How to Become a Lawyer in Virginia: Education Requirements, Law Schools, and Salaries

Have you ever dreamed of embarking on a prestigious legal career in the birthplace of the United States? Virginia, with its rich legal history, is the perfect place to start your journey. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps on how to become a lawyer in Virginia, from obtaining your undergraduate degree to passing the Virginia State Bar Exam and beyond.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Become an attorney in Virginia by obtaining a pre-law undergraduate degree, preparing for the LSAT and navigating law schools to obtain a J.D., passing the state bar exam, launching your legal career with networking and job search strategies, and enhancing salary potential through specialization & continuing education.

Path to Becoming an Attorney in Virginia

The path to becoming an attorney in Virginia begins with obtaining an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. Virginia adheres to the American Bar Association (ABA) regulations, which means that there are no specific undergraduate major requirements for pre-law school admission. This flexibility allows students to pursue joint degrees or concentrations in various fields, such as:

  • Arts

  • Political science

  • History

  • Economics

After completing your undergraduate degree, the next step is to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized test that evaluates your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning abilities. To apply to law schools, you will also need to utilize the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which helps organize and compile transcripts, letters of recommendation, and evaluations for law school applications at a cost of $195.

Upon gaining admission to one of Virginia’s ABA-accredited law schools, you will embark on a full-time program to obtain your Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. The J.D. program in Virginia requires a minimum of 58,000 minutes of class time (equivalent to 83 semester hours or 129 quarter hours of credit) and must be completed within 84 months. Acquiring hands-on experience through internships and legal clinics during law school significantly contributes to your future as a lawyer.

Virginia’s legal profession is steeped in history, boasting numerous Founding Fathers and Supreme Court justices among its ranks. The state offers excellent career prospects for lawyers, with a mean annual salary of $162,640. In the Charlottesville area, the average annual salary for lawyers is $154,790. Moreover, Virginia’s legal system is diverse, with a range of courts and specialties available for aspiring attorneys to explore.

In the competitive legal landscape of Virginia, carving a niche in areas like:

  • personal injury

  • civil and criminal trial advocacy

  • crime prevention

  • bankruptcy

  • creditors’ rights

is beneficial. By specializing in a particular field, you can position yourself as an expert and potentially increase your earning potential.

Pursuing a Pre-Law Undergraduate Degree in Virginia

At the onset of your journey towards a legal career in Virginia, the selection of a suitable undergraduate program becomes paramount. While the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners does not require any specific undergraduate degree for attending law school, it is essential to choose a program that will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills for success in law school.

Virginia offers a variety of pre-law majors, such as:

  • Political science

  • History

  • Philosophy

  • Economics

Many universities also provide pre-law advisors who can guide you in selecting courses and majors to prepare for law school. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from these advisors, as they can help you make informed decisions about your academic path.

Preparing for the LSAT in Virginia

In your pursuit of becoming an attorney in Virginia, LSAT preparation marks a significant milestone. The test is offered during administrations in November, January, March, June, and July. The fee for taking the LSAT in Virginia is $160, and alternative test dates are available for those who observe the Sabbath on Saturdays.

Virginia offers several resources to help you prepare for the LSAT. You can find LSAT preparation courses and workshops throughout the state, and the LSAT website offers a variety of free resources.

Investing considerable time for LSAT preparation and skill development is pivotal, as it greatly influences your prospects of securing admission in a top law school.

Navigating Virginia Law Schools

Virginia is home to several prestigious law schools, including:

  • University of Virginia’s School of Law

  • Regent University Law School

  • University of Richmond’s law school

  • Washington and Lee University School of Law

  • Liberty University School of Law

  • William & Mary Law School

  • George Mason University School of Law (Antonin Scalia Law School)

  • Appalachian School of Law

These institutions offer a wide array of programs, joint degrees, and opportunities for community service, ensuring that you receive a well-rounded legal education.

When selecting a law school, consider factors such as:

  • National rankings

  • Tuition fees

  • Location

  • Available programs

The national rankings of Virginia’s top law schools vary, with the University of Virginia’s School of Law ranked 8th, while others like Regent University Law School and Appalachian School of Law rank between 146-192. These rankings can provide insight into the quality of education and reputation of each institution.

While studying at one of Virginia’s esteemed law schools, be sure to take advantage of the following opportunities:

  • Networking events and organizations to build connections within the legal community

  • Legal clinics to gain practical experience

  • Internships to further develop your skills and knowledge

These experiences will undoubtedly prove invaluable as you launch your legal career in Virginia.

