How to Become a Lawyer in Iowa: Education Requirements, Law School Rankings, and CLE Requirements

Are you considering a career in law and seeking to learn how to become a lawyer in Iowa? With a growing legal market and a range of opportunities, pursuing a legal career in the Hawkeye State can be a wise choice. In this article, we will guide you through the process of how to become a lawyer in Iowa, covering everything from pre-law education to networking opportunities. Let’s embark on this exciting journey together!

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Pathway to becoming an attorney in Iowa includes pre-law education, LSAT assessment for admission into ABA accredited law schools and legal career opportunities.

  • Navigate the process of taking the Iowa State Bar Exam by submitting application meeting deadline with passing score and preparing effectively through bar exam preparation courses.

  • Admitted attorneys must complete CLE requirements annually including 15 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) with resources, providers, exemptions & reinstatement procedures detailed.

Pathway to Becoming an Attorney in Iowa

Begin your journey to becoming a lawyer in Iowa by following these steps:

  1. Earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school fully accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). This will ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the requisite subjects, such as constitutional law and criminal law, to pass the Iowa bar exam.

  2. After completing your J.D., take and pass the Iowa bar exam.

  3. Once you have passed the bar exam, you will need to complete Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit requirements to maintain your license.

Applying to an ABA-accredited law school in Iowa requires the following steps:

  1. Register with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

  2. Create an account for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

  3. Research and meet the specific requirements of each law school you are interested in.

Additionally, prioritizing attorney wellness is essential for ensuring a successful and healthy career.

Pre-Law Education in Iowa

Iowa does not mandate specific pre-law education, but earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an ABA-accredited law school is pivotal. For instance, to obtain a J.D. degree from Iowa Law School, students must complete 84 academic credits and four upper-class writing units.

During the first year at Iowa Law School, the course of study mainly consists of standard legal courses, with the option to select one elective during the spring semester. The second and third years offer a more flexible curriculum, largely comprised of legal clinics and electives, each worth a certain number of credit hours, including the credit hour system.

The American Bar Association (ABA) is the organization responsible for accrediting law schools in the United States.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The LSAT is a test that needs to be taken by aspiring lawyers who wish to attend an ABA-accredited law school in Iowa. This test is mandatory for admission into these educational institutions. With a fee of $190, the LSAT is administered at various centers across the state. The average LSAT score of applicants to the University of Iowa College of Law in 2017 was 156. This score was consistent with averages from previous years.

Securing a spot in a reputable law school in Iowa depends on a competitive LSAT score, which necessitates sufficient time and effort for preparation.

ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Iowa

Iowa is home to two ABA-accredited law schools: Drake University Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law. Drake University Law School, established in 1865, is located in Des Moines and provides quality legal education to its students. The school boasts a bar passage rate of approximately 81.5%. One unique offering at Drake is the First-Year Trial Practicum, which allows students to experience courtrooms directly by transitioning first-year courses to a courtroom for seven days.

The University of Iowa College of Law, situated in Iowa City, ranks 22nd in the Law School Ranking by U.S. News & World Report. Some key facts about the college include:

  • Bar passage rate of 98.32%

  • Average LSAT score for admission ranges from 157 to 163

  • Iowa Law’s Citizen Lawyer Program encourages students to promote public access to law and justice through community service and pro bono work.

Both law schools offer unique programs and learning experiences, catering to diverse interests and career goals. When choosing between these two ABA-accredited law schools in Iowa, consider factors such as:

  • Location

  • Curriculum

  • Campus culture

  • Available resources

This will ensure the best fit for your aspirations.

The legal job market in Iowa offers a range of opportunities for aspiring lawyers. Iowa is a great place for big business with three Fortune 500 companies based there. These include Principal Financial in Des Moines, Casey’s General Stores Corporate Headquarters in Ankeny, and Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. Additionally, other Iowa-based companies such as Thomas R. Cardella & Associates, Clickstop, Inc., Hybrid Transit Systems, Inc., and Mindstream Media are known to hire lawyers.

Sullivan & Ward, PC is a renowned law firm situated in West Des Moines, Iowa. It specializes in a variety of practice areas. Hudson, Mallaney, Shindler & Anderson, PC is another renowned law firm based in West Des Moines, Iowa. Its main focus is on divorce law. Bradley & Riley, PC is a multi-practice law firm located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lane & Waterman LLP is another law firm with presence in Iowa City. It is renowned for its expertise in medical malpractice law. As you embark on your legal career in Iowa, consider exploring these diverse opportunities to find the perfect fit for your interests and expertise.

Navigating the Iowa State Bar Exam

Before becoming a licensed attorney in Iowa, you must first pass the Iowa bar exam, which consists of the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and Multistate Bar Examination (MBE).

Next, we cover the application process and offer preparation tips to aid your success in the Iowa State Bar Exam.

