Political Science.  Philosphy.  Any liberal arts undergraduate major.  These are the best undergraduate majors for prelaws, right?  As with anything law school (and the practice of law), the answer is "it depends."  But the truth is that there are all kinds of equally good paths to help you get into and succeed in law school.

At the outset, you should understand that the ABA, which accredits law schools doesn't really care.  If you doubt me, read the ABA article "Preparing for Law School" at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/prelaw/prep.html.  Instead, the ABA suggests a core skill-building approach to your education that includes eight basic areas:  Analytic / Problem Solving Skills, Critical Reading, Writing Skills, Oral Communication / Listening Abilities, General Research Skills, and Task Organization / Management Skills.  The last area, Public Service and Promotion of Justice, in my opinion, are really closer to personal character and values, which one develops as a result of life experiences and maturation. 

But the point is this:  the ABA believes (and what they think about this subject is pretty important) that the student should focus on skills that prepares him/her for law school and law practice.  And clearly, the core skills involve your ability to read, analyze, communicate (both orally and in writing), listen and manage your workload.  And as a practicing lawyer who has been out of law school for a while, I absolutely agree that these skills are critical to the practice of law.  Further, I continue to develop and hone these skills every day I go to work.

So, instead of defining  yourself as a prelaw by the major you choose, I suggest that you choose an academic curriculum that will help you to develop the above core skills.   Certainly, political science, philosophy and other liberal arts majors can do this.  But so can engineering, accounting, marketing and many other undergraduate majors.  It all depends on what you do with the major.  More importantly, it depends on what you do with your available time during your four years or so of undergraduate education

Most undergraduate majors have a fairly large percentage of electives in terms of the overall curriculum.  After you finish your basic required courses, you have all kinds of opportunities to select courses that will help you develop the core skills necessary to succeed in law school and law practice.

You probably already know that most law schools begin their acceptance decision with a student's grades and LSAT score.  These two criteria are simply the most important when it comes to getting into law school.  So, any undergraduate major that helps you get the highest GPA and LSAT score would probably be your best bet.  At the same time, before you jump into that degree in "Basketweaving", you should also understand that law school admissions committees tend to equalize the "easier" majors with the "harder" majors.  In other words, a 3.2 GPA in Mechanical Engineering may be just as acceptable as a 4.0 in English.

As I have written in other blog posts, you should also consider the possiblity that you won't actually end up going to law school.  Therefore, you would probably be better served with an undergraduate major that can help you find a job, just in case.  Further, there are certain majors that are extremely complimentary to a law degree.  For example, an accounting degree can be a great compliment to a law degree if you want to practice corporate law.  An engineering degree can be very useful to future patent attorneys.

But the bottom line is that instead of focusing on the major, focus on the above core skills.  The following are some suggestions to help you do just that (I've organized them a bit differently than than the ABA has, because I see the skills more along the lines of a continuum than as discrete skills):

Reading, Writing and Researching:  As part of your law school preparation, you should read, read and read some more.  Read the most dense, incomprehensible books that you can find.  Practice reading until you can navigate almost anything.  I suggest that you add the ABA website to your browser favorites.  It includes great information on current events in the practice of law. 

I also suggest that you periodically visit a law school library and browse (you will need to get permission to do that, but I found that most law school librarians are more than willing to help).  Begin to read cases, in order to both learn to navigate them, and to get a feel for how legal writing is organized.  It will also help you see some of the available research materials.  And it will help you to prepare yourself for law school.  I descrbe tjos "due diligence" in my book, Law School Labyrinth- A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education (Kaplan Publishing, March 31, 2009).

Read op-ed pieces and read legal articles, such as those found in law journals.  This will help you to begin to understand the substantive information but will also help you see how and what lawyers write.

Reading a great deal will also help you to begin to develop your writing skills.  Simply, most writers learn to write by reading voluminously.  Start writing every day; a journal is a great way to accomplish this.  Or, consider blogging.  It doesn't have to be about the law, it only needs to be about something you are interested in and that requires some thought and analysis.  It may also help you to develop your research skills.

Analytical, Logical and Problem Solving Skills:  Analysis is simply the skill of skill of rationally and logically thinking your way through a problem.  Certainly, there are formal logic courses available- consider taking one.  But reading through a book on logic ("Logic for Lawyers" is a good one) can give you the basic foundation.  And chances are, you probably already understand intuitively a great deal about how to logically analyze something or construct a logical argument (most of us learn about logic when dealing with an illogical opponent in an argument).  A key skill in logic is the ability to identify hidden assumptions. 

In my book "Law School Labyrinth-  A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education (Kaplan Publishing, April 2009), I describe how assumptions work in arguments and how to analyze the basic structure of logical arguments.  Another good book, which may help you understand the process is "Getting to Maybe".  I suggest you read a number of different "law school" books well before you start law school.  They will help you get an overview of the often labyrinthian maze that law school can become, especially because in most cases, no one really explains the process to you.

Finally, exercise your logical skills through recreation.  Do crossword puzzles and other puzzles in order to sharpen your mind.  Engage in friendly debate (you might want to preface it by explaining that it's law school prep-  but get used to the idea that many people won't get it or you, especially after you become a law student; if the process works on you, you will begin to think and analyze in a dramatically different way that most people won't understand).  Consider visiting a courtroom to see lawyers in action.  If your school has a debate team, consider joining.

This is also a great time to consider giving something back to your community.  Volunteer in one or more of the many outstanding public service organizations, including your church.  Don't do something because it will look good on your law school application; do it because you believe in it.

I wish you the very best in your legal studies and career.  And if you are thinking about law school, be sure and pick up a copy of my book, Law School Labyrinth-  A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education (Kaplan Publishing, March 31, 2009).



 


Comments

Kayla Godoy
09/09/2011 18:28

This is actually a wonderful blog. I'm only seventeen and it is helping to guide me in the path that i would like to pursue in college next year. In case Law is not what i will practice, I feel Political Science can open many other doors too. But I wondered is this the only path I can take, and apparently not.

