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Academic Success

  • Course selection

    UNDERGRADUATE COURSE SELECTION FOR PRE-LAW STUDENTS

    What should I major in?

    • Successful law students come from many different academic backgrounds, and there is no single major that is “best” (or even “better”) in terms of getting admitted to law school. You should major in whatever subject area is interesting and challenging to you.  The key is that whatever major you choose, you work as hard as possible to earn the highest grades possible, since your GPA is one of the most important criteria for admission to law school.

    Is it advantageous to double-major?  To minor?  To double-minor?

    • For law school admissions purposes, an applicant is not viewed as more competitive simply because he or she has multiple majors and/or minors. The overall GPA is more important than the number and type of majors and minors.  On the other hand, if you wish to double-major, or to add one or more minors to your major, there is no reason not to do so, as long as you are not stretching yourself so thin that your academic performance suffers.  Again, make the decision about double-majoring and/or minoring based on your interests, not based on your prospective admission to law school.

    What is the most popular undergraduate major for pre-law students?

    • Among first-year law students nationwide, political science is the most common undergraduate major, but majoring in poli-sci doesn’t necessarily give those students an advantage over their law school classmates. A hard-working law student who majored in engineering or religion or Spanish is just as likely to do well as a hard-working law student who majored in poli-sci.

    Are there particular courses that I should take as an undergrad to be better prepared for law school?

    • Courses that help you develop strong analytical skills, strong writing skills, and strong oral skills are helpful as you prepare for law school.  Courses that give you some exposure to legal concepts are also helpful.
    • Your academic advisor (if you are a first-year student or a sophomore) or your major advisor (if you are a junior or senior) should be able to direct you towards courses that fit these descriptions.
    • Below is a non-exhaustive list of currently offered undergraduate courses that would be good choices for pre-law students:

    General

    • Introductory Financial Accounting (ACC 111)
    • Introduction to Communication & Rhetoric (COM 100)
    • Debate & Advocacy (COM 102)
    • Public Speaking (COM 110)
    • Rhetorical Theory & Criticism (COM 225)
    • Introduction to Economics (ECN 150)
    • Introduction to Critical Reading & Writing (ENG 105)
    • Writing Seminar (ENG 111)
    • Accessing Information in the 21st Century (LIB 100)
    • Historical, Political, & Legal Research Sources & Strategies (LIB 240)
    • Elementary Probability & Statistics (MTH 109)
    • Statistical Methods (MTH 256)
    • Basic Problems of Philosophy (PHI 111)
    • Logic (PHI 220)
    • American Government & Politics (POL 113)
    • Introductory Psychology (PSY 151)
    • Principles of Sociology (SOC 151)

    Law-related

    • Freedom of Speech (COM 304)
    • Rhetoric of the Law (COM 347)
    • Legal Theory, Practice, & Communication (COM 348)
    • Advocacy, Debate, & the Law (COM 349)
    • Law & Economics (ECN 224)
    • Child Custody: Research Issues (HMN 374)
    • Race & the Courts (HST 358)
    • History of English Common Law (HST 328)
    • American Constitutional History (HST 362)
    • Introduction to Philosophy of Law (PHI 165)
    • Philosophy of Law (PHI 363)
    • Global Justice (PHI 366)
    • American Constitutional Law: Separation of Powers & the Political System (POL 225)
    • American Constitutional Law: Civil Rights & Liberties (POL 226)
    • Politics of Human Rights (POL 240)
    • International Law (POL 261)
    • Feminist Political Thought (POL 277)
    • Politics, Law, & Courts (POL 227)
    • Religion & Law (REL 331)
    • Sociology of Violence (SOC 339)
    • Criminology (SOC 341)
    • Juvenile Delinquency (SOC 342)
    • Sociology of Law (SOC 343)
    • Advanced Seminar in Criminal Homicide (SOC 345)
    • Sociology of White-Collar Crime (SOC 352)
    • Sexuality, Law & Power (WGS 380)
    • Legal Environment of Business (BEM 261)
    • Business Law (BEM 362)

    Is there a pre-law major at Wake Forest?

