Majors + Academics

 

Pre-Law

Pre-Law advising is available through the College of Arts & Sciences.

What Kind of Pre-Law Advising is Available in Arts & Sciences?

The pre-law advisors hold information sessions each year so that students are made aware of skills that are important to the practice of law, what law schools look for in an applicant, and the steps students take as they approach the time for application. A weekly bulletin keeps students informed of events relevant to those interested in law. 

When you are ready to apply to law school, the pre-law advisors will assist you with choosing appropriate law schools, gathering letters of recommendation, and making your application as strong as possible. 

What Are Law Schools Looking for in Applicants? 

Law schools give great weight to the GPA as an indicator of likely success in law school, so you should plan to get off to a good start academically. The University offers many resources to help you develop a strong foundation during your first year for academic success in all four years. Take advantage of every available opportunity to sharpen your critical reading, study, and test-taking skills. The LSAT score is also important to law school admissions officers. You should take the LSAT during the summer after your junior year or in the fall of your senior year if you plan to go directly to law school from college. You can begin to prepare for the test by taking a variety of courses that will strengthen your reading comprehension, analytical thinking, and logical reasoning skills. 

Law schools also consider other factors such as work experience, extracurricular leadership, and letters of recommendation, but there is no substitute for a strong undergraduate academic performance and a superior LSAT score. 

What Major Should I Choose? 

There is no required course of study at the undergraduate level for graduate law programs. Washington University alumni with majors in almost every discipline offered have gone on to become successful law students and attorneys.  

Many law school applicants have majors in fields like political science, English, philosophy, economics, or history, but law schools also welcome those with other backgrounds (such as math, natural science, engineering, or business). A technical or scientific background can be very helpful for lawyers who specialize in environmental issues or patent law, for example. What is important is to choose a discipline that really interests you, explore it thoroughly, and earn top grades. 

What Is the Legal Studies Minor? 

The Legal Studies minor is not a "pre-law" curriculum, but rather a collection of interdisciplinary courses that allow you to study the role of law and legal institutions in our society from a cross-curricular perspective. Some pre-law students choose to combine a major in one of the traditional academic disciplines with a minor in Legal Studies. More information on the Legal Studies minor is available from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

What Skills Should I Acquire as an Undergraduate? 

Whatever area(s) you choose to emphasize in your undergraduate studies, be sure to take courses that require significant amounts of writing and courses that train you to think analytically. Seek out courses that require application of principles or theories to new situations, and courses requiring original writing and revision of your written work in response to comment and critique. It is also important to learn to read and analyze complex written material and to develop sound research skills. An accounting or other business course somewhere along the way can be helpful. Use extracurricular opportunities and classroom presentations to sharpen your oral communication skills. 

How Can I Develop My Writing Skills? 

 Words are the lawyer's most important tool, and you should learn to write and speak clearly, succinctly, and persuasively. The first-year English composition course offers you a wonderful opportunity to improve your writing. After you complete the basic composition course, you may select from a large number of upper-level composition courses, as well as courses from other disciplines that require significant writing. 

Should I Study a Foreign Language or Spend a Year or Semester Abroad? 

Yes, if it interests you, but not because it will carry any particular weight in law school admissions. The law, like everything else, deals increasingly with global concerns, and the ability to communicate in a language other than English can be valuable. In addition, mastering another language can help you communicate more effectively in English. Understanding other cultures can also be extremely helpful for a lawyer, especially one whose practice has international dimensions. 

Should I Do an Internship? 

Absolutely. Well-chosen internships can help you to learn about what kind of work environments you like, and whether law practice or other law-related work appeals to you. It's just as important to define what you don't like as it is to determine what you do like. The Career Center maintains a list of law-related internships in prosecutors' offices, law firms, public interest agencies, and the courts. Many students receive credit for their internships. 

What Student Groups Are Available for Pre-Law Students? 

Student groups that may be of particular interest to those interested in a legal career include the Pre-Law Society, Black Pre-Law Society, Mock Trial (Washington University teams compete regionally and nationally), Debate, Model UN, and Phi Alpha Delta (an international organization of pre-law and law students, lawyers, and judges). Pre-law students are leaders in almost every student group on campus—Student Union, the Campus Y, the Greek system, varsity athletics, etc. Choose extracurricular activities that you genuinely enjoy and to which you will make a significant contribution.

For additional information contact: 

Kristin Kerth
Pre-Law Advisor
College of Arts & Sciences
Washington University
Campus Box 1117
One Brookings Drive 
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899 
Phone: (314) 935-4936 
Email: prelaw@GoWashUBearsartsci.wustl.edu

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