So your thinking about going to law school? That’s great, I realized sometime during my junior year in undergrad that I wanted to go to law school. But at the time I wasn’t really sure how to prepare for law school while I was still wrapping up my bachelor’s degree. Well, eventually I figured it out and in this article, you will learn how you can effectively prepare for law school in undergrad.
1. Major in something challenging but pre-law is unnecessary
Law Schools and Employers generally do not pay close attention to what you majored in undergrad (unless you’re a STEM major). But you should select a major that is challenging and academically rigorous. If you really want to pick a major with an eye toward law school, I would opt for one that emphasizes critical thinking and writing. You will have to rely heavily on these skills in law school.
That being said, I have seen some of the studies attempting to analyze what major is the best for law school. Personally, I’m not impressed with their sample sizes or their controls, but I thought it was worth mentioning that these studies typically find a correlation between LSAT score, law school GPA, and undergrad major. You can view one of the studies here.
Many undergraduate students interested in a law degree believe that certain majors are better than others for succeeding in law school. Among those majors most frequently cited are pre-law, criminology, political science, and history. Unfortunately, by the time students realize that their major did not prepare them for law school any better than an engineering degree, it’s usually too late.
The majority of law students in the United States majored in humanities or arts. The most popular among them are Political Science, English, Sociology, History, and Economics. A small minority of law students have an engineering or science background. An Engineering degree would typically be far away from any blog’s recommended major, but it turns out that these aren’t just great degrees to have before law school, they are some of the best. In fact, the only students at my law school that obtained 1L summer associate jobs were those that graduated with STEM degrees. Why? Because there is a shortage of lawyers with STEM degrees, but they are extremely useful for all types of patent and copyright work. Therefore law firms frequently jump on any law student with decent grades and a STEM degree.
I’m not saying that you should go out and get a STEM degree in preparation for law school. I am only saying that performance in law school should not be a major consideration in what bachelor’s degree you decide to pursue.
Are there any majors that have shown a correlation with better LSAT scores and performance in law school? Yes, those majors are Philosophy, Economics, History, and a few others. Why? Well these majors, particularly Philosophy, focus on Critical Thinking as a core component. Critical Thinking isn’t just an incredibly important skill on the LSAT, it’s also important in Law School. These majors are also considered writing and reading intensive, which goes hand in hand with the law school experience.
That being said I don’t advocate for a specific major to take over another. Law students come from a diverse array of backgrounds, and every single major you can think of is represented in law school. It just isn’t that important for you to focus four years of your life in a bid to increase your probability of success in law school.
2. Get good grades in undergrad
There are two things that receive top priority for law school admissions decisions, only two. Those are your LSAT score and your undergraduate grades. Your grades in undergrad are extremely important in determining what law schools you will be admitted into and what kind of scholarships they will offer.
I cannot emphasize enough that getting the best grades you can in undergrad is extremely important in your preparation for law school.
If I had realized the importance of grades in law school I would have studied far more diligently in undergrad. Somehow I did not put two and two together until I started applying for law schools. I applied to approximately ten law schools before I decided where I was attending. Several of the schools had the same median LSAT that I had received (167), and one law school’s median was a point lower.
My GPA on the other hand was beneath all of these schools’ 25th percentile GPA. In full disclosure, my undergrad GPA wasn’t terrible, it was a 3.4. But relative to the schools I applied to it was abysmal. Out of all of these law schools at my LSAT level, every single one either outright rejected or waitlisted me. I can only surmise that this chorus of rejections was due to my subpar GPA.
The point is if you are aiming to attend a highly ranked law school you need to do as well as possible in undergrad. You’re supposed to have fun in undergrad so don’t give that up, but put in some real study hours and apply yourself. Your efforts in undergrad will reap rewards for years to come.
3. Prepare for the LSAT early
Preparing early for the LSAT is by far the single most important piece of advice I can give you. The LSAT is the most important exam you will ever take, period. Your LSAT score will be the biggest determining factor for law school admissions offices, and it will be the biggest factor for merit scholarships.
Since the LSAT is extremely important and it is difficult, you need to prepare for it like your future depended on it. Regardless of whether you plan to take the LSAT while you are in undergrad or post-graduation, you should start studying months in advance.
The single biggest factor in getting a good LSAT score is how long you studied. Too many students think that they can cram for the LSAT like they do for every other exam, and their exam score suffers for it. I recommend that you start thinking about the LSAT in your junior year of undergrad. Invest in some LSAT prep books, practice exams, and possibly an LSAT prep course to ensure that you have the right prep materials.
You can check out a thorough guide on LSAT preparation here.
4. Consider enrolling in a law school prep course
I took a law school prep course the summer before I started 1L year. I thought it was extremely helpful and you likely would to. I say “consider” because these prep courses are not cheap and I never would have been able to afford one if I had not received a full scholarship for the course.
If you can get one at a discount and you take full advantage, a law school prep course can be well worth your time. You can check out my full article on law school prep courses here.
5. Join a pre-law club/organization
My undergraduate institution had a pre-law club that I was a member of. It was extremely useful because at the time I was not certain whether law school was the right path for me. Luckily, my pre-law club hosted a number of speakers that were current law students and attorneys. It gave me a better idea of what law school would be like and what being a lawyer actually entailed.
I would strongly advise you to join a pre-law club if your school has one. At the very least you will have the opportunity to meet other students planning to go to law school. Most pre-law clubs are pretty active, you will likely have the opportunity to visit law schools, take LSAT practice exams, and meet practicing lawyers and law students. Overall, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the industry you are going into and develop some connections.
6. Create relationships with your professors
You are going to need at least two or three professors to have a good idea of who you are as a person by the time you graduate. When it comes time to apply to law school your reference letters are going to be extremely important, and the last thing you want is a cookie-cutter recommendation letter from a professor that can’t remember you.
Besides the fact that you will need your professors for recommendation letters, building relationships with them makes class easier and more interesting. You will get more out of class and out of office hours if you and your professor have a relationship.
7. Meet with current law students
Before you go diving headfirst into the law school process you are going to want to be as certain as possible that you want to be a lawyer. Your undergrad may have a law school, find out if you can meet with some 2L or 3L law students and pick their brains. How do they like law school, are they glad they went, what are the job outlooks, how did they study for the LSAT? You can learn a lot from current law students so take advantage of that.
8. There is no rush to start preparing for law school freshman year
I have noticed that a lot of people seem to push the idea that you should start preparing for law school in undergrad as soon as possible. That is not necessary and completely counterproductive. There is no reason that you should start taking pre-law classes, interning, or meeting with attorneys in your first two years of undergrad. Undergrad is a time to explore and eventually figure out what you want to do, but there is no rush to start studying for your LSAT during your sophomore year.
That is it for my law school preparation advice in college. What all of this preparation will do is ensure that you start off law school on the right foot with the very best opportunity to succeed in law school and afterwards as a lawyer. Law school is tough, but it is also extremely rewarding, and if you follow this preparation guide you will be one step closer to succeeding in law school!