The path to becoming a lawyer is as varied as the specialties within the profession itself. That is, almost too many to count. So, if you have your heart set on landing a legal gig, it's important to know that it doesn't necessarily matter what you study as an undergraduate. This is truly a profession suited to those coming from vast educational backgrounds and for which expertise in other areas can help set you apart.
That said, there are some academic disciplines that have long been good jumping-off points for students who want to later attend law school.
For starters, choosing courses that will develop the skills needed to do well on the LSAT® — the Law School Admissions Test — is a smart move. Since the exam focuses mainly on reading comprehension and analytical reasoning skills, majors that require a lot of research, writing and debating can give you an edge.
Take a look at these popular majors for future law students.
Examining how the past has helped to shape and define our present—here in the United States and around the world—will help you put into context our current justice system and laws. From a practical standpoint, history majors are also tasked with lots of research and writing and must learn to draw conclusions based on historical documents, a great precursor to the work you'll do in law school.
Having a strong command of written and verbal skills will take you far as an attorney whether you're writing, researching or speaking in court. Analyzing great works of literature and historical texts from various cultures and time periods is great practice for the hours you'll spend in the law library.
Philosophy majors delve deep into the study of logic, ethics, and morality—areas of thought that also happen to be the cornerstones of law. You'll debate with classmates, present arguments and do a lot of research to support your case, which is not all that different from what lawyers do to prepare for court.
Of all majors, this may be the closest to a "law school" curriculum as you can get. In this major, you'll study political systems, public policy, international relations and the relationship between government, the law, and individual rights, among other things. You're required to analyze various written documents and data sets (think ancient texts to social media posts) and will learn to think critically and write effectively—key skills for writing case studies and retaining information in law school, too.
Not only are economics majors trained to think logically and analytically, but economic policies and procedures, as well as how resources are distributed and managed, are topics closely connected to the legal issues you'll encounter as a lawyer. Any major that has you summarizing qualitative and quantitative data to solve problems is good training for your brain to seek out evidence to support your claims.
General business knowledge can be applied in almost any industry, and that holds true for aspiring attorneys as well. A business major is a good option for those who plan to go into corporate law. That said, be sure to supplement business fundamentals with humanities and liberal arts electives so you can train your analytical and critical thinking muscles, as well as practice research and writing, too.
- Consider majoring in a discipline that is related to the type of law you want to practice. Since you don't have to declare a specialty during law school, building a background as an undergraduate in subjects that interest you most is a great start. If you're passionate about environmental science, you could turn that into a successful career as an environmental lawyer. If finance and accounting is your focus, becoming a tax attorney could be your path.
- Choose a major or take electives that are heavy on research and writing. As mentioned earlier, those are the critical skills that will help you most in law school.
- Whichever academic route you take, maintaining a strong GPA is essential if you aim to attend a selective law school program.
If practicing law is your dream, know that your undergraduate options are pretty much limitless. As long as you pursue a well-rounded education that hones your communication, research and critical-thinking skills, you'll get your day in court.
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