What are law schools looking for?
Law schools are looking for students who perform well on the LSAT (a test which measures reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning), and who have fantastic recommendations from their professors, intellectual curiosity, and an interest in making our shared world a better place. They want students who know how to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, and who are strong, ethical, and committed researchers. The major you choose as an undergraduate should be one that interests you; as long as you love the subject you're studying and do well, you can apply to law school after graduation no matter what you choose to study. For more information on the best way to prepare for law school, visit the American Bar Association.
Why choose Arts & Letters?
You earn admission to law school based on your skills and your performance, not your major. You should pick a major that teaches you to communicate effectively, read texts closely, and analyze information thoroughly. The majors in the College of Arts and Letters specialize in these skills and are a great avenue to prepare you for law school and future success in your career.
Our humanities and social science faculty are dedicated to teaching students how to see the world from different perspectives, how to conduct in-depth, ethical research, and how to communicate ideas effectively to different audiences. The skills you learn in Philosophy, Religion, History, English, Political Science, Communication Studies, Anthropology, Sociology or Interdisciplinary Studies will serve you well not only in law school, but throughout your career as a lawyer.
So which major is the best major for a career in law?
The best major is the one that appeals to you the most, that opens your eyes to new worlds and makes you excited about coming to class. All our humanities and social science majors will teach you the skills you need to succeed in law school, but only you can determine which one is right for you.
Philosophy is an attempt to think clearly and systematically about what is real, what we can know, and how we should live. Philosophy majors learn how to to think about things from a variety of viewpoints and to examine fundamental assumptions. The major provides rigorous training in reading and understanding complex texts, thinking critically about disputed ideas, expressing views clearly and cogently in written and oral form, analyzing and evaluating arguments, and researching. The Department of Philosophy and Religion also has a dedicated pre-law major with a sequence of classes specifically designed to prepare you for success in law school. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include Logic, Critical Thinking, Ethics, Philosophy of Law, Political Philosophy, Contemporary Moral Issues, and Philosophy of Human Nature.
Our legal system is complex and has developed over centuries. To understand our laws, and the way the justice system operates, you need to understand history. As a history major, you will learn about the times, environments, people, and events that brought about our current laws. The history major provides students with extensive training in those areas the American Bar Association calls core values and skills essential for success in law school and the legal profession: research and problem solving, evaluating evidence, critical reading, writing and editing, oral communication and listening, background/historical knowledge, and presenting arguments effectively. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include the Historical Research Seminar, U.S. History I and II, African-American History I and II, the American Revolution and Constitutional Era, the American Civil War, the U.S. since 1945, American Environmental History, Working Class America, and U.S. Foreign Relations.
English majors make great law students, and many English alumni have gone on to practice law. They are trained to read carefully and critically; to analyze texts and determine rhetorical intent; to make clear, evidence-based arguments; and above all, to communicate with a variety of audiences—skills that are essential in law careers. In addition, the English major at Southern Miss offers a concentration in professional writing & public discourse, designed for students interested in law and other careers involving rhetoric and writing. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include Nonfiction Writing, Multiethnic Literature, Public Writing and Rhetoric, Advanced Composition, Technical Writing, Literary Study of the Bible, and Literature of the South.
Political science is a natural fit for students interested in the study of government and the services it provides, politics and political behavior, or the law. Knowledge of how political systems work—ocally, nationally, and internationally—provides a strong foundation for law school. Students majoring in political science learn to view the world from multiple perspectives, to determine who the stakeholders are and what they have to win or lose in a given situation, and to conduct effective evidence-based research. Southern Miss's Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs also offers a degree in Paralegal Studies—talk to an advisor about your career goals to determine which is the right degree for you. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include Race and Ethnic Politics, The Legislative Process, Women and Politics, Law in American Society, U.S. Constitutional Law, U.S. Supreme Court and Civil Liberties, Political Psychology, and Human Rights.
