Posted by: Whitney Ross Manzo, Associate Professor of Political Science; Pre-Law Advisor; Accelerated Law Degree Program Coordinator
So you think you want to go to law school. If you’re like many of the students I advise, you may not yet know exactly what you want to do for a career – but you do know that you want to go to law school, and you want to be sure that the college you choose prepares you to succeed in doing so. If that sounds like you, then these three tips are for you, to help you get there.
After all, it is the most common undergraduate major among those applying to law school. So, you might look for schools with good government or political science programs.
However, there’s no need to limit yourself to these two majors. Look for schools that have a variety of majors that are interesting to you. This is because, while political science is great (disclaimer: I teach political science), you DON’T have to major in poli sci to get into law school.
Other undergraduate majors that also do well in law school include history, English, criminology, and more. Really, any major that emphasizes writing and research skills is a great way to prepare you for law school. Which brings me to my next tip.
The biggest factor for any law school will be how well a student writes, because as a law student and lawyer you will write A LOT. Right behind that is oral communication skills, because again you will use them over and over in your chosen career.
Therefore, you will want an undergraduate education that requires you to write and speak a lot in preparation.
How can you tell if a college or university emphasizes communication skills? They have general education classes dedicated to writing and public speaking. They may have a writing center on campus that helps students learn more about writing. They might even require all students to take at least one “writing intensive” class. Coincidentally, communication skills are great in all types of careers, not just law, which brings me to my final tip.
I know you think you want to go to law school now, and you absolutely could end up there. But you also might take an undergraduate law class, or have another hands-on learning experience, and decide that law isn’t your style after all (at Meredith pre-law students take moot court and have a required legal internship for just that reason). Or, you might be a lawyer for 10 years and then get bored or burned out.
What do you do then? You switch to Plan B, or even Plan C. And where can you learn this flexibility? Liberal arts schools. As another post mentioned, liberal arts colleges and universities focus on a broad base of knowledge that you can transfer from field to field, rather than a more specific technical knowledge. Research has shown that adults today are more likely to switch careers over the course of their lives than previous generations, which means you’ll want skills that you can take from one job and easily transition to your new career.
Overall, my biggest tip for preparing for law school is to remember that you have to get an undergraduate degree first. Don’t look past this in your excitement about getting a J.D. – college is your opportunity to try new things and start your path. You should choose the school that you feel will help you achieve this best, and law school will always be there after.