Law so hard — even during your undergrad years

By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

Given the recent increase in law-school applications over the past few years, students preparing or thinking about attending law school should be aware of the competitive edge required to get into their school of choice. 

Essentially, the preparation for law school demands you be as cutthroat and independent as you will be in your first-year law program, as there is no set manner for establishing yourself as pre-law, unlike with other pre-graduate academics. If you’re dead-set on attending law school post graduation, it’s best to get a head start on gaining your competitive edge. 

Academically, there is a lot of flexibility in deciding your major and course of study before making the decision to attend law school. Most advisers simply encourage you to engage in a major that requires a significant amount of critical reading and writing. 

However, I’ve found that advisers are simply too lenient in giving this advice. The fact is, any major you choose will essentially give you this vague, basic skill set. But if you definitively aspire to attend law school, consider classes that will add a competitive edge to your course of study, which will in turn prepare you for the most crucial aspect of your application — your LSAT score.

In fact, the majors which score best on the LSAT — which comparatively weighs more than your GPA and extracurricular life for most schools — are those who chose fields related to the sciences, likely because of the analytic and systematic training required for a respectable LSAT score. 

When it comes to test day, your Scantron answers will not depend on the knowledge of how Descartes established God’s existence or the Stewardship model of American Politics. The exam will register how well you studied and the effectiveness of your test-taking skills, which isn’t exactly what typical humanities majors boast. The best advice for this: Either choose a major that you are completely passionate about or one that will give you adequate exposure to the skills you ultimately need come LSAT time. 

Another important aspect of a pre-law career is undoubtedly working within the field and getting real-life experience, even if it is not within your actual field of interest. In fact, it might be quite difficult to find a job or internship that will cater exactly to your future career goal. However, there is ample opportunity to gain exposure to legal issues within the Pittsburgh area. 

Keep an eye out during the school year for internship opportunities, or use your free summers back in your hometown to your advantage by asking to shadow someone for a few days. There is nothing a classroom can teach you that will amount to what you can learn about the problems of the real world. These issues will not come in logical reasoning form, they will arise based on different situations and different people. While law is a field that boasts stability and a distinct rule set, how you apply these rules is what makes each lawyer’s day different from the previous one, and that makes it an exciting career choice. At worst, an outside opportunity to shadow or intern will help you decide if this career is for you and, therefore, save you from future conflict. At best, it will excite you for the field you will enter and hopefully push you to continue on a competitive edge. 

Finally, the deadlines of applying to law school will sneak up on you, and I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is to keep a sturdy eye on these throughout your undergraduate life. While there’s a common misconception that underclassman years are a time for finalizing a major and pushing prerequisites out of the way, remember that by junior year you should attend classes that will establish relationships with professors who can write letters of recommendation for you; you should maintain a qualitative — not quantitative — amount of extracurricular activities and work experience, and you should decide when to start studying for the LSAT, which will creep up all too quickly. 

Of course there are several students who have managed to get into law school without frantically planning semesters ahead of time, but it’s to your best advantage to commit yourself to the field of study early on. The pool of applications will include those who decide later on and those who have established law as their career choice for several years. Do yourself a favor and use the time ahead wisely.