If undergrads have to major in hard science to get into medical school, then pre-law students need a law-related major, right? Surprisingly, the answer is no, according to the American Bar Association (ABA). In fact, the legal profession is open to a wide degree of diversity within its ranks.
This is good news for students who decided on their course of study before deciding on law school, but for those still deciding on a major, the lack of guidance on the best majors for law school can be frustrating. That's why it's important to remember that, even without an established trajectory into law school, there are ways to prepare yourself in any major you pursue.
Using the Past as a Guide
If you need some reference points to help determine a pre-law major, past application statistics might yield some answers. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), along with administering the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), also manages the application process for most law schools. Because of this, it compiles a wealth of information about law school applicants.
For the 2021-2022 school year, LSAC's data shows a rather diverse spread of pre-law majors. While many applicants hailed from a political science background, a vast majority were spread out among other majors. Other common majors among recent law school applicants include:
- Criminal Justice
- Business Administration
What may be even more relevant, however, are statistics showing the actual acceptance rates of applicants by major. After all, this could indicate majors that do a better job of getting students ready for law school. While 73% of applicants majoring in political science were admitted to law school in 2021, acceptance rates were higher among those who studied history (77.5%), economics (76%), and English (74%).
Building Legal Skills in Any Major
Many law schools look for a diversity of undergraduate majors and backgrounds. So although a large number of law students come from a liberal arts background, that doesn't mean a different major counts you out.
Although they may not come to mind immediately when you think of law school, someone studying nuclear engineering could bring a lot to the table as a lawyer. Along with the ability to decipher DNA evidence, law students with backgrounds in hard sciences are also attractive hires for intellectual property firms after graduation.
Hard science majors build an impressive base of technical knowledge, but other majors can also foster skills in preparation for law school. Writing skills, for example, can be developed in a wide range of majors. A psychology major will learn a great deal about human behavior and develop listening and problem-solving skills that could prove invaluable to their clients.
You'll be prepared for law school if your undergraduate coursework helps you develop:
- Critical thinking skills
- Reading comprehension skills
- Analytical skills
- Leadership skills
- Public speaking skills
Also helpful is a background in research methods, which hones your ability to compare and weigh evidence, essential skills for someone who wants to practice law. Other areas of proficiency that can be developed across different majors include skills related to time management and interpersonal relations.
The Metrics That Matter
Another reason why the substance of your major may not matter during the law school admissions process has to do with the metrics law schools use to evaluate applicants. The top two gatekeeper metrics, undoubtedly, are your LSAT score and your undergraduate GPA.
Economics majors had the highest average LSAT scores in 2021, followed closely by philosophy and history majors.
When choosing a major, consider one in which you can excel. A strong GPA can help get you to the next stage where law schools try to determine what you're made of and what you'll bring to the profession. Along with academic accolades, admissions committees look to internships and extracurricular activities to see whether you exhibit such qualities as:
- A willingness to advocate for others
- An appreciation of diversity
- An ethical code
- Resiliency/tenacity (nothing quite tops the story of the 1L hero who fought off a burglar trying to steal his laptop with his class notes)
- Leadership potential
Many of these personality dimensions can reveal themselves in any discipline, so it's not unusual to have professors outside of legal studies departments write recommendation letters addressing these qualities and weighing in on your fitness for law school.
Going Beyond the Best Pre-Law Majors
As you prepare for law school, along with choosing the right major, there are a number of other steps you can take to shine up your application. FindLaw's attorneys have stood in your shoes and are happy to share information, resources, and tips for success. Learn more by sticking with FindLaw for Law Students.