Texas boasts a robust legal industry—which isn’t too surprising considering it’s the second-largest state in size and population. Across the state, aspiring lawyers will discover opportunities across many legal practice areas, from immigration law to real estate law and corporate counsel.
Today, Texas is home to some 95,000 lawyers. The state also has one of the fastest-growing lawyer populations—seeing 18% growth over the past decade. If you’re curious about how to become a lawyer in Texas, read our step-by-step guide that covers the education requirements, skills required, and more.
What does a lawyer do?
Lawyers are licensed professionals who provide legal advice and help clients resolve issues. Daily responsibilities depend on their work environment and practice area. But generally speaking, lawyers research cases, defend clients in court, prepare documents like motions and briefs, resolve disputes, and advise clients on legal matters.
Steps to become a lawyer in Texas
It takes about seven to eight years to become a lawyer in Texas. Below, we’ll provide a closer look at how to become a lawyer in Texas.
1. Obtain your bachelor’s degree
Like all legal fields, the first step in your legal education journey is to earn your bachelor’s degree. Attending a school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) is mandatory to become a lawyer in Texas. While there aren’t any specific undergraduate degree requirements for law school, studying in an area related to the field is beneficial. Liberal arts degrees are popular choices among aspiring lawyers for this very reason.
Common majors include:
- Political science
Coursework in these areas helps sharpen skills that are essential for future lawyers, including critical thinking, written and oral communication, and problem-solving.
As you reach the end of your degree and determine that law school is right for you, you’ll need to take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Through multiple-choice questions and a written essay, this half-day standardized test measures your reading comprehension, reasoning, and writing. It’s graded on a scale of 120 to 180.
Ideally, you should take the LSAT at least eight months before enrolling in law school. You can search for locations and register for the test on the Law School Admission Council website. An LSAT preparation course can be immensely helpful. These can be found at universities across the state, like Texas Tech University and Texas State University.
Along with your LSAT score, your GPA is a significant factor that will influence which law school you get into. Schools will also look at other elements of your application, like community involvement, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.
Can you become a lawyer in Texas without taking the bar exam?
In order to practice law in Texas, you must be admitted to the bar and pass the Texas Bar Examination.
2. Earn your law degree
To become a lawyer in Texas, your next step is to begin a three-year Juris Doctor (JD) degree at one of the nearly 200 ABA-accredited law schools.
As indicated by the Texas Board of Law Examiners, attending an ABA-accredited law school in the United States is mandatory if you wish to gain admission to the bar. Here’s our law schools rankings outlining the nation’s top institutions for prospective students. You don’t have to attend law school in Texas, but many lawyers find it useful to study law in the state they intend to practice in.
Texas is home to many ABA-accredited law schools, including:
- University of Texas at Austin School of Law
- Texas A&M University School of Law
- South Texas College of Law
- University of Houston Law Center
- Southern Methodist University: Dedman School of Law
After you’ve enrolled in an ABA-approved law school, you’ll need to file the Declaration of Intent to Study Law with the Texas Board of Law Examiners. To do this, you must:
- Submit an electronic application and pay a $190 filing fee
- Send the Texas Board of Law Examiners documentation through third parties
- Perform an FBI fingerprint check
This can all be done on the ATLAS electronic system of the Texas Board of Law Examiners website.
Your first year of law school will focus on foundational topics, from constitutional law to civil procedure. You can begin to specialize in the area of law you’re passionate about in your second and third years.
If you’re not sure which area that is yet, take our quiz to discover potential future paths. Volunteer opportunities, internships, and clinics can also help you gain practical experience to determine the best fit for you.
3. Take the Texas Bar Exam
To practice law in Texas, you must be admitted to the bar and pass the bar examination. The exam tests a range of legal knowledge and skills. In Texas, the format consists of four sections:
- Procedure/evidence exam
- Multi-state bar exam
- Multi-state performance test
- Texas essay exam
Bar exams are known to be thorough and challenging—and Texas is no exception. The February 2023 Texas Bar Exam had a pass rate of only 44.6%. So, carve out time to start studying early—and even better, take a bar preparation course if you can.
You can take this test in February and July at testing sites on university campuses throughout the state in cities such as Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. Visit the Law School Admission Council website to find a location and register for your test.
You’ll also need to undergo a character and fitness review, which the Texas Board of Law Examiners conducts. Once you’ve passed the exam and assessments, you’ll be sworn into the State Bar of Texas, becoming one of the roughly 3,000 new lawyers in the state each year.
Connect with potential clients
After obtaining your law degree and passing the bar, you can start practicing law in Texas. That means it’s time to land your ideal job and start finding clients.
Based on your career aspirations, you may start your own solo practice, join a small or large firm, or find work at a non-profit or government agency. Professional organizations, like the Texas Young Lawyers Association, can be valuable, especially as they host conferences and events that bring together lawyers and potential clients.
As your hard work pays off and you take on more cases, you’ll quickly find that legal technologies can make your life significantly easier. Clio Grow, for example, helps lawyers simplify the intake process through customized forms and the ability to easily onboard clients from anywhere.
Interested in learning more about how to become a lawyer in a specialized area? Be sure to read our hub for more resources.
Continue your education to stay compliant
Within the first year of being admitted, you’ll need to complete a four-hour course called “The Guide to the Basics of Law Practice.” It’s administered through the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism.
The State Bar of Texas also requires that members complete at least 15 hours of continuing education each year to maintain their license. In particular, three hours per year should be spent on legal ethics.
Average salary of Texas lawyers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers in Texas make an average salary of $166,620. Wages, however, vary based on factors like geographic location and experience level. For instance, the average salary of lawyers in the Midland area jumps to $182,870.
Final notes on becoming a lawyer in Texas
The path to becoming a lawyer in Texas can be challenging. From navigating seven years of school to the demands of the Texas Bar Exam, it requires commitment and hard work. Even so, legal professionals find that Texas is a dynamic and enriching environment to embark on their legal journey, making it well worth the time and effort.
Looking to set yourself up for success in your academic pursuits? Clio’s Academic Access Program helps participants get hands-on experience in different areas of case management—and offers law and paralegal students, instructors, and legal clinics free access to Clio’s industry-leading legal practice management and client intake software.