Unlocking the Law: A Guide to the Best Majors for Aspiring Lawyers

28/08/202325 minute read
Unlocking the Law: A Guide to the Best Majors for Aspiring Lawyers

If you’re an aspiring lawyer, it makes sense to ask yourself how you can best prepare in advance so you can thrive in law school. Whether you’re in high school, already an undergraduate and taking steps to apply to law school, or you’re changing careers. you’ll find lots of useful and actionable tips in the guide below. It will make it quick and easy to explore different majors and how they align with your own goals and interests. It will also explain the LSAT, provide additional tips for preparing for law school admissions and study, and you’ll even hear what others in the law field recommend when it comes to forging your individual path, to law school and beyond!

First of all, congrats on your aspirations to go to law school! A law program offers rich intellectual exploration, a chance to gain lots of marketable skills, and many career specializations and pathways. 

But, since the study of law requires top-notch verbal acuity, involves and intersects with concepts from sociology, history, philosophy, and psychology, in addition to the study of civil and criminal codes and courtroom procedures, it can be hard to figure out how to prepare for getting a law degree.

Many younger students will ask themselves what major should I take as an undergraduate if I want to go to law school? 

Most experts agree that there are many different undergraduate majors suitable for aspiring law students, but choosing the best major for your individual interests and goals could give you an edge in law school and specialized professional pathways later on.

What Undergraduate Degree Do You Need to Be a Lawyer?

Most people will complete undergraduate studies and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree (BA or BS) before applying to law school, although not all accredited law schools in all states require a Bachelor’s Degree for admissions. Most selective law schools do require or expect students to have a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent to be competitive for admissions, and a Bachelor Degree is also a licensing requirement for law practice in most states.

Some colleges also offer a professional undergraduate degree in law, or Pre-Law Degree, but law schools generally have no requirement you get this kind of specialized professional degree. Instead, law schools broadly recruit students with degrees from diverse disciplines that provide a well-rounded education and a well-developed critical thinking, analysis, and reading comprehension skills.

According to research from the LSAC (Law School Admissions Council), the 12 most popular majors among students applying to law schools, in order from the highest statistical admissions rate to the lowest in the group are:

  • History
  • Economics
  • English
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Finance
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Business Administration
  • Criminal Justice

Overview of College Majors Best for Law School

To help you choose a major, we’re going to share information about several majors suitable for aspiring law students, and we’ll even help you decide if a single major or an interdisciplinary pathway is right for you!

But, before we get started, let’s remember that even the experts at the American Bar Association (ABA) are quick to point out that “students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. So you have lots of options when choosing a major!

You may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics or business, or you may focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, or education. The ABA offers this advice: “Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills.”

So there you have it, from the experts - the sky’s the limit! 

But when it comes down to it, having more choices doesn’t always make it easier to choose…So let’s walk through some of the more popular choices for aspiring law students!

1. Political Science

Most political systems are constructed with laws, and the work of most politicians involves shaping, debating, and passing new laws. And while legislatures — local, state, or federal — often shape criminal law, many civic laws exist to help governments achieve desired social change.

A political science major could help you learn about these intersections of law and public policy. In addition, political science courses can help you understand government structures related to law-making processes, bedrock Constitutional texts, and the political distribution and balance of law-making authority.

Common courses in a Political Science major include American Government, Constitutional Law, Comparative Politics, Public Policy, and International Relations. 

2. English

You may wonder why English can be a good major for future law students. The fact is that majoring in English typically involves intensive training in critical thinking, reading comprehension and textual analysis, and nuanced academic and expository writing in challenging contexts, making English a very suitable major for academic success in many liberal arts fields, including law.

English majors develop a range of practical communication skills, but they also, in the context of literature studies, engage in complex and nuanced textual interpretation and verbal argumentation skills — skills that are highly valuable in law school. Someone who really applies themselves to the study of literary criticism, for example, should find they’ve developed excellent skills for legal writing and research

In fact, a common complaint about lawyers is how badly they write! As New York business attorney William Burton once quipped, not only should a punishment not be cruel and unusual but neither should a sentence! And the famous Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes once described the writing style of law clerks as one that “Satan himself will not understand.”

You get the point. On some fundamental level, mastery of language and communication, in both the practical and artful senses, can be an essential foundation for excelling in law and many other fields.

