What to Study in College to Become a Lawyer
Becoming an attorney requires commitment and patience, since the process normally features four years of undergraduate study before pursuing three years of law school. However, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, ‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet,’ completing your education and becoming a lawyer is a highly rewarding and satisfying experience.
Since law schools approve various majors for undergraduate degrees, you may find it challenging to identify the course to pick. This piece presents convenient tips on what to study in college to become a lawyer and make your decision-making easier.
Steps to Becoming a Lawyer
Before looking at what to study in college to become a lawyer, first, it is important to understand the general steps taken to become one. Knowing what each step entails can help you make better psychological, financial, and educational preparations during your journey to realizing your legal dreams.
1. Get an Undergraduate Degree
You need to earn an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university for admission to law school. Even though most law schools do not call for specific major prerequisites, it is generally advisable to take a course that will complement your desired legal field. For example, if you desire to work in intellectual property law, you must take the patent bar examination. Studying technical science or math for your bachelor’s degree can aid in preparing for that exam. Notably, law schools also typically seek top undergraduate students holding a minimum of 3.0 GPA.
2. Pass the Law School Admission Test
The Law School Admission Test, commonly called LSAT, is a standardized test you must take when applying to law school. It takes half a day and assesses your verbal reasoning and reading skills. With many locations providing this test four times each year, you can take the LSAT in June or October if you want a fall admission. Thoroughly preparing for this test is critical since the LSAT scores heavily influence financial aid and admission decisions.
3. Get a Graduate Law Degree
After getting into law school, the course usually takes three years of full-time study, with many graduates completing a one-year clerkship after that. To become a lawyer, you need to have a graduate law degree, normally a Juris Doctor (JD), from an accredited law school. Additionally, most states need you to earn this degree before taking your bar examination.
4. Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
Apart from Puerto Rico and two states, all other American states require you to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). A prerequisite for the bar exam, this exam takes about two hours to complete and features sixty multiple-choice queries.
5. Pass the Bar Examination
Lastly, you must pass the bar exam in the state you intend to practice in to become a lawyer. You want to have solid preparation since the exam is highly competitive and challenging, with some states dropping the passing rate to as low as 40%.
Courses to Take to Become a Lawyer
Although all lawyers are responsible for applying and interpreting the law, the career features various specialties for people skilled in a certain law section. For instance, you can find attorneys specializing in family law, others in animal rights, and some in criminal law. Knowing what part of the law you want to work in can enhance your convenience when picking courses to take for a bachelor’s degree. Picking subjects that compliment your desired legal field can make it easier when preparing for different examinations in law school.
Nonetheless, you need not panic about what to study to become a lawyer if you do not have clarity on your legal interests since law schools accept a wide range of majors. Generally, you want to take courses that help you sharpen your abilities in research, reading, logic, data analysis, persuasion, and technical writing.
1. Social Sciences
Social Sciences involves several majors, such as political science, criminology, psychology, international relations, and sociology. Sociology looks at human interactions and the consequences of human behavior, making it a suitable pick when aspiring to become an attorney. You can rely on your sociological background when working at a family law office, allowing you to offer quality counsel and defense in domestic cases.
Criminology leads you to learn about crime from a social perspective. This course enables you to look at who commits crimes, the reason for the crime, their impact, and preventative measures. Such knowledge can be an asset when working as a criminal lawyer since you can better understand and communicate with your client to build your case effectively.
Psychology can help you boost your understanding of clients with different personalities, improving your interaction with them. You can also manage your prejudice and work on your personality using psychological knowledge, making it beneficial to you, your colleagues, and your clients. It can also aid your cause when dealing with sensitive cases, such as working as a disability lawyer for an agitated client. This course lets you know how to approach clients and the best way to communicate with them without causing further damage.
Political Science and International Relations enable you to understand government and organization operations locally and internationally. Studying these courses is suitable for working in the legal department of a government agency, an international organization, or a corporate institution.
If you choose economics when surveying what to study in college to become a lawyer, you can gain valuable knowledge that you can conveniently incorporate into your legal career. For instance, if you represent a business, you can use your economics and antitrust law expertise to simplify your counsel and engagement with your client, improving communication.
Besides, an economic background is advantageous when operating as a divorce lawyer, helping you know the best way to defend your clients’ assets. It enables you to protect your client and prevent unfair losses when splitting matrimonial property.
You can also rely on your economics course to work as a personal injury lawyer. Most personal injury cases require adept comprehension of insurance matters, and economics aids you in getting correct calculations for your claims. It also better equips you to fight against tricky and smart opponents looking to avoid paying full compensation.
