What does it mean to be “pre-law”?

If you’re considering heading to law school after undergrad, you may be wondering what it means, exactly, to be a pre-law student. Rather than a rigid and prescriptive academic pathway, being pre-law can be considered a “state of mind” that indicates a future academic goal. There is no one way to prepare well for law school!

Since there are no prerequisites for law school, you can feel free to explore things academically and declare a major that truly aligns with your interests and strengths. Not only are you more likely to do well in coursework you care about, chances are you’ll get more out of it. Law schools will look to see that you’ve performed well and challenged yourself academically, in whatever path you’ve chosen.

The American Bar Association says, “The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. You may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics or business, or you may focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, nursing or education. Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills. Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education. A sound legal education will build upon and further refine the skills, values, and knowledge that you already possess.”

It’s a common misconception that pre-law students should be or are expected to be involved in law adjacent activities. Many students think they need to give Mock Trial or the Undergraduate Law Journal a go. If these endeavors interest you, great! But if you’re more drawn to clubs that have little or nothing to do with law, that’s great too! The truth is that you should engage in extracurricular activities that you connect with, and you’ll be better for it.

Law schools are interested in the skillset you’ve developed through your academic and extracurricular pursuits, whatever they may be. Building skills in oral communication, writing, research, problem solving, listening, critical analysis, and leadership can happen just as equally as a political science or theater major and just as easily as a law journal editor or dance team captain.

By Amy Mulhern
Amy Mulhern Associate Director, Graduate School Advising