How to Become a Lawyer in Washington State: Education Requirements and Top Law Schools

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a lawyer in the picturesque and ever-growing state of Washington? With its robust legal community and diverse opportunities, Washington presents an ideal location to pursue a legal career. This comprehensive guide on how to become a lawyer in Washington State will walk you through the necessary steps, from undergraduate education to passing the bar exam, and even explore alternative routes to practicing law. Let’s embark on this exciting journey to becoming a Washington State attorney.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Becoming a Washington State Attorney requires an undergraduate degree, passing the LSAT and Bar Exam, plus completing continuing legal education courses.

  • The state offers three ABA-accredited law schools with competitive acceptance rates and job outlooks for lawyers that are promising with median salaries of $130K per year.

  • Financial aid opportunities exist as well as alternative routes to practicing law such as apprenticeships or the four-year program offered by WSB. Applicants must demonstrate good moral character in order to be admitted.

Path to Becoming a Washington State Attorney

Embarking on a legal career in Washington State requires dedication, focus, and perseverance. The path to becoming an attorney includes three main steps: earning an undergraduate degree, taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and passing the Washington State Bar Exam. Graduation from an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school is paramount as Washington adheres to the highest ranked law school rule. Becoming a lawyer in Washington State can lead to opportunities such as working with the Washington Supreme Court.

To maintain a law license in Washington, lawyers must complete 45 credit hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses, including 6 hours in ethics and 15 hours in law and legal procedures. The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) also offers practice management resources, networking assistance, and discounts/benefits to its members. With the right education and commitment, you can excel as a lawyer in the Evergreen State.

Undergraduate Education

Although the Washington State Bar Association does not mandate a specific undergraduate education to become a lawyer, a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is crucial for law school admission. The ABA recommends engaging in stimulating and challenging coursework to prepare for law school. Many pre-law students choose courses of study related to law. Examples include:

  • Criminal justice

  • Political science

  • Philosophy

  • Business

  • Economics

  • Sociology

  • Psychology

  • History

  • World cultures

A strong undergraduate foundation can serve as a launchpad for your legal education and obtaining a law degree, setting the stage for a successful career.

Securing a Bachelor’s degree in any field meets the requirement for admission to an ABA-accredited law school, where you will pursue a Juris Doctor (JD) degree in Washington State. Keep in mind that the law school you attend can significantly impact your career prospects, hence the importance of selecting a reputable institution that matches your aspirations.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The LSAT, administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), is a standardized test designed to evaluate applicants’ aptitude for legal study. Law schools in Washington and across the country use LSAT scores to assess the potential success of prospective students.

Scoring competitively on the LSAT, achieved by thorough preparation, is a decisive step in the admission process for ABA-accredited law schools.

Washington State Bar Exam

Passing the Washington State Bar Exam is a significant milestone for aspiring lawyers in Washington State. To apply, you must file an online application and pay a fee of $585. The bar exam consists of the Multi-state Bar Examination (MBE), the Multi-state Essay Examination (MEE), and the Multi-state Performance Test (MPT). Washington State uses the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) for testing. It offers this examination to all law school graduates looking to become licensed as attorneys. In 2017, the overall success rate for the Washington State Bar Exam was 79%.

Free study aids for the MBE, MPT, and MEE can be found on the National Conference of Bar Examiners website. Thorough preparation and practice will increase your chances of passing the bar exam and ultimately becoming a licensed attorney in Washington State.

Top ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Washington

There are three ABA-accredited law schools in Washington State – the University of Washington School of Law, Gonzaga University School of Law, and Seattle University School of Law. Each institution offers unique programs and opportunities for aspiring lawyers, providing a strong foundation for a successful legal career in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s time to delve into the specifics of these top law schools.

University of Washington School of Law

Ranked #49 by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Washington School of Law boasts an impressive bar passage rate of 85.7 percent. Located in Seattle, the school offers an extensive range of degree programs, including:

  • Asian law

  • Global business law

  • Comparative law

  • Environmental law

  • Public service law

The Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library serves as the school’s law library, providing students with an invaluable resource for research and study.

Applications for the University of Washington School of Law must be submitted by March 15, with an acceptance rate of 26.4 percent. Some key details about the school include:

  • In-state tuition is $35,988

  • The student-faculty ratio is 5.4 to 1

  • This highly-ranked law school offers a comprehensive legal education in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

Gonzaga University School of Law

Located in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga University School of Law holds a ranking of 117. The school offers many degree programs, including Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Laws (LLM), and Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degrees.

Known for its dedication to social justice and community engagement, Gonzaga’s law program prepares students to become ethical, compassionate, and skilled legal professionals.

Seattle University School of Law

Seattle University School of Law, situated in the heart of Seattle’s legal and business community near the Puget Sound School area, offers innovative legal education to its students. The school offers several degree programs at the graduate level, such as a Juris Doctor, Master of Laws, and Master of Studies in Law. These options can help students further their education in the legal field. The school’s primary emphasis is on equipping students with the skills to become reliable advocates for justice.

