A broad undergraduate education is a vital component to prepare for law school. However, students often wonder about specific majors or classes. These answers are intended to address those questions.
Are some majors better than others?
The short answer is no. In general, what you major in does not matter to law schools. There are two caveats to that. Law schools sometimes hesitate with fine arts majors (music, art, dance, etc.) because they are not sure that the applicant has demonstrated analytical abilities. If you are majoring in a fine art, be sure to take classes in outside areas that demonstrate analytical skills. The second caveat is that law schools look favorably on students with technical backgrounds. Biology majors and engineering majors in particular are appealing. There is a shortage of lawyers with good technical backgrounds. However, the most important advice is to major in what you like. If you like the subject and are interested in the material, you will be much more likely to perform well in your classes. A higher GPA is much more important than any particular major.
What kinds of classes should I take?
In addition to your GE and major course load, it is helpful to take at least one law-related class as an undergraduate. This is more for your benefit than to bolster your application. It will help you get a sense of what law school might be like and what the law is. Students often have assumptions about the law that do not necessarily fit the reality. Classes that read case law, in particular, are helpful since that gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of the language that you will be dealing with in law school. Classes such as constitutional law or business law are helpful in this respect.
Other classes that are helpful are those that will aid you in developing the skills necessary to succeed as a lawyer. Classes where you write a lot and get good feedback are especially valuable. Another area to consider is taking a class in analytical reasoning in philosophy or in higher level mathematics to develop your analytical skills.
Finally, take challenging courses that are interesting to you. It will not help your chances at law school to take only easy classes- you should demonstrate that you are a high quality student who can succeed in the demanding environment of law school.
How important are extracurricular activities?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of the extracurricular activities. In general, extracurricular activities have a fairly limited influence on admissions decisions. Joining clubs and organizations just to say that you were active is not likely to be a successful strategy. As with choosing a major, the best advice is to do what you enjoy. Be true to yourself. If there is an issue that you are passionate about, then join a relevant organization. Take on a leadership role. Do that for yourself, however, rather than to help your application. Law schools can tell the difference. And throughout, make sure that you maintain your GPA.
Pre-law student organizations have been organized on campus, including the Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity
and the Business Law Association
. These organizations offer an opportunity to interact with other students interested in pursuing law school.
Are internships a good idea?
Internships are a great idea. You should learn more about the law while it is free before you start spending money for law school. You may find that you do not like it. You may find that you love it. Either way, that information is really valuable. There are a number of opportunities for you. The Political Science department has a Judicial Internship program open to all majors that places students with a Superior Court judge for a semester. Participants have virtually full access to the court, including settlement conferences in chambers, motion hearings, jury selection, and trials. More information about the Judicial Internship program is available on the main page under the news heading.
Beyond the judicial internship, there are internships available at the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office and private law firms. The Career Center is a great place to look for these opportunities. You should also contact the internship coordinator in your major to see about getting credit for your internship.