Is a career in law for you? What does it mean to be a lawyer?
Engage in self-assessment to determine if law is the appropriate profession to pursue. Investigate whether your values, interests, and personality are consistent with the requirements of the profession. Try to obtain law-related experience. Develop a realistic view of legal careers. Investigate various options within the legal profession. Are you going to law school because you desire to serve society in the area(s) of law in which you are most interested? In order to help answer the question "Do I want to be a lawyer?", do your homework. Speak with practicing lawyers and current law students, visit schools and attend classes, work at a law firm, or government/public service agency, observe civil and criminal proceedings, participate in an internship or Colgate's "A Day in the Life" shadow program, and read about legal education and practice. Become familiar with what and how law students study and learn!
If you like to read and study, thoughtfully respond to the following questions:
- Do I enjoy working closely with people regarding significant events or issues affecting their lives?
- Can I solve problems effectively?
- Can I empathize with a person's situation, yet have the ability to objectively analyze the issues and their consequences in light of the existing guidelines and rules?
- Do I enjoy educating or teaching a person about a subject that he/she may be ignorant of or have significant misconceptions about?
- Am I able to articulate in a clear and concise manner my analysis of a problem to others, both verbally and in writing?
- Do I enjoy being an advocate?
- Can I argue both sides of an issue with enthusiasm?
- Do I like detail work? Do I enjoy searching for the facts of a situation?
- What kind of personal life do I want and will my career goals afford me an opportunity to live that type of lifestyle?
"The ABA does not recommend any particular group of undergraduate majors, or courses, that should be taken by those wishing to prepare for legal education; developing such a list is neither possible nor desirable. The law is too multifaceted, and the human mind too adaptable, to permit such a linear approach to preparing for law school or the practice of law. Nonetheless, there are important skills and values, and significant bodies of knowledge, that can be acquired prior to law school and that will provide a sound foundation for a sophisticated legal education."
(Recommendations of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
There is no established pre-law curriculum. The American Bar Association and its 183 approved law schools require no formal curriculum of pre-law students. Rather, law schools place a premium on applications that exhibit a high degree of difficulty in a major area of study chosen by students. Preference is given to well-rounded persons who have excelled in a rigorous course of study that develops strong analytical skills, persuasive, clear and concise writing and speaking abilities, and logical reasoning.
Students can accomplish these goals by obtaining a broad liberal arts education. Law schools do recommend, however, taking at least one course in several of the following areas: accounting, economics, history, language, literature, logic, math, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology. Students should understand that our laws are a product of our culture, our history, and our governmental structure; students should be able to appreciate human nature and human values; students should be familiar with types of business transactions; and students can be trained to think analytically when studying logic, philosophy, math and science.
There are, however, generic types of knowledge that one should possess in order to have a full appreciation of the legal system in general, to understand how disputes might be resolved, to understand and apply various legal principles and standards, and to appreciate the context in which a legal problem or dispute arises. Some of the types of knowledge that are most useful, and that would most pervasively affect one's ability to derive the maximum benefit from legal education, include the following:
- A broad understanding of history, particularly American history, and the various factors (social, political, economic, and cultural) that have influenced the development of the pluralistic society that presently exists in the United States.
- A fundamental understanding of political thought and theory, and of the contemporary American political system.
- A basic understanding of ethical theory and theories of justice.
- A grounding in economics, particularly elementary micro-economic theory, and an understanding of the interaction between economic theory and public policy.
- Some basic mathematical and financial skills, such as an understanding of basic pre-calculus mathematics and an ability to analyze financial data.
- A basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction.
- "An understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States, of international institutions and issues, and of the increasing interdependence of the nations and communities within our world." (American Bar Association Recommendations for Preparation for Legal Education prepared by the Pre-Law Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar.)
Colgate offers many courses that would promote the understanding of the ABA-recommended knowledge areas. The list below is a sample of courses, which would satisfy the ABA's recommendations. There are many upper level offerings, which would deepen your understanding of concepts covered in these courses. These are only recommendations or guidelines for study. Participation in these courses will not increase your chances of acceptance to law school. They are purely suggestions on preparing yourself for legal study.
As there is no formal pre-law curriculum, there is neither a mandate on the selection of majors for students intending to pursue a career in law. We recommend that you choose a major
that interests you and enables you to work with faculty you enjoy.
Colgate University students majoring in Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, French, Geography, History, International Relations, Mathematics, Peace Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology
were successful candidates for law school admission in the past three years.