Attorneys advise and represent individuals, businesses or government agencies on legal issues or disputes. They represent their clients in court and conduct research and analysis of legal problems. Law requires excellent skills in reasoning, problem-solving, analyzing, researching, writing and speaking.
There is no set “pre-law” major for entrance into law school. Rather, students are encouraged to choose a plan of study that builds a strong foundation of academic skills and relevant experiences as preparation for legal education. You should choose a major you enjoy, and one in which you will excel. Admission to law school is competitive and grades matter. Whatever major you choose, you should pick courses that will allow you to develop strong reading, writing and problem-solving skills.
Most law schools require three years of training after the bachelor’s degree. To practice law, you must pass that state’s bar exam.
Law schools do not require specific undergraduate courses, but they do want to see that you have certain skills. Choose courses that foster critical thinking and reading, logical reasoning, oral communication, and effective writing.
Several options are available for your legal education.
- Juris Doctorate: JD
The JD is the first professional graduate degree in law. Individuals holding a JD must pass an exam to be licensed to practice in their jurisdiction and are designated by the suffix Esq. (esquire).
- Master of Laws: LLM
The LLM is an advanced academic degree, pursued by those already holding a law degree. It is desirable for international students wanting to gain global credentials and for JD graduates who want advanced legal study. It is a one-year, full-time academic program.
- Joint Degrees:
Combining a JD with an MBA trains the student to understand the importance of issues, skills and methods in both law and business. Students with a JD/MBA typically pursue positions in consulting, finance, accounting, management and operations. Adding an MBA generally adds a year to your law education.
Combining a JD with an MD degree is designed to allow students to obtain dual JD and MD degrees in six years instead of seven. It also provides students with the unique opportunity and experience in interdisciplinary work in the areas of public health, public policy and life sciences. Students are required to gain independent acceptance to the law school and the medical school.
Depending on the law school you attend, there are numerous options for combining your JD degree with a master’s degree in an area in which you are interested.
Aptitude Test and Application
Future law students must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). It is a half-day standardized test offered four times a year. If you're getting ready to apply to law school, plan to take the LSAT in June or September of your senior year. The LSAT consists of five, 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions and a 35-minute writing sample. The writing sample is not scored, but copies are sent to all law schools to which you apply. The LSAT is designed to evaluate abilities necessary to study law. It is not a measure of knowledge but a measure of analytical and critical thought aptitude.
Students applying to law school must create an online account with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and complete the Credential Assembly Service as part of the application process.
Links and Additional Law School Information:
- American Bar Association (ABA)
- Law School Admission Council (LSAC) — includes information about the LSAT and the application process
- Council on Legal Education (CLEO) — a nonprofit entity of the ABA with the mission to diversify legal education