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What Do You Study in College to Be a Lawyer?

by Basil Phillips

Lawyers work in a wide range of positions, serving a vast array of clients. For many lawyers, no two days are alike, and one lawyer's job description may look completely different from another's. Because of these facts, there is no single college course of study that best prepares every student to be a lawyer; however, many pre-law advisers do have some recommendations.

Pre-Law

While it may be surprising, many law schools actively discourage students from taking too many law-related courses as undergraduates. According to Peterson's, law schools "don't want students coming in with preconceived notions." The Chicago Bar Association agrees, explaining that choosing a pre-law major might prevent students from becoming sufficiently well-rounded. That said, taking one or two law-related courses might be helpful in deciding whether law is right for you; just don't overdo it.

English and Philosophy

The most essential skills in becoming a lawyer are the abilities to read critically, write clearly and argue persuasively. Therefore, any courses you can take as an undergraduate to help develop these skills will be helpful. For that reason, many pre-law advisors recommend taking classes in English, philosophy and logic. Logic courses are especially useful for liberal arts majors, because they require a stricter form of analysis than is often found in classes like English or history.

Foreign Language

As the world is becoming more international, knowledge of at least one foreign language is becoming increasingly useful for any career. Law school is no exception. Spanish can be particularly useful in the U.S., especially if you want to work with immigrants. You might also consider a more unusual language, such as Arabic, Chinese or Korean, in order to stand out from the crowd. Another valuable option is Latin, which can help you learn legal terminology more easily.

Specializations

If you know what kind of law you want to practice, consider taking courses specific to that field. For example, if you want to work in corporate law or start your own law practice, business classes are essential. Many patent lawyers, who must have strong technical background, earn science or engineering degrees. You might also consider taking some medical ethics courses for health care law, environment courses for environmental law, or courses about nonprofits for public interest law.

About the Author

Basil Phillips works as both a columnist and editorial writer for the "Oklahoma Daily." Currently pursuing a double major in history and Arabic at the University of Oklahoma, Phillips specializes in writing about health, history, traveling, languages, video games and education.

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