Admissions committees look at a variety of factors and trends in your academic record in an attempt to predict how you will perform in law school. There is no "pre-law major" and unlike medical school, there are no specific educational requirements for entrance into law school.
Law schools are interested in your ability to do rigorous analytical research, to write well, to present, and to persuade. Take courses that will develop these skills. The American Bar Association offers an overview of the skills and values important to preparing for a legal education and a career in law.
Law-related classes may allow you to get a feel for law as a general subject, but they neither cover the material in the same depth nor embody the intensity and rigor of law school. Therefore, they are not especially accurate indicators of your ability to succeed in the study of law or whether you will enjoy it.
Choose a major that interests you. Admissions offices are not particularly interested in your major, but they are interested in how well you did in the discipline(s) you chose to pursue. A double major is not necessarily a positive factor in the admissions process.
While specific coursework may be helpful in corporate law, environmental law or intellectual property, a JD is a generalist's degree, and applicants come from widely diverse academic backgrounds.
A solid GPA-particularly within your major-is expected, but a willingness to go beyond requirements demonstrates an intellectual curiosity that would be advantageous in the study of law. Academic excellence reflects discipline and abilities, though the variety and depth of your coursework will also be seriously considered by admissions committees as evidence of your interests and motivation.
In general, lecture courses provide a good foundation for further instruction, while seminars allow you to present, discuss, critique, and defend more specific ideas. Smaller classes give you the opportunity to interact with faculty. Get to know faculty whom you might later ask for recommendations; make yourself stand out as an individual by attending office hours, asking questions in class, and conducting research with faculty.
Law schools will be interested in your extracurricular activities, leadership experience, summer jobs, internships, and public service since they seek well-rounded candidates for admission. Select activities that interest you; they do not have to be directly related to law. Over time, get involved in more depth in fewer activities. Take initiative and show leadership.
Students considering law as a career often wonder whether there is a preferred academic track for students considering a legal career. At Bucknell there is no formal prelaw curriculum. The American Bar Association, and its 184 associated law schools, do not require or recommend any particular undergraduate major, or courses, for those preparing for law school. The law is "too multifaceted and the human mind too adaptable, to permit such a linear approach to preparing for law school or the practice of law." Bucknell prelaw students major in a range of subjects including, among others, political science, international relations, economics, English, sociology, management, philosophy, history, biology, psychology, and accounting. One of the most important determinants of admission to law school is the student's grade point average. Therefore, the best advise is to take majors and courses you find intellectually stimulating, because these are the ones in which you are likely to excel.
The A.B.A. Guidelines:
While there is no preferred academic major, according to the American Bar Association there are "important skills and values" and "significant bodies of knowledge" that offer a sound basis for legal education. The "skills," including "analytical and problem solving skills," "critical reading abilities," "writing skills," "oral communication and listening abilities," "general research skills," and "task organization and management skills," are similar to those promoted by the University’s Common Learning Agenda. A student typically has been educated in these areas by virtue of matriculation at Bucknell. The University's Writing Program and the Foundation, Departmental, and Capstone Seminars are designed to promote the communicative, critical thinking, research, and reading abilities that law schools desire in an undergraduate program.
However, the knowledge that the A.B.A. recommends to understand "legal principles and standards," "the context in which a legal problem arises," and "how disputes might be resolved" might not be acquired without curricular guidance. The types of preparation the bar association recommends include the following:
A glance at the University’s catalog suggests that Bucknell provides many offerings that would promote understanding of these knowledge areas. However, listed below is a sample of courses, primarily introductory ones, which could be used to satisfy the A.B.A.’s recommendations. There are many upper level offerings that would deepen your understanding of concepts introduced in these courses. Consult the University’s catalog for further information or check with the prelaw advisor or your academic advisor. The suggestions merely better prepare you for legal study.
Students should bear in mind that these guidelines are just that - guidelines. They are only recommendations, not mandates. Furthermore, satisfying the guidelines does not necessarily increase the probability of acceptance at the law school of your choice. The ABA's suggestions merely better prepare you for legal study. When academic questions or conflicts arise, the best advise is to select courses that you find intellectually interesting, again, because these are the ones in which you are most likely to excel.
The A.B.A. is most concerned with a well-rounded liberal arts education that emphasizes critical thinking. The Bar does not recommend pre-professional undergraduate training for prospective students. One additional note of caution; law school admission officers do not favor curriculums with a large number of lower level courses. They prefer advanced courses, which it is assumed, are more challenging. Be sure your transcript has substantial evidence of advanced study. If you have any questions about your course of study, you are welcome to consult with the prelaw advisor.
Other Courses of Interest to Prelaw Students:
Bucknell also offers a number of specifically law-related courses that are available to those who want to study law as an intellectual pursuit. CLAS 250 Greek Law and Political Thought, ECON 330 Law and Economics, ENST 260 Environmental Law, ENST 265 Natural Resources Law, IREL 255 International Law, MGMT 220 Business Law I, PHIL 100 Law, Morality and Society, POLS 244 Judicial Policy-Making, POLS 262 Topics in Legal Thought, RELI 206 Contemporary Church-State Controversies, SOCI 123 Law and Society, SOCI 234 Criminology, SOCI 251 Social Violence, SOCI 256 Gender, Ethnicity, and the Legal System, and SOC 433 Seminar in Law and Society are all of possible interest to the prelaw student. It is important to note that these curricular offerings are not designed to provide pre-professional training. They examine theories of jurisprudence, the legal system, judicial decisions, or governmentally promulgated rules as an academic subject. Nevertheless, the courses may be helpful in your examination of the profession's values; some also may offer insight into the concerns of various legal specialties. See your academic advisor for additional information.
The Legal Studies Minor:
Bucknell allows students to elect a legal studies minor by choosing at least five courses outside the student’s major from a designated list. No more than three of these selections may be from a single department. The courses listed directly above may be used as the core of such a major. See the University’s Catalog and the coordinator of the legal studies minor, Professor Matthew Silberman, for information on requirements. Courses in the minor are not designed to constitute pre-professional training. A legal studies minor will not increase the probability of acceptance at law school. Remember the best advice is to select courses you find intellectually stimulating be they in legal studies, political science or even music, art history, or English.
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