Academic Preparation for Law School

The ABA has created a Statement on Pre-Law Preparation; below is a summary of their findings. In addition to reading the information below, please visit the year-specific guides to preparing for law school, available here:

   Timeline 1          Junior Year          Senior Year

No Single Path

There is no prescribed path to law school. Some students enter directly after their undergraduate years; others begin law school later in life. Law schools value diversity of applicants' abilities, points of view and life experiences.

Undergraduate Education

There is no such thing as a "pre-law major," either in the sense of an actual major called "pre-law" or in the sense of a specific major or majors that look good to law school admissions committees. You are strongly encouraged to pursue a course of study that is both challenging and of personal interest.       

Certainly, there are subjects that are considered to be "traditional" preparation for law school, such as history, English, legal studies, philosophy, political science, economics, or business; on the other hand, law schools regularly accept applicants with a diverse range of majors, including art, music, science, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and education. What matters most is not what subject you study but what critical thinking skills you acquire and refine—see the list of Core Skills and Values below.

Core Skills and Values

While there is no set major or curriculum for pre-law students, there are certain core skills and values that all successful law students should strive to possess. These include:

  • Analytic & Problem-Solving Skills: the ability to think critically about important issues, challenge your beliefs, and improve your tolerance for uncertainty

  • Critical Reading Abilities: experience at close reading and critical analysis of complex textual material

  • Writing Skills: a high degree of skill at written communication

  • Oral Communication and Listening Abilities: the ability to speak clearly and persuasively

  • Research Skills: proficiency at library research, the ability to analyze large amounts of information obtained through research, and familiarity with basic computer skills

  • Values of Serving Others and Promoting Justice: A dedication both to the objectives of serving others honestly, competently, and responsibly, and to the goals of improving fairness and the quality of justice in the legal system

  • General Knowledge: in addition to the fundamental skills above, there are some areas of general knowledge that are helpful to a legal education and to your development as a legal professional. Some of these areas include:

--A broad understanding of history, including the various factors that have shaped the development of society in the U.S.

--A fundamental understanding of political thought and of the contemporary American political system.

--Basic mathematical and financial skills, such as an understanding of precalculus 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 U.S., international institutions and issues, world events, and of the increasing interdependence of the nations and communities within the world.


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