Philosophy Pre-Law BA
Law schools do not require a specific major as preparation for a legal education. However, the pre-law committee of the American Bar Association does describe “core skills and values” as well as general knowledge that should guide a pre-law student’s course selection. The core skills and values include (1) analytic/problem solving skills, (2) critical reading, (3) writing skills, (4) oral communications/listening abilities, (5) general research skills, (6) task organization/management skills, and (7) public service and promotion of justice. Examples of the types of general knowledge suggested include a broad understanding of history, an understanding of political thought, basic mathematical and financial skills, basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction, and an understanding of diverse cultures.
No single major supplies all of what is suggested. However, some majors are particularly conducive to developing the required skills and gaining some of the general knowledge that enhance success in law school. Philosophy is one of the majors the ABA puts in the category of “traditional preparation for law school”. An especially important benefit of studying philosophy is learning to think about things from a variety of viewpoints and to carefully examine fundamental assumptions. The philosophy major provides rigorous training in reading and understanding complex texts, critical thinking about disputed ideas, expressing views clearly and cogently in written and oral form, analyzing and evaluating arguments, as well as general research skills. In addition philosophy deals directly with moral and political issues that are of central concern in legal practice, including the nature and value of justice.
Our philosophy major with a pre-law area of emphasis is especially designed to meet the needs of pre-law students. In addition to standard requirements in Logic and Ethics, the curriculum includes a course in Critical Thinking that has as one of its central goals enhancing performance of students on the Law School Admissions Test (which emphasizes reasoning skills). Requirements for the pre-law version of the philosophy major also include a course in Philosophy of Law or Political Philosophy, as well as courses from other departments in areas such as Constitutional Law, Economics, and Advanced Composition. In addition to requirements, the pre-law area of emphasis allows for students to choose a minor in another field, and it leaves plenty of room for elective courses. To aid in course selection, we provide students with a list of recommended minors and of elective courses that are particularly valuable as preparation for a career in law.