Pursuing a law degree requires a sizable investment of time, money, and energy. To learn more about the steps required, contact the Office of Academic Advising to find a pre-law advisor who can assist you. Other resources include www.lsac.org, and even UO Law School Admissions Office.
Lawyers represent clients in legal proceedings. In addition to acting as advocates for individuals and companies in criminal and civil trials, lawyers serve as ongoing legal advisers to corporations and organizations. Depending on the type of law they practice, lawyers will spend their time on paperwork, researching, preparing for or participating in trials, and advising clients.
Hours and workloads vary tremendously among attorneys. Associates at private practices bill their clients by the hour, recording every minute spent on a particular case in order to fill their firms’ required annual quotas. Advancement at big firms happens glacially—most associates expect to become partners after seven to nine years of hard work. In contrast, public interest, government, and nonprofit lawyers hold salaried positions and typically move more freely within the office power structure.
Virtually all law (J.D.) programs are three years in length. Some may offer the opportunity to simultaneously complete a MBA degree for additional years of schooling. Earning a law degree takes at least three years and demands intense amounts of energy and attention.
While there is no single undergraduate major for law school, economics has proved to be one that has prepared students well for such endeavors. In fact, a recent study found that economics majors averaged higher LSAT scores than any other major on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The Economics Department also offers a Professional Concentration in Law.
Prerequisites for Law Programs
1. Good grades. As with all graduate programs, law programs are looking for students that were obviously successful at the undergraduate level. Better programs are unlikely to accept candidates with GPAs lower than 3.0. They will also evaluate the quality of classes you took.
2. High LSAT scores. The standard entrance test for law programs is the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which is administered by the Law School Admissions Council. The LSAT is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all 200 law schools that are members of LSAC. It is scored on a scale from 120 to 180.
3. Letters of recommendations from college professors. These letters should come from professors who know you relatively well, and at least one should be from a professor in your major.
4. Personal statement. This gives you an opportunity to “state your case,” as well as to demonstrate your writing ability. In your statement you will describe in your own words who you are, how disciplined or motivated you are, and how law school will help you achieve your goals.
You should take the LSAT either in June after your junior year or in the September/October test dates of your senior year. One advantage of signing up for the summer test is that you will have your results back in time to determine an appropriate range of schools to which to apply.
Importantly, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) provides a clearinghouse for your application, including your letter of references, so that only one copy of your letters needs to go to LSAC, rather than providing copies to each law school individually. LSAC provides a convenient checklist with the steps to follow.
Picking the Right Program
A lot of sites rank law programs. Each law program offers specialties that may match your interests, so look for rankings that address those interests. Except for the top 10-20 law programs in the nation, law programs are regional, as bar exams are administered at the state level and often do not transfer to other states. Consider picking a program in the region where you’d like to start your career.