With more than 16,000 attorneys in South Carolina, you may wonder where they all come from and how they became eligible to practice law.
Becoming an attorney in South Carolina is not an easy, (nor necessarily) straight path. Let’s start at the start, so to speak.
1. Undergrad: You don’t have to be a pre-law major in order to become a lawyer. The majority of attorneys get degrees in other fields including myself. I earned a political science degree from Furman University. However, I would recommend a diversity of courses during your undergrad years such as criminal justice, economics, political science and government, history, world cultures, communications and philosophy.
2. The LSAT: Every accredited law school in the country requires an LSAT score for admission. The LSAT is a six-hour long test consisting of five 35-minute sections filled with multiple-choice questions. Only four of these sections count towards your LSAT score, but you will not know which section does not count, so treat every section as if it counts. There also is a writing section that does not count toward your score, but law schools do want to see it so this is not the time to draw pictures in the space. The lowest you can score is 120, and the highest is 180.
3. Law School: There are more than 200 accredited law schools in the country, and you need a degree from one of them in order to be allowed to practice in South Carolina. Now, there are two law schools in the state, my alma mater, The University of South Carolina School of Law, and the Charleston School of Law. Yes, a large amount of lawyers in this state graduate from one of these two, but not all of them do. Choose wisely because you are going to be spending about three years there.
4. Trial Experience: Before appearing alone in any matter in any South Carolina court, you must complete a rigorous, extended regiment of observing trial experiences at practically every level our trial court system
5. The Bar Exam: After you finished all of the other steps and are over 21, you can take the bar exam, which is offered twice a year and is two days long. (sidenote: In my almost twenty years in law, I have yet to meet an 18-year-old prodigy idly sitting by waiting to take the bar.) Prior to even being allowed to take the Bar Exam, an applicant must submit an extensive and exhaustive application. The application contains questions that probe the applicant’s associates, finances, and other personal information. The applicant will not be allowed to take the Bar Exam unless and until agents of the South Carolina Bar determine that the applicant possesses the character and fitness that are required to be worthy to have others place their trust in the applicant as their champion, as their lawyer. The first day consists of six 30-minute Multistate Essay Exam questions in the morning and two 90-minute Multistate Performance Test questions in the afternoon. Day 2 is the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), a 200-question, multiple-choice exam. You are tested on Business Law, Civil Procedure, Commercial Law, Domestic Relations, Equity, Insurance, Wills, Trusts & Estates, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Real Property, and Torts. If the applicant passes the Bar Exam, and if the applicant is willing to take an oath to do justice, to protect the interest of the applicant’s clients, and to be worthy to call himself or herself a lawyer, then the applicant is admitted in to the Bar and can practice law.
How does a lawyer became a great lawyer - no one path is guaranteed to yield greatness. The great lawyers are the lawyers who are problem solvers, who are working on their clients’ cases when they don’t have to do so, who are invested in their clients as people and not as just customers, and who have the experience, intellect, discipline, and work ethic to give their clients the best chance at the best result.