So, you want to be a lawyer, but how do you begin?
According to the American Bar Association, preparation for law school is key. “The student who comes to law school lacking a broad range of basic skills and knowledge will face a difficult challenge,” the organization said. Pre-law studies at SMWC will prepare you for that challenge.
The pre-law minor is designed to introduce you to the study of law and the judicial process. It provides an orientation to the law which is more general than that of most law schools. Our liberal arts curriculum, with its emphasis on critical thinking and effective oral and written communication, will help you hone the skills you will need to perform well on the LSAT, secure admission to law school, and succeed in the legal profession.
Upon admission, each student works with a pre-law advisor, who helps the student develop a strategy for selecting courses, identifying an appropriate departmental major (degree program), and navigating the law school application process.
Most pre-law students at SMWC pursue graduate work soon after graduating. While most continue their education towards the juris doctorate (J.D.) degree at an accredited law school, others have gone on to graduate work in their major discipline. The pre-law training, in conjunction with a traditional academic discipline, has prepared SMWC graduates well for a wide range of career opportunities.
Law school affords its graduates many different career opportunities, not all related to legal practice. Students who graduate from law school find employment in a variety of fields such as:
- Private practice
- Public interest industries
In addition, there are many specialty areas within law, including, but not limited to:
- Civil rights
- Corporate and securities
- Labor and employment
- Environmental and natural resources
- Family and juvenile
- Intellectual property
- Probate and trust
- Real estate
- Sports and entertainment
Can I get into a law school with just a pre-law minor?
Law schools do not require a particular undergraduate major for admission. Instead, law schools recommend that undergraduates take a wide range of courses involving rigorous intellectual training which will sharpen their communication and cognitive skills. Undergraduate students planning on attending law school are advised to select a major which will strengthen their abilities to think analytically, to read and write well, and to deal with human problems in a realistic context.
How else will SMWC help me prepare for a legal career?
While the ABA does not require work experience, it does emphasize service by providing: “If you are thinking of entering the legal profession, you should seek some significant experience, before coming to law school, in which you may devote substantial effort toward assisting others.” SMWC offers a variety of activities and organizations that enable students to participate in service learning, volunteer activities, internships, and community service. SMWC also provides opportunities for service projects within individual classes that help students to develop and demonstrate the commitment to public service and justice that the ABA emphasizes.
SMWC is well placed to give pre-law students research opportunities related to legal studies. While the ABA does not emphasize work-related experience in its statements on preparing for law school, internships and other opportunities to work with the legal profession can allow students to explore and refine their interest in the law, and to develop a network that is useful in obtaining clerkships while in law school.
Pre-law students at SMWC have also been able to take advantage of a number of off-campus internships related to the legal profession with local public and private law offices, banks, county and state offices, and other legal related entities. As part of the course work, pre-law students have been able to attend a variety of courtroom proceedings to observe firsthand the working of the judicial process. Our location provides access to Vigo County Courts as well as the Terre Haute Division of the Southern District of Indiana United States District Court. We have three federal prisons in town, as well as multiple state prisons within a short drive from campus.
Can my criminal record hinder my career in pre-law?
Any sort of criminal or disciplinary violation must be explained on a law school application. Minor brushes with the law, such as having many speeding tickets, may need to be explained. Major problems, such as felonies and some misdemeanors, can prevent you from being accepted and/or taking the bar exam, so make sure you stay out of trouble!