Reply
09/09/2011 20:29

Thank-you Kayla. I think you are right on both counts. If there is a way to earn your degree in something marketable and that you would enjoy, but that would also help develop the law school skillset- then jackpot! I hope you find that combination, and I wish you much success in your legal studies.

Also, kudos for thinking about this so early in your academic career!

Reply
01/02/2012 10:22

I am a retired 51 year old man with a high school education that is seriously considering a law degree. I want to be a small town family/criminal/personal lawyer. What would be your best advice to me?

Reply
steve sedberry
02/04/2012 13:38

Galen: Sorry for the delayed response. I'll give you some general thoughts. First thought is that you are going to have to really want this. You're looking at four years of college and three more years of law school. This puts you at closing in on 60 before you can even hang your shingle.

That said, if it is something that you want to do, then go for it. I went to law school at 44, with an eye torward a more traditional career- big law firm, etc. In your case, it sounds like you may want to go solo or in a small firm. So, in a way, it doesn't matter how old you are.

A couple of other thoughts. My decisionmaking was based upon passing through the numerous labyrinthian gateposts- doing well on the LSAT, getting into a good law school, etc. So, the gateposts, at least to some extent, drove the decision. In your case, I'm guessing you plan to go to "Local U", so your issue is probably one more of just staying the course and getting it done.

Also, keep in mind that when you graduate and pass the bar, you will be inexperienced. However, the good thing about law practice, is that you can study up on most areas and develop expertise in that way. Further, you can gain experience quickly. However, you might consider working for a small firm for a while to gain your experience.

In sum, I would advise anyone to follow their dream. You've got a hard road ahead of you, but you can do it. People graduate from law school much older than you will be. It's simply a matter of how bad do you really want it.

Feel free to reach out to me on your path. I would be happy to give you at least one person's perspective.

Best wishes in your legal studies and career-

Reply
Robin Dohrmann
11/13/2012 11:46

I am 49 and almost have my AA. I have been researching the best Bachelors degree to earn and am thrilled I found Steve's blog! (BTW, i still haven't figured out what one is the best ... yet).

In my reaching out for opinion I found out a man achieved his law degree when he was 62 and loves it! Another woman who is in court daily for the rights of children says she loves it so much she'd do it for free! So....Galen....go for it! What else is there to life then life, learning and helping to improve the world we live in?!

Fran Jean-Louis
02/14/2012 15:45

This is probably the best article about preparing for law school that I have encountered. I have read articles and forums all about what majors are best for law school and not enough articles about pursuing a major that you are passionate about and developing the skills set you've mentioned in your article. The idea of attending law school has become more the end to a mean than it is a means to the end. Thank you for this article.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
02/14/2012 19:23

Well said. And thank-you for the kind comments.

Reply
Dean Lavi
02/19/2012 21:47

This is quite a helpful and informative post. I'm currently 15 (I know, I'm pretty early to the punch here) and a sophomore in high school. I have been looking into various websites and blogs such as your's for more information so that I can make a more informed decision in the future. I am currently torn between taking my undergrad in psychology, philosophy or political science. I am fairly interested in all three areas and may possibly steer towards a career in politics in the future. Is there any information you may have that could help me in making the choice between the categories - if I could know definitively by the end of this year what i want to do my undergraduate in, I could take courses that lead into that path for grade 11 and 12.
Thanks in advance for any insightful comment or tidbit of wisdom you could share

Reply
Steve Sedberry
02/20/2012 10:57

Dean: First of all, kudos on thinking about these things so early in your academic career. As to whether psych, philosophy or poly sci are each a better choice in terms of pre-law, I don't have first-hand experience with any of the curricula. However, I think it is safe to say that all would likely require post-graduate work, in order to be able to earn an income at any of them. So, the only question is whether you are willing to engage in graduate work, and if you are contemplating law school, it sounds like you are so willing.

I'd suggest that you contact any university offering these programs, and obtain either a curriculum for each. This will help you understand the courses you would take, and determine how useful those courses are in developing the skill set you need for law school. In addition, I'd suggest that you talk to either your high school guidance counselor, or a university guidance counselor, to get an idea of whether these programs will serve your needs. You might also discuss with them employment prospects for these majors, just in case you change your mind about law school.

But based upon the foregoing, my bottom line would be that they are about equal, in terms, of preparing you for law school. The bigger issue is going to be what kinds of preparation you do on your own, to train yourself in careful reading skills, writing skills and logical/ analytical reasoning skills. You might want to read some of my other blog posts in this regard.

One final thought. Grades are really important, in terms of gaining acceptance into the law school of your dreams. So, whichever major you choose, be sure that it is something that you will love and will do well in.

Best wishes in your legal education and career.

Reply
Sarah
02/24/2012 18:48

This was an extremely helpful post. I am currently a second year at UCSD and just recently switched to a Political Science major. However, I don't know how content I am with this. Although I'm fascinated by politics, if law school fell through, I'm not so sure I would want to pursue a degree in politics.

I have been considering a degree in ethnic studies as an alternative. My only problem is I'm a bit afraid that if, once again, law school fell though, I would be unable to find a well paying job with an ethnic studies degree. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Reply
Steve Sedberry
02/24/2012 20:25

Sarah:

Thanks for your comment. I can't tell from your post whether you have decided to go to law school. If you have, then at this point in your academic career, your grades are the most important thing to work on. If your grades are decent and you do reasonably well on the LSAT, then you will very likely gain acceptance into law school. And that's the key question. Once you get your law degree, then your undergraduate major is fairly irrelevant.

If, on the other hand, you are undecided about law school, then you have a different analysis. Simply, how marketable is your major; or how much additional school are you willing to take on, if it isn't very marketable? Some people would argue that the bigger question is your passion for the major, and I agree that you certainly need to love what you do, in terms of a career. But the point of the post was simply to suggest that people should not take a "pre-law" major solely for the purpose of going to law school. A four year degree is expensive, and if at the end of the four years, you can't find a decent job, then arguably it wasn't a good investment, at least in terms of a return. Further, one can gain the skills necessary for law school success, in addition to the basic skills gained from a relatively marketable degree, e.g. accounting, marketing, engineering, etc.

