How to Prepare
Law schools are primarily interested in an applicant's academic preparation and performance. While there are no specific requirements beyond the bachelor's degree, undergraduates considering a career in law should select a major or concentration that interests them and allows them to excel in the classroom. Grades matter greatly. Applicants with higher grade point averages have more viable options when applying to law schools.
It is recommended that students take a normal to heavy course-load each semester and take only one or two courses Pass/Fail during their undergraduate career. Students need to demonstrate that they are motivated learners by going beyond what is required of them (e.g., enrolling in more than the minimum points required each semester, writing a thesis). Students however, should not jeopardize their grade point average by taking too many credits in a given semester. Law schools also look for an upward grade trend.
Beyond fulfilling major or concentration requirements, students are encouraged to take a variety of courses that expose them to different disciplines and assist in the development of their analytic, critical thinking, and writing skills.
Undergraduates should begin early in their college career forming relationships with faculty members. Law schools, typically expect applicants to have two faculty recommendations. Students who have connected with a faculty member, and have performed well in their class, are strongly encouraged to ask the faculty member to write them a letter of recommendation before the end of the semester or shortly thereafter. Students should not wait until their senior year to begin asking faculty members for recommendations. The recommendation waiver form is also available in every advising center. Recommendations are placed in the student's permanent file until they are ready to apply to law school.
Undergraduates are also encouraged to become involved in extracurricular activities that reflect their interests and values and to take a leadership role in one or more of these activities. Students should be careful, however too not devote so much time to outside activities that their grades suffer. Activities will not compensate for poor grades.
Columbia undergraduates and alumni/ae considering a career in law should seek information about the law profession itself before they begin to investigate the law school application process. Strategies for finding out more about the law profession include: subscribing to the pre-law listserv attending a variety of campus information sessions that are held throughout the academic year; reading about legal careers; conducting informational interviews with attorneys; and working in a law-related field.
The pre-law listserv provides students and alumni/ae with information about events, scholarships, internship opportunities, summer programs, and other relevant information for those interested in the fields of law.
The Office of Preprofessional Advising sponsors information sessions throughout the academic year. Some of these sessions feature the perspectives of Columbia alumni/ae currently enrolled in law school, and others feature the perspectives of law professionals who practice a variety of legal specializations. The Office of Pre-professional Advising also sponsors programs that feature law school admission officers. These sessions are good sources of information for prospective law school students. Additionally, law schools, including Columbia Law, welcome undergraduates to information sessions, as well as to some of their classes. Read the pre-law listserv and individual school web sites for listings of law school open houses and visitation information.
Students and alumni/ae are encouraged to read about the process of applying to law school, law school experiences, and legal careers. The Office of Pre-professional Advising provides a suggested reading list.
Another great way to find out more about the legal profession is conducting informational interviews with attorneys. Professionals are often very eager to talk about their careers with others interested in the Law. The Center of Career Education provides guidelines for conducting informational interviews.
Though law-related work experience is not an important factor in law school admission, students should consider pursuing law-related summer jobs, internships, and part-time employment during the academic year. For an overview of career possibilities in legal fields, prospective applicants may wish to seek full-time employment in a law-related field after graduation.
Together, these activities may help students decide whether or not they want to pursue a career in law.
In addition to the above information, the Office of Preprofessional Advising has compiled a printable list of recommendations and tips for Prelaw students.