Majors for Law School: What Should I Study if I Want to Go into Law?
September 14, 2020
Majors for Law School: What Should I Study if I Want to Go into Law?
An interest in law school after graduation often comes with the question of whether there is such a thing as correct majors for law school while in college. JD candidates often opt for economics, political science, or even philosophy, but it’s definitely not unheard of for law students to have majored in biology, art history, or even music.
While it’s true that law schools have no strict restrictions when it comes to undergraduate majors for applicants, you need to make sure that you maintain a strong academic record and a high GPA regardless of major. To guide you through considering the ideal majors for law school, I’ve outlined how law schools consider students’ major, what past acceptance data indicates for success in the admissions process, and the debate on whether there is a perfect degree when it comes to applying to law school.
Should You Attempt a Pre-Law Major?
Unlike other post-secondary schools such as medical schools, law schools do not have any specific curricular entrance requirements. Some schools, such as Michigan State, offer a formal “Pre-Law” major or minor, but most undergraduate schools do not offer pre-law as a major. Additionally, the courses that such a pre-law concentration would consist of are an amalgamation of political science, history, economics, and sociology courses with some tangential relation to “the law.” They are usually nothing like a course in law school, which will be taught very differently with a heavy reliance on the case method and Socratic-style pedagogy. Schools offer these majors to give students some introduction to the law and context for those who might be interested in pursuing legal studies after graduation.
Nonetheless, from a strategic perspective, no admissions officer at any law school is going to be impressed by the fact that you were a “Pre-Law” major. If anything, it shows a lack of inspiration or creativity. Law schools are looking for candidates with unique backgrounds and interests who have blazed their own paths, even if they have more common interests and experiences.
What Do Admissions Offices Look for?
Law schools are extremely open to a wide range of concentrations. In fact, they hope each candidate will bring something unique to the table. Harvard Law School’s admissions website states this quite clearly:
“Our assessment includes many factors such as work experience and demonstrated leadership, and also intangible qualities such as energy, ambition, sound judgment, ability to overcome adversity, high ideals, and concern for the welfare of others. Our admissions committee seeks not only to identify and recognize characteristics that are important to academic success in law school, but also qualities that will contribute diversity of perspective and experience, general excellence, and vitality to the student body.”
According to InGenius Prep’s Christina Chong, who has worked as an admissions reader at Harvard Law School and as the Assistant Director of JD admissions at New York University Law School, it’s less about your major and more about your story: where you come from, who you are, what you can bring to the school. Christina says:
“Law schools generally want to see that you’ve taken a course load with a lot of reading and writing intensive classes. They don’t really care about the major. In terms of activities it’s again choose your own adventure and what interests you. I’ve seen everything from people who are really into food justice to someone into international law. The main thing is that you’re telling a story to the committee so it’s very important that the story be accurate and also makes sense based on your profile.”
According to our Former Admissions Officer Jean Webb, who worked as the Director of Admissions at Yale Law School:
“Admissions officers look for evidence of strong writing, thinking, reasoning, and editing. Applicants must demonstrate the strengths they will contribute to law schools. It’s not always about the topic; rather, it’s that you write about the topic well. As an admissions officer, you don’t know what kind of law an applicant is going to study. Everything can change once a student gets to school. What makes a student succeed as a student and eventual lawyer is good writing, thinking, reasoning, and editing.”
Instead of getting anxious over your selection for majors for law school, you should focus more on achieving high grades and formulating a unique personal statement that helps you stand out.
What Does the Data Say?
You might be curious about how students from various backgrounds have fared in the law school admissions process and how students’ majors have played out for them in the LSAT. The table below shows the LSAT scores by major for 2017-2018 law school applicants based on numbers reported by the LSAC.
|Major||Number of Applicants||Mean LSAT Score|
This table is important as it shows just how diverse the mix is when it comes to law school applicants. It also shows that many law candidates are interested in the humanities, particularly political science, history, and English. However, math majors may have a slight advantage in the LSAT due to the logic-heavy contents, although this cannot be necessarily proven as classics majors are not far behind in their mean LSAT score. There are only 293 math applicants and nearly 12,000 polisci applicants. Yes, there is a mix, but most students choose political science. With so many political science test takers, students have a higher chance of getting low scores, bringing the average way down.
Is There a Correct Major for Law School?
The purpose of college is to broaden your horizons, to teach you new ways of thinking, and to expose you to different perspectives--not to choose the right majors for law school or business school. Coming in with the one-track mindset of going to law school or another type of graduate program (perhaps with the exception of medical school, by necessity) is likely to detract from that experience. That being said, having a strong understanding of your interests and passions is a key piece of applying to law school.
Now here is a more direct answer: there is no one perfect major for students interested in law.
An easy answer might be that reading or writing-heavy subjects help you the most, but determining the correct majors for law school is more nuanced than that. While subjects which sharpen your skills in analysis, close reading, and writing might help you with the LSAT, the data shows that there is no direct correlation that provides any particular student with an advantage in the law school admissions process.
Harvard Law School’s Class of 2022 comes from a variety of fields. 11% hold undergraduate STEM degrees. So keep in mind, that because there is also a larger pool of applicants coming from humanities fields - STEM is not a disadvantage. Studying STEM or something more technical can make you more unique! Just studying pre-law makes you more “typical.” From an application strategy perspective, the sciences might even make students more distinguishable!
When the time comes to choose what you want to study in college and you’re wondering about the right majors for law school, don’t worry too much. At the end of the day, you can essentially major in anything that interests you. Law schools appreciate candidates who bring something different to the table. Whether you choose a humanities or STEM route is up to you. If you’re truly torn, draw up a pros and cons list to decide which path works the best for you and focus on working hard in your classes. Good luck!