I'm not familiar with the marketability of a poly sci or ethnic studies major. But I suspect that both would require additional post-graduate work and are simiilar in terms of marketability. But if you want to be sure, you should talk with a career or guidance counselor at your university.

If you do plan to go to law school, I hope you get in where you want and that it is a rewarding experience for you.

Reply
Glenn Elkins
03/28/2012 02:34

This was a wonderful article. I am 23 I have 1 yr of college under my belt and am considering returning to school become a lawyer. I have a very diverse style of thinking and I love law. But, I am not so sure what type of law I would like to puruse. I don't want to chase ambulances I want to be a D.A. In the future or even a public defender. Some local universities offer 3+3 so u can attend college for 3 years then law school for 3 and earn ur bachelors the first year of law school. After reading a good bit, I believe history would be best for my undergrad. What do you think? What types of law are there specifically? I.e. case law, etc. you really are a wealth of knowledge and I thank you in advance for any advice/guidance.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
03/31/2012 13:17

Glenn:

Thanks for you kind words- I think History is a fine pre-law major, as are numerous others. I personally believe that the tension is between earning an undergraduate degree that you enjoy enough to do well, while at the same time earning a degree that would allow you to find a job, in the event law doesn't work out for you. This is because your grades and your LSAT score are the single biggest determinants in your law school acceptance. So, there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of the above. For example, if you are absolutely sure that you will end up practicing law, then the marketability of your undergraduate degree becomes less important. On the other hand and by way of example, if you know the law school you plan to go to, are confident you will have good enough grades and LSAT score to get in, then perhaps you go for a degree that will do more than simply provide you with good grades.

The analysis is different for everyone, but those two basic variables, at least in my opinion, are what it boils down to.

As for practice areas, there are as many as there are lawyers. One way to get a feel for the wide variety of practice areas is to visit a law firm website. Review the attorney bios; they will describe the lawyer's specialty. And in today's world, most lawyers are specialists. The days of the general practitioner are generally behind us.

Finally, if you seek public interest law, such as a DA or public defender, I would suggest that you speak with lawyers currently practicing in those areas. You will find them through internet searches and I would imagine most would be willing to speak with you. Be respectful of their time and ask lots of good questions.

You might also what to pick up a copy of my book, Law School Labyrinth. It gives you an overview of the process.

Best wishes in your legal career.

Reply
Glenn
07/20/2012 08:24

Steve! This article and your reply back gave me the kick I needed! I am now enrolled in a full time history undergrad for a prep in pre law. My professor gave me a practice LSAT test which I made a 171 on which is killer for a first year undergrad! Ty so much Steve or your kind and wise advice

Ernest Johnson
04/10/2012 20:43

What major/minor combination is good fit, just in case a law school plan does not work out?

Reply
Steve Sedberry
04/10/2012 21:03

Ernest: Thanks for the question and reading the blog. It's a tough question because there are so many variables involved. Probably the most important variable is simply, what do you want to do? The second most important variable is, can you make a living at it? I've written before that we should always have a backup plan, in case law school doesn't work out. What I mean is that people who earn undergraduate degrees, solely for the alleged utility in law school, do so at their own peril.

Instead, I advise people to earn marketable degrees, meaning degrees that can result in employment opportunities after graduation. There are all kinds of degrees that will accomplish that- the business disciplines (marketing, accounting, management, etc.), engineering, and many others. But you shouldn't earn a degree solely for that reason. Most people will tell you that you are going to be working for a long time, and so you should attempt to find something that you will love doing.

Another thought is to read the various reports and articles which describe the up and coming employment areas- MSN and others seem to frequently have such articles. This may give you some ideas.

As to major/minor ideas, and this is just a personal opinion, I don't think many employers put much value on the minor. It might be a good idea if you have a lot of electives, and want to focus on a secondary area for skill or expertise development. But the sheepskin is going to be in the major, and that is what potential employers care about.

I hope this helps you as you think about future options.

Reply
Ernest Johnson
04/10/2012 22:04

Currently I am a history major and a economics minor. Thanks for the heads up, I do wish to attend law school but yes if it doesn't work out I would like my undergrad degree to benefit me and not hinder.

Reply
Nisha Nusrath
04/22/2012 11:01

Thanks, phew. You totally gave me a relief with this article. I was having such a hard time debating what to major in or not because I'm going to college next fall and it was stressing me out. Thanks, you definitely answered all my questions!

Reply
Steve Sedberry
04/22/2012 12:37

Thanks, Nisha- don't stress about any of it. There are numerous ways through the law school labyrinth. Most of all, just do your best- it will reduce any self-second guessing down the road.

Best in your academic (and law) career!

Steve Sedberry

Reply
Hannah
05/17/2012 20:17

I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was 10. After a few discouraging circumstances and educational experiences, I felt it may be too unrealistic. I am 20, and am now revisiting this passion. I saw myself more in the field of family law and will be returning to undergraduate work in the fall. I have a few courses under my belt , but realized that I wanted a bachelors in something that better challenges me and helps me become more well-rounded. I am currently strongly considering pursuing engineering. The classes for psych , history, pol. science, etc come as easy A's for me and I don't feel that would be the best major to prepare me for the rigors of law school or employment. On the other hand, I am concerned that the challenge of the engineering courses, upper level math and science , may be a bit too much for me. They don't come as easily to me as the other courses. I still enjoy them and can do reasonably well. I am not overly interested in patent law, but still feel it would be a great major that would challenge me and provide me with many skills that would be useful in any career.
My question to you :

Is it better for me to pursue a major in engineering even though I am not as interested in patent law/ cooperate law ?

Do you feel that I would get the adequate preparation for the skills you list in a typical engineering program?

I am thinking that I would pursue my passion for helping children and families through law by volunteering as a CASA representative and participating in community programs .

Would volunteer experience be enough to show a potential law school that I am passionate about law, even though my coursework would be more along the science/math lines?

