Course registration just began at BC, and we thought it would be helpful to dive into our next topic of the Preparing for Law School series—choosing the “right” classes. When your college doesn’t have a pre-law major or track, you might be feeling a little lost. And even if your school does offer guidance, you might be torn between taking classes that interest you and those that you think will look best on your transcript to an admissions committee.
Whether you’re planning for next semester or the years ahead, we hope you find our below insights helpful.
As a political science major, I spent four years saying I wasn’t going to law school. As a 1L, I’m probably more confused now than I was in August. (But at least I’m confused about the right things!) Keeping my less-than-stellar credentials in mind, my advice is to take the classes you want to take.
Some of the smartest people I’ve met so far have backgrounds as engineers or scientists and never imagined they would be taking Torts or Civil Procedure. I have classmates who planned on being architects, or social workers, or astronauts. Ok, so maybe not astronauts. But I’m sure an aspiring astronaut could do as well as anyone else! Sure, some majors or classes may prepare you for a certain aspect of law school, but nothing prepares you for the full experience. Basically, don’t be a square peg in a round hole if the traditional pre-law courses don’t seem to be working out. Your strongest asset is your passion and desire to learn.
But, for all those liberal-arts minded people:
Take English. You’ll still have to learn legal writing, but having the foundation will help. Some American History will give context for cases and legal concepts. Find a class that forces you to engage with the world through a different lens. Use Philosophy to get comfortable with big questions that don’t have answers. If you have the chance to learn a language, do it.
Oh, and if there is a class on coping with stress in a healthy way, managing relationships under time pressure, and being a genuine, thoughtful person? Take that.
It can be hard to go wrong with classes in undergrad. I had no idea I wanted to go to law school for most of my tweenties (pioneering term for the time bridging the teens and twenties). I started studying for the LSAT my second semester of senior year, and took it that June. I think most undergrad classes are geared towards leaving you with as many doors open in the future as possible, so, again, it’s hard to go wrong.
I front-loaded my major, and was done with it by the mid-way point of junior year. That left me three semesters to exclusively take classes I found interesting. I took creative writing classes, a class on the revolutionary war, on victims of crime, youth violence, global healthcare systems, positive psychology. Diving into a gamut of topics helped me have a better idea of what I wanted to do once I got to law school because I had explored a few different avenues and had a good idea of what motivated me.
There’s not really a way to prepare for the subjects of law school beforehand, and you really shouldn’t be doing that, because that’s what you come here for. I did take Intro to Law and Employment Law my senior year once I realized I might be interested in law school, but neither of those helped in the slightest bit once I got here. Something that helped the summer before 1L started was reading through major recent Supreme Court decisions (Heller, Citizens United). A big part of law school is learning how to parse through complex and unapproachable legalese, and getting your toes wet in that type of writing can lighten the load later on.
When I was an undergrad at Colgate, I wasn’t positive that law school was in my future. I (unofficially) changed my major a few times, contemplated a number of potential career paths, and had to fulfill requirements that went far beyond my interests. So, as you can imagine, my transcript looked a little random by the end of it.
As an English major, the majority of my courses focused on reading and writing. Although I did enjoy most of these classes, I often wondered how Shakespeare would be relevant to anything outside of college. And when I signed up for a biology class focusing on “Topics in Human Health,” I worried that this class could be detrimental to my GPA.
The best advice I received (and probably the only advice that would have worked well for me) was to take classes that interest you. I didn’t worry about building a perfectly coherent transcript. Rather, I focused on the course descriptions and professors. And once I narrowed it down by that, I asked the professors if a syllabus was available so that I could have a sense of how I would be evaluated.
And now that I’m two months into law school, I would strongly suggest that you take a reading/writing-intensive course (or two). Regardless of the topic, you’ll come to law school equipped with skills that will be invaluable to all of your courses here!
The material taught in law school is unlike anything else – that’s what makes it so exciting! Law is a discipline all its own, and the first year of law school is dedicated to teaching students the basics of legal research, writing, and reading. There are no “pre-law” courses you need to take in preparation for law school. That being said, you should seek out courses that will help you become a better thinker. Legal analysis asks you to think creatively and consider an issue from many perspectives. At the same time, you must understand an issue’s legal history and integrate it into your argument in a logical and coherent way. Fortunately, many undergraduate courses are designed to teach students critical thinking skills.
Here are some ideas you can explore: Writing courses often emphasize critical thinking as a focal point, and they are tailored to help you write clearly. I would also look into History or Political Science lectures that have discussion sections. This is the best of both worlds, because it mirrors a common law school experience: you will be given a lot of information in a lecture, then have the chance to discuss it with your peers. Among undergraduate courses, those in History, Political Science, or similar fields are most likely to intersect with the law. Of course, if you have the opportunity to take a law-related course, I would recommend it. The classes may reinforce your interest in going to law school; I took Constitutional Law and two Bioethics courses, and fell in love with the material. Finally, I will put in a good word for Psychology, my undergraduate major. In the end, the law is about people: citizens, clients, plaintiffs, defendants, judges, and lawyers themselves. Courses that teach you how people think will bring you closer to understanding the spirit of the law and why we care so much about it.