Pre-law

You are here

Exploring Your Interest in a Law Career

Lawyers are central figures in the life of a democratic country. They may deal with major courtroom cases or minor traffic disputes, complex corporate mergers or straightforward real estate transactions. Lawyers may work for giant industries, small businesses, government agencies, international organizations, public interest groups, legal aid offices and universities — or they may work for themselves. They represent both the impoverished and the wealthy, the helpless and the powerful. Lawyers may work solo, in a small group or in a large law firm. - Law School Admission Council www.lsac.org (Being A Lawyer)

A law degree (J.D. or Juris Doctor) prepares students for the practice of law and can open doors to a wide range of careers in other fields. Most law students complete the J.D. degree in three years; some law schools offer accelerated and part-time programs that offer more flexibility. In the United States, lawyers may practice only in the state or states where they are members of the bar in good standing: they must pass a state bar examination and meet other state requirements for admission to the bar.

Preparing for Law School

There is no single path that will prepare you for a legal education. Students who are successful in law school, and who become accomplished professionals, come from many walks of life and educational backgrounds. - American Bar Association

  • Pursue a broad education, including an understanding of history, political thought, basic mathematical and financial skills, human behavior and social interaction, and of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States. By pursuing your interests and fulfilling graduation requirements in the College of Arts & Sciences, you will be following this important advice from the American Bar Association (ABA).
  • Develop your research, analysis and writing skills. Law schools are interested in your ability to do rigorous analytical research, to write well, to present and to persuade. Take classes and pursue undergraduate research opportunities to develop these skills.
  • Choose a major that interests and challenges you. There is no preferred undergraduate major or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. The College of Arts & Sciences offers a wide array of majors and minors. An undergraduate science, computer science or engineering background is required for admission to the Patent Bar. If you are interested in International Law, fluency in one or more foreign languages is important. Courses in accounting, economics, management and business are helpful if you are interested in tax, securities or corporate law. Students can enroll in courses for undergraduates at Cornell Law School, and in other law-related courses offered on the Cornell campus, including courses approved for the Law and Society minor.
  • Compile an impressive record. A solid GPA – particularly in your major—is expected, but excellence in other subjects also demonstrates an intellectual curiosity that is advantageous in the study of law. Law schools will be interested in your jobs and internships, leadership experience and extracurricular activities. Choose activities that interest you, not those you think will impress admissions committees. Most law schools require one or more letters of recommendation from faculty; it’s important to get to know your faculty and to request these letters before graduation. Most Cornellians apply to law school a year or more after graduation, using the time after college to gain perspective and experience.

Cornell Resources

Learn about legal careers before applying to law school. Cornell’s Legal Careers Guide is an excellent place to start. Meet with Arts & Sciences Career Development's Diane Miller to discuss your interest in law-related careers and law school, even after graduation.

  • Check "Yes" to receive pre-law information when you open your DUST Report. Receive monthly email messages with valuable information about law school and legal careers
  • Connect with Cornellians who share your interests. Join the Cornell: College of Arts & Sciences LinkedIn group and the field-based subgroups.
  • Attend pre-law programs listed on the Cornell Career Services Calendar
  • Talk with an Arts & Sciences career counselor and take an interest assessment test to see if your personality, values and interests are aligned with a legal career.
  • Investigate online and print resources on legal careers, law schools and other law-related topics at this Cornell site and this LSAC site
  • Talk with your family about how you will pay for law school. Talk with Diane Miller about financial aid for law school.
  • Conduct informational interviews to learn about the legal profession. Talk with lawyers who are family members, family friends or Cornell alumni.
  • Discuss law school with current law students and sit in on a class. Arrange to visit Cornell Law School by calling the Admissions Office at 255-5141.

Gain Experience

Applying to Law School

For a comprehensive discussion of the law school admission process, visit the Law School Admission Council website and Cornell’s Legal Careers Guide. Schedule an appointment with Diane Miller to discuss the application process.

Indicate your interest in pre-law in your DUST record and you will receive email messages with important information.

  • Attend pre-law events listed on the Cornell Career Services Calendar.
  • Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), which is administered six times per year, and is offered at Cornell four times a year (www.lsac.org). Consider taking the LSAT as early as February or June of the year in which you plan to apply. This allows time to research schools after receiving your score.
  • Register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through LSAC and check "Yes" to release your information to your pre-law adviser, so that Cornell can monitor law school admission results and use this information to guide future law school applicants. Your personal information is always kept confidential.
  • Order a transcript from the University Registrar to be sent to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Provide the registrar with the bar-coded LSAC transcript request form from your online account at www.lsac.org. It’s a good idea to order your own copy of the transcript first, and check its accuracy.
  • Request Letters of Recommendation. Read each law school's instructions regarding letters of recommendation or evaluations. Law schools typically require two recommendations and they prefer academic recommendations to employer or character references. For more information, go to www.lsac.org (Letters of Recommendation and Evaluation Services). If you intend to apply to law school after graduation, register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) or establish a file through the Interfolio Credentials Service, and request faculty letters of recommendation before you graduate.
  • Write your Personal Statement. This is a very important piece of the law school application, which allows you to tell the admissions committee about yourself. Only a few law schools include an interview in the admissions process, so your personal statement becomes your primary opportunity to describe yourself beyond your grades and test scores.
  • Request Dean’s Certifications. A few law schools require a College or Dean’s Certification for all matriculating students; some schools require this process during the application process for candidates who are reporting disciplinary information. If you have a disciplinary history, make an appointment with Diane Miller before you apply to law school.
  • If you plan to apply to law school after graduation, make an appointment with Diane Miller in your senior year by calling (607) 255-4166 or emailing as_careers@cornell.edu

Contact Information

Diane Miller
Associate Director and Legal Career Liaison
Aarts & Sciences Career Development Center
172 Goldwin Smith Hall
607-255-4166
as_careers@cornell.edu