At first, the path to becoming a lawyer might seem simple. Students earn a bachelor’s degree, complete the required testing to apply to law school, and earn a degree called a Juris Doctor (J.D.). However, aspiring attorneys have a number of decisions to make, including what subject of study to major in as undergraduates and what types of law they may wish to specialize in during law school.
Undergraduate Options for Aspiring Lawyers
There is no single undergraduate degree path that is best for preparing students to enter law school. In fact, a number of possible undergraduate degrees for future lawyers aim to improve students’ skills in different ways. For example, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends studying history, economics, English and public speaking, among other courses. History courses can help students understand how laws evolved. Coursework in economics and mathematics prepare aspiring attorneys to understand the financial aspects of law. English and literature studies get students used to reading massive amounts of text, as they will have to do as lawyers studying laws and preparing for cases. Skills in public speaking are necessary for trial lawyers. Ultimately, students should seek to build fundamental skills, such as skills in analysis, critical thinking and written and oral communication.
Students might be surprised to learn that majoring in pre-law or criminal justice may not give them an advantage in gaining admittance into law school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Statistically, though, fewer students accepted into law school had majored in either of these seemingly obvious courses of study as compared to students who majored in subject such journalism and economics. In fact, philosophy majors had the best numbers, with 82 percent of law school applicants admitted.
Regardless of which major aspiring attorneys choose during their undergraduate educational careers, there are two absolute requirements for entering law school. Students must earn top grades to gain admission to an accredited program. They must also get an acceptable score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
Law School Curriculum
When selecting a law school, students should be sure to choose a program that is accredited by the American Bar Association. During their law school education, students will learn how to write legal documents and how civil procedures are conducted, as well as learning various types of law such as tax law, constitutional law, corporate law, property law and labor law. They must then pass their state’s bar exam, a written test, to be admitted to the bar and begin practicing law. Throughout their professional careers, lawyers must uphold ethical obligations, or they risk being disbarred from practicing law.
Though the path to becoming a lawyer isn’t simple, it ultimately leads to a career that is rewarding financially and professionally. From the first class a freshman student takes, a lawyer’s education is primarily about developing the core capabilities that make a person an analytical thinker and a compelling and persuasive communicator.