Preparation for the Study of Law
Law schools require no particular course of study, and there are no prerequisite courses. Admissions officials prefer to see transcripts that include challenging courses that relate to one another without appearing narrow or vocationally oriented, and they want to see a pattern of intellectual growth. They look for intellectually curious "renaissance people" with a wide range of interests. It is recommended that potential applicants include in their program courses that emphasize writing, research, critical thinking, and close reading (and try to obtain letters of recommendation from professors who can discuss your skills in these areas). In addition, consider courses that develop analysis, argument, and quantitative skills, and professors who will closely edit your written work. Regardless of your particular major, include courses in the social sciences and humanities, especially upper level courses that emphasize the above skills. Avoid taking courses on a pass/fail basis.
For more detailed information on course selection, read the following HPPLC publications:
- The Prelaw Curriculum for general and specific undergraduate course recommendations.
- Law School Admissions-Questions & Answers for Freshmen and Sophomores for additional curricular ideas.
Finally, students who choose to pursue study of a foreign language in college will benefit from analysis of the basic elements of verbal and written communication and from cross-cultural insights. Students are encouraged to consider including overseas study as one part of their undergraduate experience.
A word about undergraduate law courses:
Many students believe they should take some undergraduate law courses to help them get into law school or to assist them after they are enrolled in law school itself. Generally, these courses help with neither, and, in a sense, law schools would prefer you spend your undergraduate years exploring subjects that will not be available to you in law school. However, it is absolutely fine to take one or more "law" courses as an undergraduate! But do so for the same reasons you would take any other course: you've heard the professor is excellent, the subject matter interests you, friends recommend it, etc. Do not feel any pressure to "load up" on these courses. Note that (unlike medical schools, for example) no law school in the country has even one prerequisite course that you must take in order to be admitted.
For comments from some of the nation's premier law schools and legal organizations as to what they recommend in terms of undergraduate preparation for the study of law, see the HPPLC publication: Expert Advice on Undergraduate Preparation for Law School.