If you choose English as your major you’ll take courses related to communications, expository writing, literature, literary criticism, and linguistics. Students who emphasize literary studies can learn about different writing genres, such as poetry, fiction, historical fiction, and drama, while studying strategies and models for interpreting the meaning and value of literary works — through historical, social, linguistic, and esthetic lenses. Typical courses include Literature and Composition, Introduction to the Novel, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, Legal Writing, Business Communications, and Public Speaking.

3. Philosophy

A philosophy major can involve a fascinating exploration of universal questions and competing world views, which may be very rewarding intellectually in its own right. At the same time, philosophy courses can give you a truly bedrock understanding of principles at the very core of law and justice — principles related to the search for objective knowledge and the ethical and cultural foundations underlying our most enduring principles of right and wrong, and serving as the underpinnings of human rights.

Furthermore, students who major in philosophy will typically develop disciplined habits and advanced skill for constructing arguments methodically, with exceptional analytic and logical rigor.

All these factors explain why a major in philosophy is commonly accepted as providing a strong undergraduate preparation for success in law school and in law practice. 

Philosophy majors often take courses such as Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology, Logic, Metaphysics, Ancient Philosophy, Philosophy and Language, and Esthetics.

4. Economics

Another liberal arts subject that future law students may major in is economics. Like other liberal arts subjects, economics involves an introduction to many foundational economic principles, with open-ended critical thinking skills, comparative analysis skills, and also logical reasoning skills, and introducing formal quantitative analysis and modeling skills. This kind of major should be of greater relevance for students anticipating work in public policy law or business and financial law

Sample courses include Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Economic Statistics, Public Finance, Monetary Policy, Labor Economics, and International Economics.

By the way, did you know that according to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) students from a wide variety of majors achieved high scores on the LSAT, but that collectively, scores for Econ and Philosophy majors were at the top of the rankings?

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5. History

Depending on your longer term interests in the law field, such as constitutional law, criminal law, immigration law, or intellectual property law, for example,, you can choose a history major and specific history courses to get a solid foundation in relevant background knowledge for your future law practice. As with other liberal arts majors, history students also develop solid reading comprehension, critical thinking, and expository writing skills.

General and more specialized courses that might be offered to history majors could include: US History, Ancient History, Civil Rights Movements, the History of Science, Legal History, Law and Society, or US Immigration History.

6. Criminal Justice

If you expect to practice criminal law, work as a public defender, or in areas of law related to civil rights, then majoring in criminal justice could make sense. As a criminal justice student, you learn about topics with high relevance in many important areas of legal work related to the court system, criminal defense, prosecution, and rehabilitation, criminal justice policy, and criminal justice laws.

If you plan to work in criminal law or in areas of practice related to victims’ rights or criminals’ rights, or you have interests in public policy work related to criminal justice law and procedures, then a criminal justice major could be very relevant.

The kinds of courses offered to criminal justice majors include Introduction to Criminal Law, The US Court System, Introduction to Law Enforcement, Theories of Criminal Behavior, and Comparative Criminal Justice Systems.

7. Sociology, Business, and Other Majors

A strong case can even be made (no pun intended) that numerous other majors also provide useful insights and background knowledge for success in law school, including majors in Sociology, Psychology, and Business, for example. 

Since our laws regulate the behaviors, norms, and interactions of individuals, institutions, corporations, and even nations, and because they regulate social power structures, the study of sociology can provide nuanced theoretical models and insights into many criminal justice issues and dynamics.

If you’re wondering how a major in Psychology is relevant to law school, remember that studies in deviance and criminology are branches of Psychology and Sociology, and that lawyers need to understand the psychology of criminals, victims, and even jurors and jury pools to be effective! 

Finally, many lawyers end up finding exciting and lucrative roles in business law, as the commercial sector requires the expertise of lawyers from many branches of law

Corporate law, financial law, tort law (injury law), contract law, labor law, intellectual property law, licensing law, and communications law are all areas of compliance and litigation in the business sector. So while a business major might provide less intensive preparation in terms of strong logical reasoning and written communication skills, it offers quantitative analysis skills along with knowledge of many technical business concepts that inform a large sector of lawmaking, legal consulting, and courtroom litigation.

