In all my years doing law school admissions, nearly ten, I always appreciate getting a chance to respond to a question regarding “what courses should I take before law school?” It is a great question and it can often help guide a student through not only an undergraduate program, but also best prepare them for a successful law school academic experience as well.
If I could share one piece of advice with a college-bound student it would be the following – do not lose focus on your grades or your judgment in your freshman year of college and then have to spend the following three years trying to fix your freshman year grades and missteps. Keep focused on the reason you’re going to college – to learn, achieve good grades and create opportunities for your future. Even though you might be in college with no plans for professional or graduate school, I’ve seen so many students regret their choices when they change their mind and realize professional school is in their future. You can’t change the past! Don’t burn your bridges.
The beauty of earning a professional law degree is knowing that as a candidate you can declare any major and you can take any classes that you would like to secure your undergraduate degree, a requirement to matriculate law school.
What is most important in your undergraduate education is that you take classes that will prepare you for the rigors of law school and the challenge of a professional school curriculum. You will be challenged greatly and having a strong academic foundation is critical to success in law school.
Brooke Bowman, Professor of Legal Skills at Stetson University College of Law, currently ranked #3 in the nation in Legal Research and Writing, shared some thoughts on what classes would be best for law school-bound students, and she emphasized the following:
- Take classes that require reading and synthesizing large volumes of material – philosophy, literature and history – both American and world - among others.
- Take classes that force you to write frequently (requiring a Table of Content, introductions, transitions, proper grammar and punctuation).
- Take classes that require presentations.
- Participate in group projects that encourage teamwork and develop leadership skills.
- Take classes that require significant research and evaluation of sources, including proper citation of sources within written documents.
Bowman further iterated her decision to take elective classes in philosophy, but regrets not taking more classes in history, especially American History. One of her best decisions in choosing undergraduate classes was taking classes that she never thought she was interested in – Asian studies, Middle Eastern studies, Russian Literature or Caribbean Studies, to name a few – you never know how these classes will benefit you not only in professional school, but also in connecting with future clients or cases once you become an attorney.
Laura Zuppo, Assistant Dean of Strategic Enrollment Management at Stetson Law, agrees with Professor Bowman and recommends taking rhetoric and logic classes, as well. Zuppo suggests “steering clear of a senior year filled with all easy ‘A’ classes, like ‘Intro-to' courses". Sometimes the path of least-resistance is not always beneficial - we’ve seen that first-hand.
Whatever you decide to study, realize there are many avenues to success in law school, but taking challenging classes that will refine your skill set for reading and synthesizing information will make a huge difference in professional school success.