Common Searches

Pre-Law Advising

Pre-law students at UMSL come from a variety of majors, including Art History, Criminal Justice, Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and many more. Many of these majors offer pre-law tracks or minors, and you can identify yourself as a pre-law student at any time during your career at UMSL. The Pre-Law Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) advises that a wide range of undergraduate majors can serve as a path to law school:

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. (Source: the American Bar Association)

After graduating from UMSL, students have gone on to attend law school locally at Saint Louis University, Washington University in St Louis, as well as at the University of Missouri-Columbia and University of Missouri-Kansas City. Graduates also attend prestigious law schools outside the St Louis area as well.

There are hundreds of UMSL graduates who have gone to law school and now work as lawyers, judges, or in other careers in the legal profession. Many of them remain in the St Louis area, and the pre-law program at UMSL regularly brings them to campus to interact and share advice with students. By declaring yourself to be pre-law, you will receive updates about upcoming events and opportunities to meet and connect with alumni in the legal profession.

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 a successful law school application. 

Pre-law advising is done through the Department of Philosophy. The pre-law advisor is Dr. William Dunaway, who is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department. He can be reached at  dunawayw@umsl.edu and his office is located at 553 Lucas Hall.

Since pre-law is an area of emphasis, it will not appear on your transcript. But by identifying yourself as a pre-law student, 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 ( derda@umsl.edu) stating that you wish to identify yourself as a pre-law student. Students from any College or major at UMSL 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 relevant advice from the ABA.

  • 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

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. 

It’s not too early to start thinking about how to prepare to apply to law schools. And an overview of the application process can be found on the Law School Admission Council's website.

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 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 such as logic and critical thinking that emphasize these skills.) It is offered four times a year. Testing dates can be found on the LSAC website.

Some general information about law schools (acceptance rates, average LSAT scores, etc.) can be found on the LSAC website.

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:

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).

Students who have identified themselves as 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. Learn more about scholarships. Learn how to apply.

If you are a graduate of UMSL working in the legal profession, we encourage you to update your information on the Alumni Association website.