Law is a challenging, dynamic and potentially lucrative field that requires a lot of preparation. The path to the legal profession begins years before you take the bar exam or even earn a law degree. Graduate law programs do not require applicants to hold any specific bachelor’s degree, but several majors will give you a competitive edge for law school. Ultimately, having an accomplished academic record in any field is the best way to earn a spot in a graduate law program that can put you on the path toward your professional goals.
Academic Challenges and Writing
Neither the Law School Admission Council nor the American Bar Association requires lawyers to hold a bachelor's degree in any particular field. Law schools are more interested in the rigor of your undergraduate program than in your specific major. Undertaking a challenging art history class with a respected professor is more valuable to a law school applicant than taking an easy pre-law class. Law programs require a lot of reading, writing and analysis, so admissions officers look for students whose undergraduate classes demanded the same tasks. Though English and philosophy may not be majors you associate with law school–bound students, either degree would effectively demonstrate that you have honed those coveted skills.
Consider Avoiding Pre-Law Majors
Surprisingly, some legal professionals argue against choosing a pre-law degree. Studying complementary subjects provide a well-rounded education and stimulate critical thinking. The Law School Admission Council reports students that majored in political science, philosophy. economics, and history had the highest test scores on the Law School Admission Test. Though it seems counter-intuitive, aspiring lawyers may be best served to forgo an undemanding pre-law degree in favor of a more challenging single-subject major.
Social Science and Humanities Majors
If you already know what type of law you want to practice, your future specialization offers the best insight into which major you should choose. If you want your legal career to be a stepping stone to political office, consider being a political science or government major. History and political science are wise choices for students fascinated by civil rights, legal history or constitutional law. If you are interested in criminal law, consider majoring in psychology, where you can study the way people operate when they deviate from societal norms. Any social science or humanities degree will likely require the advanced reading, writing and analysis skills that law school admissions officers like to see on transcripts.
Science and Business Majors
If you are interested in health care, environmental or patent law, consider pursuing a science degree that relates to that legal field. You can always pursue law in a technical field without a related bachelor's degree. But, if you enjoy the subject and it relates to your future legal specialty, feel free to forgo a pre-law or political science degree for a biology or physics major instead. Likewise, students interested in corporate, financial or real-estate law should consider business degrees concentrated in the related field.
Art and Sports Majors
Potential art, entertainment and intellectual-property lawyers may enjoy earning an art degree. If studio art and performing are your interests but not your skills, majoring in art history would allow you to study the arts without having to create artwork of your own. Sports enthusiasts can prepare for a career representing athletes and teams by majoring in sports management. Consider two things before choosing a major outside of the social sciences and humanities: the writing requirements and rigor of the academic program. Some art and sports management programs, in particular, may not offer you the academic challenges you need to be a competitive law-school applicant. Before declaring your major, ask the departmental adviser how many former majors have used their degrees to get into law school.
There is a reason why journalism is one of the most common majors among law school students. Journalists spend their time researching, writing and editing articles. They must evaluate sources, analyze information and prioritize facts. Better still, journalism programs offer law school applicants three benefits that most other academic programs do not. First, journalists gain experience writing for educated and general audiences instead of writing exclusively for an educated professor. Second, journalists rarely write about journalism; they write about a sphere of public interest. Many journalism classes, even if they are not expressly related to law or politics, afford law school hopefuls chances to write about legal issues. And third, by working for the student newspaper, student television network or local publications, journalism students can get some of their work published, which will further demonstrate written and analytical mastery, which law schools prize so highly.
Grace Riley has been a writer and photographer since 2005, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." She has also worked as a school teacher and in public relations and polling analysis for political campaigns. Riley holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in American studies, political science and history, all from the University of Arkansas.