Knowledge about how money and financial systems work gives students who want to practice law as a career a huge advantage. Economics majors learn how to define and understand complex problems, think rationally and critically, and explore the concept of choice—how and why people choose to allocate their time, money and effort, all necessary skills for success in law school. Economics is housed in the Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs. Courses particularly relevant to pre-lawinclude Micro- and macroeconomics, Money and Public Policy, Public Finance, Economic Development, and International Economics.
Communication Studies explores how communication fosters success in personal relationships, business settings, and society. The curriculum includes skills-oriented courses such as interviewing, debating, and public speaking as well as more traditional classes on subjects like persuasion, conflict/negotiation, and deception. These courses develop skills and knowledge helpful to lawyers who prepare, present and defend cases and who interact with clients, judges, and other attorneys. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include Speech Communication in Legal Contexts and Public Advocacy and Advanced Communication.
The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies offers students the opportunity to craft individualized majors to suit their interests and career goals, and IDS students work closely with an advisor to create a degree plan composed of related courses in two or more departments. IDS students are creative thinkers who understand the interconnectivity of the disciplines and want to follow a passion through whichever departments it leads. A student interested in Environmental Law, for example, might take courses in both Biological Sciences and Political Science, or an interest in Family Law might lead a student through both Marriage and Family and Economics or History.
Sociology is the study of human society and how our behavior shapes and is shaped by the institutions we develop. Studying sociology will give future law school students a deeper understanding of human behavior, which is immensely helpful in dealing with clients from all walks of life and social backgrounds. Many types of law deal directly with issues examined in sociological research, e.g. family law, civil rights law, immigration law, and labor (employment) law. A background in sociology also provides students with the skills to engage in and think critically about research. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include Social Problems; The Family; Gender; Wealth, Status and Power; Social Inequality; Deviant Behavior; Criminology; Race and Ethnicity; American Immigration; Globalization; and Juvenile Delinquency.
Journalism (News Reporting Emphasis)
The skills students learn by majoring in Journalism—researching, writing, reporting, editing, and interviewing—are directly relevant to the practice of law. The journalism major teaches students the professional and theoretical concepts of journalism, technical skills, and the historical, ethical and social responsibility of journalism through an integration of practice and theory. Courses particularly relevant to pre-law include Introduction to Media Writing, Media Law & Ethics, Reporting, Advanced Reporting, and Investigative Strategies for Journalists.
Anthropology is the study of humanity in all its aspects, integrating an understanding of our physical reality with the analysis of how we create our world through cultural systems of meaning, values, and rights. In addition to more general skills in critical thinking and writing, the study of anthropology will give the pre-law student insight into the human institutions and values and how these vary. Future lawyers will benefit from a comparative understanding of the ways societies handle critical matters such as the maintenance of social order, distribution of rights, resolution of disputes, and resource allocation. Anthropology is directly relevant to several areas of law, including international law, human rights, and refugee and immigration law. Because the study of humans is a very broad topic, pre-law students will want to choose classes based on their specific interests, but relevant courses include Cultural & Linguistic Anthropology, World Cultures, American Indians, Immigration and Transnationalism, Forensic Anthropology, and Heritage Resources and Public Policy.
Religion majors learn how to read and understand difficult texts, think about what they have read clearly and critically, and express their thoughts in beautiful and effective language. In addition, by studying the religions of the world, students develop cutural knowledge and understanding, an extremely useful skill to have as a practicing lawyer, particularly in the fields of international law, immigration law, and employment and labor law. Courses to note are Religions of India, The Christian Tradition, Introduction to Qur’anic Studies, Modern Islamic Thought
Are there other majors besides the ones listed that make good preparation for law school?
Absolutely. You can major in any academic discipline that you have passion and a talent for including Art History; Foreign Languages and Literatures; or Religion. If your interests lie outside the College of Arts & Letters, check out the university's list of degrees by career interest.
What's the next step?
If you want to go to law school, but you're not sure which major most interests you, we encourage you to visit department websites and to make an appointment to speak with an advisor in any of the departments that interest you. Advisors will be able to talk with you about the type of law you ultimately want to practice, and the courses within each discipline that will be most helpful to you during your undergraduate career. You can find contact information for all the departments in Arts & Letters at our A&L Departments and Schools webpage.