Santa Clara University

Pre-law

What is Pre-Law Education? What Does It Mean to be a Pre-Law Student?

A student interested in going to law school should not be looking to declare the “pre-law major” at Santa Clara.  There is so such major here, although some colleges have one (however, studies show that many students who pursue the pre-law major actually do poorly on the LSAT and have trouble getting into law school).  Law schools do not expect applicants to have any particular major and typically prefer students with a broad academic background—in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.  

Unlike preparation for admission to medical school, no specific series of courses is required of pre-law students.  Law school admissions representatives recommend that you choose a major---ANY MAJOR---that personally interests and challenges you so that you produce your best academic work.  An examination of the majors of those accepted to law school shows that no single major is preferred over others. Rather, your goals as a pre-law student should be: 

A.  To develop your strengths and knowledge in the following three areas:

      1. analytical skills---the ability to fairly interpret difficult or ambiguous texts, to analyze and evaluate facts, data, principles, rules, and policies, and to do so in a logical and methodical manner;

      2. written and verbal communication skills---the ability to communicate with a high degree of clarity, organization, and precision;

      3. habits of mind and attention that foster a broad awareness of our society and the world at large---the ability to understand a range of human institutions and values in view of the many different functions of the law. 

B.  To take a series of challenging courses inside and outside your major–and in the University Core Curriculum–that will help you expand your intellectual horizons and develop excellent study routines; 

C. To do your best work at all times–for yourself and in an effort to obtain a high GPA and superior faculty recommendations to law school. 

Even though law schools are not looking for specific courses (don’t take any course just because it has “law” or “constitution” in the title) , they are looking for certain qualities in your course work.  A publication by the Law School Admissions Council sums it up nicely: 

"Legal educators agree that the development of skills and habits conducive to legal reasoning is more important than subject matter. The student's college courses should be geared, therefore, to the development of:

Habits of thoroughness, intellectual curiosity, and scholarship;

The ability to organize, critically analyze, and communicate ideas and information;

A broad understanding of human nature, human institutions, and values;

Mastery of a specific body of knowledge or discipline." 

The development of these skills and abilities is precisely the goal of the core curriculum and a liberal arts education at Santa Clara.