Law School Grad? Know Your Official Title Now!

when you graduate law school what is your title

Congratulations on graduating from law school! As you embark on your legal career, it’s important to understand the official title you can use after earning your degree. The title you receive ultimately depends on the type of law degree you achieve.

In the United States, the most common law degree is the Juris Doctor (J.D.), which is a three-year professional degree. When you earn a J.D., you are officially recognized as a “Doctor.” However, outside of academic settings, it is rare for lawyers to use the title “Doctor” as it can be misleading and pretentious to clients. Instead, most lawyers prefer to use the title “Esquire” (Esq.) after passing the bar exam and being admitted to practice law.

It’s essential to note that the use of titles can vary among jurisdictions and professional settings. Understanding the appropriate title for your career stage is crucial for building your professional reputation.

Key Takeaways:

  • After graduating from law school, your official title depends on the degree you earn.
  • The most common law degree in the US is the Juris Doctor (J.D.), which confers the title of “Doctor,” but it’s rarely used outside of academia.
  • Lawyers typically use the title “Esquire” (Esq.) after passing the bar exam and being admitted to practice law.
  • The use of titles can vary among jurisdictions and professional settings.
  • Understanding the appropriate title for your career stage is important for building your professional reputation.

The Difference Between J.D. and Esq.

The legal field has its own unique terminology and designations. Understanding the difference between various titles is essential for anyone considering a career in law. In this section, we will explore the distinctions between two common terms: J.D. and Esq.

What is a J.D.?

J.D. stands for Juris Doctor, which is a graduate degree that individuals obtain after completing law school. It is the foundational degree required to become a lawyer in the United States. Think of the J.D. as the educational qualification that signifies successful completion of law school.

  • J.D. is an abbreviation for Juris Doctor.
  • It is a graduate degree earned after completing law school.
  • Obtaining a J.D. is a crucial step towards becoming a lawyer.

What is Esq.?

Esq. is an honorific title used by individuals who have passed the bar exam and have been admitted to practice law. Unlike J.D., Esq. is not an academic degree but rather a professional title. It is a way to address and identify lawyers in a formal or respectful manner.

  • Esq. is an honorific title used by practicing lawyers.
  • It is earned by passing the bar exam and being admitted to the bar.
  • Esq. is used to address lawyers formally or to acknowledge their legal expertise.

The Difference:

The key difference between J.D. and Esq. lies in their nature. J.D. represents the academic qualification obtained after completing law school, while Esq. is a professional title given to lawyers who have passed the bar exam and are actively practicing law.

While some people may use these terms interchangeably, it’s important to recognize that they serve different purposes and represent different stages in a legal career. Achieving a J.D. is the first step towards becoming a lawyer, while being recognized as Esq. signifies that one has successfully met the requirements for professional practice.

J.D. Esq.
Academic degree Professional title
Earned after completing law school Obtained after passing the bar exam and being admitted to practice law
Represents foundational legal education Signifies the ability to practice law

What Can You Call Yourself Before Passing the Bar?

If you have graduated from law school but have not yet passed the bar exam, you may be wondering what titles or designations you can use to represent your current status. It’s important to know that there are specific guidelines and regulations that vary depending on your jurisdiction. While you cannot hold yourself out as a lawyer or attorney before being admitted to the bar, there are appropriate ways to describe your situation.

Here are some examples of what you can call yourself before passing the bar:

  • Recent law school graduate: This title accurately portrays your recent accomplishment of completing law school and reflects your current status as you prepare for the bar exam.
  • In the process of becoming an attorney: This description highlights your ongoing journey to attaining your professional goal and emphasizes your commitment to becoming a licensed lawyer.
  • Waiting to take the bar exam: This title indicates that you have completed your legal education and are in the waiting period before taking the bar exam to gain admission to the bar.

It’s important to avoid using titles such as “lawyer” or “attorney” before passing the bar exam and being officially admitted to practice law. Doing so could be misleading and may result in disciplinary action. By using accurate and informative descriptions, you can effectively convey your status as a law school graduate without passing the bar.

Remember to consult the specific regulations of your jurisdiction to ensure compliance with the guidelines regarding professional titles and designations.

Being transparent about your current status and displaying a commitment to the legal profession will help you build credibility and establish a solid foundation for your future career as a licensed attorney.

The Journey to Becoming an Attorney

To become an attorney, there are several steps you need to complete. Let’s break it down:

  1. Earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree: Start by successfully completing law school and obtaining your J.D. degree. This is the foundational degree that all prospective lawyers must earn before moving forward in their legal careers.
  2. Pass the bar exam: After completing law school, the next crucial step is to pass the bar exam in the state(s) where you plan to practice law. Each state has its own bar exam, which evaluates your knowledge of state-specific laws and legal principles.
  3. Admission to the bar: Once you pass the bar exam, you become eligible for admission to the bar and can officially practice law. Admission requirements may vary slightly from state to state, so it’s essential to consult the regulations of the specific jurisdiction where you intend to practice.

Throughout this journey, aspiring attorneys put in a tremendous amount of dedication, hard work, and long hours of study. It’s a challenging process, but it’s ultimately rewarding to achieve your goal of becoming a licensed attorney.

Requirements to Become an Attorney

Steps Details
Earn a J.D. degree Complete law school and obtain your Juris Doctor degree
Pass the bar exam Successfully pass the bar exam in the state(s) where you intend to practice law
Admission to the bar Fulfill the admission requirements of your jurisdiction to practice law


Graduating from law school is a significant accomplishment that marks the start of a rewarding legal career. The titles you can use in your journey depend on various factors, including the stage you’re at and the requirements of your jurisdiction. While obtaining a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree grants you the title of “Doctor,” it is uncommon for practicing lawyers to use this title outside of academia.

Instead, most lawyers opt to use the title of “Esquire” (Esq.) after successfully passing the bar exam and being admitted to practice law. It is crucial to note and adhere to the regulations in your jurisdiction when it comes to titles and designations within the legal profession.

As you embark on your legal career, there are diverse career paths available to you, both within and outside of traditional legal practice. Whether you choose to specialize in a specific area of law, pursue a position in a law firm, or explore alternative roles in business, government, or nonprofit sectors, a law degree opens up a wide range of future prospects. Take advantage of networking opportunities, continue building knowledge and skills, and stay updated on evolving legal trends to ensure a successful and fulfilling career.