The Best Majors for Aspiring Lawyers

I’ll see you in court. … I mean class.

So you want to be a lawyer. You’re flipping through your school’s undergraduate course catalogue and looking for classes to start your career.

Having trouble finding the law courses? Well, they’re probably not there.

Law is one of the rare fields that doesn’t require students to complete a set course of study for  acceptance into an advanced degree program. And while a few undergraduate schools offer prelaw tracks, some experts urge students to avoid them.

While no major is off the table for a budding law student, some better prepare students for the challenges of law school and teach the type of skills needed for success in the field.

Here are seven majors for the lawyers of tomorrow, all recommended by the lawyers of today.

Business

A business major is a great option for those who are entrepreneurial-minded. Students interested in corporate law might find that classes in management and economics are well-suited to their postgraduation career needs. Word of warning, business majors should be careful not to focus solely on the fundamentals. Electives in the humanities and liberal arts are critical in order to flex their analytical and critical thinking muscles, too.

Common classes: communications, economics, ethics, management, and marketing.

Skills you’ll learn: communication, leadership, and project planning and management.

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers: 

Boris Lavent, founding partner of Lavent Law

Sometimes a degree seemingly unrelated to the law is the best choice. I’d urge prospective lawyers to consider getting a business degree, or better yet, a degree in business administration.

Run your own firm. Setting up and running your own law firm gives you the freedom to practice law when and where you’d like. You’re in control. Having a business degree can be incredibly helpful as you not only practice the law, but run a business. You’ll be prepared to manage personnel, handle firm finances, and set yourself up for success.

Business classes teach you invaluable analytical skills. Law is all about analysis and argument. You have to be able to identify an issue, analyze the problem, and develop a persuasive argument. One could argue that this is exactly what business is all about. When you’re in business school, you’ll get a crash course in negotiation and persuasion. You’ll learn how to design a proposal and argument to get a desired outcome. When you’re representing your clients, these skills will be incredibly beneficial.

Criminal Justice / Criminology

Criminal justice is the identification and explanation of criminal behavior patterns. Criminology is the study of crime and can be applied through criminal justice. Students of these majors study crime, criminals, and the criminal justice system. These majors are popular choices for those interested in law because of the foundational knowledge gained of crime and law. Be sure to stand out with a specialized focus or electives in the hard sciences.

Common classes: criminal justice, criminal law, methods of research, statistics, U.S. court systems, and victimology

Skills you’ll learn: critical thinking, investigative abilities, and effective verbal and nonverbal communication

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers:

Eric Trabin, managing member at the Trabin Law Firm

Criminology majors will learn about the history of criminal justice, police practices, constitutional rights, and the functions of the legal system. A criminology major will graduate with a thorough understanding of how the criminal court system is designed and operates, while also possessing a fundamental understanding of the theories on causes and solutions of crime. This knowledge will be critically useful during negotiations with opposing counsel, court arguments, or hearings dealing with the police.

Economics

An economics major spends a lot of time summarizing large amounts of quantitative data. This is great training for law school as an econ major will be well-prepared to sort information and evidence in order to build a case backed by evidence. As a bonus, econ majors will be familiar with the economic policies and procedures that lawyers encounter in their cases.

Common classes: econometrics, mathematics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and statistics

Skills you’ll learn: how to seek out evidence to support claims, draw conclusions, make recommendations, present findings, and explain complex data

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers:

Michael Dye, founder at the Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA

My undergrad degree is in economics. I was the only person that I know that had an econ degree and I did well, but econ is not a hard science despite the fact that it is pretty difficult compared to other social sciences. I think that an [undergraduate degree] in econ would be a good indicator of ability to succeed in law school, but it might just be me.

I saw an interesting pattern in the case of my friends and my classmates. The individuals with an undergraduate degree that involved a substantial amount of analytical/critical thinking seemed to perform much better in law school than those who had other majors.

So hard science, engineering, economics, yes!

Brady McAninch, partner at Hipskind & McAninch, LLC

Math is one of the few areas of study where critical thought underlies everything. This is a great way to develop those skills that you will need in law and in practice.

English

Lawyers must be well-versed with the English language as they spend a lot of their time researching, writing, and speaking in court. English majors will learn how to analyze and synthesize large bodies of text, developing a command of written and verbal language (sometimes more than one).

Common classes: creative writing, English literature, and foreign language

Skills you’ll learn: how to analyze different types of texts, write thorough and concise summaries that justify ideas, and communicate tactfully

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers:

Michele Mirman, founder and senior partner at Mirman, Markovits and Landau, PC

In truth, any undergraduate degree can help to prepare a student who aspires to be an attorney. I found that my English degree has been exceptionally helpful throughout my legal career. Why? The law is an art. In order to master that art, it helps to have a firm grasp on the English language and an expansive vocabulary. It’s important to know how to bend and manipulate language to my benefit. As an English major, I dedicated a lot of time to reading, analyzing, and writing. I learned to step back, assess a story I was told, and think outside the box. In reality, I was honing skills that are critical for any practicing attorney. Even though my degree was not necessarily substantively relevant to my legal practice, the skills I acquired in my studies have proven to be invaluable.

Philosophy

Is there a more “prelaw school” major than philosophy? It’s no surprise that students majoring in philosophy dive deep into logic, ethics, and morality, which are all big, existential questions relevant to the study and practice of law.

