Pre-LawPage address: http://sbs.mnsu.edu/government/prelaw/prelaw.html
Hello! Thank you for your interest in Pre-Law at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Here at MSU, the Pre-Law program is a pre-major, which means that it is done in conjunction with another acadmic major. Pre-majors do not have a set curriculum, although there are some courses that are better than others in terms of law school. MSU's Pre-Law advisor is Susan Burum. If you are a current MSU student and would like to declare Pre-Law as a pre-major, simply talk to your current advisor, or Pat Davis in the Department of Political Science and Law Enforcement, Morris Hall 109.
Should I Go To Law School?
The decision to go to law school is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. There are right and wrong reasons to go to law school.
- I want to be a lawyer, and I understand what being a lawyer entails.
- I'm a liberal arts major, and I don't know what else to do with my degree.
- My parents want me to go to law school.
- I want to change the world.
- I like to argue and debate.
- Everyone else in my family is a lawyer
- I did well on the LSAT, so why not?
- I want to make a lot of money.
- Law school is so versitile, I can use it for something else like business or politics.
What Classes Should I Take?
There are no required classes for law school. You are free to take any courses that you want, though there are some classes that are going to be helpful in preparing your for law school. Below is a list of recommended pre-law courses:
110 Accounting for Non-Business Majors
201 Principles of Macroeconomics
202 Principles of Microeconomics
305 Money and Banking
270 Advanced Composition
321 British Literature: 1785 to the Present
328 American Literature: 1865 to the Present
445 Advanced Critical Writing
190 United States History to 1877
191 United States History since 1877
Mathematics and Statistics
112 College Algebra--Math
110 Logic and Critical Thinking
311 Ancient and Medieval Political Philosophy
312 Modern Political Philosophy
453 Constitutional Law
454 Civil Liberties
351 Social Psychology
423 Complex organizations
102 Public Speaking
321 Argumentation and Debate
333 Advanced Public Speaking
What About The LSAT?
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that allows law schools to compare the diverse pool of applicants who come from various schools around the country and study different subjects. The LSAT includes five sections (each 35 minutes long) of three different types of questions. There is one section of Reading Comprehension, one section of Analytical questions, and two sections of Logical Reasoning questions. The fifth section of the exam is used for the purposes of evaluating potential exam questions, and it could be in any of the above formats. The LSAT also includes a 30 minute writing sample that is not scored by the LSAC, but is sent to the law schools with your scores.
The exam is given four times a year: in June, in late September or early October, in December, and in February. Most students should plan on taking the exam no later than October of the year before they intend to enroll in law school, as the results from the June and September/October exams arrive early enough for students to adjust their application strategy based upon their scores, or to plan to re-take the exam in December, if absolutely necessary (law schools differ in how they use scores from re-takes, so students should not approach the exam with plans to take it multiple times).
Preparing for the LSAT is often a matter of personal discipline, and there is no secret trick to getting a good LSAT score other than making sure that you are thoroughly prepared going into the exam. Taking the recommended pre-law courses here at MSU is a good start. Often one of the best strategy is to purchase a couple of LSAT study guides (thick books sold at just about any chain bookstore). Make sure that you actually go through the process of taking some of the practice tests. This can help you get familiar with the format for the exam, so that you learn how to manage your time better when you take the test for real.
There are also a number of preparation courses offered by third parties. You will have to investigate these on your own, as none of them are endorsed by Minnesota State University, its faculty, staff or administration.
For more information about the LSAT, visit www.lsac.org and follow the LSAT links.
How Do I Apply To Law School?
With personal statements, transcripts, letters of recommendation and standardized test scores to report, applying to law schools can be a daunting task. Give yourself plenty of time before the application's due date.
Some General Steps to Follow:
1. Register and prepare for the LSAT by the deadline.
2. Subscribe to the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). This is a service that prepares and provides a report for each law school to which you apply. Almost all American Bar Association-approved law schools require the LSDAS. For more information about the LSDAS, visit www.lsac.org and follow the LSDAS links.
3. Determine which law schools you're interested in applying to. Talk to me if you have questions about this.
4. Make a list of the application deadlines for each of the schools. Visiting the online site for a particular school is the best way to find out any and all deadlines. Most schools mark their deadline from January 1 to March 31.
5. Request a hard copy (on paper) of the school's application. Most law schools accept requests through their websites.
6. Receive your LSAT admissions ticket and take the test.
7. Save your LSDAS subscription confirmation, and update your LSDAS file continually. LSDAS compiles all your undergraduate, graduate and professional school transcripts, LSAT scores, LSAT writing section copies, and letters of recommendation.
