10 Ways to Prepare for Law School While in Undergraduate School
by David Dorion
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Summary: It is recommended that presumptive law students should prepare for law school while in undergraduate school.
Law school is a long arduous process.
But it also represents a process that can start you off on a satisfying journey within a legal career.
However, none of this comes easy, as a person has to prepare in several ways for a legal education.
This article reveals some of the actions prospective lawyers need to consider before and during their 0L year of preparing for the 1L through 3L years of law school.
Preparing for Law School
While the decision to go to law school may come easily to undergraduate students who have interests in becoming practicing attorneys, there are a notable amount of additional decisions as well as considerations to take into account.
For example, do you know what type of lawyer you want to be? Or, have you considered what type of law you want to pursue? There are many types of lawyers in the legal profession, all of which can be assembled in categories such as litigation, corporate, environmental and tax law to name a few.
Have you also taken into account the exams you will have to take to be admitted into a law firm, namely the LSAT and/or the GRE?
And what about where you want to practice which can also dictate what practice field you want to pursue – all of these factors – and many more – need to be thought out with purpose and dedication by those who have committed themselves to going to law school after they move on from the undergraduate level of their education.
First of all, what is the importance of preparing for law school?
Law school is no joke. Those who succeed in not just being admitted into a top-tier law school, but have a successful career throughout law school, more likely than not prepared themselves heavily for the demands that law school will present.
They have researched potential practice areas, studied a list of law schools whose curriculums fall in line with the type of law they desire to practice.
These newbie law students have taken pretest study courses pertaining to the LSAT and GRE. They have visited law school campuses, met with (if available) the law schools’ counselors, professors, and in some cases, former graduates.
Most even know how much (or how little) they have to pay for law school, and with that, already understand what financial aid, as well as potential scholarships they can receive to help pay off their law school debt.
So why is this important?
Most law schools enjoy incoming students who are already prepared, or at least have a strong notion of what they want to do in law school. While there could be a number of reasons why one or two students have entered law school without taking the GRE or LSAT, the majority of perspective law students have taken either test at least once.
But most importantly, these law schools know that the incoming class of undergraduates seeking legal careers want to be at their respective law schools. After all, they’ve done the research, know the curriculum, have even, in some cases, toured the campuses.
This is what law schools like to see: Well-prepared and eager forthcoming law students who will make the most of what the law school has to teach and offer, which in turn can make the law school stand out among other law schools, should one or more students trek onward to successful legal careers.
Know the law school grade levels (0L through 3L)
For purposes of this article, we will stick with 0L, which means you are in the very first stages of law school – a stage, in fact, in which you are going through the various preparations of applying to law schools, taking the LSAT or GRE, gathering letters of recommendation and looking into financial aid, among a host of other activities such as visiting campuses and speaking with law school counselors and professors.
Regardless of that, as an incoming law student, it is good to know that law school is regarded as both a three or four-year educational endeavor, depending upon who you speak with.
In fact, law school is broken down this way:
1L – first-year law student
2L – second-year law student
3L – third-year law student
In this case, the above does not include 0L, which some regard as one of the more important law school grade levels throughout one’s legal education. Even so, there is no recognized 0L grade level in law school, though for prospective law students, the simple fact of being accepted to a law school in itself demarcates a passing of failing grade. In other words, if you’re accepted to the school(s) of your choice, you pass, If none of the schools you applied to accept you, then you’ve failed.
To that point, 0L is more of a preparatory law school grade level. In 0L, law students have to:
Take and pass the LSAT or GRE: The LSAT, or with some law schools, the GRE, are both standardized exams designed to show skills in their test takers that are essential to attending law school. Remember: you need to do as well as possible on these exams without taking them multiple times. Taking the LSAT or GRE multiple times can affect your ability to be accepted by a good law school, and later when seeking your first job after you’ve graduated law school and passed the bar exam.
Be aware of scheduled events: Since the main concern of students in 0L is getting into a law school, they have to be apprised of events such as LSAT practice tests, law school open houses and tours, alumni events as well as meeting professors. Once you list the law schools of your choice, take advantage of every opportunity they offer to familiarize yourself with them, and they with you.
Know your practice area: What type of law do you envision yourself practicing? If you can tell yourself corporate litigation, real estate or family law, for example, you are one step ahead of your classmates who did not stop to think what they want to do with a law degree. At least by knowing the practice area in which you want to work, law schools can determine whether or not their program coincides with your ambitions as well as you coinciding with the school’s ambitions for its students.
While these may seem like suggestions for a person to get into law school, the last thing they are is optional. Each one of these steps is absolutely imperative toward beginning a law school career that will eventually prepare you to be a lawyer.
More Actions All Presumptive Law Students Should Do Before They Become 0L Law Students College Xpress suggests that if you’re considering going to law school after you finish your undergraduate degree, the sooner you start preparing, the better. Everything you do throughout your four years in college can either help or hurt you when you start applying to law schools, so it’s important to consider your courses, extracurricular activities, jobs and internships. Think about each of these facets of your undergraduate years in terms of how they’ll affect your prospects.
The following highlights additional actions future law students can take to help them get on the right track toward preparing for law school.
