At NYU there is no formal prelaw major or curriculum and therefore a prelaw student is, quite simply, one who defines themselves as such. As stated in the NYU College of Arts and Science Bulletin, the College endorses the viewpoint of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) that a single “best” prelaw curriculum cannot be identified. In other words, being “prelaw” is a state of mind — knowing that eventually you may apply to law school rather than a specified track or major.
Prelaw students should concentrate in academic areas which most hold your interest and that you feel most passionate about. The choice of a major should not depend upon what you think a law school might want, but upon the field most likely to motivate you, whether that be Biology or English Literature. In addition, while a large number of law school applicants are Political Science majors, law schools do not prefer any specific major and their student bodies reflect a diverse academic background. That being said, there are academic skills and areas that law programs look for in a student’s academic history which have been listed below. These skills are based on American Bar Association (ABA) prelaw recommendations.
CAS students may review an analysis of CAS majors which compares the learning outcomes of the major to recommended prelaw skills here. This analysis is not exhaustive, please review your specific course choice within your major!
WRITING, RESEARCH, AND EDITING:
Most schools recommend that students perfect their skills in English composition along with research skills and critical reading abilities. Words are the tools of a lawyer, and the student who can express themselves with confidence and clarity will be at a distinct advantage. Courses which require extensive reading, writing, and research should be sought out. Advanced level seminars and the honors programs within several of the College’s departments offer a unique opportunity to do extensive written work in the junior and senior years. The importance of verbal skills cannot be overstated, and the development of the ability to express oneself forcefully and accurately, both orally and in writing, is at the heart of the legal profession
Hone your skills in rigorous and analytical writing, conducting significant library research, and synthesizing large amounts of information.
Explore courses that emphasize essay exams, research papers that require revising in response to constructive criticism, and oral presentations.
ORAL COMMUNICATION AND LISTENING:
Alongside written communication, verbal communication is crucial for law students and lawyers for all work with colleagues, clients, and classmates.
Look for classes that require in-depth classroom discussion to help you articulate your ideas and think on your feet. Through these classes you can engage in debate and become proficient in making formal presentations in class and develop the ability to speak confidently before groups in school, the community, or the workplace.
At its most basic level, lawyering is problem solving - applying rules/laws to a certain set of facts and determining a solution. Seek courses that require critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, and ultimately will help you to prepare for the LSAT and excel in law school.
Seek courses that require critical and analytical thinking, problem-solving, and ultimately help students prepare for the LSAT and excel in law school. Courses that challenge your beliefs and enhance your tolerance for uncertainty and criticism are valuable as well.
Law students engage in critical reading of legal texts to comprehend and interpret the law. Close reading and analysis are fundamental skills that enable lawyers to provide accurate legal advice.
Look for classes that engage students in close reading and analysis of complex materials. These classes will help you learn how to carefully read, understand and critically analyze complex texts.
ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT:
As a law student, you will frequently be expected to effectively organize large amounts of information into a single exam or project. To do this, you will need to be able to organize and process significant amounts of information in a way that is both effective and efficient.
Classes that provide the opportunity to handle complex, information-heavy projects will help you to develop this skill!
PUBLIC SERVICE AND PROMOTION OF JUSTICE:
The legal profession is built on ethical foundations of service to others and promotion of justice. Having an understanding of ethics and experience assisting others is a valuable quality in a prospective law student.
In classes that foster public service and promotion of justice, look for opportunities for hands-on experiences in assisting others and the chance to participate in ethical discussions that promote honest and competent engagement.
RELATIONSHIP BUILDING AND COLLABORATION:
Law schools are building a campus community, they value students who can collaborate with peers and work effectively with colleagues. These students have demonstrated the ability to work well in teams, communicate effectively, and engage in cooperative problem-solving.
These skills can be built in courses that emphasize teamwork, communication, and cooperative problem-solving.
CONTRIBUTE YOUR COURSE RECOMMENDATIONS!
Have you discovered courses that significantly contributed to your skill development on your journey to law school? Share your valuable insights and help fellow students and alumni by adding them to our database. Academic departments are also encouraged to contribute courses that enrich the skill development of prelaw students.
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AREAS OF STUDY:
BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES:
A background in the behavioral sciences and humanities, politics, economics, history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, sociology - is suggested since each will offer critical understanding of human institutions and values with which the law deals. While mastery of all of these subjects is not required to be a successful law school applicant; we stress the importance of students having a introductory understanding of the legal, cultural, and societal foundations of Western civilization to be successful
Since many students thinking about attending law school are inherently oriented toward verbal disciplines, they have a tendency to avoid courses that involve quantitative data. However, understanding basic economic principles is of increasing importance in law school classroom analysis, and courses in economics, finance, business organization, and introductory accounting are strongly urged.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE & AREA STUDIES:
If you are thinking of practicing international law or in a bilingual or ethnic community, you may want to study the language and culture of the regions that hold appeal.
ISSUES WITH LAW-RELATED COURSES:
Most law schools specifically advise against taking one category of courses, those which are vocational in nature (such as “business law”). Admissions committees presume that you will spend sufficient time studying "law" while in law school, and they prefer that the undergraduate years be used to acquire a broad field of general knowledge upon which legal studies can be based. Similarly, most law schools actively discourage students from taking too many law-related classes as undergraduates.
Law is based upon sets of fundamental principles which are reflected in basic fields such as contracts, torts, criminal law, property, constitutional law, and civil procedure. These courses are almost universally taught in the first year of law school. Most law students do not fully comprehend what legal education is about until they are well into the study of these subjects. Elective second and third year courses are based upon basic principles learned in the first year.The undergraduate student taking a variety of law-related courses cannot hope to achieve an ordered understanding of legal fundamentals. Students, who overload on such courses may, upon entering law school may mistakenly believe they have achieved a head start.
Furthermore, in taking such courses, you will be sacrificing the broader liberal arts background which will likely better serve you in the graduate program.
In short, while law-related courses may help you decide whether law is a field which interests you and may familiarize you with a new vocabulary, undergraduate law courses will neither help you get into law school nor measurably help you once you are there. Be wary of claims made by any professor that a particular undergraduate course will improve law school grades.