    • A student who takes full advantage of the excellent liberal arts curriculum Wake Forest offers is more than adequately prepared for success in law school.
    • Wake does offer a new Concentration in Crime and Criminal Justice through the Sociology Department. For details about this program, go to this URL: http://college.wfu.edu/sociology/undergraduate-program/concentrations.
    • There is a Summer Pre-Law curriculum offered jointly by the college’s Communications Department and the Law School. It is offered in the first summer session each year, and students can earn up to six credits in the Communications area.  For more information, visit this URL:  http://academics.law.wfu.edu/summer/pre-law-program-for-undergraduates/.
  • First and Second Year Advice

    View or print the following advice.

    • Focus on making excellent grades, because your undergraduate GPA is a key factor in law school admissions.
    • Skim the Pre-Law website for an overview of what the next several years will entail as you prepare for law school.
    • Tell your academic adviser and/or major adviser of your interest in pre-law, so that he or she can advise you accordingly.
    • Take courses that will challenge you and help you develop your critical reading, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and writing skills. Here are some resources that may be of interest to pre-law students.
    • Get to know your professors. Take advantage of their office hours, participate in class discussions, etc. You will need their Letters of Recommendation eventually, and the best recommenders are those professors who know you well and can comment on more than just your grades.
    • Begin the process of investigating careers in the law. There are several resources listed here, and the OPCD career counselors can direct you to other helpful resources.
    • Schedule a time to meet with a career coach in the Office of Personal & Career Development (Reynolda 230) for resume writing and interest testing.
    • Become involved in extra-curricular activities that interest you. Of special note are a couple of activities that are specifically law-related: Phi Alpha Delta, and the Mock Trial Program. However, don’t feel that every activity must be law-related. Strive for quality and leadership opportunities rather than quantity of activities.
    • When the time comes, declare a major that you will enjoy and that will challenge you. It need not be a major that is “law-related.” (Law schools care more about how well you did in your chosen areas of study than they do about what those areas are).
    • Direct message the Pre-Law Council (@WFU_PreLaw) to join the Pre-Law Google Group for the most up-to-date information on pre-law events and news.
    • Meet with a pre-law academic adviser in the Office of Academic Advising for assistance in selecting courses that will be a good fit with your pre-law goals.
    • Keep an open mind  about what comes after graduation and concentration on getting the most out of your undergraduate experience. When you leave Wake you will be a different person than when you arrived having been exposed to many more career options and choices.
  • Juniors
    • Continue to explore careers in the law, and begin to explore what law school is like, so that you can be confident that you are pursuing a good career path.
    • Continue to make the best grades possible.
    • Continue your involvement in extra-curricular activities. Take leadership roles in these activities if and when the opportunity arises.
    • Begin to research many different law schools to get an idea of which ones have programs that would be of interest to you, which ones are in the geographic area(s) you prefer, which ones have admissions criteria that seem to fit your profile, etc. In particular, watch for announcements about the Graduate and Professional School Fair, usually held on campus in November and sponsored by the OPCD. Representatives from dozens of law schools attend this Fair and are eager to meet prospective students. Click here for more information about how to research schools in print and online.
    • Continue to visit the Pre-Law website for updates and announcements.
    • Attend any pre-law events and/or workshops advertised on the Pre-Law website and/or the Pre-Law Society listserv. These events are great ways to learn more about the law school admissions process, to find out what law school is really like from a variety of perspectives, and, in some cases, to network with legal professionals.
    • Visit some classes at Wake Law, just to get a feel for what law school is like, and if you’re interested, contact the Office of Academic Advising to be paired up with a current Wake Law student through an informal mentoring program.
    • Begin to prepare for the LSAT. Many students choose to take the LSAT in June after their junior year; some students wait until October. Either way, it is never too early to begin familiarizing yourself with the kinds of questions that are on the LSAT and to explore the various LSAT prep options. One good way to begin is to take a full, timed LSAT, to get a baseline idea of how much and what kind of preparation you need to do.
    • Register for the June LSAT, if you know that you will be prepared to take it then. Registration closes six weeks before the test. Most students register online through LSAC.org.
    • Start thinking about which faculty members and/or other individuals might be good recommenders.
    • If you do not have a paid job lined up for the summer, consider an internship with a legal employer for the summer. This kind of internship will likely be unpaid, but it will give you valuable experience as you prepare to start law school next year. While the OPCD can likely help you with general strategies for finding an internship, it’s likely that you will have to just knock on some doors or make some cold calls to find a legal employer who is willing to have you intern for the summer.
  • Tutoring & Support
  • Extra-curriculars and Career Exploration
ten things that academically successful students do

