s also an expensive one. 

In this article, we’ll look at the traditional law school path—including how long law school is—and alternative options that could lengthen or shorten your time in school.

How Long Is Law School 

Table of Contents

The Traditional Law School Path

Traditionally, the law school journey starts with a four-year undergraduate degree. Many law school applicants follow the pre-law path in college. However, you don’t have to choose a specific major or complete any law school requirements, aside from taking the LSAT.

After completing undergrad and applying to law school, the traditional law school programs to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) take three full years. J.D. programs are designed to teach you the ins and outs of the legal world and get you ready for the bar exam.

During these three years, you will be in legal classes most days of the week from August to April or even May. You will likely spend your summer breaks as a summer associate at a firm or interning elsewhere. 

Further Reading

🗺️ Find Out How to Become a Lawyer in This Easy-To-Read Guide!

🏫 Freshman or Sophomore in Undergrad? Discover Your Pre-Law Path!

Variations in Law School Duration

But what if the traditional three-year law school timeline doesn’t work for you because you have a family or juggling a career? Luckily, you have options if you’re a non-traditional student.

Part-Time Programs

Life can be demanding. If you’re studying for the LSAT, you already know that. Law schools understand this too, which is why many law schools have part-time programs to help aspiring law students find a balance between school and work. 

A part-time law school program is a great fit for anyone who wants to work while in law school or has a family they’re responsible for. Joining courses during nights and weekends makes it possible to still pursue your career dreams.

Understandably, part-time programs are longer. They usually last four years, but the exact schedule changes from school to school. Some schools meet for a few hours every night while others, like Seton Hall, meet on a biweekly basis during the weekends only. 

The more relaxed schedule doesn’t mean this type of law degree program will be easier! These programs are just as challenging and provide the same education as their full-time J.D. counterparts—just spread over four years.

Part-time and evening J.D. programs are an excellent option that allows for a more manageable schedule. Look into the specifics of each program to confirm that law school’s program particulars work for you before applying. 

Differences Between Full-Time and Part-Time Law School Programs

1. How do full-time and part-time law school programs differ in terms of access to resources and support?

Full-time law students typically have more access to programs like clinics, externships, and on-campus interviews that can lead to job opportunities with law firms. While law schools may not prohibit part-time students from participating in these activities, part-time students may not have the time to dedicate to extracurriculars.

2. What are the benefits and considerations of choosing a full-time or part-time law school program?

Full-time programs offer the advantage of finishing in as little as three years, potential access to more scholarships, and more opportunities for programs and job prospects. Part-time programs provide the flexibility to study at your own pace while working full-time, spread out the cost of law school, and manage other life obligations.

3. What are the cons of part-time law school programs?

Part-time law students are at a higher risk of burnout because they have to balance law school with a possible 40-hour work week or other obligations. Most of the top law schools don’t offer part-time options, limiting applicants’ choices. Additionally, part-time programs may not offer as many opportunities for networking and building relationships that are vital to a developing law career.

4. What are the financial considerations for full-time and part-time law school programs?

Part-time students can spread out the cost of law school over more years, potentially saving themselves from taking out as many loans. Full-time students may have access to more scholarships to help pay for law school.

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Accelerated J.D. Programs

Not all full-time J.D. programs are three years. Shocking, right? Students in accelerated law school programs (not be confused with the 3+3 law school programs) can finish their degree in two years. 

Like part-time programs, not all law schools have an accelerated program. However, it could be a good choice if you need to spend as little time in school as possible. 

Online Law School

Online law school programs will also usually take around four years to complete and earn a J.D. Scheduling is similar to a part-time program. You will be in class from August to May, in most cases, with the option of taking courses that meet in the morning, afternoon, and evening. 

The number one positive of online law school is just how flexible your schooling can be. Online law school is a great choice if you want to attend while traveling or working. 

A growing number of law schools have online programs. And they’re reputable! This is proven through the many programs at American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law schools like Villanova University, Washington University in St. Louis, and many more.

Don’t Forget the Bar Exam

Unfortunately, law school isn’t done after graduation. Or, at least, you can’t just start practicing law immediately. Before you can be a fully licensed lawyer, you’ll need to take your state’s bar exam. 

Preparing for the bar exam is like prepping for the LSAT; only it’s worse. Most law students begin their bar prep in the final semester of their third year of law school. However, students with full-time jobs or other commitments may start studying earlier. 

Aspiring lawyers are advised to dedicate 400 to 600 hours of study for the bar exam, equivalent to 10 to 16 weeks of full-time studying. For those who can only allocate 10 hours per week to study, the preparation period may extend from 10 months to a year.

Good news: Some states accept bar exam scores from other jurisdictions. Certain states also recognize broader bar exams, such as the Multistate Bar Exam. However, others require law graduates to sit for their state-specific exams. 

What Does This Mean for You? 

The traditional in-person, part-time, accelerated, and online programs are all possible choices for any aspiring law degree student. The most important thing to determine moving forward is what will work best for you!

It’s also important to consider what type of law you might like to pursue, including criminal law, public interest, dispute resolution, family law, and constitutional law, when choosing a program to ensure that it fits your interests. Take this quiz to find out what type of lawyer you should be!

Several factors can influence your law school length. Your personal or career obligations might force you to only consider longer, part-time programs. The high cost of law school might encourage you to consider full-time programs that offer larger scholarships. 

And before you even start your 1L year, the LSAT could be an annoying obstacle in your journey. If you can’t reach your goal score, that could delay your law school timeline. We can help you reach your target LSAT score and get into the school that’s right for you!

Blueprint LSAT students increase their score by 15 points on average. Whether you have the discipline to study on your own with a Self-Paced Course, want to navigate the LSAT with instructors in a Live Course, or prefer one-on-one attention through tutoring, we have the study method that fits your learning style.

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