I would really appreciate some guidance on the best way to pursue my dream.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
05/18/2012 12:18

Hannah:

First of all, thanks for your comment, and congratulations on pursuing your dream. I did the same thing, although at a much later point in life. It sounds like you know what you want to do, which is great- many people don't figure that out until much later in life.

If I can boil it down, I think your question is whether or not it is worth it to you, to obtain a more challenging and technical degree, rather than a "softer" and perhaps easier degree. Several issues:

1. Will an engineering degree prepare you for law school as well as a "softer" degree? You indicated that some of the "softer" courses come easier for you, which says something. As I've said in my blog posts, I believe that the skills required for law school can be gained in any number of ways. It sounds like you may already be predisposed toward some of them. Certainly, you will get more reading and writing in the "softer" curriculum, than you will in engineering. However, you can continue to read and write in any curriculum.

2. This raises the question of whether a law school will give you some slack, if your GPA suffers as a result of the "harder" degree, from an admissions perspective. I think the best way to ascertain that is to simply call the law school admissions office. Ask them if they "curve" up for engineering degrees, over, say, a liberal arts degree. That will help you to get a feel for how to quantify the equation. If you think you will graduate in Engineering with a 2.0, for example, it might be difficult to get into a law school that doesn't recognize the differences in difficulty among various majors.

3. This is probably the most important and yet obvious point. Do you want to be an engineer? If you don't then, I would figure out, at least from an undergraduate perspective, what you want to do. If law school doesn't work out, you won't have much fun as an engineer, if you don't really want to do it. I would think there is a high likelihood you will end up in law school, given your passion for it. But just in case, you should get an undergraduate degree in something that you ca (a) enjoy; and (b) make a living doing. That's really the point of my blog posts. Don't choose a major solely because you think it will help you to get into law school. You are spending a huge sum on the degree- get something that you can get utility out of.

I know it's a lot to think about, but just take it one step at a time. Figure out a good major for you. Do the best you can in school. Spend a lot of time in preparation for the LSAT- do well at it. The law school step will then take care of itself.

Best wishes in your legal career-

Reply
AJ
05/18/2012 23:36

Hi there, I recently just started researching on the job descriptions of a lawyer. I've read that it is an ample and diverse job. I've been thinking of going in the criminal justice area. As a 16 year old student, I'm in the phase where I am already required to apply for a college as early as now. Human behavior really interests me ; how people think and react in certain situations. I've read that criminal justice lawyers need to thoroughly research on the case at hand. Will knowing how the human mind think help me in the aforementioned job? And will a major Psychology complement my course if I decide to pursue my aspiration to be a criminal justice lawyer? Thank you in advance. And I would like express my gratitude for your wonderful article. It gave me a new perspective on the job.

Reply
Chloe
05/25/2012 15:54

This is a great article!!! Thanks for your advice on law school. It really helped me with deciding what to do for this fall. I'll be a college freshman! I am thinking about doing either business administration or political science as a major, and foreign language as a minor.

Thanks again!

Reply
Rose Welsh
06/18/2012 20:15

This article was very helpfull...i think i m going to pursue aeronautic engineering, even if i dont become a lawyer it would be a great undergrad degree that i could fall back on and it interests me just as deeply as law

Reply
Day
07/05/2012 21:18

This is a great article; I am in my senior year in high school and I will finish with approximately 45 college credits. With this head start, I don't know whether or not a dual major would give me a greater advantage. If I were to obtain a dual major I was thinking of combining Medical Anthropology and Political science since I want to head out into the field of Health Law. Of these two majors, which one would you consider the most relevant? Do law schools prioritize students with more than one major?

Reply
07/17/2012 17:30

Thanks, Day. 45 credits at high school graduation is a pretty impressive accomplishment! As to your question, I think the general answer is that they will consider your GPA and your LSAT score, and evaluate your GPA based upon the relative/ perceived difficulty of the major. I would suggest, however, that you contact a few law schools and ask them this question directly. Most admissions folks are very willing to help and can probably give you a more definitive answer than I can.

Based upon your high school academic performance, I predict great things for you in the future-

Best, Steve

Reply
Christina
07/19/2012 23:37

I am a mother of 5 who also works full time. I have decided that I am going to go back to school and achieve my dream of law school. My question is if I choose to get my undergrad degree from an online program (obviously I have no time to attend traditional classes) that has accreditation would it be accepted by law schools for admission? Any guidance/information is greatly appreciated.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
07/20/2012 08:12

Christina:

Congratulations on pursuing your dream! I can't imagine how busy you must be with a full-time job and five children. Kudos on your determination to achieve this dream.

I don't know whether law schools will accept an online undergrad degree. I would suggest that you contact several schools (ask for the admissions dept.) and talk about it with them. Most admissions folks are very willing to help, so I would go straight to the source. You might also check out http://www.lsac.org/. The Law School Admission Council is a centralized resource, used by law schools and prospective law students alike.

That said, you might also want to think about your situation once you are actually in law school. The first year (and perhaps the second) are extremely demanding. Some students work part-time, however, some schools prohibit even part-time jobs. Further, I believe that a legal education requires a large commitment of time and energy and candidly, although I'm sure people do it, I think it would be a difficult path to work and go to law school at the same time. Nonetheless, I also believe that if you want anything badly enough, you will figure out a way to make it work.

For now, however, I would take it one step at a time. Get your undergraduate degree. Do well and earn great grades. At some point, you will need to begin to prepare to take the LSAT. You will need to do well on the LSAT. And so on.

By the way, that's why I refer to it as "The Law School Labyrinth." It's a maze of sorts- your rely on your skills, creativity and determination to traverse it. But if you keep at it, you will succeed.

Best wishes in pursuing your dream.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
07/20/2012 08:13

Christina:

Congratulations on pursuing your dream! I can't imagine how busy you must be with a full-time job and five children. Kudos on your determination to achieve this dream.

