At Midwestern State University, the pre-law curriculum is flexible and may be pursued from any degree program. "Pre-law" simply denotes a student's intent to pursue admission to law school following completion of the baccalaureate degree. Because the careers of those trained in law are so widely varied and therefore call for widely differing skills, law schools do not generally recommend any particular major.
In planning a pre-law curriculum students should keep in mind that the spoken and written word are the principal tools of the legal profession. Those who intend to study law must develop an excellent knowledge of and grasp of the English language as well as a clear and concise style of expression. They should seek out courses that require substantial writing assignments and provide critiques.
Students will plan pre-law studies by first picking a major and then taking all the classes necessary for that degree. You will also have a few "open electives" and you will need to consult with a pre-law advisor about the classes to take to further their preparedness for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and law school.
The following items present answers to some of the questions most frequently asked by pre-law students.
Q. Should I go to law school?
A. If you want to be a lawyer, have the aptitude and qualities needed for the practice of law, think clearly, and like to work under pressure, the answer may be yes. If you don't know what to do after you graduate, haven't thought through what a legal career is all about, or don't really want to be a lawyer, but think that going to law school is a good way to avoid making hard decisions about your future, the answer may be no. Don't drift into law school. Make a decision to go or not to go based on a careful consideration of all the facts and all the options.
Q. What are the requirements for getting into law school?
A. The formal requirements are simple. Generally speaking, you must have an undergraduate degree by the time you begin law school, take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and submit a formal application by the admissions deadline, which varies from school to school. Most schools require letters of recommendation.
When most students ask about requirements for law school, they really don't want the answer given above. They want to know (1) how high their GPA needs to be, and (2) how high their LSAT scores need to be. No doubt about it these are the two most important variables considered by law schools for admission. However, schools can weight GPA and LSAT scores differently and often will look at other factors when candidates scores are similar. Other important factors may include letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, personal character, graduate or professional school experience (if any), employment experience, and geographic background.
Q. What are the best and worst law schools?
A. Generally speaking, the best schools are the nationally ranked law schools: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, New York, Northwestern and the University of Texas are some examples. These are outstanding law schools and students who meet the difficult admission requirements should investigate admission. Law schools in Texas are Baylor, St. Mary’s, South Texas, SMU, Texas Tech, TSU, TWU, and the University of Houston. Many schools - both public and private - offer fine legal educations. Finally, you should know that there are some law schools that are not accredited by the American Bar Association. These should be avoided.
Q. What major should I choose if I want to go to law school?
A. Your choice of a major makes little or no difference to the law schools. The amount of law you know is not a major concern. Their key concern is that you have an excellent education that emphasizes analyzing, synthesizing, advocating, counseling, writing, speaking, and negotiating. A good undergraduate education should help you to develop your abilities in these skills and make you a good critical thinker. Another important factor to consider about your major is how you will use your degree for a successful career should you choose not to go to law school or should you be not accepted to law school.
Traditionally, the most common undergraduate majors for pre-law students are business, English, history, and political science. Many students also go to law school after majoring in scientific or technical fields. It is important for these students to remember that they must supplement their technical education with courses in government and law.
Q. What is a good grade point average for a pre-law student?
A. This is a difficult question to answer. In general, the higher your GPA, the better your chances for admission, provided you take demanding courses. These courses will give you the intellectual challenges that will help prepare you for the LSAT and law school.
Q. What courses should I take?
A. First, work on your university and departmental requirements. After that, you will have room for electives, some of which should be chosen as part of yourbackground for law school. Law schools recommend courses in political science, business, history, English, philosophy, sociology, logic, and in other humanities and social science fields.
We suggest that you take as many law-related courses as you can. Courses such as constitutional law, judicial process, criminal law, criminal justice, legal environment of business, and commercial law will give you some understanding of the American legal system and how the law is related to American politics, business, history, and society. These classes will also help you further evaluate if studying law for three additional years after undergraduate school is something you really want to do.
Q. Do extracurricular activities make a difference?
A. Extracurricular activities can be important in rounding out your education. Most law schools look for well-rounded individuals who are likely to contribute to society.
Activities that indicate an interest in politics, law, and public affairs are especially important. Working on the student newspaper, participating in student government, or serving in the university's judicial student system are examples of positive involvement. However, these activities are not a substitute for outstanding grades and a high score on the LSAT.
Q. Where can I turn for more advice?
A. The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, published by the Law School Admission Council and the American Bar Association, is an excellent reference guide and a must purchase if you are serious about law school. This book has: 1) law school descriptions, 2) GPA and LSAT scores, 3) bar passage rates, 4) tuition, fees, and living expenses, 5) faculty, 6) enrollment and ethnicity, 7) graduate employment statistics, 8) application process and deadlines, 9) and financial aid information for each ABA-approved law school. To get your copy of the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, order on line at www.LSAC.org or call 215-968-1001.
You will also want to consult law school catalogues. You can obtain these directly from the law schools or go on-line to individual law schools. Additionally, room 254 in the Dillard College of Business is a student resource room which contains a copy of the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools and flyers about different law schools.
Other important websites include:
Q. What time frame should I be working on?
A. You should be concentrating on grades your first two years of college. At the beginning of your junior year you should begin studying for the LSAT. Some students use the materials supplied by The Law School Admissions Counsel. Other students pay for and attend LSAT courses, and some students purchase computer software that sets up study periods and gives sample exams. This will help you familiarize yourself with test mechanics and question types. You will also develop test-taking techniques and strategies. It is the opinion of the Midwestern State University pre-law advisors that few students achieve full potential without this preparation. It is like working crossword puzzles or playing chess. The more you practice the better you get. However, you must remember that the LSAT measures skills and knowledge that develop over time and thus you cannot prepare for the test by last-minute efforts.
Next you need to register for the LSAT (www.LSAC.org). The test should be taken in the summer before your senior year or, at the latest, in October before the August/September during which you will begin law school. At this same time you will need to compose a schedule of application deadlines for law schools you are going to apply to and begin sending in applications when you have your LSAT score.
Q. Does Midwestern State University have any scholarships?
A. Yes, there are two types of scholarships. One scholarship is the Merkle pre-law scholarship which is awarded to one or more students each semester. To apply you should contact a pre-law advisor for an application. The other scholarship opportunity is to Texas Tech University Law School. Since 1997 eleven MSU students have received this scholarship. To apply you should contact a pre-law advisor for an application.
Q. What else should I do?
A. Send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your mailing address, phone number, and date you expect to graduate. Periodic information and announcements about programs of interest to pre-law students will be sent to you. If your information changes, be sure to update it so that you will not be overlooked.