Think of yourself pursuing a law career
If you are thinking about law school, you are taking the essential first step toward a potentially rewarding career involving law. Embarking on a legal education requires a great deal of thought as well as a sizable investment of time, money and energy.
Why go to law school? The reasons are not the same for everyone. You may want to learn the skills a lawyer uses and apply them either in law practice or some other work. You may be drawn to the intricacies of the law. You may be motivated by a desire to see justice done or to facilitate change. You may hope to enter a lucrative, prestigious profession.
As is true in any profession, not all lawyers are wealthy, and not all accomplish the objectives they set out to achieve. People of all ages and backgrounds are discovering that a legal education can open the door to a variety of opportunities, not only in traditional law practice, but in other areas as well such as managing organizations, teaching, politics, and advocacy.
Law schools, whether large or small, religiously affiliated or independent, have curriculums designed to focus on certain basic skills required of all lawyers. Going to law school will strengthen your reading and debating skills and further develop your analytical, creative, and logical thinking abilities.
Lawyers must know how to identify and analyze legal issues in light of the constantly changing legal and public policy landscape. You must be able to advocate the views of individuals and diverse interest groups within the context of the legal system. Clients will expect your intelligent counsel on the law to show the way to a viable goal while avoiding destructive conflict. You will need to write and speak clearly and be able to persuade and negotiate effectively.
Practicing law for a few years after law school will hone those skills and help you get the most out of your legal education. After that you can shoose a different career path, as many do, knowing you possess valuable and useful skills.
Preparing for law study while at Bucknell University
There is no pre-law academic track, and there is no required major for the purpose of gaining admission to law school. Law schools want students who can think critically and write well, and who have some understanding of the forces that have shaped the human experience. These attributes can be acquired in any number of university courses, whether in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, or engineering.
Your education should include courses which will provide opportunities for critical analysis, logical reasoning, and written and oral expression. What counts is the intensity and depth of your undergraduate program and your capacity to perform well at an academically rigorous level.
Bucknell pre-law students major in a range of subjects, including management and accounting, political science, philosophy, economics, English, engineering, psychology, education, chemistry, classics, environmental science, sociology, history, biology, international relations, and computer programming. An important factor for admission to law school is the grade point average. It is important to take courses you find intellectually stimulating as these are the courses in which you're likely to excel.
The Legal Studies Minor. This course of study allows you to choose at least five courses outside your major from a list of law related courses, no more than three of which may be from a single department. You are encouraged to contact the program's coordinator for further information.
The selection process.
Appraise your strengths and preferences. In selecting a law school consider the size, composition, and background of the student body; the location, size, and nature of the surrounding community; the particular strengths or interests of the faculty; the degree to which clinical experience or classroom learning is emphasized; the nature of any special programs offered; the number and type of student organizations; the range of library holdings; and whether a school is religiously affiliated, connected to a parent university, or independent. Cultural diversity is increasingly important, as is international law, in a diverse and globalizing world. Look at law schools with those eyes, too.
Admissions committees at the law schools look at many factors to try to predict who will be successful in law school and beyond. Schools rely heavily upon the results of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and the undergraduate grade point average. They also look at your personal statement (a substitute for an interview), letters of recommendation, and registration with the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS).
Many applicants do not present a clear choice to the law school admissions committee. In those instances the following criteria may be considered to differentiate you from the routine applicant: LSAT score; GPA; undergraduate course of study; any graduate work; university from which you are graduating; improvement in grades and grade distribution; extracurricular activities; ethnic/racial/other diverse background characteristics; individual character and personality; letters of recommendation; writing skills; personal statement or essay; work experience or other post graduate experiences; community activities; motivation to study and reasons for deciding to study law; state of residency; difficulties that you have overcome; pre-college preparation; past accomplishments and leadership; and anything else that stands out in an application.
To this point this handbook uses language developed by Bucknell pre-law advisors over time, particularly by Patricia T. Longley, Ph.D. The remainder of the guide, contained in other sections of this web site, is taken from a publication of the Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors. It was issued in October of 2007. Bucknell University's Pre-Law Advisor,available to students and alumni, is John P. Fernsler, Esq. In law practice for 35 years in government, large urban law firm and corporate counsel for a NYSE traded company, and now a lecturer in business law in the Management Department, he is located at the Career Development Center where other services are also available; e.g. resume writing advice and job placement services.
NAPLA has prepared the Pre-Law Guide for those considering the legal profession, for undergraduates preparing for legal study, and for candidates applying to law school. The Guide is designed to help at each stage by providing accurate and up-to-date information.
Pre-law advisors at nonprofit educational institutions are granted permission by NAPLA to use the Guide and are encouraged to tailor it to their respective schools. The Guide can be printed and distributed to students and alumni, and used on schools' websites. NAPLA requests that the attribution below be included in both print and online versions of the Guide.
The NAPLA Pre-Law Guide is based on Cornell University's Legal Careers Guide, which was used by permission of Cornell Career Services.NAPLA would like to acknowledge the following schools for their contributions to the Guide:Binghamton University, Boston College, Boston University, Bucknell University, Columbia University, Duke University, Northeastern University, Princeton University, and Texas A & M University. The Law School Admission Council provided information on study abroad transcripts, and the Financial Aid section is based on the "Financial Aid Toolkit" developed by the Pre-Law Advisors National Council (PLANC).
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