Common classes: epistemology, ethics, logic, metaphysics, and moral and political philosophy

Skills you’ll learn: how to debate, present arguments, and do research to support a case

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers:

David Reischer, CEO of LegalAdvice.com

A philosophy major is good discipline to study for future lawyers because a student of ‘philosophy’ will learn how to analyze arguments and organize their thoughts into coherent and cogent ideas. These students will learn how to follow the rules of logic when making arguments as well as how to take the opposite side of an argument and question the premises and assumptions that support a conclusion. This type of training is important for an aspiring lawyer because learning how to understand the inner mechanics of how to argue and think outside of the box are important qualities in a future lawyer.

Brady McAninch, partner at Hipskind & McAninch, LLC

Philosophy merges history with analysis. It is the most similar to what you will get in a law school classroom. The Socratic method of teaching, which is used in the majority of law schools, is very akin to how most philosophy courses are taught.

Political Science 

Political science majors should be prepared to study political systems, public policy, and the relationship between types of government and the law. This major is probably the closest to a law school curriculum in undergrad that a student will find.

Common classes: American political systems, early and modern political thought, principles of economics, law, politics, and justice, and research methods

Skills you’ll learn: how to research, analyze data and documents, and write a case study

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers:

Jim Yeargan, owner and founding partner of Yeargan & Kert, LLC

Young adults who want to become lawyers should consider majoring in political science in college. With a political science degree, you’ll get a solid foundation in how the government is structured, how laws work, and who has power. These are all critical if you want to work in the law.

When I was in college, my political science classes fostered great conversations and debates, which helped me to hone skills that have been invaluable to me as an attorney. I learned to identify an issue, analyze important information, and generate a thought-out and reasoned argument. Since my discussions were somewhat tied to the law, I feel as though that provided me with a great foundation for law school.

In law school, I was able to build on what I’d cultivated as a political science major in college.

Psychology

Psychology is the study of human behaviors and this major gives students insight into the human psyche. For instance, students might apply their psych studies to criminal cases, questioning how human error could possibly lead to wrongful convictions or how innocent people sometimes make incorrect judgements.

Common classes: biological psychology, history of psychology, neuroscience, sensation and perception, and social psychology.

Skills you’ll learn: abstract reasoning, interpersonal skills, and research ethics.

Why it’s good for aspiring lawyers:

Meredith Atwood, former attorney and founder of Swim Bike Mom

The best majors for aspiring lawyers will be in the realm of human behavior, public speaking, and writing. The practice of law is essentially the pursuit and communication of justice and conflict resolution, so any training in communication will be key to winning cases, handling clients, and more.

Psychology is powerful because it will help in all aspects: dealing with clients, helping in mediation, and understanding behaviors and experts.

Bottom Line

For students considering a career in law, some majors are a reliable source of the skills and knowledge central to the profession. However, no major will guarantee a law school acceptance letter — and no major will disqualify a student, either. No matter what major students ultimately choose, a high undergraduate GPA and killer LSAT score will boost their chances of gaining admittance to a top-tier program, and from their, securing a position at a firm and launching their career.

Contributors

Alexandra FungMeredith Atwood is a former attorney, founder of Swim Bike Mom, and 4x IRONMAN triathlete. She is also the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, and is an author of “Triathlon for the Every Woman,” and upcoming, “The Year of No Nonsense.”
Michael Dye was awarded a bachelor of science from the College of Business Administration with a concentration in economics from Gardner-Webb University in 1998. Dye enrolled at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law School in 2000. While there, he was a member of the Law Journal and authored an article examining various provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the respective effects on the economies of Mexico and the United States. Upon graduating and passing the Florida bar exam, Dye accepted employment at a nationwide securities litigation and arbitration firm. In 2004, Dye opened his own practice primarily focusing on criminal defense.
Boris Lavent, a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law, is the founding partner of Lavent Law in Miami, FL. Since opening the firm in 2014, he has been committed to helping accident victims assert their rights and obtain the money they deserve.
Shyam K. IyerBrady McAninch was born in Alton, Illinois, and has lived in the St. Louis metropolitan area for most of his life. McAninch graduated magna cum laude from Southern Illinois University School of Law and clerked for Judge Catherine D. Perry, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. After law school, he immediately went to work as a trial lawyer for some of St. Louis’ preeminent civil litigation firms. During that time, he litigated numerous cases and was responsible for managing litigation on behalf of a Fortune 100 Company in both Illinois and Missouri. He co-founded Hipskind and McAninch, LLC, with his law partner, John Hipskind, in 2015. Since then, the two have spent most of their time litigating personal injury cases in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Michele S. Mirman is a nationally-recognized trial attorney with more than 40 years of experience representing accident victims across New York City. She is the founder and senior partner at Mirman, Markovits and Landau, PC.
Shyam K. IyerDavid Reischer, Esq., is an attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com. Reischer is a New York business attorney who was admitted to the bar in New York in 2004 and specializes in real estate, mortgages, finance, and general tax and estate planning law. He is committed to the traditions of client service, professional development, and community involvement, while embracing the innovations driving the legal profession in the 21st century.
Eric J. Trabin grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. After graduating from Suncoast Community High School in the International Baccalaureate program, he was accepted to the Honors Program at the University of Florida, where he received his undergraduate degree with a major in criminology and a minor in philosophy in 2003. He remained there to receive his JD in 2006. He currently practices criminal defense and family law in central Florida with an office in Maitland.
Jim Yeargan, a former DUI prosecutor, is the owner and founding partner of Yeargan & Kert, LLC in Atlanta, GA. “DUI Jim,” as he is known to most in the community, has more than 15 years of experience handling DUI cases.

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