If you’re sure you want to be a lawyer, but you’re still in high school, you still have many years before law school applications. However, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead. Law school admission is highly competitive, and knowing how to prepare early can help you become a more successful applicant.
Important Skills for Law School
Law schools look for a set of skills that you can begin developing at any point in your academic work. These skills include:
- Reading comprehension.
- Spoken and written communication.
- Organization and time management.
- Critical thinking.
- Community involvement and public service.
As early as high school, you can begin pursuing classes and extracurriculars that help you improve and grow these skills.
What Major Is Best for Pre-Law?
High school students who are interested in attending law school often look for challenging and well-respected colleges to attend. Many of them also wonder if they should be applying to certain programs or majors within those institutions.
However, most law schools state that undergraduate major doesn't matter. Students apply and are accepted to law school with all types of majors, though most come in with a strong liberal arts background.
Certain majors are more common among law students, but that’s largely because of self-selection. Law is complicated and technical, and lawyers never know which skills will be relevant to a particular case. Law schools are happy to accept applicants with less traditional academic backgrounds. In fact, an unexpected major can help your application stand out.
More important than your major are your grades and your relationships with faculty members. You’ll need a high GPA and strong recommendations for law school, which means you’ll need to do well in your classes and get to know at least a few faculty members.
While you’re considering which college to attend, look for opportunities to develop professional and academic relationships with faculty members. Some schools are known for promoting student-faculty interaction, and many colleges offer special honors programs that help students and faculty work together. When applying to schools, look into who can participate in these programs and how to qualify.
You can also ask current students about their ability to develop relationships with faculty members.
How to Prepare to Be a Lawyer in High School
Even before you start looking into colleges, however, there are a number of things you can do in high school to make yourself a good law school candidate and a better eventual lawyer. These steps will also improve your college admissions chances and prepare you for doing well in undergraduate classes.
- Look for hands-on experience. Even as a high school student, you might be able to gain hands-on experience in the legal profession. Whether it’s a summer job or an internship for course credit (or even just an informational interview with a friend’s lawyer parent), learn all you can about what lawyers do and how the profession operates. It will place you ahead of the typical law school applicant who’s never seen a legal brief or visited a courtroom. And it will help you figure out if you should go to law school.
- Be active in the world. Even if your extracurricular activities have nothing to do with law, they can make you a better law school candidate. Volunteering, for example, can teach you valuable lessons about the challenges that people in your community face, which can make you a more informed person, which can help you decide what type of law you want to practice and why. Even extracurriculars that are just for fun, such as sports, art, or theatre, can teach you valuable time-management skills as you balance them with your classes, which can help prepare you for the challenges of both undergrad and law school.
- Take advanced classes. College is difficult, and law school is even harder. Taking challenging courses in high school will help prepare you for the demands of maintaining a high GPA as an undergraduate, which is one of the most important factors for maximizing your chances of law school admission.
- Improve your standardized test skills. The LSAT is one of the most challenging standardized tests available. It is also one of the most important factors that law schools consider in their admissions criteria. Learning strategies and best practices for succeeding at standardized tests can prepare you for eventually taking the LSAT.
- Practice public speaking and writing. Communicating skillfully and clearly is important, both in applying to and succeeding in law school. Even in high school, you can start practicing these skills. Sign up for your school's speech and debate team or try out for a play to start practicing your public speaking. Take writing-heavy courses, such as challenging English and history classes, to improve your writing. If your high school has the option of writing a senior thesis or presenting a capstone project, this can help you work on communication skills as well as learn good research techniques, another important skill for undergraduate and law school.
- Explore other possible career paths. While it’s good to have goals, be sure that you’re not so focused on the idea of becoming a lawyer that you forget to look at other options, too. Even if you’re currently an excellent debater and you love to write, you might find your true passion for anthropology or marketing. Law school is expensive and challenging. Use the time you have available to explore many interests to ensure that it is a goal you genuinely want to pursue.