Myths and Realities about Pre-Law Education

Many young women fresh into their undergraduate careers do not know what to study or how their educational goals in undergrad will mesh with their goals of going to law school. I have seen my colleagues stress about LSATs as freshmen when most of us are unsure of what major we will even have!

Below are some myths about the undergraduate education I feel should be cleared up for any aspiring female law students out there (the "0L's," as I refer to them) who are stressing early on about their post-grad studies.

Myth #1: You should overload on pre-law courses in undergrad to see what it's like being in law school. 

Reality: You should instead focus on your major, which is hopefully in a subject you are interested in and can glean skills from which you can take with you to law school (such as reading and writing well, as well as reading comprehension). I'm a senior and still have not done a single pre-law class. While many universities offer pre-law courses that do provide a good basis for understanding the foundations of law, it is still good to attain good grades and a thorough knowledge of your chosen major.

Myth #2: Study for the LSAT as early as possible! Prepare from sophomore year until you finally take it!

Reality: The LSAT is hard. It is grueling. You will burn out if you stress about it for a long time (as in, longer than a year). A good amount of preparation begins with deciding when you are going to take it. Most law schools recommend the June LSAT after your junior year and, if your score was less than desirable, take it again in September or October. Finally, if you can afford a prep class, take it the fall or spring of your junior year and continue to study independently of the class.

Become familiar with what study routine works for you and get to know the test very well. Taking practice tests in a testing environment, such as free tests the Princeton Review offers, or through timing yourself with the help of a friend, will prepare you better than making a timeline the first day of undergrad for when to prepare for this.

Also, many law schools advise taking the LSAT in June after your junior year because you develop skills over the final years of undergrad that don't compare to your previous collegiate experience (i.e. before college). Taking the LSAT too early could put you at a major disadvantage, so plan ahead when is the best for you.

After the jump: the argument against limiting your law school lists to the coasts!

Myth #3: Plan what law schools you want NOW, and only apply to schools on the coasts!

Reality: To be honest, my list of law schools I will apply to this fall fluctuates more than some celebrities' BMI's. Also, none are on the coasts simply because of cost, location and my personal interests. Many people I know have only been interested in East Coast law schools since before undergrad, and it definitely puts them at a disadvantage. While many schools there are wonderful and very competitive, law schools everywhere will provide students with tools necessary to becoming skilled lawyers.

Obviously, location can matter, but it's not necessary to finding a job. Many lawyers have gone to law schools outside of the jurisdiction in which they practice today; the bar exam (another big test later!) is what determines where you are licensed. So, take heart in going to Local U's law school, provided its criteria helps you hone skills for mastering the study of law.



 I would second what she said about not taking a bunch of pre-law subjects in undergrad.  In fact you should do the opposite.  Law schools and legal employers are looking for people from varied backgrounds and seven years of school dedicated to law is not going to make you attractive to law school admissions folks or potential future legal employers.  In fact, unless you want to teach at a law school, you should NOT major in pre-law, and even then, I think there is little utility to a pre-law degree for those that want to be professors—everyone is looking for diversity and interdisciplinary experiences.  It would be a much better career move, to major in business, or education, or science, or economics or some other subject that is interesting to you and may help you build a law practice in a field that is related to that subject.  Additionally, it is getting harder and harder to go to law school straight after undergrad as many top law schools are looking for people with at least a year or more of life experience before starting law school.  That means that you need a major that can land you a job after graduation.  Finally, you may think at the beginning of undergrad that you are going to for-sure be a lawyer.  However, what if you change your mind?  What if you get burned out on school?  What if you get really turned on to a non-legal field in undergrad?  You should stay open to that happening and make efforts to keep non-law school doors open for yourself.
I disagree with Megan regarding the importance of location when choosing a law school.  There are law schools with national reputations where it is true that you could go there and then build a practice just about anywhere.  Then, there are law schools that are great schools without national reputations and from which you would have a nearly impossible time building a career outside of the region in which the law school is located.  Therefore, if you choose to go to a non-top tier law school (and there are plenty of great reasons to so choose) you should attend law school in the region in which you plan to make a career.

