Majors for Law School: What Should I Study if I Want to Go into Law?

Majors for Law School: What Should I Study if I Want to Go into Law? 

One of the more common questions I receive from students is: “What are the best undergraduate majors for law school?” Do you need to be “Pre-Law” to get into top law schools

I have two answers to this question.

The first is not necessarily what some of the more precocious students are interested in hearing: That they are putting the cart before the horse by asking the question in the first place.

For nearly all students I have met, going into college with a preconceived notion of what you will do after graduation is the wrong order of operations. The purpose of college is to broaden your horizons, to teach you new ways of thinking, and to expose you to different perspectives–not to choose the right majors for law school or business school. Coming in with the one-track mind of going to law school or another type of graduate program (perhaps with the exception of medical school, by necessity) is likely to detract from that experience. That being said, having a strong understanding of your interests and passions is a key piece of applying to undergrad.

The second is a more direct answer: There is no one perfect major for students interested in law.

Unlike other post-secondary schools such as medical schools, law schools do not have any specific curricular entrance requirements. Some schools, such as Michigan State, offer a formal “Pre-Law” major or minor, but most undergraduate schools do not offer Pre-Law as a major. Additionally, the courses that such a “Pre-Law” concentration would comprise of are an amalgamation of political science, history, economics and sociology courses with some tangential relation to “the law.” They are usually nothing like a course in law school, which will be taught very differently with a heavy reliance on the case method and Socratic-style pedagogy. Schools offer these majors to give students some introduction into the law and some context for those who might be interested in pursuing legal studies after graduation. 

Nonetheless, from a strategic perspective, no admissions officer at any law school is going to be impressed by the fact that you were a “Pre-Law” major. If anything, it shows a lack of inspiration or creativity. Law schools are looking for candidates with unique backgrounds and interests who have blazed their own paths, even if they have more common interests and experiences.

Harvard Law School’s admissions website states this quite clearly:

Our assessment includes many factors such as work experience and demonstrated leadership, and also intangible qualities such as energy, ambition, sound judgment, ability to overcome adversity, high ideals, and concern for the welfare of others. Our admissions committee seeks not only to identify and recognize characteristics that are important to academic success in law school, but also qualities that will contribute diversity of perspective and experience, general excellence, and vitality to the student body.

Because the answer is that you can really major in almost any subject as far as law school admissions committees are concerned, you might as well major in something you enjoy. Focus not on the best majors for law school, but on the relevant skills you are building–not just through your major but also through your course selections on the whole. This will require constant and active reflection on your part as you choose your major, minor, and other courses.

If you’re curious what types of majors people have empirically found relevant, take a look at this comparison of the most popular “feeder majors” for law school (comparing 2006 to 2015). Remember, this is historical data and not a recommendation:

law school feeder majors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Also, if you believe that the LSAT is an accurate predictor of success in law school (I don’t think it really is), you might find this breakdown of success on the LSAT according to undergraduate major choices helpful in determining what courses will equip you with relevant skills (please note how high “Engineering” appears on the list):

LSAT mean score by major

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I decided to major in History at Dartmouth, I was often asked by friends and family what I ever expected to do with such a useless degree. This sort of attitude misses the point of a liberal arts education, which is to develop basic critical, analytical, and communication skills with broad application beyond the academy. In the words of the Dartmouth History Department website, “These include the ability to analyze arguments on the basis of evidence, to understand and evaluate the nature of that evidence, and to communicate arguments cogently, effectively–and even elegantly–through speech and writing.”

That certainly sounds a lot like what I did at Harvard Law School, and what I have continued to do every day in my career as an educator and businessperson.

About the Author


David Mainiero, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of InGenius Prep, is an experienced educator and academic and admissions counselor with over almost a decade of experience helping students unlock their potential and achieve their dreams. Having founded and run multiple and small businesses, David has a strong entrepreneurial track record.

He graduated from Dartmouth College Summa Cum Laude with Highest Honors in History with a focus on Nationalism in the Near East and was inducted as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Several years later, he earned a JD from Harvard Law School. To this day, he believes that the most important moments in his own education were learning with his peers during his time as a Policy Debater in high school and college.

David knows firsthand what success looks like and how to achieve it; his passion to help students discover their own passions and realize their fullest potential motivates him to travel all around the world to share his visions for educational access.