The path to becoming a lawyer is a long one. You'll have to get a four-year bachelor's degree, complete three years of law school, then sit for the bar and apply to become a lawyer in your state. The right college can prepare you for the demanding practice of law.
The Right School and Major
No specific degree is required to get into law school, but one important consideration is whether your undergraduate major will prepare you to take the Law School Admission Test. According to 2009 figures published by the State University of New York, the majors that receive the highest scores on the LSAT, in descending order, are economics, philosophy, engineering, history and English. It's wise to choose a school that offers a rigorous program that will prepare you for the LSAT. Schools with first-rate pre-law majors can also give you a head start. According to the Institute for Developmental Anthropology, the top five pre-law programs are at Victory University, Palm Beach Atlantic University, the City College of New York, Hardin-Simmons University and the University of South Carolina.
Your School's Academic Reputation
Although a strong pre-law program and a challenging major can help you do well on the LSAT, law schools consider more than just your major. The law school you choose will look at the quality of the overall curriculum offered by your school, and a school with a strong national reputation can boost your chances of admission. The best overall colleges and universities as of 2013, according to "U.S. News & World Report," are Princeton University, Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University and Stanford University.
Beyond the Bachelor's: Law School
High-ranking law schools offer a demanding curriculum, highly qualified professors, resources such as outstanding law libraries and excellent career centers, and a strong reputation in the legal community. "U.S. News & World Report" publishes an annual list of the best colleges of law. The top five for 2013 were Yale University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Columbia University and the University of Chicago.
Rankings Aren't the Only Consideration
The highest-ranked law schools are also among the most expensive, and these schools accept only a small percentage of applicants. You'll need to consider whether you can gain admission and afford tuition. The National Jurist publishes an alternative ranking system based on the best value for the money you'll spend in law school. Its top five schools are the University of Alabama, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Louisiana State University, University of Nebraska and University of South Dakota.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.