Does the major matter?
Choosing a major. There is no right or wrong major in the sense that one major opens the door to law school and another closes the door to law school. Pre-law is not like premed. The path to medical school has historically been through science majors, but there are many paths or tracks to law school.
What is a good pre-law major? The choice of a major is important because not all majors develop the intellectual skills measured on the LSAT. A good major is the one that is right for you. Pre-law advisors recommend considering the following suggestions when thinking about a major.
- Your abilities. Follow your abilities. If your academic skills are strongest in the sciences (e.g., math, biology, physics, computer science), then consider a science major. If your academic skills are strongest in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, then consider a major in one of those fields. If you are good at writing and critical thinking, then consider a major that develops those skills. Your performance on standardized tests in high school and your course grades provide good indicators of your abilities.
- Your interests. Follow your interests. Choose a major in a field that interests you. Look at the University catalogue to see what kinds of majors are offered, and look at what kinds of courses are required to receive a degree in a major. If the courses interest you, then give that major serious consideration as the right pre-law major for you. If you are not interested in the subject matter, then the major probably is not right for you because interest is related to performance, and it is important to do well in your courses.
- The LSAT. Choose a major that allows you to develop the skills that the LSAT measures. Either the courses that are required for the major or the electives can develop your analytical reasoning skills. Some years ago, law school deans were surveyed to determine what majors they recommended to effectively prepare students for law school. The four majors most frequently recommended were, in alphabetical order, English (sometimes called literature), history, philosophy, and political science (sometimes called government). Pre-law advisors advise students to take the most demanding courses with the most demanding professors because that is the best way to develop the skills that the LSAT measures.
- The law. Taking a course that exposes you to the law can be useful preparation for the study and practice of law, but do not focus narrowly on law. Taking lots of law courses that require you to memorize cases, or teach you about the practice of law, is not a good way to prepare for the LSAT. Law courses that focus on teaching you what the law is (whether it is business law or criminal law) are good preparation for the LSAT.
Students from every major in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters have gone on to careers in law. Several departments (English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Philosophy) explicitly focus on the connection between their majors and the skills needed to succeed in a legal career. The College also offers a certificate in Ethics, Law and Society.