8. Request that an official transcript be sent to the LSDAS from the registrar's office of each school you attended. Allow two weeks from the time of receipt for the LSDAS to process your transcripts.
9. Ask that letters of recommendation be written and sent directly to the LSAC or directly to law schools as appropriate. Allow two weeks from the time of receipt for the LSAC to process your letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation can come from employers (former and current), but you should have at least one letter of recommendation from a professor whom you have taken classes from and have done well. A good piece of advice is to ask your references if they would be willing to write a POSITIVE letter of recommendation for you. The last thing you want is a weak or possibly negative letter of recommendation.
10. Receive a Master Law School Report once all undergraduate transcripts have been summarized.
11. Completely fill out and send the application for each of your law school choices. Read all instructions carefully and make sure to pay all fees. Each law school will then contact LSDAS and obtain your compiled information.
12. Receive an activity update that indicates reports have been sent to law schools.
13. Wait and hope. Interviews will be next.
Check for early application procedures and deadlines. Early applicants often earn acceptance well before the general application deadline. Retake the LSAT if necessary. You must register again by the deadline.
Even though the fees quickly add up, apply to more than enough law schools. Many students apply to between 15 and 20. Just in case, make sure to apply to a few "safety" schools--places where you have a very good chance of getting in.
Frequently Asked Questions
What major should I choose if I want to go to law school?
Any major! The most important consideration when choosing a major is to choose a major you are interested in and that you know you can get good grades in. The most common major for going into law school is Political Science, but law schools will accept applications from any major.
What are the most important parts of my law school application? How do I get in?
Admissions decisions are based most heavily on your GPA and LSAT score. These are clearly the two most important components of the application. After these numbers, the admissions committees look at the personal statement, letters of recommendation, and activities/experience, generally in that order. Like it or not, the LSAT is absolutely crucial to your application; the better you do, the more choices you will have for admission and financial aid.
How many schools should I apply to?
To a certain extent, the answer depends on your personal needs and on what you can afford. It is best for students to apply broadly, so that they have the most options open to them. Applying to law school should be thought of as two separate steps: applying in the fall, and then deciding in the spring where to go once the acceptances and rejections are received. If you apply broadly, you should have more choices at decision making time. Many pre-law advisors recommend that students apply to one or two "safety schools," where they are virtually certain of admission, and then to several "competitive schools," where they will be competitive applicants but not necessarily successful ones. In addition, students often wish to apply to a few "dream schools." And why not, if you can afford it? You have nothing to lose.
When do I take the LSAT? How many times can I take it?
In general, you should start preparing for the exam a year in advance. The LSAT tests certain skills that you can improve if you practice them. The more practice, the better. You should NEVER EVER go in and take the LSAT cold. Take it when you're ready. You should plan to take it only once. Multiple scores are averaged by the LSDAS reporting service, so you don't necessarily gain much by taking it again, unless you are convinced you can do significantly better. If you absolutely bomb the test, there are provisions for canceling your score, but you must make this decision very quickly after taking it. If you feel you need to take the test again, stop by and talk with me.
I have a black mark in my past. Do I have to disclose it on my application? What do I say?
If the application asks you for information, you have to give it. Usually the applications will ask you to report incidents of cheating, academic fraud, arrests, convictions, etc. You must not hide this information, it must be presented accurately. Usually a paragraph or two will do, typed up separately and submitted with your application materials. If the incident was major (eg. criminal conviction), you might wish to devote your personal statement to it. Try not to worry about this "black mark." Law schools do not expect you to be perfect. A minor incident or two should not affect you too severely (depending on the circumstances, of course). A high percentage of applicants have some sort of alcohol or traffic violation on their records. Law schools tend to overlook minor infractions. However, if you have multiple infractions, ones that show a pattern of bad behavior, you may have a lot of explaining to do. Also, you will need to pass a moral character review before you are admitted to practice law. If you have questions regarding your eligibility, many states will do a "pre-screening" for you. Serious offenses such as felonies or those involving academic integrity (plagiarism, cheating, and the like) are, of course, taken seriously by law schools. If you feel you have a serious black mark against you, stop by and talk with me. You may want to the law schools directly about this.
Who Should I Contact For More Information?
If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact MSU's Pre-Law Advisor:
Susan Burum J.D.
Department of Government
Morris Hall 222 C