Frank Kimball

 In a challenging job market it is imperative that an applicant understand the placement patterns of the schools she is considering. This requires that you reach beyond the anecdotal trophy placements which all schools can identify. Regrettably some of the data reported by some schools is soft or specious and in a year when a lot of placements are temporary, deferred, unclear, or ‘potential’ the data is less reliable than ever. Having said that
I agree wholeheartedly with the LSAT advice. To kick it up a notch, I believe every applicant must read Prof. Susan Estrich’s How To Get Into Law School (Riverhead 2004). A 1977 graduate of Harvard Law School, and the editor in chief of its law review, Professor Estrich ran a presidential campaign and is now a premier professor at USC. Her book is blunt, funny, practical, and provides the best road map I have seen in 32 years to earning admission to a top law school. She’s irreverent, thought provoking, and just plain interesting. There are other good texts available but this is an insider’s view from the top of the mountain.
Whatever your background or dream skip the pre-law nonsense. You’ll get enough law in law school to last you a century - and when I look back at my law school class - the many stars in the galaxy spent their undergrad years is majors that included, art history, engineering, mathematics, political science, languages, and all the rest. Take this last clear chance to follow your dreams and explore something that teaches you think, write, analyze, and present.
Let me save you some more money and time - skip the "law school boot camp" programs - or whatever they are called today. Good cash for the promoter, completely unnecessary for the student. If your law school has intro programs, of course you will want to attend. But don’t feed the vendors.
An exception: when you get to law school I’ve seen many, many students improve their grades by taking the course offered by <u><font color=”#0000ff”></font></u> Taught by a Yale grad, former AUSA, and Rhodes Scholar - it offers a way to understand the law school exam process. At $200 - or 40 lattes- it’s a bargain investment in a 40 year multi million dollar career.
Ignore the drumbeats of those obsessed about whether a school is ranked at a precise number by US News or some other source.Employers understand the key feeder schools to their firms - and they don’t change that much over time. The key feeder schools contributed meaningful numbers of graduates to a given market and are strong schools as well. Thus, in Chicago employers look to Northwestern, Michigan, Chicago, and Harvard - because each of these premier schools sends a substantial number of graduates to Chicago. But employers also consider strong graduates from Illinois, Notre Dame, Loyola Chicago and other schools. The blunt fact is that a student will have to far better at a regional school than she has to perform at a premier national school.
Going to a "regional" school outside the region is risky in a tough market. When a law firm can fill its needs from strong schools in the region and a handful of the national schools it is not inclined to invest the time considering applicants who mail in their resumes and attend regional schools across the country.  Visit and see where schools place lawyers. Visit law firm webistes and cross heck the information. 
If you are a law student whose school has access to Leopard Solutions - use which can analyze placement patterns inthe nation’s 10 leading markets. For example you can quickly determine how many associates or partners from any school work with a given firm, group of firms, or in an entire market.  The data may surprise you.  If your school does not have this tool speak with your OCS - it’s in beta testing now for the student product and it’s the mos powerful lawyer search tool on the planet. This database crawls the internet continuously reviewing law firm websites for hires, departures and other trends.  It’s far more up to date and accurate than or
Frank Kimball  Kimball Professional Management - Chicago 773-528-7548


Peg and Frank, 
Thanks for the great feedback!  
Peg - You make some very good points pre-law students or students considering law school should consider, such as what their motivations are or what other plans they might pursue should their decision to go to law school change. Those are some great points about location of law school, too! National versus local reputation should definitely be factors for any student considering law school.
Frank - I love that you say to "skip the pre-law nonsense!" Some of the programs at my school have been helpful, such as being part of Phi Alpha Delta, but I’ve forgone the classes entirely in my pursuit of my bachelor’s. Also, what you have to say about location, too, is very useful.
Thank you both for your input and resources provided! 

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