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There is no pre-law major or minor at UMSL. (There is a pre-law track available within the philosophy major, and a public law minor within political science, but you need not major in philosophy, nor minor in political science, in order to declare yourself pre-law.) According to the Pre-Law Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA):
The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. You may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics or business, or you may focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, nursing or education. Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills. Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education.
The pre-law advisor can assist you in selecting courses that will best meet your interests while also allowing you to develop the skills that are important for both a successful law school application and success within the legal profession.
THE PRE-LAW ADVISOR
Pre-law advising is done through the Department of Philosophy. The pre-law advisor is Mr. Thomas P. Knoten, who is an adjunct instructor in that department, as well as a member of the Missouri Bar. He may be contacted by email for an appointment at KnotenT@umsl.edu.
DECLARING YOUSELF PRE-LAW
Since pre-law is merely an area of emphasis, it will not appear on your transcript. But by declaring yourself pre-law, you’ll receive emails related to University events concerning the legal profession and preparation for law school. To be added to the pre-law mailing list, please email Grace Derda (email@example.com) stating that you wish to declare yourself pre-law. Students from any College or major at the University can declare themselves pre-law.
According to the Pre-Law Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA), the following seven core skills and values will provide a solid foundation for a legal education. While you may benefit from taking courses in which the subject matter of the course deals with law or public policy, it’s far more important that your major, and your elective coursework, be directed towards developing these seven skills. Here is a list of those skills, along with quotations of the relevant advice from the ABA.
1) Analytic / Problem Solving Skills
“You should seek courses and other experiences that will engage you in critical thinking about important issues, challenge your beliefs and improve your tolerance for uncertainty. Your legal education will demand that you structure and evaluate arguments for and against propositions that are susceptible to reasoned debate.”
2) Critical Reading
“Preparation for legal education should include substantial experience at close reading and critical analysis of complex textual material, for much of what you will do as a law student and lawyer involves careful reading and comprehension of judicial opinions, statutes, documents, and other written materials. As with the other skills discussed in this Statement, you can develop your critical reading ability in a wide range of experiences, including the close reading of complex material in literature, political or economic theory, philosophy, or history.”
3) Writing Skills
“ As you seek to prepare for a legal education, you should develop a high degree of skill at written communication. Language is the most important tool of a lawyer, and lawyers must learn to express themselves clearly and concisely. … You should seek as many experiences as possible that will require rigorous and analytical writing, including preparing original pieces of substantial length and revising written work in response to constructive criticism.”
4) Oral Communication / Listening Abilities
“The ability to speak clearly and persuasively is another skill that is essential to your success in law school and the practice of law. … Before coming to law school, however, you should seek to develop your basic speaking and listening skills, such as by engaging in debate, making formal presentations in class, or speaking before groups in school, the community, or the workplace.”
5) General Research Skills
“… it would be to your advantage to come to law school having had the experience of undertaking a project that requires significant library research and the analysis of large amounts of information obtained from that research.”
6) Task Organization / Management Skills
“You are going to need to be able to prepare and assimilate large amounts of information in an effective and efficient manner. Some of the requisite experience can be obtained through undertaking school projects that require substantial research and writing, or through the preparation of major reports for an employer, a school, or a civic organization.”
7) Public Service and Promotion of Justice
“Each member of the legal profession should be dedicated both to the objectives of serving others honestly, competently, and responsibly, and to the goals of improving fairness and the quality of justice in the legal system. If you are thinking of entering the legal profession, you should seek some significant experience, before coming to law school, in which you may devote substantial effort toward assisting others.”
More information on these skills can be found here.CHOOSING A MAJOR
Law schools admit students from every academic field. You should select a major that you find both intellectually interesting and challenging, and which allows you to develop the seven skills recommended by the ABA. (Admissions officers will be impressed if you’ve done well in a challenging program. Don’t select easy courses simply to inflate your GPA.)
Traditionally, many students looking to go to law school have majored in business, criminology, economics, English, history, political science, or philosophy. But there are other options available.
Those majoring in economics and philosophy receive the highest scores on the LSAT.
And those majoring in the natural sciences and philosophy have the highest acceptance rate to law schools.
You should pick a major that best suits your intellectual interests. If you pick a challenging major and do well, law schools will be impressed.APPLICATION PROCESS
It’s not too early to start thinking about how to prepare to apply to law schools. A helpful suggested timeline can be found here.
And an overview of the application process can be found here.PREPARING FOR THE LSAT
Outside of your coursework, your score on the LSAT is the most important factor for gaining admission to law schools. Like any test, you need to study for it. That involves spending many long nights doing practice tests, and becoming familiar with the format and style of the test. The LSAT has sections which test analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. (You’ll be at an advantage if you take courses that emphasize these skills.) It consists of five 35-minute, multiple- choice sections and one writing section. It’s offered four times a year. (Testing dates can be found here.) Scores range from 120-180.
For helpful information about the LSAT, visit this site.
UMSL offers courses to help students prepare for the LSAT. More information is available here.FINDING THE RIGHT LAW SCHOOL
Some general information about law schools (acceptance rates, average LSAT scores, etc.) can be found here.
But much more information, including information about the application process and financial aid, can be found by visiting the websites of those law schools in which you are interested.
You need not go to law school locally in order to practice law locally. But if for some reason you are geographically limited in your choice of law schools, there are several good options with Missouri and Illinois.
Some Missouri law schools:
Some Illinois law schools:
UMSL PRE-LAW ADVISORY COUNCIL
Several hundred UMSL graduates now have careers in law, and many of those lawyers work in the St. Louis area. Many of these UMSL graduates, and other outstanding lawyers in the community, have donated their valuable time and resources to assisting and mentoring UMSL students, and to serving on the Pre-Law Advisory Council. The Friends of the Pre-Law Advisory Council have established a Pre-Law Advisory Council Scholarship (see below).
PRE-LAW ADVISORY COUNCIL SCHOLARSHIP
Students who have declared themselves pre-law are eligible to apply for a Pre-Law Advisory Council Scholarship, which exists due to the generosity and effort of the Friends of the Pre-Law Advisory Council. Details about the application process and selection procedure will be posted here in Fall 2013, at the start of the next competition.
If you are a graduate of UMSL working in the legal profession, we encourage you to update your information on the Alumni Association website.