of Minnesota - Duluth
Dear Prospective Lawyer:
Here is my sage advice about how best to prepare
for getting into (and doing well in) law school, as well as how to become
a good lawyer: [And here is a testimonial
to it from a previous student.] [And here
is a good essay on getting into law school, with some helpful statistics
about the relationship between LSAT scores and law school admissions.]
Here are the courses I recommend you take,
either because they will help you in law school or because they will help
you be a better lawyer:
- "Pre-Law" is not a major but rather a holding
tank for law-oriented students who don't yet know what they want to
major in. You will therefore have to declare a major and minor (or second
major); do so as soon as you know pretty well what you want to major
and minor in - but not before! You can declare your major at the Student
Affairs Office of the college offering that major. The CLA Student Affairs
Office is located on the third floor of Kirby Plaza.
Law schools don't really care what you major
in as long as you get relevant course content. Political Science is the
major most specifically targeted for lawyers. But sociology, criminology,
business, and accounting also provide excellent, relevant preparation.
Law schools judge your application almost
entirely on the basis of GPA and your LSAT scores. The better your GPA
and LSAT score, the more prestigious the law school you can get into. The
more prestigious the law school, the more opportunities for meaningful
contacts, internships, clerkships, and so on. And the better these are,
the more you will be able to write your own ticket when you finally join
a firm. Therefore, first and most important,
get a good GPA! You don't have much control over your LSAT score (at least
now), but you do over your GPA. Getting a good GPA means watching it right
from the start. There are many things to learn in college other than
academics, but if you want to get into a good law school, you need to do
a good job on your academics. But please note that this is not a
recommendation for you to take four years of underwater basket-weaving.
Law schools want students who know how to think.
I recommend that you take one of the special
LSAT prep courses. They have little inherent value, since they don't teach
you much more than how to take the LSAT, but they do tend to increase your
LSAT score (or so I believe), and you are competing with others who do
take such courses. Unfair, and discriminatory in favor of the wealthy,
but there it is.
You might find one of the following programs useful, even though they're at UWS,
not UMD. I believe that UMD students are allowed to cross-register at UWS,
but in any case, these are local resources. [The links may be out of date
when you read this, but if you go to the UWS main page (http://www.uwsuper.edu),
you can track down the relevant materials.]
POL 1011 American Government and Politics,
for the obvious reason that your practice will take place within this system.
POL 3150/3151 American Constitutional Law
I/II. You may well wind up taking this course again in law school, but
taking it now has several advantages. First, it is taught in the same manner
as law school courses, so you'll find out if you like (or are able to bear)
such courses. Second, it will teach you the rudiments of how lawyers approach
the law. Third, it will teach you how to do legal research: where the materials
are; how to read a law or a court opinion; how to brief a case; etc. This
will ease your transition into law school.
Business law, business accounting, etc. Most
lawyers do most of their work in the business setting. The more familiar
you are with it, the better you will do as a lawyer.
Phil 1008 Critical Thinking and/or Phil 1018
Logic. This will hone your mind for your legal work, for law school itself,
and for the LSAT.
As long as we're talking about Philosophy courses, consider taking Phil
3231 Law and Punishment.
Comp 1120 College Writing (introductory composition)
and Comp 3160 Advanced Writing: Social Sciences. Many people think that
lawyers' work is like they see on "Matlock", "Perry Mason", or "JAG": lots
of court appearances, speeches, and detective work. Not true. Most lawyers
spend most of their time writing: drawing up contracts, briefing
cases, drafting opinions, etc. So you need to be able to write effectively.
This is a useful skill for many other careers, too.
Communication courses: Comm 1222 Interpersonal
Communication, Comm 1112 Public Speaking, and Comm 3115 Persuasion and
Argumentation in Public Speaking. Of course lawyers also do a lot of speaking,
so these Comm courses will help you speak clearly with others and negotiate
with them effectively.
- Political Science occasionally offers useful
courses on international law, public administration, etc.
Finally, criminology courses will help you
understand the criminal justice system. Most lawyers do not practice
criminal law, but if you're interested in doing so, criminology courses
could be useful.
You might also consider participating in the
Pre-law Society and/or the Mock Trial team. These will give you information
and experience that you won't get in classes, they look good on your record,
and they're fun, too!
the legal studies major (shown at http://www.uwsuper.edu/catalog/general/2000-02/legalstud.html).
within the legal studies major framework, the paralegal certificate program
(shown at http://www.uwsuper.edu/catalog/general/2000-02/legalstud.html#paralegal).
Many prelaw students decide that they like legal work but will not become
lawyers (don't like the type of work; no money for law school; poor grades
/ LSAT scores; planning to go later, etc.). For those, a paralegal
certificate is one option.
the (under construction) mediation program, including the Legal Studies
courses LSTU 332 "Communication in Conflict" and LSTU 434/634 "Contemporary
Legal Thought" and the Political Science courses POLS 356/556 "Methods
of Conflict Resolution" and POLS 368/568 "Alternative Dispute Resolution".
(The course descriptions for these courses can be found via http://www.uwsuper.edu/catalog/general/2000-02/course.shtml.)
This program comes out of a growing conviction, even within the legal community,
that in most cases litigation may not be a good way to address conflicts,
at least initially.
Associate Professor of Political Science.
Page URL: http://www.d.umn.edu/~schilton/Advisement/Prelaw.html
Chilton [email] | Last
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