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Pre-Law isn’t generally considered a major, much like Pre-Dental, Pre-Vet, or Pre-Med. It refers to any undergraduate major intended to prepare students for law school at the graduate level. Unlike with those other faux-majors, though, there aren’t any course requirements for entering into law school. The only qualifications needed are completion of a baccalaureate with a high GPA and passing the Law School Admission Test, more commonly known as the LSAT.
There are very few schools offering what’s labeled a Pre-Law degree. Some institutions are beginning to offer Legal Studies as an option, but, again, there are only a few. There’s only one recognized bonus in opting for a Legal Studies/Pre-Law degree, and that’s forethought. There’s automatic demonstrated, long term interest in becoming a lawyer with those two majors, but that shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor on an undergraduate major.
There’s some disagreement over what the best degrees are for students who intend to get a law degree, but English, business, and any engineering or science degrees are typically well received.
The general advice provided by most law school admissions offices is for students to major in something that they’re passionate about. While there may be some distinctions between STEM versus arts and humanities degrees, the ultimate defining factors are the same: a high GPA and a good score on the LSAT.
While there’s one universal job title for individuals with a Juris Doctor (JD), Lawyer, there are so many types of lawyers that knowledge in any area is applicable. Majoring in environmental sciences can lead to work as an environmental lawyer, whereas majoring in any area of the artsy or creative world could lead to a job as a creative arts lawyer. A diverse, passionate student is often what admissions offices at law schools are looking for.
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT): A half-day standardized test offered six times a year and proctored by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). It consists of six parts, four scored multiple choice and two unscored, an experimental section and a writing portion. The three most important skills for the test are logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and writing skills.
Juris Doctor, JD, degrees are the highest available in law and typically take three years to complete. The curriculum will include courses on torts, contracts, property, criminal law, constitutional law, and civil procedure. Most law schools will also require courses on ethics, as well as legal research and writing, and require students to participate in Moot Court (mock trials).
After graduation, most students will go on to take the Bar Exam (BE).
The Bar Exam is a required examination to practice law. It’s typically split into two parts. The Multistate Bar Exam, or MBE, is required in every state except for Louisiana. Created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the test is broad. State bar exams, part two, encompass state-specific laws. Some jurisdictions will require a third part, the Multistate Performance Test, or MPT, which tests graduates on their practical skills in realistic situations.
Careers for graduates with a JD who have passed the bar exam include: Lawyer. The median salary for all Lawyer position hovers around $75,000, but that can vary dramatically depending on specialization, education, and years in practice. The starting salary for a Corporate Lawyer can be as low as $30,000 or as high as $100,000 (mostly depending on place of employment and Law School name), though the average median salary is around $98,000. On the other hand, a Public Defender (Criminal Lawyer) can expect a median annual salary of $51,000. At a private law firm, a Criminal Lawyer can begin as high as $115,000 per year. Medical and Patent Lawyers provide the highest average median salary, both coming in around $131,000.