On average, graduates of Seattle University School of Law carry a debt burden of $235,798, with a total cost of attendance of $70,564. Despite the cost, the school is well-regarded in the Pacific Northwest, boasting the most alumni recognized as Super Lawyers or Rising Stars. Pursuing a legal education at Seattle University School of Law can provide a solid foundation for a rewarding legal career.

A multitude of legal career opportunities await in Washington State, ranging from Legal Office Assistants and Attorneys to positions within companies and organizations. You can find job listings on websites such as,, and

With a favorable job outlook and competitive salaries, Washington State offers a thriving environment for legal professionals to grow and succeed.

Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

The job outlook for lawyers in Washington State is promising, with an anticipated growth rate of 8.2% from 2019 to 2029. The median salary for lawyers in Washington State is $130,000 per annum.

With a thriving legal community and diverse career opportunities, the Evergreen State is an attractive destination for aspiring attorneys.

Networking and Professional Development

Networking and professional development are invaluable tools for lawyers in Washington State. Networking allows attorneys to:

  • Build genuine relationships

  • Generate referral opportunities

  • Attract business prospects

  • Gain guidance and knowledge

  • Enhance their brand and credibility.

Professional development helps lawyers in the following ways:

  • Stay current with legal trends

  • Acquire new skills and knowledge

  • Grow connections with other professionals in the field

  • Increase competitiveness in the job market

  • Increase chances of success

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Aspiring Lawyers

Various financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available for aspiring lawyers in Washington State, including federal and state grants, scholarships from law schools, and private scholarships. To apply for financial aid and scholarships, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, contact the financial aid office at the law school you plan to attend for further information.

Resources such as Fastweb, FinAid, the American Bar Association, and the National Association for Law Placement can also provide information on financial aid and scholarships.

Alternative Routes to Practicing Law in Washington

While attending law school is the traditional route to practicing law in Washington State, several alternative paths exist for those who may not have the opportunity to attend law school. One option is the four-year alternative program offered by the Washington State Bar Association, which allows individuals to become licensed attorneys without attending law school by completing a four-year apprenticeship with a licensed attorney, passing the Washington State Bar Exam, and completing various courses and exams.

Another alternative route is the Legal Technician Program, which enables individuals to practice family law without attending law school by completing a series of courses and examinations, and passing the Washington State Bar Examination. Legal apprenticeship, also known as “reading the law,” allows individuals to acquire a license to practice law without attending law school through a four-year apprenticeship with a licensed attorney, passing the Washington State Bar Exam, and completing a set of courses and exams.

These alternative routes provide opportunities for individuals to enter the legal profession without the traditional law school experience.

Ethics and Good Moral Character Requirements

Fulfilling the requirements of ethics and good moral character is an obligatory step to become a lawyer in Washington State. Good moral character is defined as a record of conduct demonstrating qualities such as honesty, fairness, candor, trustworthiness, and adherence to the law. To demonstrate good moral character, submit an application to the Washington State Bar Association, which includes a character and fitness questionnaire, signed by the applicant, and supported by documents such as letters of recommendation and a criminal background check.

Failure to meet the good moral character requirements may result in denial of admission to the bar.

Practical Experience and Externships

Obtaining practical experience and participating in externships significantly contribute to a comprehensive legal education for law students in Washington State. Opportunities to gain hands-on experience include working in a law firm, a government office, or a non-profit organization. These experiences not only provide firsthand exposure to the legal field but also allow students to forge connections with legal practitioners and refine their legal skills.

To participate in a practical experience or externship, law students must meet the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in an accredited law school

  • Have completed at least one year of law school

  • Have achieved a minimum GPA of 2.0

  • Have passed the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

Practical experience and externships offer invaluable opportunities for students to develop their legal abilities and gain a deeper understanding of the legal system.


In conclusion, the journey to becoming a lawyer in Washington State involves a series of crucial steps, including undergraduate education, the LSAT, attending law school, and passing the bar exam. Washington offers several top-ranked law schools, diverse legal career opportunities, and alternative routes for those who may not have the chance to attend law school. By embracing networking and professional development, aspiring lawyers can also forge connections and enhance their skills. With dedication, focus, and perseverance, you can make your dream of becoming a lawyer in Washington State a reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a law degree in Washington?

A law degree in Washington typically takes three academic years for full-time students, and up to four academic years for part-time students. LL.M. students may complete the degree requirements in one academic year and certain programs offer accelerated options.

Can I become a lawyer in Washington state without law school?

You can become a lawyer in Washington state without law school through the Law Clerk Program, which is approved under APR 6. This is a four-year program providing educational and practical experience with an experienced lawyer or judge.

What is required to be a lawyer in Washington state?

To be a lawyer in Washington State, you must have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school with a Juris Doctor degree, or completed the Washington Supreme Court APR 6 Law Clerk Program, and establish that you possess good moral character and the requisite fitness to practice law.

What is the process for applying to take the Washington State Bar Exam?

To take the Washington State Bar Exam, you must file an online application and pay a fee of $585.

What are the undergraduate education requirements for law school admission in Washington State?

Law school admission in Washington State requires a Bachelor’s degree accredited by a recognized agency listed in the U.S. Department of Education database.

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