Carnegie Mellon University

Preparing for Law School

The curriculum in law school is designed based on the assumption that new law students have no prior knowledge of the law. Law schools seek individuals who demonstrate the ability to excel in legal analysis and critical thinking as well as having the ability to write and speak articulately and persuasively.

Students frequently ask if there are particular courses they should take, certain majors to be considered or certain activities to pursue if law school is in their future plans. The fact is that students are admitted to law school with backgrounds in almost every academic discipline. There is no single major or curriculum plan that will best prepare a student for a legal education.

There are core skills, values, knowledge and experiences that provide a solid foundation for law school, which include:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical reading
  • Writing and editing
  • Oral communication and listening
  • Research
  • Organization and management
  • Public service and promotion of justice
  • Relationship-building and collaboration
  • Background knowledge
  • Exposure to the law

An additional approach is to select a major that would either allow room for courses in subject areas recommended by most law schools. Those subject areas include:

Law school preparation includes the development of verbal and written communication skills. Rigorous courses in which writing is centrally stressed are strongly encouraged. Students should also seek out courses that require essay exams or research papers. Law school grades frequently are based solely on one essay exam or research paper. 

Lawyers must also be able to speak articulately and persuasively in the presence of one person, a small group of people or a large audience. Students can develop these skills by electing to take courses that possess these features or by participating in advocacy teams, such as mock trial or debate.

Having experiences through extracurricular activities provides the opportunity to develop skills such as leadership, team-work, writing, public speaking and creativity. These activities also provide experiences with various ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds in diverse settings throughout the community which are applicable and transferable to the experiences of law school and legal practice.

Becoming a meaningful participant in and contributor to the community, which can include a student's college or university, the school’s surrounding community or other groups can provide many benefits as preparation for law school.