Obtaining a Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degree

Earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from an ABA-accredited law school in Virginia is a prerequisite for becoming a lawyer in the state. The J.D. degree is a professional degree representing the highest level of education available in the field of law. It is not only a prerequisite for admission to the Virginia State Bar but also for accessing higher-level positions in the legal profession.

To obtain a J.D. degree, you must:

  • Complete an undergraduate degree

  • Take the LSAT

  • Apply to law school

  • Finish the J.D. program at an accredited institution

Once you have completed your J.D. degree, you are one step closer to fulfilling your dream of becoming a lawyer in Virginia.

Tackling the Virginia State Bar Exam

After completing your J.D. degree, it’s time to tackle the Virginia State Bar Exam. To be eligible for the exam, you must:

  • Have a J.D. degree from an accredited law school

  • Successfully pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)

  • Complete the Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course

The exam is conducted twice a year; in February and July. The test is administered in both Roanoke and Norfolk. The initial administration fee for the exam is $475, payable via cashier’s check, certified check, or money order.

Equipping yourself for the Virginia State Bar Exam is a key factor in your legal career success. There are numerous resources available, including bar preparation courses, free materials, and workshops. Dedicate ample time to studying and familiarizing yourself with the exam format, as passing the bar exam is a critical milestone in your legal career.

With your J.D. degree and successful bar exam results in hand, you are now ready to launch your legal career in Virginia. The state’s job market for lawyers is competitive, offering highly remunerative positions with an average salary of $87,777 per annum. There are various job openings available, with over 370 lawyer jobs currently listed in Virginia, and the Virginia Bar Association provides a legal career center where job seekers can locate opportunities.

To succeed in your job search, consider networking opportunities, job search strategies, and professional development. Attend events hosted by the Virginia Bar Association and local legal organizations to build connections within the legal community. Additionally, researching prominent law firms and nonprofit organizations that provide legal assistance in Virginia can help you identify potential employers.

When seeking job opportunities, don’t forget to explore Virginia’s Fortune 500 companies, such as:

  • Freddie Mac

  • Dollar Tree

  • WestRock

  • Capital One Financial

These organizations often require legal counsel, providing a unique and rewarding career path for lawyers in Virginia.

As you advance in your legal profession, contemplating strategies to boost your salary potential in Virginia becomes essential. Some strategies to consider include:

  • Specialization: By specializing in a particular field, you can position yourself as an expert in that area and potentially increase your earning potential.

  • Continuing education: Pursuing additional certifications or advanced degrees can demonstrate your commitment to professional development and may lead to higher-paying opportunities.

  • Career advancement opportunities: Seeking out promotions or leadership roles within your organization can result in salary increases.

By implementing these strategies, you can work towards maximizing your earnings in the legal profession in Virginia.

Additionally, attorneys can work longer billable hours to become a partner or shareholder with their firm, or pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree, which could provide additional work opportunities.

To determine if you are being remunerated equitably, you can visit Indeed’s Salary Calculator to obtain a free, customized pay range based on your location, industry, and experience.


In conclusion, Virginia offers a wealth of opportunities for aspiring lawyers, from top-ranked law schools to a thriving legal market. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can embark on a prestigious legal career in the birthplace of the United States. Remember the importance of networking, specialization, and continuing education to enhance your legal salary potential and secure a rewarding career in the legal profession.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an attorney in Virginia?

In Virginia, it takes three years to become an attorney due to the requirement of 40 weeks of study each year, including a minimum of 25 hours of study each week. 18 of those hours must be completed in a supervising attorney’s office.

Can I become a lawyer in Virginia without law school?

Yes, you can become a lawyer in Virginia without law school if you are eligible for the Law Reader Program. This requires having a bachelor’s degree and being supervised by an attorney, as well as studying at a law office for 25 hours each week for 40 weeks each year. Additionally, only four states allow you to take the bar examination without completing law school, with Virginia being one of them.

What do I need to become a lawyer in Virginia?

To become a lawyer in Virginia, you must finish your undergraduate pre-law education, take the LSAT, attend law school in the state, and pass the Virginia Bar Exam. After passing the exam, you must submit evidence of a scaled score of 85 or higher to the Board.

What undergraduate majors are suitable for pre-law students in Virginia?

For pre-law students in Virginia, majors such as political science, history, philosophy, and economics are suitable options.

How much does it cost to take the LSAT in Virginia?

The cost of taking the LSAT in Virginia is $160.

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