Pre-Law Course of Study

 

One of the advantages of being pre-law as an undergraduate is that you can major in anything you want. That is, law schools do not require that you take a specific set of courses or engaged in a specific area of study for admission, and the American Bar Association refrains from recommending any specific major as the best preparation for law school.

However, this does not mean that you should put little thought into what you are going to study as an undergraduate. These are formative years, and what you choose to study could significantly impact the trajectory of your life and career. So, to begin, you should look for an area of study that you enjoy and find rewarding. One of the reasons for doing this is that students tend to get better grades in areas of study that they enjoy, and getting good grades is important for admission to law school. At the same time, you should choose a major that is challenging. Your undergraduate years are the time to build the skills necessary for gaining entrance to and eventually succeeding in law school, and choosing easy classes will not help you toward this end. Furthermore, law schools do note the rigor of your coursework, and this may be something upon which professors who write your letters of recommendation will comment, either positively or negatively, depending on the path you take. Finally, if you are not fully committed to going to law school, you may want to consider a major or at least a minor in a field that you can pursue after you graduate should you decide not to pursue a legal education.

When students and even parents think about “pre-law,” they often think in terms of finding courses that are about the law or courses that have content similar to the content that will be taught in law school. Although there is certainly nothing wrong with this approach and it may even be unwise to go to law school without any academic understanding of the law, the ABA encourages students to think about undergraduate education in terms of developing specific skills relevant to the practice of law. Some of these skills include, but are not limited to: problem solving, critical reading, writing and editing, oral communication and listening (for a complete list, see here). Because of this, you may want to choose a major that most develops these skills, even if the courses you take aren’t directly related to the study of the law or legal concepts.

To supplement a student's major course work, the University has designed a Legal Studies Concentration that draws from law-related courses from across the University. See here for more information about the concentration.

Extra-curricular activities are another important aspect of an undergraduate education that should not be overlooked. Participating in these activities is important not just because they look good on a resume or law school application, but also because these activities can help you develop the various interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in a profession such as law. In particular, law schools look quite favorably on students who take on leadership roles in student organizations, presumably because leadership positions, rather than mere membership, tend to develop most the aforementioned skills. For these reasons, it is recommended that all pre-law students join the student-run, Pre-Law Society.

Finally, finding internships can be a good way to become familiar with the legal field and practice of law. Internships are also a  good way of finding out what the legal profession is like from the inside. This is particularly important for students who do not have family members or friends who practice law. If one thing is certain about pre-law, you want to know what legal practice is like before you invest in a legal education.