Preparing for Law School
Choosing a major
Gustavus Adolphus does not offer a pre-law major. A liberal arts education, not a pre-law major, best prepares students for law school—the American Bar Association, the American Association of Law Schools, pre-law advisor organizations, and others agree on this basic point. Law schools accept students from all majors and backgrounds. Law school admissions directors and lawyers are nearly unanimous in their praise of a liberal arts education as the best preparation for law school.
No one major is recommended for those preparing for law school. In recent years, increasing number of students with music, math, chemistry, communication studies, and other majors are going to law school. Law schools look for academic success largely regardless of your major. Choose a major that you love and/or that is relevant to professional and personal goals you have after graduating from Gustavus.
While at Gustavus Adolphus, you should be preparing to succeed in law school, not preparing to succeed in getting admitted into law school. This means you should be working toward the strongest possible college record you can achieve. Again, choose a major that (1) is interesting to you and (2) would be relevant should you decide to not attend law school. Law schools generally do not factor in one's major or whether one has a double major or a minor.
Here are 7 Key Skills and Values that the American Bar Association's committee on pre-law education says that your undergraduate courses should enhance:
- Analytical and Problem Solving Skills
- Critical Reading Abilities
- Writing Skills
- Oral Communication and Listening Skills
- General Research Skills
- Task Organization and Management Skills
- Values of Serving Faithfully the Interests of Others While Promoting Justice
Source: Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors (1997)
Honing these seven skills and values will increase your ability to master the demanding law school curriculum and to succeed in the legal profession. As this list suggests, you need strong writing skills and demonstrable ability in communication and reasoning. Lawyers analyze complex and often conflicting cases and statutes that demand logical and analytical thinking. Lawyers need the ability to express their reasoning with clarity and precision. Seminar format courses that accentuate writing and discussion usually contribute to developing these and related skills. At Gustavus Adolphus, your courses will prepare you to write well and to think logically. Take challenging courses and exercise the self-discipline to do well in those courses. You should use your General Education and your Elective course selections wisely.
In addition to this guidance, you can find very helpful information from the American Bar Association here.
Engage in extracurricular activities that will help to separate you from other applicants with similar GPA and LSAT numbers. Any responsible leadership role you accept will show law school admissions officers that you possess key qualities. Study abroad, honors you accumulate, work experience, internships—all enhance your application. Gustavus Adolphus has an exceptionally strong International Education program that you should investigate. The experiences abroad will be invaluable, especially as you prepare to write the Personal Statement that each law school requires.
For applicants who have been out of school for more than a year or two, the undergraduate GPA will be less important. The law schools will focus more on your LSAT score and your accomplishments since graduation. Graduate training and professional accomplishments are important, but community activities, child-rearing, political activities, and other pursuits will also be considered by admission committees. *Be sure to check with the law schools to which you will apply, for they generally accept LSAT scores that are three years old or less (from the test date to the first date of class in law school).