So you want to be a lawyer? There is a lot of education that takes place before you’re ready for that bar exam. What should you major in? According to the American Bar Association, whatever your want.
Well, it isn’t quite that simple, but the American Bar Association and many other legal institutions encourage students to pursue courses of study that interest them. Simply put, there is no undergraduate major required for admission to law school.
Are any majors more helpful than others?
Traditional undergraduate majors for attorneys include history, English, philosophy, political science, economics, and business. Because critical thinking, detailed analysis, reliance upon credible evidence to support conclusions, and tolerance for ambiguity are all key skills for an attorney, courses of study that emphasize these points are helpful. In addition, classes pertaining to logic, persuasive argument, debate, and examination of one’s own beliefs and assumptions are also relevant to those who wish to become lawyers.
The importance of words
Reading, writing, and speaking consume a large part of an attorney’s day. Courses of study that emphasize review of written materials regarding complex new topics, organization of written information, writing insightfully about what has been learned, and speaking clearly and intelligently on the topic, are all excellent preparation for law school. This advice can also include participation in extracurriculars such as debate clubs or student government.
Essentially, the more comfortable you are with words, the more prepared you will be for the challenges of law school.
Many undergraduate institutions offer “pre-law” programs intended to get students ready for law school. These programs often cover the fundamentals of the American legal and political systems, but can also include a wide-ranging set of courses in the humanities or business fields. Pre-law programs will likely give you worthwhile skills, and will also serve to indicate your commitment to legal studies. As stated above, however, these programs are not required for admission to law school.
In conclusion, students that intend to apply to law school should not be overly concerned with tailoring their undergraduate courses of study to any particular “law-friendly” topic. From an admissions standpoint, it is far more important to maintain a high GPA in your chosen major, and to perform well on the LSAT exam.
Chelsea Wilson is the community relations manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LL.M. Degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.
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