8. Interdisciplinary Studies

As we just noted, many single majors can offer benefits that align well with different educational goals. That said, we’ve also seen that the law field is complex and challenging, in terms of critical thinking and communication skills, on the one hand, and social, historical, and policy-related concepts on the other. 

No matter how you slice and dice it, no single major you choose can provide such a wide field of preparation, so when asking yourself how to prepare for law school, you might consider a more individualized approach with an interdisciplinary pathway.

Instead of choosing between Political Science and Economics, for example, you could take the most relevant classes from across both majors, by pursuing a double major or a major in one discipline and a minor in the other. 

If you were interested in constitutional law, for example, an interdisciplinary approach could involve pursuing advanced learning in Political Science with other courses from Philosophy or English that can help you really hone your reasoning and analysis skills.

Finally, an interdisciplinary background and perspective could help you approach complex legal issues from a more effective problem-solving perspective — fueled by an ability to make more creative connections across disciplines and an ability to apply different kinds of critical thinking and background knowledge to the challenge at hand.

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Factors to Consider When Choosing a Major for Law School

Choosing a major is a personal choice, but consider how your choice might help you achieve your law school aspirations. Here are some key factors aspiring lawyers should consider before choosing a major:

1. Interests and Passion: Getting into and through law school could be really rewarding if you like intellectual challenges. Practicing law could also be a hands-on way to engage a passion for social justice or public policy work. 

But if you’re considering law school for purely practical reasons, such as salary potential, ask yourself if you’re bringing to your educational journey the motivation and deeper aspirations you may need to make it through a law degree program and pursue a law career. Studying a subject you enjoy and that aligns with your unique strengths and passions will not only make your undergraduate experience more fulfilling but also motivate you to excel and persevere.

2. Helpful Background Knowledge and Skills: Once you’re clear on your interests, passions, and aspirations and you think law school is a likely step in your educational future, you’ll still need to figure out which undergraduate major to go for. It makes sense to select from majors that will help you address knowledge and skill gaps that will be important for succeeding in law school. For example, you may want to pursue an English major and hone your verbal analysis and argumentation skills. Or, if you have some challenges when it comes to consistent logical reasoning and orderly expository writing, you may want to major in philosophy.

3. Course Rigor and GPA: According to the American Bar Association, whatever major you select, “taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education.”  This approach ensures you’re developing your academic potential and also strengthening your academic profile before applying to top law schools.

For example, if English and Economics are both contenders on your short list of possible majors, look into the courses required for each major, estimate their overall academic rigor, and ask yourself which courses will best help you demonstrate your abilities and your overall academic readiness.

Studies conducted by LSAC, the Law School Admissions Council, have shown that college GPA has a statistically significant correlation with success in students’ first year at law school, so it’s almost certain that top law schools will favor applicants with solid GPAs.

Experts with Harvard Law School point out that “pursuing a major that interests you will make studying easier and help you get the grades you need to improve your chances of law school admission.”

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4. LSAT Preparation: Getting into most leading law schools will require an LSAT (Law School Admission Test) test score. You won’t take the LSAT until you’re finishing your undergraduate degree, and early preparation should help you perform well on the test, but you’ll still want to keep in mind how your major can complement LSAT preparation. 

Majors that emphasize reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical thinking could help you get a headstart when it comes to tackling the LSAT and getting a better LSAT score.

5. Relevance to Law: If you’re thinking about combining your law studies with a passion for social movements or public policy roles, then maybe instead of majoring in English or philosophy, you’ll decide that a major in US history, economics, or political science is more relevant, because these majors allow you to learn about the intersection of law and other social and political movements while also helping you build a range of critical thinking and textual analysis skills.

Choosing a relevant major can provide you with useful background knowledge for your future legal studies while imparting foundational critical thinking skills.

6. Career Goals: After law school, chances are you’re going to have a law career, right? So it makes sense to consider different kinds of law career paths and align your undergraduate studies with your career path

For example, being a law professor, working as a courtroom attorney (litigation attorney), or setting up a mediation consultancy — each requires a background in law but also draws on some different skill sets.

So some majors may be more advantageous for your individual goals than others. Take the long view when choosing a major and consider potential career paths or specializations you’ll pursue later on.

