Preparing for Law School

Law students and lawyers come from many undergraduate backgrounds, and the skills necessary to succeed in law school and as an attorney can be developed in a variety of courses across a range of disciplines. As a result, law schools do not treat any specific course or major as a prerequisite for admission. It is not a disadvantage to have majored in engineering, the physical or biological sciences, or the humanities; and it is not an advantage to double major or to accumulate minors in various fields. Because no single major is best suited for studying law, and because law schools accept applicants with a wide variety of undergraduate majors, students thinking about going to law school should take advantage of this freedom and choose a major that interests them. At the same time, certain kinds of skills are important for studying and practicing law. Students should think about pursuing a course of study that will help them to develop and strengthen their skills in the areas outlined below.

Gaining the Necessary Skills

Reading Comprehension

Legal analysis typically depends on careful study of written texts, many of which contain complex forms of reasoning. Being able to understand those texts is thus critical to defending others' positions, drafting documents to deal with a range of problems, or analyzing the applicability of laws or precedents in particular contexts. Thus it may be useful for you to take classes that require close reading of complex sources and encourage you to develop skills of textual interpretation and criticism.

Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning

As indicated, legal analysis typically requires careful reasoning about how legal materials apply or might apply to actual or conceivable disputes. As a result, students are advised to take courses that help them to strengthen skills of deductive and inductive reasoning and to be able to analyze, apply, and criticize others' arguments. Law schools require imaginative thinking and active engagement in the learning process, not just passive receipt of information or memorization and regurgitation of details.

Effective Communication

Reading, thinking, analyzing, criticizing, and communicating are mutually reinforcing activities. The legal profession depends on persons' being able to express ideas, not just think them. Developing skills of written and oral communication are integral parts of understanding legal materials and applying them in actual or potential controversies. As a result, students are encouraged to develop skills of written and oral communication before enrolling in law school. Among other things, students will be rewarded for being able to organize and present relevant arguments in a clear and concise manner. In order to develop these skills, students are advised to take classes that require significant writing and re-writing or that involve students in discussions and in making oral presentations.