How to Become a Lawyer in North Carolina

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With its high quality of life and diverse legal opportunities, there’s little wonder why lawyers have been flocking to North Carolina lately. The state is home to the fastest-growing population of lawyers in the entire country. Over the past decade, it’s seen a 21% rise in the number of active lawyers.

Interested in becoming a lawyer in North Carolina? Read on to discover the essential steps you’ll need to take to realize your aspirations, from education requirements to examinations and more.

What do you need to become a lawyer in North Carolina?

So, how do you become a lawyer in North Carolina? Put simply, North Carolina requires that lawyers earn a four-year undergraduate degree, a three-year law degree, and pass the North Carolina Bar Exam. There’s plenty more to it than that, though.

What are the skills required to become a lawyer?

You’ll need a combination of hard and soft skills to become a lawyer in North Carolina. Here are a few of them:

  • Communication. Whether advising a client on a new law, persuasively presenting arguments in court, or collaborating with other legal professionals, you’ll need strong written and oral communication skills as a lawyer.
  • Problem solving. Lawyers face complex issues each day as they navigate the legal landscape, meaning they need to be pros at analytical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Technology. Modern-day and prospective lawyers need to know how to use the latest technology to effectively help their clients through challenging times. They can do this through legal technology software providers like Clio, or technologies like artificial intelligence.
  • Research. Lawyers must have strong research abilities, as they’ll spend a vast amount of time looking up laws, gathering evidence, and investigating facts.

Steps to become a lawyer in North Carolina

Earn your bachelor’s degree

Before attending law school, you must earn your bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While specific majors or courses aren’t required for law school, you may seek out ones that provide some exposure to the field of law. 

Some common majors include:

  • English
  • Political science
  • Sociology
  • Philosophy
  • Communications
  • History

Take the LSAT

Your next step to becoming a lawyer in North Carolina is to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). 

This six-hour standardized test is required for admission to law school. It evaluates reading, verbal, and reasoning skills through multiple-choice questions and a writing sample.

The test is offered four times a year—in June, September, December, and February—in locations across North Carolina. You can register for your testing session beforehand through the Law School Admission Council.  

You’ll need a high enough LSAT score to be admitted to an accredited law school, and an even higher one will help with admission to more reputable schools. This means you should take the test seriously and study diligently for it. You can use the resources available on the LSAT website, and might consider an LSAT preparation course offered through educational institutions, like Queens University of Charlotte and North Carolina State University.

LSAT scores are graded on a scale of 120 to 180. If your score is low and you believe you can improve the second time, you may wish to retake the test. Some schools may accept the higher score, while others may average your scores.

Apply to law school

When choosing where to apply, your grades and LSAT score will be the most significant indicators of where you’re likely to gain admission. We’ve ranked the nation’s top law schools offering excellent education and networking opportunities.

You should also think about where you want to practice. It’s generally easier to find employment in the same geographic area as your school. So, if you’re going to become a lawyer in North Carolina, spend some time looking at ABA-accredited law schools in the state.

These include:

  • Duke University School of Law
  • Elon University School of Law
  • Wake Forest University School of Law
  • North Carolina Central University Law School
  • Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law

Finally, compare the costs of different schools, including the potential for grants, scholarships, or other financial aid.

To submit the actual applications, you must register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) that’s used by all law schools. Send your transcripts and letters of recommendation to CAS, which will forward them to the schools of your choice. You’ll also have to provide a personal statement, which is usually 500 words or less. 

Earn your law degree

Law school generally requires 90 course credits over three years. The first-year curriculum is relatively fixed from school to school, consisting of courses in broad legal areas such as torts, contracts, and civil procedure. 

You can take elective classes beginning in the second year, allowing you to gain exposure to your preferred field, whether that be family law, criminal law, or estate planning law. Also, seek out any courses or internships that will allow you to gain practical experience.

Pass the North Carolina Bar Exam

In your third year of law school, you will need to take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which assesses your understanding of professional conduct rules and responsibilities. 

You’ll then need to apply to take the North Carolina Bar Exam. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners mandates that you have a Juris Doctor degree before you sit for the bar exam (or graduate within 30 days of taking the exam). 

North Carolina administers the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which consists of multiple-choice and essay components. During the exam, which is offered in February and July, you’ll be tested on everything from civil procedure to taxation and torts.   

Once you’ve passed it, you can apply for admission to the bar and attend a swearing-in ceremony to become an officially licensed lawyer in North Carolina.

Every active North Carolina State Bar member who resides in the state must also be a member of the judicial district bar where they live or practice. Don’t worry—you’ll be automatically assigned to a local district bar based on your address (unless you request a reassignment to a different district in writing).

Gain work experience

An aspiring lawyer can start gaining work experience in law school through several ways, including:

  • Internships, clinics, and summer associate positions
  • Internships with judges, district attorneys, or public defenders 
  • A summer as a clerk or associate 

Many major law firms are in North Carolina—including Moore & Van Allen, McGuireWoods, and K&L Gates. North Carolina also has 13 Fortune 500 companies that hire in-house legal counsel roles, such as Bank of America and Sonic Automotive. This can all provide hands-on experience that’s hard to replicate elsewhere. 

The right legal software, such as Clio Manage, helps you keep track of files, court dates, and administrative tasks, so you can focus your time and energy on giving the best possible representation to your clients. 

In addition, you will need to be able to bring in clients effectively to build your business, especially with criminal defense clients who typically need help quickly. Onboard them efficiently from anywhere with cloud-based software designed to smooth the intake process, like Clio Grow.

Curious about specializing in practice areas? Check out our useful resource to learn what it takes to become a lawyer in other practices areas, such as:

Prioritize ongoing education

Ongoing education is key to being a successful lawyer in North Carolina.

You must complete 12 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) each year to keep your North Carolina license. Two hours must be in professional responsibility (including ethics and professional liability) and one hour in technology training. You’re also required to complete one hour of substance abuse and mental health awareness training every three years.

When it comes to advancing skills, North Carolina is also home to many legal organizations and bar associations offering a range of resources, education opportunities, and networking events to help lawyers take their careers to the next level. There’s also plenty of elective membership organizations for lawyers in North Carolina, such as North Carolina Advocates for Justice and North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys.

Average salary and job outlook for North Carolina lawyers

The average salary of a North Carolina lawyer $99,418. Of course, this will vary depending on education, experience, practice area, and location.

Final thoughts on how to become a lawyer in North Carolina

Becoming a lawyer in North Carolina requires at least seven years of education, rigorous exam preparation, and a mastery of numerous skills. Although the journey can feel daunting, the path has led many lawyers across North Carolina to pursue highly fulfilling careers.

If you’re looking for more resources and insights, be sure to sign up for our blog newsletter. You can also leverage Clio’s Academic Access Program, which provides gives students free access to Clio’s cloud-based practice management software in classroom settings.

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