Lawyers represent clients in legal matters, write legal documents and argue cases in court. If you are contemplating a legal career, it is advisable to take high school classes that will challenge you to think and express yourself. A well-rounded high school education prepares you to excel in college studies, and to do well on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Admission to law school is often competitive. For example, in 2012, only 8 percent of applicants to Yale Law School were accepted. Learning how to study complex subjects in high school can be an advantage in reaching your goal of becoming a lawyer.
The College Board recommends that high school students complete advanced placement courses in English language and literature. English classes will strengthen your reading comprehension and written communication skills. Indiana University Bloomington’s Health Professions and Prelaw Center advises high school students, “It is impossible to overstate the importance of developing strong writing skills.” Exceptional writing ability may improve your chances of getting into law school. For example, Yale Law School requires applicants to submit a 250-word essay on any topic to demonstrate writing, editing and critical thinking skills.
Courses in history, government, politics and economics will give you a broad understanding of the forces that influence society. Lawyers need to know how and why laws are made, and overturned, in a societal context. O*Net suggests that lawyers must have working knowledge of government regulations, court procedures, agency rules and legal precedents. Taking social studies classes in high school can make it easier for you to learn constitutional law and jurisprudence when you are enrolled in law school.
Classes in public speaking can enhance your verbal skills and self-confidence. Also look for opportunities to give class presentations and speeches. Joining the debate club can teach you how to weigh the pros and cons of opposing viewpoints. The American Bar Association indicates that oral communication is essential to success as a lawyer because lawyers must be able to make persuasive arguments when defending a client or arguing a case in court.
Mathematics teaches problem-solving skills, useful to many aspects of law. College mathematics such as trigonometry can be challenging, so it is helpful to take mathematics classes in high school so you can maintain good grades. The ABA suggests that lawyers need mathematical competency to analyze financial records and review complex data.
High school science classes can introduce you to the scientific method and research techniques. Through experimentation, you learn to observe, record and interpret data in the laboratory. Scientific research skills are transferable to the study of law. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that lawyers must undertake considerable research in order to effectively offer legal counsel. Lawyers must also understand forensic evidence, investigate cases and determine what happened when the facts are in dispute.
- Yale Law School: Fast Facts
- Big Future: Major: Prelaw Studies
- Indiana University Bloomington: Health Professions and Prelaw Center: High School Preparation for Law School
- Yale Law School: J.D. Admissions FAQ
- O*NET Online: Summary Report: Lawyers
- American Bar Association: Preparing for Law School
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Lawyer
- Princeton Review: Major: Pre-Law
- McNeese University: The Benefits of Studying Philosophy
Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In her 20 years of higher education experience, she has taught classes, served as interim dean of students, and worked in many areas of student affairs, including student discipline, career advising, orientation and violence prevention.