How do I prepare for law school?

In selecting students, law school admissions committees look for individuals with well-rounded, liberal arts educations.

There is no prescribed major or set of undergraduate courses for admission to law school. The best guide is to follow your own personal and academic interests so that you will be motivated to excel—in other words, study what you love. In selecting students, law school admissions committees look for individuals with a well-rounded, liberal arts education.

According to the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education, good lawyering requires certain core skills, experience, and values, including:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical reading
  • Writing and editing
  • Oral communication and listening
  • Research
  • Organization and management
  • Relationship building and collaboration
  • Public service and promotion of justice
  • Exposure to law

In addition, lawyers need an increasingly broad range of knowledge including:

  • A good understanding of history, particularly U.S. history
  • A basic understanding of political and legal institutions
  • Familiarity with ethics and theories of justice
  • A grounding in economics
  • Basic mathematical and financial skills
  • Informational technology (IT) competency (aka computer literacy)
  • An appreciation for diversity and cultural interdependence

In law school, you will study the legal principles underlying specific areas of the law; in your undergraduate classes, you need to acquire the core knowledge and skills upon which your legal education will be built. Since law deals with a wide variety of human conflicts, the more you know about the diversity of human experience, the better prepared you will be to study law.

Law school admissions officers will be evaluating your overall academic performance in order to decide whether you have the intellectual ability and motivation to succeed in law school.

Choosing a Major

Law schools accept students from a wide variety of majors. There is no pre-law major at UMass Amherst, and law schools do not favor (or disfavor) students who major in “pre-law” or a law-related field. If possible, it is a good idea to pursue a double major, or a more »

Choosing Courses

The selection of courses that you take as an undergraduate is just as important as how well you do in the courses. Law school admissions committees are looking for students with a broad, liberal arts background. Your General Education requirements will start you off with a good distribution, but more »

Developing strong writing skills

Strong writing skills are essential for success in law school and as a lawyer. You should make sure that you take at least a few classes in which you will get honest, detailed feedback on your writing. Seek out courses, in addition to your junior writing requirement, where you more »


Earning good grades in challenging courses demonstrates academic excellence. Compiling an impressive record is a critical first step in the process of getting admitted to the law school of your choice. Avoid using the pass/fail option as it doesn’t give enough information to evaluate your performance in more »

Computer Literacy

The practice of law, like most professions, is now largely dependent on computer technology. As a law student, you will use personal computers to organize information, conduct legal research, prepare written assignments and manage and keep track of your time. As a lawyer, you will do all this in more »

Extracurricular activities and work

Law schools are also interested in your extracurricular activities, work history, internships, and community service. Your experience outside the classroom demonstrates the skills you have acquired and what you have learned about yourself that makes you a stronger and more interesting candidate. These activities also indicate that you are more »

Taking time off before law school

Most people decide to take some “time off” before applying to law school—roughly two-thirds of applicants each year are already out of college, and about half of those have been out for more than three years. People have different reasons for waiting before attending law school: they may more »