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Diversity in Law

Prepare and Apply

  • Seniors
    • Take the LSAT in June, if you feel that you are adequately prepared.
    • Continue to research law schools, and start making a list of schools that seem like good options for you. Research the admissions criteria and application process (including the content of the actual application) for the schools on your list, and keep good notes of what you learn. These notes will save you valuable time when you are ready to begin applying in the fall.
    • Begin to consider your options for financing your legal education. View these resources for more information.
    • Prepare a resume, if you do not already have a current one. (In the fall, you will want to visit the OPCD for tips on enhancing your resume before sending it to law schools.)
    • Begin brainstorming about what you would like to say in your personal statement. Write down your ideas, and if your time permits, draft a preliminary version of your statement.
    • Register for LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) at least six weeks before you plan to submit your first applications. A fee is charged for this service.
  • Researching law schools

    RESEARCHING LAW SCHOOLS, DECIDING WHERE TO APPLY, AND DECIDING WHERE TO ATTEND

    How can I find information about various law schools?

    • The best way to find out detailed information about the various law schools is to visit their individual websites and just spend some time exploring. The LSAC.org site is a great portal through which to access the various schools’ websites. Click here to access the “Law School Search” tab on the LSAC website.
    • LSAC compiles data about all ABA-approved law schools, and its database is a wealth of information. When you go to the “Law School Search” tab, you can easily compare schools’ data in many areas—admissions criteria, enrollment statistics, curriculum, employment, tuition, and many more.
    • Each law school must post on its website the Required ABA Disclosures for each year.  These Disclosures are useful because they are in a standardized format that makes it easy for you to compare information from one law school to the next.  These Disclosures include information about admissions statistics, financial information, bar passage rates, employment statistics, and many other areas of interest.  The Disclosures appear in different spots on the different websites, so you sometimes must hunt for them, but if you keep looking long enough, you’ll find them!
    • There is a new website called Lawdragon Campus that allows you to customize your law school search and do side-by-side comparisons of multiple law schools in multiple categories!  As long as you remember that the information is compiled by a for-profit company (and don’t mind having to see some ads along the way), you should find the resource helpful.  Here’s the link to the site: http://campus.lawdragon.com.
    • There are a number of books that compile information about U.S. law schools. The books below are available through Amazon.com and other commercial sites, and examination copies are located in the OPCD.

    – The Best 168 Law Schools, 2016 Edition (published by the Princeton Review)
    – Best Grad Schools, 2016 Edition (published by U.S. News & World Report)

    • The website Top-Law-Schools.com contains a wealth of information about the various law schools, as well as general advice about a number of subjects related to law school admission.
    • A new resource, How I Compare, purports to give you a realistic assessment of your chances of admission at the law schools you’re interested in.  I include it here as one more resource for you to check out.  As with any online resource, you should take it for what it is worth!
    • Often a simple Google search can yield good results. For example, if you think you are interested in international law, you might search “best law schools for international law.” The results from this kind of search will often include the websites of particular law schools that emphasize international law in their course offerings and programs as well as lists compiled by outside groups like U.S. News.

    How do I decide which law schools to apply to?

    • There are many factors that go into deciding where to apply. Of course, your GPA and your LSAT score are two of the key factors. Before you know what your LSAT score is, you can research various law schools and make a list of schools you’re interested in, but it is difficult to know which of the schools on your list are realistic options for you until you have your LSAT score.
    • There are a couple of online resources to assist you in identifying schools that might be good “matches” for you in terms of your GPA and LSAT score:
      • The LSAC site, under “Law School Search,” has a search box into which you can enter your GPA and LSAT score. Based on the most recent data available (currently 2011), LSAC will then predict your likelihood of being admitted to each individual law school. There are many variables in the LSAC calculation and in the various law schools’ admissions decisions, so you should not use this tool as an absolute indicator of your chances of admission to any particular school. It is simply one resource as you work through the process.
      • The Boston College Law School Rangefinder is a huge grid placing individual law schools according to the average GPA (horizontal) and LSAT (vertical) scores of their first-year classes. Using your GPA and LSAT score, you can find the law schools that “match” your numbers. A companion site is the Boston College On-Line Law School Locator, which presents the same information in a different format.

