Pre-law course selection in the United States

Knowing which courses to take to pursue a career in law can be tricky, but making the right choices now could give you an advantage when it comes to being accepted into the best law schools.

When considering the study of law, it can be difficult to determine the types of courses that will best prepare students for such a future. The process of how to become a lawyer in the United States can be confusing within itself. Many students face the additional challenge of choosing courses that will give them the knowledge and skills to succeed later in law school. To assist these students, pre-law and legal studies programmes can be found at institutions throughout the United States.

Law school is a postgraduate degree programme in the United States. Students must first complete a bachelor’s degree then apply to a law school to pursue a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. The J.D. is a three year programme and supplies professional preparation to become a lawyer. After completing law school, the law student must pass the bar exam in order to begin practising as a lawyer.

Pre-law course selection in the United States

“Many universities in the US now offer pre-law programmes or legal studies majors”

When selecting courses to prepare for law school, the most important aspects a student should consider are the difficulty of courses and if it will develop a student to be a sharp thinker and effective communicator. It does not matter what a student chooses as an undergraduate major, but whether the student was successful in a challenging curriculum. The courses a student chooses should develop their skills in written and oral communication, critical reading, analytical thinking and problem solving. Regardless of chosen major, future law students should try to take courses in English, history, political science or business, because these subjects often offer the best development of communication and critical reading. A class in philosophy or ethics will develop analytical thinking and problem solving ability. Some universities offer law classes that are survey courses to introduce a student to the basic principles behind the American judicial system, as well as the US Government and structure of American society. These are helpful from the perspective of gaining a solid base of knowledge, but are not mandatory for admission to law school.

Many universities in the US now offer pre-law programmes or legal studies majors. To clarify, pre-law is not a major, but typically an advising programme to prepare a student for law school. A pre-law advisor helps students choose rigorous courses meant to develop the skills mentioned above. Legal Studies majors usually focus on legal issues through a broad range of courses in the social sciences and humanities such as philosophy, political science and history. Both pre-law and legal studies programmes may also include law courses to introduce students to the basic legal processes of the United States. While a pre-law programme or a legal studies major may be beneficial, neither one is required to be admitted to law school in the USA. However, it is always recommended that a student interested in law school seek an advisor to assist them in preparing for that goal.

The process of becoming a lawyer may seem daunting, but with careful planning any student can navigate the coursework and successfully develop the necessary skills.

Written by Lisa Taylor (2010)
International Admissions Representative
Goldey-Beacom College