Recommendations for Prospective Law School Applicants
Kirsten Thomson, ’07
McDonnell, Boehnen, Hulbert & Berghoff
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There is no single path that best prepares an individual for academic success in law school or the practice of law. Students who are successful in law school, and who become accomplished professionals, come from many walks of life and educational backgrounds. Some law students enter law school directly from their undergraduate studies without having had any post-baccalaureate work experience. Others begin their legal education significantly later in life, and they bring to their law school education the insights and perspectives gained from those life experiences. Legal education welcomes and values diversity and you will benefit from the exchange of ideas and different points of view that your colleagues will bring to the classroom.
Undergraduate institutions often assign a person to act as an advisor to current and former students who are interested in pursuing a legal education. The designated prelaw adviser can be a very helpful resource in researching and identifying law-school options, in recommending courses at the college that may be especially beneficial for law school, and in offering assistance with particular aspects of the law-school application process (such as LSAT preparation, writing a personal statement, etc.)
Most law schools, as well as the American Bar Association, do not recommend a particular undergraduate major or group of courses in preparation for law school. Indeed, students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. Prospective applicants to law school may choose to major in areas that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy or political science. However, law school admissions committees also look favorably upon candidates who have, as undergraduates, studied art, business, music, science and mathematics, engineering, nursing or education. Whatever major an aspiring law-school applicant selects, the major should be one that is challenging and rewarding while also incorporating courses and experiences that will develop research and writing skills.
Core Skills for Law School
Law schools across the U.S. tend to emphasize similar types of skill development: Analytic / Problem Solving Skills; Critical Reading; Writing Skills; Oral Communication / Listening Abilities; General Research Skills; Task Organization / Management Skills. Therefore, to the extent possible, aspiring law students will be well served by seeking out courses and experiences that will help to build these skills that will be so frequently called upon in law school. Read more about Core Skills.
In addition to the fundamental skills and values listed above, there are some basic areas of knowledge that are helpful to a legal education and to the development of a competent lawyer. Some of the types of knowledge that would maximize your ability to benefit from a legal education include:
- A broad understanding of history, including the various factors (social, political, economic, and cultural) that have influenced the development of our society in the United States.
- A fundamental understanding of political thought and of the contemporary American political system.
- Some basic mathematical and financial skills, such as an understanding of basic pre-calculus mathematics and an ability to analyze financial data.
- A basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction.
- An understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States, of international institutions and issues, of world events, and of the increasing interdependence of the nations and communities within our world.
The above information has been largely provided by the Pre-Law Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.