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What exactly is pre-law? A look at what lawyers study as undergraduates

Bridge Team Member

Have you ever wondered where lawyers come from?

Academically, that is, rather than geographically. Chances are, you know what law school he/she went to and what firms he has worked for, but what came before that? Once upon a time, your lawyer was an undergraduate, plodding her way through the required curriculum of a four year college. And contrary to popular belief, no lawyer-to-be majored in pre-law, namely because there is no such major. If you search for "best undergraduate majors for law school," on the internet, you'll see that this is a frequently asked question. The short answer is this: you can spend your undergraduate years studying anything before pursuing law school. And by anything, we mean engineering, math, English, history etc. Unlike with a pre-med curriculum, there is no set of required courses that that a law school's admissions office needs to see.

That said, there are a few majors in particular that pre-law undergraduates tend to flock to. This is because law school admissions are, in large part, about the LSAT. What that in mind, here are some of the majors that are popular among pre-law undergrads:

Philosophy: What do lawyers and philosophers have in common? They can both talk circles around their opponents. But really, it's important to be able to think logically and to reason deductively.

Political Sciences: It just seems like the natural path into law school, right? It'll make the LSAT make sense, right?

English: It's true that quite a few English major make it to the end of their four years in college and then say 'now what?' before turning to law school because it seems like an appropriate extension to their academic life. It's also pretty well known that excellent writing skills are beneficial to LSAT takers.

But let's break it down: here is a real-life distribution of LSAT scores, listed by undergraduate major:

And here's a similar table based on 2009 data, presented by the American Institute of Physics:

See "prelaw" down there at the bottom of both charts? The ever-wise wikipedia says that "no specific degree or major is considered "pre-law." So what were those people studying, anyway?

And what's up with the physics, math, and economics majors? They aren't supposed to be so high up there, right? It seems that the most typical undergraduate pre-law majors might not be golden tickets to law school after all.

Another misconception about picking a "pre-law" undergraduate major is that students should go with whatever they find "easiest" so that they can maintain that 4.0 GPA while racking up as many extracurriculars as possible.

False. Getting into law school is hard; every year, lots of applicants are rejected from every law school they apply to. The road to becoming a lawyer is paved with a lot of hard work, not a lot of skating by with easy classes and a consequently impressive GPA. There's really no easy way to do it.

There is no single path to attending law school and becoming a lawyer. Lawyers come from all academic backgrounds and areas of interest which above all, means that whatever sector they're practicing in, they belong there. So before you hire someone, ask what he/she studied as an undergraduate. Finding someone who is genuinely interested in your situation can make all the difference in the world.

Our goal here at LexSpot is to connect you with the lawyer who is best suited to deal with your particular case, whatever that may be. There's a legal professional out there who is exactly what you're looking for.


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