As an undergraduate, there are several ways to explore the option of law school, both academically and through practical experience.
As an undergraduate, you may want to enroll in one or two law-oriented courses to test your interest in the study of law. Some may use the same texts (casebooks) used by law schools, but most will be taught in traditional undergraduate format. Therefore, they do not necessarily prepare you for law school, and law schools do not require them or similar courses. Several courses in the College offer exposure to the law. They change from year to year and semester to semester, so be certain to consult the departments' websites as well as the fall and spring course schedules to familiarize yourself with the most current offerings.
Law and Society Minor:
This minor provides prelaw students with a more integrated approach to the law and legal issues as examined through the prism of the social sciences. Again, these courses do not necessarily prepare you for law school, and law schools do not require them or similar courses. It is a five-course minor that draws primarily on the CAS Departments of Politics and Sociology. Note that courses used for this minor may NOT be double-counted towards your major or other minor. For more information, visit the sociology website.
NYU School of Law:
If you want to know what a law school course is like, you may sit in on one at our law school. NYU School of Law allows NYU undergraduates to visit any of the first-year lectures. Contact the admissions office at (212) 998-6060 or stop by 139 MacDougal Street to arrange a visit.
Obtaining “hands-on” experience through an internship in the legal field is an excellent way to determine if a career in law is right for you. It will also make you a more competitive candidate for law school admissions. Undergraduates have served as interns in the Courts, government agencies, non-profit organizations, legal public interest agencies, and law firms. NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development lists internships (paid, non-paid, and for-credit) on Handshake. Internships are updated weekly with current positions for the fall, spring, and summer terms. To schedule an appointment with a career counselor, call the Wasserman Center at (212) 998-4730.
Alumni Mentor Network:
To learn first-hand about a wide variety of legal areas, register for the mentoring program. This program, administered by the Wasserman Center for Career Development, allows students to benefit from the professional experiences of College alumni who are practicing attorneys. The program offers informational interviews, job-shadowing, contacts, and networking opportunities. Students need to meet with a career counselor at the Wasserman Center in order to request a mentor. For more information, call (212) 998-4730 or visit their website. Speaking of mentoring, we encourage you to learn more about Lawyer Alumni Mentoring Program (LAMP) for CAS undergraduates.
To see if “law” generally fits your interests, skills, career goals, and educational path, speak with a career counselor at the Wasserman Center for Career Development. They can help you with descriptions of and other desired information about many occupations, as well as providing information on law schools.
Another crosscheck for your interest in law may be to test your tolerance for ambiguity. To the layman, law appears to be an extremely precise field. Something is clearly right or wrong, legal or illegal. Yet any law student or lawyer can tell you that law is full of “ifs”, “buts”, and “maybes”. It is not a world of black and white, but instead murky shadows and shades of gray. Interpretation, analysis, and even competence in the courtroom may depend upon your ability to stay afloat in an ocean of ambiguity. If you are the type who likes precision and exactness, then you might think twice about a career in law.
For students motivated by idealistic or humanitarian interests, the long hours and hard work devoted to learning legal fundamentals may seem (and sometimes are) irrelevant to long term goals. A law student must learn every aspect of the law, regardless of specific career plans. If you are interested in human rights law or civil liberties, you must be willing to learn a great deal about contracts, torts, civil procedure, corporate law, and taxation.
Similarly, although many prelaw students embrace the idea of a legal career because of a personal antipathy toward such quantitative disciplines as mathematics, economics, and the sciences, you must keep in mind that lawyers are most often called upon to deal with conflict, and since most conflict is financial (even in divorce cases) the horror of numbers simply cannot be avoided. You must be familiar with accounting principles and know how to read a balance sheet, even if you are working for the National Resources Defense Council and attempting to save a pristine Alaskan forest.
Law school is a long, arduous, and sometimes monotonously indirect route that will eventually enable you to acquire the tools to effectively represent any client, from the largest corporation to a dispossessed tenement tenant.
Waiting to Apply to Law School:
Many students do not apply to law school until years after they have graduated from college. Indeed, at the most competitive law schools — such as our own and that of Harvard — more than 50% of the first year class have been out of school for at least one year. Given the choice, law school admissions committees often prefer more mature and experienced applicants. If you have any doubt about going to law school, wait! Do something else — work, travel, volunteer. There is no “track” from which you are going to be derailed.