I don't know whether law schools will accept an online undergrad degree. I would suggest that you contact several schools (ask for the admissions dept.) and talk about it with them. Most admissions folks are very willing to help, so I would go straight to the source. You might also check out http://www.lsac.org/. The Law School Admission Council is a centralized resource, used by law schools and prospective law students alike.

That said, you might also want to think about your situation once you are actually in law school. The first year (and perhaps the second) are extremely demanding. Some students work part-time, however, some schools prohibit even part-time jobs. Further, I believe that a legal education requires a large commitment of time and energy and candidly, although I'm sure people do it, I think it would be a difficult path to work and go to law school at the same time. Nonetheless, I also believe that if you want anything badly enough, you will figure out a way to make it work.

For now, however, I would take it one step at a time. Get your undergraduate degree. Do well and earn great grades. At some point, you will need to begin to prepare to take the LSAT. You will need to do well on the LSAT. And so on.

By the way, that's why I refer to it as "The Law School Labyrinth." It's a maze of sorts- your rely on your skills, creativity and determination to traverse it. But if you keep at it, you will succeed.

Best wishes in pursuing your dream.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
07/20/2012 08:13

Christina:

Congratulations on pursuing your dream! I can't imagine how busy you must be with a full-time job and five children. Kudos on your determination to achieve this dream.

I don't know whether law schools will accept an online undergrad degree. I would suggest that you contact several schools (ask for the admissions dept.) and talk about it with them. Most admissions folks are very willing to help, so I would go straight to the source. You might also check out http://www.lsac.org/. The Law School Admission Council is a centralized resource, used by law schools and prospective law students alike.

That said, you might also want to think about your situation once you are actually in law school. The first year (and perhaps the second) are extremely demanding. Some students work part-time, however, some schools prohibit even part-time jobs. Further, I believe that a legal education requires a large commitment of time and energy and candidly, although I'm sure people do it, I think it would be a difficult path to work and go to law school at the same time. Nonetheless, I also believe that if you want anything badly enough, you will figure out a way to make it work.

For now, however, I would take it one step at a time. Get your undergraduate degree. Do well and earn great grades. At some point, you will need to begin to prepare to take the LSAT. You will need to do well on the LSAT. And so on.

By the way, that's why I refer to it as "The Law School Labyrinth." It's a maze of sorts- your rely on your skills, creativity and determination to traverse it. But if you keep at it, you will succeed.

Best wishes in pursuing your dream.

Reply
bobbi
08/08/2012 21:01

hi, i am going into my senior year and i want to get into corporate law but i dont know what i should major in undergraduate school.

Reply
Sammy
08/31/2012 00:41

Hi, I spent 6 years in college switching major to major because there is no law major for undergrad. I love reasoning and logic. This school year I finally settled down with Business but I kept thinking how can that help me with my LSAT? I mean if I was a bio student, the professors will at least give us some tips on the MCAT but it is not the same for law.

Reply
Richard
09/03/2012 16:56

Thank you Steve for the great article. Like many others here I too am just starting out my career in law. I am 26 and was at first worried I may have been out of school for too long to pursue a degree in anything. I have enrolled in college for the spring of next year and am slowly going through the process to be able to start selecting what I want to study for my undergraduate degree. Political science and history are some of my favorite things to learn about and it gives me confidence to know if I can excel in studies that interest me, and do not cause extra strain in learning, I can devote more time to reading and trying to get into the mindset of current lawyers.

I am determined to get into law school and do well, unfortunately I like reading about many different trials in the papers. Such as the Casey Anthony murder trial, but also the Apple V Samsung trial has really intrigued me as well. How will having my undergraduate coursework picked out before knowing exactly what path I want to take in law school affect me? Assuming it does at all.

Thank you again Steve

Reply
Joshua Neuman
09/15/2012 22:59

Hi, my name is Joshua Neuman and I was homeschooled until I graduated in 2011 from the Clonlara homeschool program. I am currently 17 years old and have been stressing over this issue for over a year. Up until a few years ago my grandfather was Acting Chief Judge of Miami Dade County yet his information on law school is clearly outdated. Your article was the first one that I found that really put an answer out on self-educating to become more familiar with the thought process of a practicing lawyer. So thank you for that and will read up and try to expand my mind on the subject. Thanks! Yet like so many others though, I do have specific issues that if you can walk me through I would greatly appreciate it.

I have currently 39 college credits in different areas. Most of them are electives while some cover basic cores, because of this I must by the end of this semester so I can start taking courses to a certain major yet I still do not know what I should take. I started thinking more along the lines of a diverse degree (such as music, philosophy or even history) or even a double major but still do not know what they should be if I did choose that path. I am very passionate about law and believe beyond a doubt about my plans for law school yet still do not know what degree would best fit. I understand that LSAT's and GPA are the two most important areas to master yet I’m still worried about making the wrong choice in the matter of choosing a major. As I stated earlier, because of my large amount of elective I have to start taking specified courses, thus, I have run out of time and have to make a choice soon.

So... Can you walk me through the issue so that when I do choose I don’t regret it later on? Or even if I do at least this way I will know it was not because I didn’t research and understand the issue.

Reply
Steve Sedberry
09/17/2012 20:05

Joshua:

Thanks for your thoughtful note. It's funny how we all can tend to underestimate our own potential. You are 17 years old and have 39 college credits! I know it creates its own issues, as you describe in your comment; however, don't overlook this incredible accomplishment.

The point is this: do not stress about this decision. You have plenty of runway to make good decisions (and even a few bad ones). Be sure and give yourself a pat on the back every now and again- you have a lot to be proud of.

As to choosing a major, kudos on thinking it through. With as many credits as you have, it seems to me that you have more, rather than less options. In any event, choosing a major is certainly an important process- arguably, you are choosing your life's work. Here again, you've created options because your longer term plan is law practice.

I've suggested that folks consider "marketable" degrees, rather than degrees that will simply get them into law school. My rationale is that if the law school thing doesn't work out, they will have something to fall back on. Some argue that you should choose a major that will help you get into law school (meaning an "easy" major that will boost your GPA). That's certainly a strategy, however, it is a virtual guarantee of either a job outside your chosen major or the requirement of post-graduate work.

