Pre-Law and Philosophy 1
Many philosophers and students of philosophy go to law school, and there are now many successful philosopher-lawyers. On the basis of information from law school faculty, from philosophers who have kept track of students who have gone into law, and from independent studies, it is clear that philosophical training tends to be of great value both in law school and in legal practice. A philosopher at a distinguished university noted that even the average philosophy graduate student who transferred to law school usually did outstanding work as a law student. There have been comparable results at many institutions around the country.
The law is not just a career that interests many philosophers and philosophy students. It is also a field for which philosophical training is generally excellent preparation. Furthermore, while the standard path into a legal career is through law school, philosophers have entered the profession of law in other ways, for example in legal research, without needing to obtain a law degree. Philosophers are also employed in prison administration, police service, and paralegal work as rights advocates. Some insurance and trust companies, moreover, have expressed interest in philosophical research capacities in relation to their legal work. Given the large number of recent law school graduates, it may be especially appropriate for philosophers interested in legal work in general to consider some of these other areas of the legal domain.
The many skills that students develop while studying philosophy are crucial skills in the study of law. These skills include, but are not limited to, the ability to develop and analyze arguments, to uncover assumptions and presuppositions, to identify fallacies in reasoning, to organize one's reasoning, and to structure complex ideas. Both formal and informal logic are of important use in the study and practice of law.
In addition to this, recent studies have shown that, on the average, philosophy majors receive higher scores on major standardized tests, including the GRE and the LSAT, than students majoring in other subjects. In many cases, the differences in scores between philosophy majors and other students were quite substantial. A study conducted by the National Institute of Education and reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education compared 550,000 university students taking the GRE (verbal and quantitative), the LSAT, and the GMAT. This study concluded that philosophy majors scored 10% higher than political science majors on the LSAT, 15% higher than business majors on the GMAT, and higher than all other students on the verbal portion of the GRE. Second only to mathematics and science majors, philosophy majors scored higher than all other humanities majors on the quantitative portions of these standardized tests.
Data from the Law Schools Admissions Test (LSAT) for 1996-1997 shows that, on the LSAT, philosophy majors outperformed all of the other most popular pre-law and humanities majors. On the average, philosophy students scored 157.0, while religion majors scored 156.6, with economics majors scoring 156.2, and history majors scoring 154.5. English majors scored 153.5, on the average, while political science majors scored 151.5. All in all, philosophy majors scored 4.7 points above the average, while religion majors scored 4.3 points above the average, and economics majors scored 3.9 points above the average. Thus, of all the majors examined (which also included journalism, sociology, business, the arts, criminal justice, accounting, and languages), philosophy majors, on the average, outperformed all other majors on the LSAT.
1 This text is adapted, with a few changes, from Careers for Philosophers, prepared by the American Philosophical Association Committee on Career Opportunities, and from The Philosophy Major, a statement prepared under the auspices of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association. These texts are available from the APA online at the following address: www.apaonline.org