The differences concerning the jurist world between the United States and Spain surpass the traditional differences between civil law and common law since we can also find a few differences in the process of becoming a lawyer.

In order to become a lawyer in the United States, you must meet many education and certification requirements.  After high school, it typically takes 7 years of continuous study.  The undergraduate degree, which usually takes 4 years to complete, can be obtained in any field, such as computer science, art, or biology.  Some of the highest scorers on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) concentrate their studies on mathematics, physics, or economics.  The most common fields of study, though, are English, history, philosophy, political science, and business.

The LSAT is the most important part of admissions into an ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law school, along with GPA and the personal statement.

Typically, in order to get into law school, you must take the LSAT but in some cases, the LSAT is not required.  For example, in order to get into Harvard University’s Law School, you can take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam).  The LSAT is a challenging exam that tests the necessary skills for the first year of law school, and it consists of three sections: reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and logic games.

Once you pass the LSAT you enter into Law School to get your Juris Doctor (JD) degree which will take at least three years to accomplish.  It is very important to be a summer associate in a firm after the second year of law school since it can lead to a job upon graduation and also helps law students learn which types of law they are interested in.

Finally, in order to practice law, you must earn your Juris Doctor degree and also pass the bar examination.  The bar examination gives you the ability to practice law in a specific jurisdiction, so if you want to practice law in Florida, you must pass the Florida bar.  It is recommended that you study for 400-600 hours in preparation for this examination. In addition, once you pass your bar examination you might be require continuing legal education every one to three years depending on the State.

On the other hand, the process to become a lawyer in Spain is nowadays more similar to the United States than we might expect, even if it is a little more standardized.  Prior to 2010, the only requirement in order to practice law was finishing the Law’s bachelor degree at a university that took five years, which you can get into as soon as you finished high school.

With the development of the Bologna Process that created the European Higher Education Area, the education system of all the signatories suffered a significant change.

The new framework established three cycles of higher education:

  • First cycle: Bachelor’s degree of three or four years.
  • Second cycle: Master’s degree of one or two years.
  • Third cycle: doctoral degree.

In the case of Spain, following this framework, to become a lawyer, it’s necessary to accomplish a Bachelor’s degree in law with a duration of four years and a Master’s degree in the practice of law that takes one and a half years (one year of theory and half of a year as an internship).

Once you finished the Master’s degree you had to pass the national exam of the practice of law, consistent in a test with a total of 75 questions where 50 questions are about common subjects related to law, and 25 are from a specific area selected by the examined. Like in the United States, one must be admitted to the Bar Association, but in contrast, it allows you to practice throughout the national territory of Spain.

In accordance to the American Bar Association there are approximately 1.200.000 active lawyers in the United States (0,36% of the total population). In Spain around 304.000 are registered in Bar Associations. So, as Charles Dickens said “If there were no bad people there would be no good lawyers”.

Catherine Forbes

Almudena Villalta García

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