Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

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Exploring Law and Law School

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As a way to begin exploring the law profession first-hand, start with family members and family friends who are lawyers, as well as faculty who also happen to be lawyers. Students should meet with attorneys who work in a variety of law specializations.

Additionally, Carnegie Mellon University offers a job shadowing program, “Take a Tartan to Work,” offered by the Career and Professional Development Center. Once approved to participate, students can begin to communicate with CMU alumni about job shadowing opportunities. Contact the Career and Professional Development Center to learn more about this program.

Various resources are available to students to learn about and apply for law-related internships. Students are encouraged to start with the Carnegie Mellon University's Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) and search Handshake, CPDC's database, for available internship opportunities. Students can also research the county bar associations, U.S. federal departments and offices and non-profit legal advocacy groups for additional opportunities.

To support students who have accepted a law-related internship that may not provide any or very little financial compensation, Carnegie Mellon University offers a Pre-Law Summer Internship Grant program. These internship grants are administered through the University Career and Professional Development Center’s Summer Internship Experience Fund (“SIEF”).

Preparing for Law School

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While there are no undergraduate courses that are “required” in preparation for law school, there are courses that stress core skills and values that provide a solid foundation, which include:

  • Perfecting skills in reading, writing, and oral communication. 
  • Courses that expose you to legal issues or materials, that enable you to see what the law is and how it operates, and that familiarize you with the historical foundations and contemporary function of political, economic, and social institutions. 
  • Courses in other disciplines, which might be useful in the study and practice of law. Examples:
    • An understanding of basic economic principles
    • Language and cultural studies (if you plan to practice law in a bilingual or ethnically distinct community, or in another country)
    • Courses that stress hands-on research training and involvement (given the substantial amount of time that law students and lawyers spend doing legal research)

Several undergraduate courses that are offered regularly or intermittently have been identified as “relevant” for pre-law students, either because of their content, or the skills they stress and develop (or both). You can find these in the “Pre-Law Handbook" [pdf].

Pre-law advisors suggest that students should participate in activities that align most with their passions, rather than being involved with activities solely to impress law schools. Virtually any activity, an on-campus job or involvement in an organization would draw on skills and personal characteristics, such as leadership, resourcefulness or team-work, that would enhance a law school application.

Applying to Law School

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The suggested timeline featured on AdmissionsDean is very detailed and useful. The process begins approximately two years before that point in time when a candidate intends to enroll in law school. By following this timeline and its recommended steps, applicants have enough time to select schools for application, collect materials such as a personal statement, resume and letters of recommendation and decide how best to finance the costs of attending law school.

The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight, the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it, the ability to think critically and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.


The law school personal statement is meant to allow law schools to get to know applicants on a level probably not possible through transcripts, LSAT score or even recommendations. Personal statements should reflect an applicant's motivation to attend law school and practice law and should be focused, concise, engaging and without spelling or grammatical errors. In some cases, the personal statement can be a critical tool in helping a candidate stand out.

Applicants should assume the need for at least two letters, which is also a strict maximum for some schools. It is recommended that one letter should be from a previous professor who can comment on an applicant's work habits, character, quality of work, dependability, etc. The second recommendation letter can be from another faculty member, or someone who has known and worked with the applicant in another context.