5 ways to prepare before starting law school

It’s true that law schools are OK with any major. They have no expectation that you will have majored in pre-law or be an expert in legal research. But for you, how do you prepare in college so that by the time you start law school you have some knowledge of law and the profession?

Here are some ideas:

-Join the Mock Trial Team: Most colleges have mock trial teams that compete regionally, and if you are lucky, your team could compete nationally. This is really great experience to have before starting law school. It simulates a lot of what you will learn there, and prepares you for the moot court experience you have in law school. It can be a lot of work, and nerve racking if you are not used to public speaking, but also a lot of fun and very worthwhile. Most schools have tryouts for the team.

-Join the Pre-law Society Club: Most schools have this club, which is a great way to learn about law school admissions, attend free LSAT prep sessions, learn about legal careers, and meet other pre-law students. This is a lower commitment than the mock trial team and generally you would sign up for it on club day when school starts and attend as many sessions as you want to.

-Take Legally Related Courses: Even though you don’t have to take any pre-law classes, it’s nice to at least have some knowledge of how law school classes operate. When I first started law school, even though I had been an English major and was used to long reading assignments, it took me hours to read legal cases. It was like learning a whole new language. Even if there is not a pre-law major at your college, you can generally find legally related classes in the political science department, often taught by lawyers. Sociology, business, psychology, communications and many other departments might also offer legally related courses.

-Sign Up for Mentor Programs: Even if you don’t know many lawyers, you might be able to find a mentor. Many colleges have alumni mentor programs where you can meet with someone in your career field. Some, including my college, have also started peer mentor programs, where you can talk to other pre-law students. Your alumni office, career services office, and pre-law office could suggest mentor programs.

-Do Some Summer Reading About the Legal Profession Before Starting Law School: Check out the website for the Law School Admission Council (www.lsac.org) which has pretty much everything you need to know about the LSAT and applying to law school, and the National Association for Law Placement (www.nalp.org) which likewise has pretty much everything you need to know about legal careers and salaries in law. Also look at books such as The Official Guide to Legal Specialties, which explains the myriad practice areas that lawyers work in. Also consider taking a summer pre-law institute class (offered at many law schools) before starting law school so you have a basic understanding of what law school classes are like before you get there.

Hillary Mantis consults with pre-law students, law students and lawyers and can be reached at altcareer@aol.com. She is Assistant Dean of the Pre-law Advising Program at Fordham University and author of career books about the legal profession.

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