7. Pre-Law Resources: Research resources for pre-law students within majors you’re most interested in, such as:

  • pre-law advising services
  • courses with specialized pre-law topics
  • opportunities for internships or experiential learning
  • programs that help you connect with alumni or professionals in the legal field

These resources are not essential and not offered by all schools and degree programs, but can provide valuable guidance and support throughout your journey to law school. 

Likewise, they may help you connect with other students interested in law through extracurriculars that involve mock trials, public speaking practice, or competitive debate, so you can explore new kinds of experiences, build professional skills, get additional coaching from qualified mentors, and make new friends on the way!

Ultimately, the best major for law school varies for each individual. It's important to choose a major and degree pathway that you are genuinely interested in and that will allow you to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in law school and your future legal career.

Insights from Legal Professionals

At Crimson Education our whole purpose is helping people like you fulfill their highest educational aspirations. We’re recommending you think about your undergraduate major in terms of opportunities to develop many diverse and foundational skills beneficial in law school. But, you shouldn’t just take our word for it.

According to experts at the American Bar Association, here are the “important skills, values, knowledge, and experience that you can acquire prior to law school that will provide a sound foundation for a legal education” and give you greater success in law school:

  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing and Editing
  • Oral Communication and Listening
  • Research
  • Organization and Management
  • Public Service and Promotion of Justice
  • Relationship-building and Collaboration
  • Background Knowledge
  • Exposure to the Law

Whether you pursue these core attributes through your undergraduate major, clubs, internships, other extracurricular activities, or through books you read on your own, developing them personally and academically should help you thrive in law school.

As for which specific major is best for law school, some lawyers have opinions about that too.

Alice Baker, a former law school professor, believes that law school admissions committees don’t care all that much about what major you choose. Baker says,

My two rules for an aspiring law school student’s undergraduate education are:

1. Major in something — anything you like.

2. Take your general education classes seriously.

In short, the best way to prepare for law school is by majoring in whatever you like and then taking classes in other departments that will give you the additional knowledge and skills you will need to use as a lawyer.

Ray Wood, a former prosecuting attorney, has some tough love advice for students wondering what to take in college.

Take composition courses with the toughest SOB English professors you can find. This is a little tough love: You don’t know how to write….Writing is the life blood of being a lawyer. If you can’t write well, you can’t be a lawyer.

Mr. Wood also recommends taking two or three philosophy classes and a logic class, but when it comes to your actual major, Wood agrees with Baker agree — it probably doesn’t matter that much.

As to your major, find something that interests you. You will be doing a deep dive into that subject matter and you have to perform well in your major. Don’t make it any harder by picking a subject matter you dislike. If you like engineering, major in engineering. If you love the cello, major in music. Some majors, such as accounting and engineering, give you unique opportunities after law school. If those interest you, you should definitely consider them.

Maybe there’s a legal professional you know that you can ask for advice as well, or a friend, family member, coach? Whenever you’re making a big decision, you might be surprised who’s got just the insight you needed to put the pieces together!

Want to get more proven tips and guidance for college planning? Working with a Crimson Education Advisor is another easy way to be more fully informed and proactive in preparing for each step of your education journey and charting a more complete strategy. An Advisor can help you explore your own interests and make sure you’re seeing all the different pieces of your education pathway — which can be really helpful for making the best decisions possible at each step of the way. Advisor support also makes it easier to connect with other resources more quickly, including tutors, mentors, experienced admissions counselors, and more.

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Balancing Major Choices with Extracurriculars

Preparing for law school should probably include activities that help you develop additional skills beyond academics, such as teamwork, leadership, and professional communication. 

Extracurricular activities are a great way to build positive networks and personal poise and confidence, while also exploring your own professional aptitudes and interests.

Participating in debate clubs, volunteering at nonprofit organizations, including legal clinics, being active in student government, seeking out internships or opportunities to get mentoring, these are all great opportunities for building a well-rounded law school application, for developing personally and professionally, and for establishing your own personal networks to help you on your educational journey.

Nicole Wilson, a woman of color with a background in policy studies now pursuing a career in educational and corporate law at The Law Colleges in California offers the following advice

If you’re not sure what area of law you are interested in, do an internship, volunteer, expose yourself to different types of law, so you can figure out what area you’re interested in practicing. Find someone that you can emulate and that can walk beside you in the journey, because you will face obstacles. You will face barriers, but that doesn’t have to stop you.

