Attaining the building blocks to be successful in law school can start years before law school even begins. High school and college students who are interested in becoming lawyers often wonder what they can do to make themselves the most attractive law school applicants out there. Fortunately, the paths leading to law school are plentiful for potential law students.
However, it can be helpful to select pre-law courses that will arm you with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in law school. Read on to learn more about what to look for in pre-law courses.
Core Skills and Knowledge
For the majority of students, college is the time to hone the skills that will be immediately put to use in the workforce after graduation. Similarly, potential law students need to acquire skills during undergrad that will prepare them to succeed during the next phase of their education. The American Bar Association (ABA) suggests that developing the following skills helps students to handle the rigors of law school:
- Problem Solving
- Critical Reading
- Writing and Editing
- Oral Communication and Listening
- Organization and Management
- Public Service and Promotion of Justice
- Relationship-building and Collaboration
- Background Knowledge
- Exposure to the Law
There are a variety of ways that potential law students can build these skills before law school. Whether it's through pre-law courses that teach these skills, extracurricular activities that reinforce these qualities, or internships and summer jobs that provide unique experiences with the law.
You can even develop your critical thinking and public speaking skills in the arts. You'd be surprised how often having theater experience comes in handy in the legal profession!
Picking an Undergraduate Major
Deciding on a major can be a challenge for potential law students. The ideal college major for undergraduates thinking about law school would be a subject area that interests the student and gives them the best shot at a great GPA and development of the above skills.
Today, few colleges offer a pre-law major, although many offer pre-law students an unofficial legal studies “track" to prepare them for law school. These schools also often provide pre-law advising to help students ensure they are checking all the boxes for law school admission.
However, a pre-law program is not the only path to law school, nor is it a guarantee of admission. Law schools often try to build a diverse student body, admitting students from a wide variety of undergraduate studies.
Some of the most common majors for students entering law school are political science, English, psychology, philosophy, and criminal justice.
Many students who get into law school choose a humanities or social sciences undergraduate degree. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and gathers data about law schools and law students, found that the most common majors among students admitted to law school in 2021 were:
- Political science
- Criminal Justice
Although an undergraduate major generally will not affect a student's law school application, picking the proper major may be essential for students that are interested in practicing in a specific area of law after law school. For example, students interested in practicing patent law will benefit greatly from an engineering, chemistry, biology, or physics degree.
Writing and Research Courses
A great deal of a lawyer's job involves researching and writing. While the research and writing performed by lawyers are different from the papers required by most pre-law courses, becoming proficient at researching and writing early on in college will make the transition to law school much easier.
Acquiring fundamental writing skills is essential to a law student's success. Classes requiring research papers and other advanced compositions can provide undergrad students with an excellent foundation for the in-depth writing that will be required in law school. Colleges typically offer a wide range of humanities courses that can help students develop their writing and analytical skills. These classes might include:
- Political Theory
- American Literature
In addition to humanities courses, some colleges even offer pre-law courses in legal research and writing. These courses provide students with an early taste of writing in a structured, legal format as well as doing extensive legal research for law-related papers.
Potential law students looking to expand their legal knowledge can usually find elective courses related to the law. Pre-law courses like Environmental Law, Constitutional Politics of the First Amendment, and Gender and the Law are commonly offered by colleges across the United States. Here are a few more examples of legal-related courses available to undergraduates:
While reading the cases in these courses can provide students with a brief peek into the life of a law student, it's important to remember to take classes that you know you will enjoy. There will be plenty of time in law school to read cases that don't interest you.
Law schools are looking for students with a diverse education. Choosing courses that help you develop your writing skills and reasoning abilities as well as those that give you a glimpse into the various aspects of a career in law will provide you with an excellent foundation for law school.
Learn more about what to expect from law school by checking out the Pre-Law resources at FindLaw for Law Students.