A lot of study and preparation are necessary to get into law school. So students thinking about getting a law degree tend to seek opportunities to excel. Pre-law summer programs are one way that future lawyers try to get a jump on their peers. They also help schools prepare underrepresented or disadvantaged applicants for a more successful law school experience.
The following article examines pre-law summer programs and their utility to future law students.
Different Kinds of Pre-Law Summer Programs
Accredited law school programs tend to offer the same required courses since their accreditation carries the same requirements for all schools. Pre-law summer programs, however, may vary greatly. These programs have no national oversight or industry standards, so their value will often depend on the student's needs and the structure and content of the course.
Pre-law summer programs typically aim to:
- Guide undergrad students through the law school admissions process
- Help prospective law students raise their LSAT scores
- Provide pre-law course content
- Connect students with pre-law internship opportunities
- Give first-year law students a taste of what to expect from their classes
Many programs focus on helping students who are often underrepresented in the legal profession get into law school. For example, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars program partners with law schools to help underrepresented students navigate the application process. Students selected for the program receive funds to help cover application costs and a waiver of fees for the LSAT.
What Could I Learn from a Pre-Law Summer Program?
The curriculum of a pre-law summer program depends on the purposes of the program. If the program's goal is to help students get into law school, the course will likely focus on assisting students with the law school application process, obtaining financial aid, and other practical aspects of getting into and succeeding at law school.
Pre-law summer programs that provide course content or internships typically seek to provide students with a foundation of study and experience for their legal careers. These programs can help students figure out which area of practice they find most appealing and help them develop their resumes. It can also help students decide whether they want to go to law school at all.
These programs often connect students to a pre-law advisor, who can be extremely helpful in the law school application process. They can help you:
- Find ways to boost your GPA
- Identify people who could write you letters of recommendation
- Review and provide feedback on your application
Many programs run for just a few weeks, though some are longer. They may be run as part of a university's curriculum or by a private company. They may be free, available at a reduced cost for students, or cost thousands of dollars.
Are Pre-Law Summer Programs Worthwhile?
A political science major is a great foundation for law school, but a summer program could expose you to more of the logic and writing skills needed for the practice of law. Someone studying criminal justice probably has a good understanding of the legal system, but they may need help with the more philosophical thought that comes with studying the law.
As the American Bar Association (ABA) points out, there is no single “right" path to law school. And while summer programs can be helpful, attending a pre-law summer program may not be right for you.
Completion of such a program means very little after law school. Potential employers tend to be more interested in your practical experience and performance at law school than in extracurriculars before law school, so if you are looking to improve your employability, a pre-law summer program may not be an effective method to meet this goal.
A pre-law program focused on admissions won't make much sense for someone who's already been accepted to law school. But a program that helps students learn how to read and brief cases before they begin classes could prove useful. Summer programs that offer law courses can also help students broaden their studies outside their major.
A summer program offered by your chosen law school can also be a great way to meet some of your classmates before classes start.
Independent study can also be very effective, or you may have social contacts that can help you get an internship opportunity without committing to a summer program. For example, taking a summer job at a relative's law firm will give you valuable hands-on work experience in the legal profession.
A close examination of the available programs and a clear assessment of your needs will help you determine whether pre-law summer programs will be valuable to you.
Preparing for Law School
Pre-law summer programs are not the only way you can begin to prepare yourself for law school success. FindLaw for Law Students has information about law school rankings, surviving your first semester, and more.