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The field of law intersects, and even drives, much of modern society in all areas, including government, commerce, education, and healthcare. Laws have material consequences on every person and structure. They influence outcomes across the life course, making the field extremely important to the stability and progress of society. The work done by law professionals is competitive and pays well. Because of these things, students wishing to pursue a career in law are faced with many choices of subjects to pursue, beginning at the undergraduate level. The answer, like the field, is wide open.
Law permeates every facet of society, from the life of the individual to various institutions and groups. Many argue that it doesn’t matter what you study for your undergraduate degree, and it is true that your grades and score on the LSAT play a larger role in getting into law school than your specific area of undergraduate study. This can make selecting an undergraduate degree particularly difficult when the end goal is law school. Students are presented with a wide array of viable choices. What this can mean, though, is freedom. Students looking to pursue a career in law are free to choose the area of undergraduate study they are most interested in. Because there is so much latitude in choosing an undergraduate major, some students have a difficult time deciding which discipline is the best fit for them.
This article lists 10 undergraduate degree choices for future lawyers in a variety of fields that can all have benefits to those with the long-term goal of applying to law school. This article does not rank degree areas in any particular order, as it is a matter of the student’s interest, skill set, and focus that determines the quality of the degree more than anything else.
Bachelor’s in Business Administration
A bachelor’s degree in business administration is well suited for law school, especially those applicants considering a corporate law track where knowing business fundamentals is helpful. The coursework is rigorous in reading, writing, and quantitative analysis, which is also helpful in preparing for the LSAT. Courses such as business law, contract negotiations, and public speaking are just a few that have proven to be helpful. Potential business majors should be aware that the rigor of coursework may negatively impact their undergraduate GPA, which can be harmful when applying to top law schools.
Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice
Because the criminal justice and legal systems are so intertwined, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice serves as an excellent undergraduate major in preparation for law school. Those considering work as a prosecuting or defense attorney may find the degree especially helpful, as the coursework and internships will give students a strong familiarity with the criminal justice system. Potential law students can also form helpful relationships with current lawyers that can provide insight into what it’s like to work in the criminal justice system. Helpful courses include criminology, criminal psychology, law & the criminal justice system, and social science research.
Bachelor’s in Economics
Economics is an excellent major for aspiring lawyers, especially for those intending to work in corporate law, intellectual property, or another niche where an understanding of economic theory and the levers that drive capitalism can be useful. As an underlying force that buttresses much of what occurs in society, economics gives students a broad and historical perspective of the world.
Changing economic conditions are also tied to legal reform, so students with an economics background may have an advantage in their understanding of the conditions that lead to legal changes. Moreover, economics is a challenging major where students learn to think critically and solve complex problems using social science methods and quantitative analysis – all critical skills needed in law school. Economics has always been a popular major among pre-law students and will continue to be one in the future. Helpful courses include economic history, the economics of labor, economic theory, and statistical analysis.
Bachelor’s in English
English has also been a popular undergraduate major for pre-law students as students focus on reading, writing, and comprehension. Perhaps no other major offers the exact skills required to thrive in law school as well as post-graduation. Practicing attorneys will tell you that much of their time is spent reading and writing complex legal documents that require them to process written information quickly and accurately.
Moreover, English majors learn to synthesize large amounts of written text and form persuasive and analytical arguments and positions. These skills are not only helpful in the field but serve as excellent preparation for entrance exams like the LSAT. Research shows that students who major in linguistics, a similar discipline to English, score exceptionally high on the LSAT and are admitted at rates higher than any other major at approximately 90%. Many researchers surmise that the intense study of language that linguistics courses provide is a salient factor in these students’ success.
Bachelor’s in History
Admission data shows approximately 3,000-4,000 students with undergraduate degrees in history apply to law schools around the country each year. As this demonstrates, history is also a popular major for aspiring law school students. History courses provide an in-depth analysis of critical tipping points in history that give students an understanding of how the current legal system evolved and what social conditions gave rise to it. In addition, students familiarize themselves with landmark court rulings and political systems that shape the laws that govern us.
History majors spend a lot of time doing historical research and poring over old documents. Attorneys also engage in this type of research, investigating past court cases, legal documents, and historical information.
Bachelor’s in Philosophy
Philosophy is not a major that undergraduates generally pursue when thinking about a pathway to law school. In recent years, data shows that it is gaining ground among law school applicants, given the philosophical nature of law and the aspect of it that relates to ethics, human nature, and metaphysics. Philosophy majors learn how to construct arguments and ponder difficult questions using various philosophical theories developed by some of the greatest thinkers in human history. Helpful courses include contemporary philosophy, ethics, individual & society, and philosophy of law.