Obtaining a "marketable" degree (such as accounting or engineering or the like) will accomplish a couple of things. First, it is your law school fallback. Second, it will likely challenge you.

Which brings me to the point. First, a caveat: I'm not a guidance counselor, or career coach. I have absolutely no experience in that regard, other than many years in business, followed by many years in law practice. Both give me a perspective, but no more. I have an opinion on the subject, but so do a lot of other people.

So, given that you are obviously a bright and talented person, before you go any further in your decisionmaking process, you should do some introspection. Is there something that you are passionate about? Do you excel at it? Can you make a living at it? Would you want to make a living at it?

If there is, then assess what the undergraduate major might look like. Is it in the area of business? Or, is it something else? Now, try to envision how that major might help you as you begin to prepare for law school. And ask yourself if you could live with it, in the unlikely event that you don't end up in law school.

Finally, talk to as many people as you can. Talk with lawyers- most will be willing to help you (If they aren't, well then, that's a learning experience in and of itself). Talk with school guidance counselors. Talk with law school admissions personnel (I can virtually assure you that they will be willing to help, at least based upon my experience.) Talk with your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. All will have an opinion on the subject. All have likely been there themselves. Mine that rich vein of information to the maximum.

Again, don't stress it. I'm betting that you are way ahead of the 17 year-old curve. I went back to law school after a twenty-year business career. I have loved every minute of my law practice (Okay, maybe not every minute, but the practice of law is by far the most rewarding work I have ever done.)

You will do great things. Keep me posted on how it works out.

Best wishes in your academic career-

Steve

Reply
Piraveen
09/29/2012 21:52

This helped a lot, thanks so much!

Reply
Judy
09/30/2012 11:13

Thank you for this post. I really want to go into Law. However, I'm not majoring in Philosopy, Political Science or anything. I'm currently majoring in Early Childhood Studies and I am in first year. But I took an elective called "Understanding Crime in Society" and that elective sort of inspired me into going into law. I think I'm going to continue taking Crime related electives as it will maybe help me. But do you think Early Childhood Studies is a bad undergrad for going into Law School? I'm really scared!!!

Reply
Steve Sedberry
09/30/2012 12:29

Judy:

The short answer is "no." There are all kinds of undergraduate majors that end up in law school, and I don't see why Early Childhood Studies couldn't be one of them. The ABA doesn't call out any undergraduate major over another- http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/pre_law.html.

It is almost axiomatic that to get into law school you need (1) good grades; and (2) a good LSAT score. Most law schools publish their acceptance criteria, so you might want to do a little research in that regard.

Your grades are going to be, well, your grades. This means that you simply have to work very hard in school, do the assignments, and aim for the highest possible grades you can achieve.

Your LSAT score is going to be a function of your reading comprehension skills, and your logical and analytical reasoning skills. This is where your undergraduate major may come in. The more you are challenged to grow in these areas, the more you will develop these skills. An "easy" major (if there really is such a thing) that doesn't challenge you in these areas won't help you prepare for law school.

That said, if you really love a particular major that doesn't challenge you, you can always supplement that major with outside work and reading, or with non-major related courses that challenge you. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that anyone would truly love a major that doesn't really challenge them . . . but I suppose I digress. I think you get the point.

The LSAT, because it is a test taken under stringently timed circumstances, is a very difficult test. I personally believe it simulates the practice of law (and I think law school does as well) because we often make decisions and render legal advice under similar circumstances. Lawyers have to be quick, logical, rational and able to think on their feet. I think that the LSAT is a decent predictor of those skills. So, the bottom line is you need to engage in activities and school work that will increase your strengths in those areas.

Finally, don't stress it. You are still relatively early in your academic career. You've got plenty of time to adjust and shift your strategy. I became a lawyer after a twenty-year business career. It took me a while (that's an understatement) to figure out where my strengths were. Eventually I did.

If you really want to become a lawyer, you will. It may take a lot of work. You may take a few false turns (the inspiration for the title of my book, "Law School Labyrinth.") But you will get there.

Reply
Judy
10/01/2012 17:23

Alright. Thank you so much!!!!!

Eben Kwame
10/19/2012 12:05

I am a researcher for an educational institution who want to start undergraduate law school in their institution. They are considering the generally legal practice and training for students , the textbooks to use, pre-requistes for law studies, electronic resources for law studies and what they should learn from other law institutions.

Reply
Andrea Wilson
10/20/2012 08:18

This post was very informative. Certainly one of the best I have found concerning the subject. I am a 34 year old mother of a young child and have been working on completing college for the last fifteen years. I have wanted to be a lawyer since junior high. I was on the debate and mock trial teams and took two “law” classes as a senior. When I graduated high school I lost sight of my goals and spent many years just trying to survive. I am currently finishing up my general education requirements at a community college and I have started thinking hard about Law School. For financial reasons I do need to return to the work force as soon as possible. I will have to finish my Bachelors on-line. I want to make sure that if I don’t get into Law School I have a degree that will make me marketable to future employers. I was thinking of getting a criminal justice degree. Is this a degree that Law Schools would even look at; especially since I would be getting it mostly on-line? I am limited to applying to only two Law Schools, University of Missouri and St. Louis University. I have a decent GPA of 3.8 because of some hiccups I had early on in my college career. Since restarting my associates I have gotten A’s in every class. I do challenge myself outside of school, to advance my reading and writing skills. I find Political Science, Sociology and History very interesting and I’m sure I can do well in any one of those programs. I am concerned about employability though. I was also hoping to find an employer that might have a tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance program and I’m not sure which degree program would put me in a situation to take advantage of that. Any advice you can give me in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Reply
steve sedberry
10/22/2012 19:45

Andrea:

Thanks for your comment. First and foremost, you are obviously a person who knows how to accomplish a goal- a skill that will come in handy in law school and law practice. Second, your concern about employability, in the event you don't get into law school (or decide you don't want to practice law down the road) is well placed. Law school is a long road, and in today's economy, a law degree isn't the ticket to employment that it used to be. More on that in a minute.