Application Process

Submitting an application for the Iowa State Bar Exam should be done before the stipulated deadline, typically a few months ahead of the exam date. Your application should demonstrate your honesty, integrity, and reliability.

The exam is a two-day examination consisting of Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions and Multistate Essay (MEE) questions. The lowest score necessary for admittance to the Iowa Bar is 266 out of 400.

Preparing for the Exam

Preparation for the Iowa State Bar Exam can be aided by enrolling in reputable bar exam preparation courses like Crushendo, Barbri, or Themis. These courses provide useful resources and study materials, including practice exams, outlines, lectures, and more, to help you pass the exam.

Additionally, you can practice with sample questions and review exam topics to further increase your chances of success.

Post-Bar Admission Requirements

Passing the Iowa State Bar Exam is followed by additional requirements before you can commence practicing law in Iowa. The basic skills course is one such requirement, consisting of eight hours of instruction time during normal business hours and covering at least eight topic areas, with one hour dedicated to legal ethics.

Moreover, new lawyers in Iowa must complete 15 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) annually to meet the Iowa CLE requirements, including 2 hours of ethics courses every 2 years. These requirements ensure that newly admitted attorneys remain up-to-date with the latest legal developments and maintain a high standard of professionalism in their practice.

Iowa attorneys and judges are required to complete a minimum of 15 hours of Continuing Legal Education accredited by the Commission each calendar year. Additionally, active Iowa lawyers must submit two annual reports: an annual CLE report and a Client Security report. Attorneys report annually, with the self report completion and fees to be submitted by March 10.

Next, we will detail CLE resources, providers, exemptions, and reinstatement procedures.

CLE Resources and Providers

There are several reputable CLE resources and providers available in Iowa, such as:

  • The Iowa Courts website

  • LexVid

  • The American Bar Association

  • Lorman



These providers offer a variety of courses to help attorneys fulfill their CLE requirements and stay current with the latest legal developments.

CLE Exemptions and Reinstatement

Inactive or retired attorneys in Iowa may be exempt from CLE reporting requirements. However, upon obtaining a certificate of exemption, an attorney must adhere to Iowa Court Rule 39.7 and refrain from engaging in the practice of law in the State of Iowa.

To request instructions on the steps to reinstate an inactive or exempt attorney license, log in to the Office of Professional Regulation website and click on “Request Reinstatement Instructions” under General Functions.

Choosing the Right Law School in Iowa

Choosing an appropriate law school in Iowa plays a significant role in shaping a successful legal career. To make an informed decision, consider factors such as:

  • Location

  • Curriculum

  • Campus culture

  • Available resources

Both the University of Iowa College of Law and Drake University Law School offer unique programs and learning experiences, catering to diverse interests and career goals.

Additionally, take into account the admission requirements for each law school, including the necessary GPA and LSAT scores. By carefully weighing these factors, you can choose the law school that best aligns with your personal and professional aspirations.

Networking and Professional Development in Iowa

A variety of networking events and resources are available for attorneys in Iowa, including the Iowa State Bar Association’s annual meeting along with events hosted by local bar associations. These events provide excellent opportunities to connect with fellow legal professionals, share insights, and stay informed about the latest developments in the legal field.

In addition to networking events, Iowa attorneys can benefit from professional development opportunities, including CLE courses, seminars, and conferences. These programs allow attorneys to expand their knowledge, enhance their skills, and advance in their careers. By actively participating in networking and professional development events, you can build a strong foundation for a successful legal career in Iowa.


Becoming a lawyer in Iowa is an exciting and rewarding journey. From obtaining a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at an ABA-accredited law school to passing the Iowa State Bar Exam, the path to a legal career in Iowa offers numerous opportunities for growth and success. By carefully selecting the right law school, engaging in networking and professional development activities, and staying current with Continuing Legal Education requirements, you can establish a thriving legal career in the Hawkeye State.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is law school at Iowa?

Iowa State University’s 3+3 Program allows students to earn their undergraduate and law degree in six years, as opposed to the usual seven. Drake Law School has been providing legal education since 1865 and offers guaranteed scholarships for qualified students.

Do you have to go to law school to be a lawyer in Iowa?

Yes, to be a lawyer in Iowa, you must graduate from an ABA-accredited law school.

Is there a shortage of lawyers in Iowa?

Iowa is facing a shortage of lawyers due to low pay, causing an increase in court continuances and backlogs. This trend has been seen across the state for some time.

Is 50 too late to become a lawyer?

Although the average age of law students is 25 or younger, roughly 20% of law students are 30 or older. Therefore, 50 is not too late to pursue a career in law.

What do you need to be a lawyer in Iowa?

To become a lawyer in Iowa, you need to obtain an undergraduate pre-law education, take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), go to law school in Iowa, and pass the Iowa State Bar Exam. Once admitted, you can practice law in Iowa.

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