1) Do I need to declare “pre-law” in order to go to law school?
The answer is no. Here is a quote from the American Bar Association (ABA):
There is no single path that will prepare you for a legal education. 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.
2) Should I attend law school right after college, or should I wait?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question since much of it depends on the individual. Law schools are seeking mature, committed candidates who know what they’re getting into by going to law school. In addition, a great deal of value is often place on experience. Therefore, if you’ve had no exposure to the field of law by the time of graduation, or, if you are really uncertain as to your specialty area, you may want to take some time to explore the field through a job, internship or volunteer experience in the field. There are some law schools that require a certain amount of work experience before even applying for the program. To underscore the bottom line: know what you’re getting yourself into. Law school can be an expensive endeavor!
3) When do I need to begin preparing for law school?
As soon as law school is a viable option, do what you can to make the most of your college years to increase your marketability. Our 4-year checklist [link] is an “ideal” timeline, although many students do not know as a first-year student that they want to go to law school. Meet with a career counselor and faculty member early on to determine an optimum career plan.
4) What undergraduate classes are required for acceptance to law programs?
Although there is not one best path for an undergraduate curriculum to prepare you for law school, there are certain content areas that can enhance your preparedness. The ABA recommends courses that will help you develop the following set of core skills and values:
Analytic / Problem Solving Skills
Oral Communication / Listening Abilities
General Research Skills
Task Organization / Management Skills
Public Service and Promotion of Justice
In addition, 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 Law School Admissions Council states: “Law schools want students who can think critically and write well, and who have some understanding of the forces that have shaped the human experience. These attributes can be acquired in any number of college courses, whether in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, or the natural sciences . . . As long as you receive an education including critical analysis, logical reasoning, and written and oral expression, the range of acceptable college majors is very broad. What counts is the intensity and depth of your undergraduate program and your capacity to perform well at an academically rigorous level.”
5) When should I take the LSAT?
It is most ideal to take the LSAT at the beginning of summer, following your junior year (registration for the test is typically due 1 month prior to the test date). In addition to prep books in our library, keep in mind that the Career Center offers a free practice test drive event each semester. This offers a great opportunity to take a practice LSAT, at no cost! More intensive training courses, such as through Kaplan Test Prep, are also available for a fee. Additional info can be found through LSAC.
6) Does it make a difference where I go to law school?
Richard Montauk, J.D., author of the book, How to Get Into the Top Law Schools, states, “If you wish to go to law school, go to the very best one you can – the rewards of attending a top law school are compelling.” You must determine what is realistic based on your grades, LSAT score, application, and experiences based on the admissions requirements of particular schools.
The following are what Montauk views as the values of going to a highly-ranked law program:
1) Career Choice. Many major corporate law firms and high-profile government jobs are seeking grads from top-notch law schools. Your professional goals should impact the law schools to which you apply.
2) Status. You need to decide how important this is to you. A Yale law graduate is likely to be more highly respected than a grad from an unknown school.
3) Increased Pay. By and large, the more reputable the degree, the higher the pay.
*Keep in mind that, ultimately, the best choice is a program that suits your needs and interests. Additionally, one's specialty area of interest can greatly influence choice of school/program.