Your tenaciousness will come in handy, in terms of due diligence. "Due diligence" is a legal and business term that describes the process companies use to investigate business transactions- such as mergers and acquisitions. You will need to develop solid investigatory skills as you pursue your dreams and goals- ask a lot of questions of your potential schools. You will likely be investing a great deal in your education- the least these academic institutions can do for you is offer you insight and advice as to career opportunities, law school admission prospects and the like.

Your grades are great- no worries there. Keep up the great work! As to whether or not your law schools of choice will accept an online degree; I would suggest you reach out to the schools themselves. They should be able to give you some good guidance in that regard. Also, your very first stop should be the Law School Admissions Council (www.lsac.org). LSAC can provide you with all kinds of specific guidance regarding law school, as well as LSAT prep materials and guidance.

Now, back to your "employability" question. First of all, as you begin to interview for employment (meaning, your job as you continue your education), employers that offer tuition reimbursement should be fairly upfront about it- it's a benefit designed to attract talented candidates that want to advance their careers. You should review the terms of the benefit carefully- some employers require that you remain with the company for a period of time; otherwise you could have to pay back the tuition costs.

As to ideal majors- the challenge is to find something you will love doing, that also offers employment potential. Again, in today's economy, it's not an easy feat. Historically, the hard sciences, engineering, accounting, etc. were the most marketable majors. Your university (online or otherwise) should be able to give you specific information as to employment prospects, marketability, etc.

Do your due diligence in all of these areas, make informed decisions, and I know you will do well. You have a solid track record and are clearly a person who is willing to stick with it.

Best of luck in your academic endeavors, and feel free to check in, if I can help you in any way.

Reply
Robin
11/13/2012 11:52

Steve - Love your blog! What wonderful information and it was reaffirming reading this page in particular b/c it is exactly what I have been saying.

A lawyer I know said I should go for a Bachelors in either Criminology or English....my thought is, I DO want a Law degree but other factors could cut that goal short so whatever I end up with as my Bachelors degree is very important. I would like a Bachelors in Paralegal Studies; thinking I would learn a lot that would benefit my Law profession and hone my skills but I can't find a Bachelor's Degree program in Paralegal studies. I can earn a 2 year certificate to be a Paralegal but that won't get me any closer to Law School -- so frustrating.

I don't think I would enjoy teaching English and am not sure what a Bachelors in Criminology would lead me.

My Comp I and II classes I received an A, and I received a B+ in Speech. I think where I could use practice is in Critical Thinking and Critical Writing.

Any suggestions?

Reply
albo q
02/24/2013 13:14

An Engineering curriculum is great prep for law school. One of the most important things about law school and a legal career is doing well the first year. Those 8-10 grades -- actually 8-10 tests- may determine your successes in you legal career. If you do well in first year, you will get the clerking interviews during the fall of your second year -- which is the way you get into the top firms -- whichis the best way to get the highest salaries, the best training and bets perspective, then the easiest way to get credential and the book of business, which leads to job security and flexibility, etc. -- those first 8-10 tests! And the people who do well on those somehwta random 8-10 tests --diligence and preparation for 12-14 weeks straight, intelligence and luck (eliminate risks of doing poorly). The truth is law is easy for most engineers after engineering courses. The concepts are a piece of cake, and more importantly they are used to the daily, repetitive grind, which I guarantee you half of the first years are not. Also, being methodical helps in synthesizing, transforming essay answers to formulaic forms, and memorizing the essay answer formulas. And oh, because you have an engineering degree helps you -- a lot ! -- in getting interviews. Doesn't mean you have to stick to the IP section of the law firm. Just get in.. an dyou might find, which I have, that your engineering problem solving and fact finding skills are an invaluable advantage throughout your legal career.

Reply
Arlene
03/06/2013 13:56

Steve my sister has been told by many practicing attorneys that she would make an excellent lawyer - and she would love to do that as well. She took the long road to this spot however and at 51 with grandchildren, at the head of a successful sales business......she never finished college. She even worked setting up the business aspects and acting as the office manager for a family law practice. At this point in her life, she would like to become a lawyer and probably start her own family law practice. So the question is: does she have to get her BA or will 60 units, a stellar LSAT and an explanation of where she has been all this time work for what she wants to do in California? She is extremely well read and spoken, and has a laser sharp logical mind. What do you think? Do the exceptions to the needing a BA that I read about ever actually happen at accredited schools in CA? She would definitely be staying in CA if that changes anything....

Reply
steve sedberry
03/06/2013 20:17

Arlene:

Thanks for reading the blog. I don't practice in CA and am not familiar with their bar rules of admission, which is where I would suggest anyone considering law school should start. The rules are posted on the CA bar website at: http://rules.calbar.ca.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=-2KV5j0w6Cw%3d&tabid=1227.

I would suggest that your sister review them thoroughly as she starts this journey. As to your specific question regarding chances of admission at a law school with 60 undergraduate hours, again, I would suggest that she go straight to the source. In other words, contact her law school of choice's admissions office. In my experience, the folks that work in these offices are more than willing to help.

Bottom line: if she wants this bad enough, she can do it. I started my law career fairly late in life and have had an absolute ball with it. I think a bit of gray hair gives a lawyer judgement and perhaps wisdom that can only come with years. She can do it, one step at a time.

It's where the title to my book comes from- winding one's way through the Labyrinth. Are there traps and pitfalls? Sure. But I did it and am absolutely confident that she can too.

I hope she makes the right decision for her and if it is law, I wish her much success.

Reply
Sheyla
04/18/2013 17:31

This has been the most helpful article I've read on the path to law school - and trust me, I've read quite a few. Many were contradicting or confusing and vague, but this one was very clear and extremely helpful. I am in my first year of college, and I am considering graduating and going on to do an MD/JD program. I'm interested in criminal law, especially involving psychiatry, but most importantly, I'm just very interested both law and medicine, which is why I want to pursue that program. Nevertheless, if I absolutely had to choose between law and medical school, I'd choose law.