Extracurriculars are a great way to build a stronger foundation for a successful journey into and through law school. 

And remember, time is finite! So consider being selective in how you spend your time, ensuring you have time to excel in your courses, maintain a favorable GPA, and by prioritizing specific extracurricular activities that highlight a genuine interest in the field of law and help you develop relevant skills.

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Preparing for the LSAT

LSAT stands for Law School Admission Test — a standardized test used for admission to law schools in the United States, Canada, and other countries. It is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

The LSAT is an online, live remote-proctored test and consists of multiple-choice questions for reading comprehension and analysis, logic-focused word puzzles, and a writing sample

The LSAT is not about law codes you study in law school. Instead, it tests the critical underlying skills that students need to succeed in law school and as lawyers — all those skills we’ve been talking about: critical thinking, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension.

The multiple-choice sections evaluate your reading comprehension skills, and your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments or draw logical conclusions from complex details. The writing sample section provides you an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to construct a well-reasoned argument.

How much time you need to prepare for the LSAT will vary for each individual’s needs and goals. With a fairly intensive study schedule, five–to–ten weeks of preparation will probably provide many individuals with a good LSAT preparation experience.

Ultimately, the LSAT is a test that measures skills rather than specific content knowledge. Regardless of the major you choose or other prior training, it's essential to develop strong critical thinking and analytical reasoning abilities, as these skills will be valuable for the LSAT and your future law studies.

Do you want to be more confident about how you’ll perform on the LSAT, or are you wondering how to prepare? 

Don’t worry! You’ll find lots of LSAT test prep resources out there. In fact, you can get books, hire a tutor, take a test prep class, or look for resources online, some free others for purchase.

Check out the resources below on your own, or consider contacting one of Crimson’s helpful Academic Advisors for more help with your law school journey.

  • LSAC Proprietary Resources — the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the entity that administers the LSAT, has many of its own LSAT preparation resources offered on the LSAC website.
  • Test Prep and Practice Books — Kaplan, Princeton Review and other organizations offer LSAT test prep books. Some experts recommend “investing in at least three books: ‘A textbook-style book [that] is going to break down each section of the exam; a book released by the LSAC that is just prep tests; and a book of drills’ to hone specific skills.” Check out “The 6 Best LSAT Prep Books, According to Tutors and Lawyers,” from the New York Magazine for more tips and book recommendations.
  • Classes — you’ll find both in-person and many online classes out there. Khan Academy offers free online course materials, and you can even link to those directly from the LSAC website where you’ll also find linked LSAC test prep curriculum. 

Kaplan and The Princeton Review are two test prep companies out there offering LSAT prep classes with in-person and online options, among many other offerings.

  • Tutoring and Mentoring — having some targeted one-on-one tutoring and mentoring can also be helpful. You can look for resources online or try to find a qualified tutor in your community. Our Academic Advisors can also help you figure out your next steps and help you connect directly with a qualified tutor or mentor, based on your interests.

As you can see, there’s plenty of help out there, so when it comes to the LSAT, don’t stress, just leave extra time to prepare! You just need to make a plan and connect with the resources and people who can help you!

What Makes Crimson Different

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has given you the insights you need to make an informed decision. Remember, there are lots of undergraduate majors that provide a solid pathway to law school admissions, but it’s generally agreed that whatever major you choose, it’s best to consider your own strengths, skill gaps, and what kinds of law you want to specialize in.

Also keep in mind that you’ll want to map out an undergraduate journey with rigorous courses in topics that build strong analytical reasoning, logic, and reading comprehension skills — but in courses and disciplines that play to enough of your strengths that you can maintain a favorable GPA.

Don’t forget you can complement your academic learning with extracurricular activities that help you explore your own interests and aptitudes, demonstrate your interest in law, and help you become more confident in your professional teamwork, communication, and leadership skills.

And, use the resources and opportunities around you that can really help you achieve and succeed beyond expectations, whether it’s online pre-law exploration, career counseling, LSAT preparation classes, or getting personalized guidance from Crimson Education to take advantage of expert assistance tailored to your law school journey.