3. Math and Science
Math is a critical aspect of being a lawyer because the job requires accurate data analysis. With a mathematics course, you can efficiently work on sizeable amounts of complex documents such as financial and statistical records. The subject naturally teaches you to study, analyze, and solve problems, and thus, you can transfer these skills to your legal career when looking to solve various client problems. For example, when dealing with a client about estate planning, you can rely on excellent numerical skills to advise and guide your client regarding debts and tax requirements.
Science courses include studying the scientific method, which encompasses experimenting, observing, recording, and interpreting data. The legal profession also incorporates similar steps in investigating and building cases. Hence, science can help you develop objectivity and systematic handling of cases, guiding you to link all the available information and present a rational conclusion.
You can look at history courses when searching for what to study in college to become a lawyer. The course leads you to learn about the evolution of human history, covering prehistory to current times. Although it may initially seem unrelated to legal studies, history students undertake detailed research throughout their studies. Therefore, when you take it as a subject, it allows you to look into the legal history of humanity while simultaneously developing your research skills.
Researching is a fundamental skill for lawyers, enabling you to get vital information from the past and present to aid your case. For instance, if you are an ssi lawyer, you can conduct thorough research into legal changes within the Social Security regulations relevant to your case.
5. Public Relations
Public relations teaches students to learn the techniques required to manage the public perception of an institution. Public Relations can be especially helpful when you plan on representing businesses. For instance, bankruptcy lawyers can use this course to minimize damage to their client’s reputations. In addition, a criminal defense lawyer in a high-profile case can apply Public Relations knowledge to manage their clients’ public image.
Being a lawyer requires excellent communication skills, since you need to convey your clients’ interests precisely and boost the chances of winning the case. Communication courses are ideal options when considering what to study in college to become a lawyer.
Public speaking is a communication training course that enables you to conquer and sharpen your verbal skills. This course includes learning about body language to help you know the gestures and postures that reflect confidence. As a lawyer, you do not want to appear anxious or defeated when defending your client, even when dealing with challenging and pressing cases. If you intend to become a criminal defense lawyer, such a course ensures you can know how to maintain confidence and calmness, traits necessary in criminal law.
What Other Skills Should You Learn?
Developing certain skills can help you boost your employment chances and success rate when working as an attorney. As you look for what to study in college to become a lawyer, consider learning the following abilities and incorporate them among the subjects you decide to undertake:
As a lawyer, you will spend significant time in the office preparing documents for different work demands, such as cases, presentations, trusts, wills, and powers of attorney. Thus, you need to advance your writing skills to ensure you can note down precise information.
The other side of being a lawyer involves being in court, representing businesses, defending clients, or pushing legal filings via the proper channels. You must be able to present and explain your case or needs clearly to juries, mediators, judges, arbitrators, or opposing parties. Proper and clear speech is vital since you speak on behalf of your clients while simultaneously getting the other side to understand your explanation.
Since your job as an attorney requires you to help your clients resolve their issues, developing analytical techniques is vital for success. Lawyers typically have to analyze large quantities of information to determine the relevant facts before proposing viable solutions. When researching what to study in college to become a lawyer, you can include mathematical subjects in your undergraduate courses to exercise your analytical skills.
Researching is integral to being a lawyer, and acquiring and sharpening this skill can make your job as an attorney efficient and more comfortable. You will need to look for and find different regulations and laws that apply to your specific case or matter. As such, poor research skills spell stress and disastrous experiences in the legal profession.
Problem-solving skills allow you to look at cases objectively and accurately evaluate the relevant applicable information. These skills also help you learn to separate your prejudice and emotions from your client’s issues, enabling you to prepare the best recommendations and defense for your clients. During your search for what to study in college to become a lawyer, you can consider courses that support debate teams, since debating allows you to build the skills to analyze and argue your points.
You can use excellent interpersonal skills to build a trusting relationship with your clients. These skills enable you to win your clients’ confidence and respect while allowing them to be comfortable enough to disclose personal information related to their cases.
Before deciding whether being a lawyer is the right career for you, it is best to examine if you possess what it takes to complete law school. Although becoming a lawyer is an attractive career that captures many people’s interests, law school is not always the right fit for everyone. With the costs and time it requires, the last thing you want is to drop out of school mid-way. The information above can help you understand what to expect, enabling you to prepare better when researching what to study to become a lawyer. You can use this information to gauge the effort and commitment needed to complete the course successfully and become the lawyer you dreamt of being.