Laying Proper Foundations for Law School

Published: Dec 07, 2022

 Career Readiness       Education       Grad School       Law       

Going to law school isn’t—or at least shouldn’t be—something you decide to do suddenly or aimlessly. Such a commitment of time, money, and effort should be taken on only after much deliberation and preparation, especially since your career and your future are at issue.

So, how can you best prepare for law school?

Establish a Strong and Relevant Academic Base

An appropriate academic background is necessary for applying to, being admitted to, and attending law school. Perhaps surprisingly, a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution often isn’t needed—an associate’s degree is sufficient for applying to law school in the State of California,[i] and it’s enough for a handful of other law schools as well, including Cooley in Michigan.[ii] However, most law schools do require a bachelor’s degree.

For the bachelor’s degree, the American Bar Association does not recommend specific undergraduate majors in preparing for law school; rather, it simply encourages future law students to study something interesting and challenging.[iii] Further, law schools do not require certain coursework, as they accept students from almost every academic discipline[iv] and tend to focus more on overall grades and standardized test scores. However, programs of study that help you develop and hone the following skills are most beneficial according to the ABA:

  • Problem solving,
  • Critical reading,
  • Writing and editing,
  • Oral communication and listening,
  • Research,
  • Organization and management, and
  • Relationship-building and collaboration.[v]

Nonetheless, certain undergrad majors may be better than others in preparing you for law school, including:

  • Political Science. As the most common undergraduate major for law school applicants, political science provides students with a strong foundation in political theory, government systems, and the judicial system.[vi]
  • History. Those who major in history enjoy the best acceptance rate into law school among all majors—77.5% for enrollment year 2021.[vii] Studying history exposes students to events and people that have shaped the course of the world, and requires that students are able to “research, develop theories, and come to understand how society was affected by laws and political changes.”[viii]
  • English. Strong abilities in the areas of persuasive writing and reading comprehension—the latter of which often includes complicated, dense literary works—are vital for both law students and attorneys, so English majors gain valuable and relevant experience should they decide to attend law school.[ix]
  • Psychology. Students who major in psychology gain insights into how people think and behave, and how past experiences may motivate certain actions. These are important skills for attorneys.[x]
  • Economics/Finance. With coursework in topics like market systems, fiscal policy, and financial regulations, studies in these areas prepare students especially well for careers in tax, corporate, or real estate law.[xi]
  • Arts & Humanities. Majoring in arts and humanities exposes students to a broad range of courses and gives them well-rounded knowledge in many topics, which is a great foundation to have when entering law school.[xii]
  • Philosophy. Law schools value philosophy majors because of their ability to analyze and interpret situations, their experience creating logical arguments from available evidence, and their understanding of how people think.[xiii]
  • Business. Those who study business (or business management) learn about organizational management, business processes, accounting, and solving problems, and gain experience with activities like negotiations and drafting contracts, all of which—like economics and finance above—uniquely prepare them for careers in corporate or tax law.[xiv]
  • Math/Science. While these may not seem like majors that would lead most naturally to the study and practice of law, those who study math and science develop critical thinking, logical reasoning, and analytical skills. Further, technical backgrounds are often needed to practice patent law.[xv]
  • Criminal Justice. Foundational studies in criminal justice expose students—especially those who wish to be prosecutors or criminal defenders—to relevant topics like the correctional systems, court proceedings, and forensics.[xvi]
  • Pre-Law. Being a “pre-law” major seems like a sensible path for getting into law school not only because the name suggests it, but since students study legal systems and analyze legal cases; however, (1) not many schools offer such a specialized course of study, and (2) top law schools don’t consider it to be “challenging or well-rounded enough to deliver the skills they desire in applicants.”[xvii]
  • In addition to these majors, extra- and co-curricular activities like moot court, mock trial, debate, and writing for the school newspaper provide strong foundations for skills needed for the study and practice of law.

Get Some Work Experience

Beyond the coursework and academic foundations mentioned above, work experience is highly valued by many law schools. Large percentages of recent entering classes at top law schools like Harvard (82%) and Northwestern (90%) had at least one year of full-time, real-world experience because the schools felt these students were more mature, dedicated, and focused, and overall were “better prepared to handle the challenges of law school.”[xviii] And this work experience does not need to be in a legal field—though some relevant exposure to the law, legal processes, or the inner workings of a law firm may be beneficial. Any experience, as long as it’s meaningful and perhaps shows how you face challenges, handle setbacks, and work within a team, is likely to improve your chances of getting into law school.[xix]

Law school is not a simple undertaking, and it’s important that you take the necessary and appropriate steps—academically and perhaps professionally—to be prepared for it.

[i] Glendale University College of Law. (n.d.). Educational Requirements. https://www.glendalelaw.edu/educational-requirements/

[ii] Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. (n.d.). Applying Without a Bachelor’s Degree. https://www.cooley.edu/admissions/applying-without-degree

[iii] American Bar Association. (n.d.). Pre-Law. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/pre_law/

[iv] FindLaw. (2022, November 4). Best Pre-Law Colleges. https://lawstudents.findlaw.com/pre-law/best-pre-law-colleges.html

[v] American Bar Association (n 1).

[vi] Grey, S. (2022, November 11). The Top 13 Pre-Law Majors: What’s The Best Major For Law School Admission? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/education/pre-law-majors/

[vii] Law School Admission Council. (2021, December 13). Applicants by Major. https://report.lsac.org/view.aspx?report=applicantsbymajor&Format=PDF

[viii] Ebadolahi, M. (n.d.). The Best Majors for Law School. LSATMax. https://testmaxprep.com/blog/lsat/best-majors-for-law-school-2#/

[ix] Affordable Schools. (n.d.). What are the Best Undergraduate Majors to Get if You Want to Go to Law School? https://affordableschools.net/faq/best-undergraduate-majors-law-school/

[x] Ebadolahi, The Best Majors for Law School.

[xi] Grey, The Top 13 Pre-Law Majors: What’s The Best Major For Law School Admission?

[xii] Ebadolahi, The Best Majors for Law School.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Grey, The Top 13 Pre-Law Majors: What’s The Best Major For Law School Admission?

[xv] Ebadolahi, The Best Majors for Law School.

[xvi] Affordable Schools, What are the Best Undergraduate Majors to Get if You Want to Go to Law School?

[xvii] Ebadolahi, The Best Majors for Law School.

[xviii] Kuris, G. (2021, November 1). Work Experience Matters for Law School Applicants. U.S. News. https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/law-admissions-lowdown/articles/why-work-experience-matters-for-law-school-applicants

[xix] Ibid.

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