Not only does a philosophy degree have a high level of utility as it relates to law school, but it is also considered a difficult major and can be viewed favorably by admission committees when they see the transcript of a philosophy undergraduate with a strong GPA and high test scores. Approximately 2,000-2,500 philosophy undergraduates apply to law school each year.
Bachelor’s in Political Science
Political science offers an in-depth understanding of government, from its formulation to its implementation. As governments are the source of laws, this has wide applications to the legal field. Any lawyer will be working within the legal framework developed by the government of the nation in which they practice, and an intimate understanding of both the government and the philosophical values by which it governs is beneficial. For this reason, political science has long been regarded as one of the top areas of study for future lawyers, and it remains a strong choice for those looking to enter the profession.
Approximately 12,000-13,000 pre-law students choose political science as an undergraduate major, making it the most popular major by a wide margin. One in five applicants has a bachelor’s degree in political science. Because political science and law are so conflated, it is easy to see why the major is popular amongst aspiring law students. Helpful courses include constitutional law, foundations of government, political analysis, and political science research.
Bachelor’s in Psychology
Psychology and law intersect well, as both deal with human thought and behavior. Psychology experts are relied upon heavily as witnesses and experts in many different legal cases and contexts. Having an understanding of psychological theory and its application can be helpful when it comes to preparing for law school.
In addition, many legal professionals work closely with social service agencies and their clients, many of whom have a history of psychological problems and mental health needs. Having at least a baseline understanding of the elements of psychology indeed proves helpful. Courses taught in psychology programs include fundamentals of psychology, social science research, and statistical analysis.
Bachelor’s in Public Policy
Public policy is a major component of law. In fact, public policy is nothing more than systems of laws, regulatory measures, and funding allocations that drive the policy out into society. Law shapes public policy and vice versa. In addition, public policy majors study the mechanisms and structures that develop policies in societies and organizations. Moreover, students learn the ideological underpinnings that drive certain policies, as well as the complex and difficult political processes that take place as groups try to pass and implement policies at the local, regional, and national levels. It’s clear to see why public policy continues to be a popular choice among pre-law students.
Bachelor’s in Sociology
Sociology combines several content areas and skills that can prove useful to law students. The discipline is essentially the study and analysis of human behavior within the context of material conditions, institutions, cultures, and relationships that drive peoples’ actions. Combining theories, research methods, and analytical perspectives, sociology students get a useful education that prepares them well for law school admission. Classes may include criminology, fundamentals of sociology, qualitative & quantitative analysis, and statistical analysis.
What about Science?
While a specific scientific discipline did not make the top 10 list, there are several thousand science majors with degrees in biology, chemistry, computer science, and physics that end up applying to law school. Science degrees can be very helpful for those that are interested in practicing environmental law, healthcare law, pharmaceutical law, or another science-related area of law. Science majors also bring attractive qualities to the table, such as quantitative strengths, logical thinking, and research skills.
Final Thoughts on the 10 Best Degrees for Future Lawyers
There are several factors to consider when determining which major is best to prepare you for law school. While many students follow the actions of their peers, the guiding principle should be to choose something of personal interest. After all, there are many pathways to law school, which include virtually any major. Moreover, law is not a singular career, and there are several sub-fields of law that allow attorneys to put their undergraduate degree to good use. For example, a sociology major may be interested in gender inequality and may choose to practice law that relates to women’s rights.
By choosing an undergraduate major you are passionate about, your likelihood of performing well goes up considerably. By doing well in undergraduate classes, you should get a strong GPA, which is an important metric on any law school application. If your passions lie in an undergraduate major that may not have the reputation of rigor, it is worth considering a double major or a minor that demonstrates high academic achievement. Also, because law school admission mostly uses a holistic model, it is important that students balance out academic rigor with community service, internships, and other extracurricular activities to be added to the application. While stats such as LSAT scores and GPAs are important, admission officials desire applicants that show critical engagement in their undergraduate studies along with exceptional reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Any major can provide these things if the student takes a keen interest in the material and utilizes the people and resources available to them.
Pre-law students are fortunate because they possess the ability to choose nearly any major, unlike other lockstep programs that don’t allow for this level of flexibility. This means that the applicant has a great deal of agency in building an excellent undergraduate experience based upon their desires and passions. While the above majors are closely related to law school, individuals should feel comfortable in choosing a major that is right for them.
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