Becoming a lawyer is a serious commitment that requires a lot of time and dedication. Whether you want to help people who have been in car accidents or become a criminal defense lawyer, you’ll have to take the bar exam at some point. 

In New York, you’ll typically need a Juris Doctor (JD) before you are allowed to take the bar exam. This will require enrollment in an accredited law school that takes roughly three years to complete. Before you enroll, it’s important to understand how the total length of time ultimately depends on your career path.

Law Degree 101

Almost every accredited law school in the United States requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. This degree can usually be in any subject and is generally obtained after four years of undergraduate study at an accredited college or university.


Enrolling in law school isn’t as simple as signing up. You must go through an admissions process. Traditionally, this has included taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This test can be completed at a designated testing center and usually takes about half a day to complete.

The LSAT is designed to test the applicant’s proficiency in several categories, including:

  • Critical thinking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Reasoning
  • Writing

The test measures the applicant’s abilities against what is required to successfully complete the first year of law school.

Degree Options

The overall length of time a student spends in law school is ultimately dependent on the degree they are trying to obtain. Credits and curriculums tend to fluctuate between schools, so it is important to research the program you are considering attending prior to enrolling to make sure it is actually a good fit.

Here are some of the most popular law school degrees:

Juris Doctor

A JD satisfies the ABA requirements for the bar exam and affords holders the ability to practice in a variety of fields, including:

  • Personal Injury law
  • Intellectual Property law
  • Tax law
  • Elder law
  • Criminal law
  • Commercial law
  • Family law

Obtaining a JD typically takes two to three years, but can take longer depending on your circumstances or the program you choose.

A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree provides individuals with an expansive knowledge of state, federal, and constitutional laws. These degrees are ideal for people who want to work in any of the following legal professions:

  • Compliance director
  • Court administrator
  • Paralegal
  • Discovery specialist
  • Trial consultant

An MLS degree can typically be obtained after 12 to 16 months of study. Unlike other options, this degree does not require passing a state bar exam.

Master of Laws

Some licensed attorneys go for a Master of Laws (LLM) degree, which allows them to focus their attention on a specialized area of the law, including:

  • Family law
  • Intellectual property
  • Immigration
  • Environmental law
  • Administrative law

An LLM degree typically takes about 12 months to complete, following the completion of a JD degree.

Master of Dispute Resolution

A Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) degree is designed to help students optimize their negotiation tactics. This is ideal for individuals moving into conflict-oriented fields that require a professional adept at resolutions and negotiations, such as:

  • Arbitrator
  • Mediator
  • Financial services conciliator
  • Labor relations specialist

An MDR degree usually takes 16 to 28 months to complete.

Doctor of Juridical Science

Individuals who have earned their JD and LL.M degrees can apply for the more intellectually rigorous Doctor of Judicial Science (SJD) degree. This is an upper-level degree designed for teaching academics and scholars. It typically takes three to four years to complete.

Finding the Right Degree Option for You

The number of years it takes to complete law school depends on which program you choose. When it comes to determining which degree is best for you, the decision generally comes down to your career goals. Whichever path you take in law, with commitment and determination, you can successfully earn your degree.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in New York City

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City personal injury lawyers at Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007