        Again, there are many variables in Boston College’s calculations and in the various law schools’ admissions decisions, so you should not use these tools as absolute indicators of your chances of admission to any particular school.

    Should I only apply to schools where my numbers “fit?”

    • No. While it is wise to apply to some “safety schools”—schools where you are confident
      that your numbers will get you admitted—you should think big. If there is a school that really interests you (because of its location, for example, or its programs), you should apply there, even if you think your chances of being admitted aren’t high. You have nothing to lose, and there may be other reasons why the school would love to have you in its class.

    How many schools should I apply to?

    • There is no “right” answer to this question. Some students apply to many schools, while other students are more selective. The centralized application process offered by LSAC makes it easy to apply to a large number of schools, but remember that each school has its own application fee.
    • One strategy that often works well is to select 5-10 schools to apply to in your “first round” of applications. In this group you should include your top choices, and you should be sure to include a couple of “safety schools.” When you have received responses from these schools (or most of them), you can decide whether you need to apply to additional schools.

    How do I decide which law school to enroll in?

    • Again, there are many factors that go into this important decision, and as you make it, you will want to consult the people who are closest to you and who know you best. Some of the key factors you should balance include:
      • Location. Is this a place where I would be happy living for three years? Is it close to where I want to live when I get out of law school? Is it close enough to my family that I can still see them occasionally?
      • Cost. What is the tuition at this school? What other costs would I have (living expenses, etc.)? What financial aid is the school offering me (if any)? How much debt will I come out with?
      • Size. What is the size of this school’s student body? What is the average size of the first-year classes? What is the faculty-student ratio?
      • Curriculum. Does this school have a strong academic reputation? Does it have substantial course offerings in the areas of law that I’m interested in? Does it offer opportunities for “experiential learning”?
      • Atmosphere. Does this school seem like a “friendly” place to be? Are the students highly competitive? If so, am I okay with that? Are the faculty members accessible? Are there extracurricular activities that interest me?
      • Diversity. Does this school have a diverse population? Does it have diverse course offerings?
    • There is no substitute for a personal visit to each law school you’re seriously considering. You can’t get a true feel for a school from information and statistics on a website. Visit the school, attend some classes, talk to some students, talk to an admissions rep, explore the campus, explore the city or town, and really experience the school.
  • Finances
  • LSAC.org
  • Personal statement (PDF)
  • Resourceful Literature

    Selected Books on Getting Ready for Law School:

    • Donna Gerson, “Asked and Answered: Your Guide to Law School Success, Volume 1, Advice for Pre-Law and First-Year Law Students” (West Publishing 2008)
    • Andrew McClurg, “1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School” (West Publishing 2008)
    • Helene Shapo & Marshall Shapo, “Law School Without Fear: Strategies for Success 3rd edition” (Foundation Press 2009)
    • Robert H. Miller, “Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience by Students for Students” (Thomas Dunne Books 2011)
    • Richard Montauk, J.D., “How to Get into the Top Law Schools 5th edition” (Prentice Hall Press 2011)
    • Jasper Kim “24 Hours with 24 Lawyers:  Profiles of Traditional and Non-Traditional Careers”  (2011)
    • Paul Campos, “Don’t Go to Law School (Unless): A Law Professor’s Inside Guide to Maximizing Opportunity and Minimizing Risk” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 2012)
    • Jasper Kim “24 Hours with 24 Lawyers:  Profiles of Traditional and Non-Traditional Careers”  (2011)
    • Steven J. Harper “The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis” Paperback – (Basic Books 2016)
    • Richard Susskin, “Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction To Your Future” Second Edition Paperback – (Oxford University Press, USA 2017)
    • Andrew J.McClurg,Christine Nero Coughlin, Nancy Levit, Law Jobs: The Complete Guide (West Academic Publishing Expected publication: September 20th 2019)