Choose or rethink the best major for your law school career: While in undergrad, it is very important that you choose the best major and courses for your academic and professional goals. Just in the way a student who wants to study medicine picks a hard science such as biology or chemistry, presumptive law students may pick majors that are relevant to their law studies. For example, these majors can be:
English literature, emphasis in writing: For future attorneys, the study of literature and writing can help create a foundation in which an attorney creates a circumstance (theme and storyline) and executes it through communication (which occurs through his or her writing). These abilities are profoundly important in the field of law particularly for litigators who argue cases.
History: Lawyers who can tell vivid and encompassing stories regarding their legal cases have a strong advantage over those who can only bring up objective points which not only leave gaps that lead up to a certain event, but also leave those deciding the case (the judge and jury) cold and flat. History majors have the power to not only recount events in a story-like fashion of beginning, middle and end, they also know the importance of staying factually true to the story (or legal case’s) string of events.
Politics and/or International Relations: Politics as well as International Relations comprises another liberal arts major that can weigh heavily toward a lawyer’s educational background and future ability. Simply put, to understand politics or international relations, one has to realize the power of deal making, compromise and structure, all of which are entrenched in the legal profession, particularly when deals need to be made between, for example, a large employer and a union.
Business: The sooner prospective lawyers realize law is both art, such as defined by the liberal arts majors above, as well as a business, the more confident they will be when negotiating large deals in the corporate world, a task which all law students will have to face at some time in their law school careers. This is where undergraduate business majors can shine. And because so much of law is based in the business world, it seems part and parcel to the profession of law that undergraduate business majors can quite easily find law to be a satisfying stage to have completed within their business aspirations.
Philosophy: This major, as mind bending as it is, offers a clear, if not rather frightening advantage to the attorney’s quiver. Philosophy allows for a person to bend and manipulate reality. It asks people to consider both deductive and inductive reasoning, all while questioning truths and falsehoods. A major that is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind, philosophical theory and conjecture can have an undeniable effect on a case either within the boardroom or the courtroom
While law schools accept a much broader range of students with a much wider variance of majors than those listed above, prospective law students should understand that some majors will prepare future law students better than others.
For example, a legal publication recently cited the findings of Derek Muller, a professor at Pepperdine University, who examined the mean LSAT (Law School Admission Test) scores and undergraduates GPAs by major for law school applicants. Students who majored in subjects such as classics, international relations, and philosophy fared the best, perhaps because those majors require the critical thinking skills that law school demands.
Develop your skills as a writer: Writers of any ilk, from poets to novelists, will tell you that people within their concentration never cease development – they just cease. Writing is one of those mental/physical activities (yes, it is physical) where one gets better at as they get older. Granted, you probably won’t be applying to law school in your 50s, but should you do so, your writing will count now as much as might have during your late-teens. A good portion of law involves writing. So, the longer and more vast your subject matters are when you do write will only add to your ability as a competent law student. In law school, daily writing assignments (in addition to more reading than you’ve ever done in your life) are the norm. College Xpress suggests you refine your writing skills by taking a few classes that require a great deal of writing and in which you’ll get ample feedback on your work. These classes can be short story classes or a business marketing classes, which also have their fair share of writing assignments. This is of particular importance if you’re majoring in subjects such as the sciences or business, which don’t always require as many detailed research papers as might the practical arts courses. Remember, growing as a writer will help you both in law school and in your career as a lawyer in which clear and concise communication is imperative.
Join a pre-law group: Joining a pre-law society such as Phi Alpha Delta will help you meet friends and future colleagues with similar interests and goals. Plus, if you begin working on the law school application process during your junior or senior year, it will be encouraging to surround yourself with peers who are facing similar challenges such as figuring out which schools to apply to, studying for the LSAT, and securing recommendations.
Build relationships with your professors: Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, it’s important to develop relationships with your current professors for several reasons. Yes, you’ll likely need to ask some of them for recommendations when you start applying to law schools. But you’ll also get more out of your courses if you make an effort to engage with them during class and take advantage of their office hours when you have questions. Don’t sit in the back of the class, make sure your professors know your name, and discuss your performance with them throughout the semester so it won’t be awkward when you have to turn to them for favor.
Start studying for the LSAT well in advance: The LSAT requires preparation, and cramming isn’t an option, so it’s best to spread out your studying over as much time as possible. Take a prep course if you can (they are pricey, but a Google search may yield some low-cost options), or grab a few test prep books and get to work on your own or with a friend or study group. Your LSAT score is hugely important to your admission decisions (it’s far more important than the SAT is for undergrad), so give yourself as much time as possible to prepare.
Don’t give up, and not just for your sake: Law is difficult. The education of law is difficult, and the practice of law is difficult. And yes, while there are shallow, surface-level rewards to being a successful lawyer, such as monetary wealth and prestige, there also lies a deeper foundation in which as a practicing attorney, you are making yourself available to help people. You are there to make their lives better, or at least get them back on track so that they can proceed with life. As a lawyer, you are a confidant with empathy and a friend who can provide sympathy. You are someone who is relied upon and in the end of it all, sorely needed for your experience and understanding – all of which has been built on a foundation that began with your undergraduate years.
The 0L times for future law students are exciting and wide open. Do well as an undergraduate within a major that pertains directly to what you want to study in law school, stay abreast to the goings-on of the law schools you want to attend and practice areas in which you want to participate in, and your legal future will be well on its way to a successful and fulfilling profession.