Because I have to prepare for both law and medical school admissions, I plan to pursue a major in Clinical Science/Med-Tech, which is three years of science courses and one year doing actual clinical work (and gaining experience) in a hospital. With that, I believe I'll be able to meet medical school requirements, as long as I obtain an acceptable MCAT score.

The way I have it planned, I will also be taking two advanced writing courses, two philosophy courses (I've already taken one in Logic) and two law courses (Introduction to Law; Criminal Law and Procedures) in addition to that degree. Assuming I end with a good GPA and good LSAT score, would a law school be willing to accept me? Is it unusual for someone to go to law school with such a medicine-based degree?

Reply
steve sedberry
04/18/2013 19:43

Sheyla:

Thanks for reading the blog and your kind words. There are so many different paths to law school, but you have certainly focused on the two most important criteria- GPA and LSAT scores.

Some great law schools offer JD/MD programs, typically a six year endeavor. I'd suggest you consult with the admissions department one or more schools offering these programs, to get a feel for what they look for in candidates for these programs. You may be surprised at how helpful these folks can be.

That said, and as you point out, as long as your numbers are sufficient to meet the school's requirements, you should be fine.l

Finally, kudos on your advance preparation. Post-graduate work is costly and a lot of work. I think planning for it in the way that you are doing will avoid surprises and unhappiness down the road.

I suspect that you will do very well, and I wish you success in your legal career.

Reply
Lauren
08/05/2013 23:39

Hi Steve:
I am about to be a senior in high school and as I fill out college apps I get unsure on what major I want. I am not a 100% sure that I want to go to law school so I definitely want a major I can fall back on, however I don't know which one to pick. I come from a engineering family and they all want me to get some sort of an engineering major. While I am pretty good in math and science, I am afraid that those college classes could hurt my overall gpa effecting my law school chances and I am not really sure if i would truly enjoy engineering. I absolutely love history and government and have considered a degree in political science but I don't really know what I could do with that major without going to law school and that scares me. I have also thought of majoring in finance or accounting but really don't know. I really need an unbiased opinion from someone other than my family of what to do and after reading your article you are the right  person for the job!

Reply
steve sedberry
08/07/2013 08:27

Lauren:

First- don't stress; you are likely way ahead of the curve in terms of thinking about your future. Second, the age-old adage of "do what you love" is true, but there's a postscript to it. You've also got to figure out a way to make a living at it. And this is where the risk assessment comes in.

I've got a friend who is a professional musician, with a well-known band. I asked him once how he got into the business. He said, "Simple- it was all I knew how to do." Today, despite substantial success, he practices every single day- 10, 15, 20 hours per day. He absolutely loves music. And he makes a decent living at it.

Did it come easy? No. He played a lot of bars and dives in places you and I might not dare to venture. I'm sure he ate a lot of rice and beans in the process.

Can everyone who loves music make a living at it? Of course not. So, the trick is figuring out what you are good at and what you are passionate about. It's something that you are likely willing to make sacrifices to do.

How do you figure it out? One way is to try it on. If you think engineering might be a path, then explore it. Go to work with one of your family members. See exactly what it is that they do all day. Immerse yourself in it. Just remember, in all careers there are good days and bad days. I absolutely love the practice of law. But I still have bad days- stress and deadline filled days that suck the life out of you. Nonetheless, I would not change a single thing about my career, and that's as good as it gets.

If you don't know any lawyers, then ask around to see if anyone you know has any contacts. Most people are more than willing to help high school students as they make these important career decisions.

Your instincts are good about political science and the "softer" degrees. In some cases, these degrees will limit your ability to find employment. They can be, however, a good path to law school. At the same time, I think most law schools tend to weigh the difficulty of the academic program against grades. So, if you have average grades in a difficult curriculum, such as engineering, and a good LSAT score, your chances of getting in may be fine. Check with law school admissions offices to see if my theory is correct, but I think it is.

That said, and as my musician friend will attest, if you absolutely love the field, then it is likely that you will find your way. People with polysci degrees go to work every day in the field. Here again, I would consider reaching out to a political organization to check your thinking and your level of passion about this area.

Having worked in business for many years, I can tell you that Finance and accounting degrees are excellent paths to good careers. Both are difficult curricula and either would also be a good path to law school.

Bottom line is that engineering, finance and accounting would all be good careers in and of themselves, assuming that you enjoy the work. So, if law doesn't work out (for any reason, including a change of heart) you can earn a living in these fields and have good career satisfaction. But if you are passionate about political science then I would explore it fully before abandoning the idea simply because it may be harder to find employment.

Of course, it all depends upon your appetite for risk. Life is about risk-taking. But you can manage that risk by making an informed decision. Do your due diligence in these fields. Talk to people doing the work now. Talk to law schools about their admissions criteria, relative to these undergraduate degrees. Plug it all into your analysis and then step out and make your decision.

Best wishes in your career choice. Based upon your thoughtful question, I suspect that you will make the right choice for you, and do great things!

Best, Steve

Reply
Anthonsio
09/29/2013 13:25

With Law School Graduates finding law-specific employment after 12-montha past graduation at a 50% level -- it is a real SLAP IN THE FACE to the Liberal Arts undergraduate majors.

If you want a JOB after Law School, get an Undergraduate Major/Degree in a bachelors-level marketable skill-degree.

Engineering (any)
Accounting and/or Finance
Management Information Systems (MIS)
Computer Science
Medical Sciences / Nursing
Biology / Chemistry
Economics + Statistics
Mathematics

Each of these Undergraduate Majors would bring a knowledge and skill set to ENHANCE the practice of law.

Do NOT depend on some law firm to 'train' you to be an attorney when you bring NOTHING in the way of knowledge or skills to the job on day-1.

So much of Law now is very specific.

Reply
luke
11/11/2013 20:52

I am currently going to a community college, and I have been contemplating a different major, because the current course I am taking is too easy. This has helped me to understand that I don't necessarily have to something law oriented. I deeply appreciate that this article was written. I will now be majoring as an engineer.

Reply

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply