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Pre-Law: Where to Begin

Many students believe they would like to pursue a career in law, but don't know where to begin.

Do I need to be a Criminal Justice major?

Not necessarily.  Criminal law is only one of the many branches of law that may be pursued, though it is the one most seen in popular media.

Law permeates civilization.  Therefore, experts in all kinds of fields are necessary to assist with the many facets of law. Business lawyers help people register new businesses, and prepare contracts for their employers. Tax attorneys analyze the tax consequences of business transactions.  Real estate attorneys handle transactions involving the buying, selling, or leasing of property.  Estate lawyers assist with the disposition of property after a death.  Attorneys in the field of entertainment and sports negotiate employment contracts for their clients.  Intellectual property attorneys protect their clients from misuse of patent or copyright. These are just a sampling of the types of practices available.

If criminal law is your passion then, by all means, pursue it.  But it's not the only option, and there are many majors that can help you prepare for law school.

Tell me about law school.

The study of law is unique.  The graduate degree in law, a juris doctor (J.D.), is typically awarded upon completion of a three-year program of full time study.  While the law degree is a doctoral degree, a master’s degree is not a pre-requisite for admission to law school, and the vast majority of law students begin law school after earning their bachelor’s degree. 

Law school is extremely challenging and only the best prepared students will be successful.  Law admissions is focused on identifying applicants who are well equipped to handle the academic rigor of law study.  Undergraduate students should have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in order to consider a future in law school.  While there are exceptions to this rule, if a student has not earned at least a 3.0 GPA, they have not demonstrated that they have the academic skills necessary to succeed in law school. 

Finally, law school is a huge financial investment. In 2012 average tuition in public law schools was $23,000 for residents and $36,000 for non-residents and over $40,000 per year for private law schools.

What is the LSAT?

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test.  The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others. The test is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries.

Is there anything else that would be helpful?

Consider joining Phi Alpha Delta, a co-ed pre-law fraternity at Sac State, to meet other pre-law students.


Hone your writing skills.

Take advantage of opportunities for public speaking.

Volunteer your time; you will need to be able to interact with all sorts of people at all levels of society.