Pre-Legal Professions

Year after year, Allegheny graduates distinguish themselves in their law school studies and beyond. The academic rigor, experiential learning opportunities, and in-depth research experiences more than equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in law school.

Like most universities and colleges in the United States, Allegheny College does not offer a major specifically called “pre-law” because law schools do not require any specific major for admission. In fact, the Association of American Law Schools advises students not to pursue specific “pre-law” programs. Instead, it recommends completing precisely the kind of broad-based curriculum featured at Allegheny, so as to develop skills that are absolutely crucial for law school and law careers. The key results are these:

    • The ability to handle abstract ideas;
    • Strong analytic and reasoning skills;
    • Writing and speaking ability;
    • Appreciation of the values of civilization.

The following are the key components of an Allegheny academic program, from the standpoint of pre-legal studies:

Highly developed communication skills
Professional schools always seek evidence of writing, reading and discussion skills (they expect at least one year of English). All Allegheny students take a sequence of three First-year/Sophomore seminars emphasizing written and oral communications skills, two in the first year and one in the sophomore year. Further study in English can be pursued in electives, minors and majors. Throughout the Allegheny years-especially the first year-small classes and an active learning dynamic develop discussion skills.

Breadth of Study
Divisional Studies ensure that all students are introduced to the principal divisions of knowledge-the Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. The major is chosen from one division, the minor from a second division, and at least two courses from the third division. This develops breadth of understanding that is valued highly by law schools.

Depth of Study: The Major
All Allegheny majors develop skills for in-depth study that are crucial in professional school-that is, for acquiring, synthesizing, applying and communicating information. Allegheny students can also double major or design their own majors.

While most pre-law students at Allegheny major in political science, history, or English, more and more students outside of these disciplines are applying to law school each year.

Law-Related Courses
Courses pertaining to the law and legal history can be found in all of Allegheny’s curricular divisions. Some recent examples:

    • First Seminars: Environmental Politics, U.S. Politics and the Constitution, Controversial Legal Issues
    • Communication Arts: Public Address, Rhetoric and Society
    • Environmental Science: Environmental Regulation and the State, Law and the Environment
    • History: The Western Tradition of Justice and the Law, History of Political Crime and Political Justice, Great Trials in History, English Common Law
    • Philosophy: Ethics and Community
    • Political Science: Law and Society, U.S. Constitution, Civil Rights and Liberties, Women and the Law
    • International Studies: Introduction to International Studies, World Politics

Before a law school can make an admission decision, it must receive your:

* Law schools cannot make a decision on your file if they have not received all required items.

Law schools look closely at many factors when determining admission; however, the two factors that can be applied objectively to all candidates and are most predictive of success in law school are the undergraduate GPA (UGPA) and the LSAT score. These two factors are given considerable weight in the law school selection process, each can account for 30-50 percent of the admission decision. Thus, the higher your grades and LSAT score, the better. The college you attended and the undergraduate course of study in which you earned your degree often are taken into consideration when examining your UGPA.

Other Factors the Admission Committee Will Consider are:

  1. Personal statement/essay. This is an opportunity to not only distinguish yourself from your peers, but to articulate your qualifications and interest in law beyond what is revealed by your transcript and test scores. The personal statement is also a demonstration of your writing skills and should be free of error.
  2. Letters of recommendation. Usually two or three are requested and academic references are the most influential. Take the time to develop relationships with your faculty throughout your years so they can write strong, informative letters about you.
  3. Activities/work experience. Demonstrating responsibility and leadership are the most useful for admission purposes. It is better to concentrate on a few activities rather than spreading yourself too thin just so you can list many organizations on your resume. Responsibility is a plus in work experience, particularly paid or volunteer community or legal work experience.
  4. Improvement in grades. Many law schools will consider your performance trend as well as your UGPA. Thus, they may discount a slow start in your undergraduate career if you performed exceptionally well in later school years.
  5. Ethnic/racial background. The Law School Admission Council states, We use the term diversity broadly to include all aspects of human differences, including but not limited to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, disability, and age.

Racial and ethnic diversity is essential to the study of law, and greatly benefits the law class, the law school, and the legal profession. All law schools actively seek students who are members of underrepresented groups and strongly encourage minority applicants.

However, minority group members have historically been underrepresented in the legal profession. The law school population (as well as the legal profession) does not reflect accurately the vibrant and expanding racial and ethnic population in our society. To promote diversity, law schools actively seek qualified African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American students, as well as other students of color. Law schools increasingly find that diversity within the classroom enriches the learning process for all students.”