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How effective is the major to get you ready for a law school program?

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Hi 

Im a freshman at YorkU whos pursuing a BA degree (BUSO). I'm thinking of changing my major and i have different interests at different fields with respect to the amount of passion i have to each field. My plan is to pursue a law school after i accomplish my four years at Uni, but my main concern at this moment is assessing my major. Since my plan is to pursue a law degree in the future the question here is,  how effective is the major for the law school future? In other words, i'm thinking of changing my major to accounting, marketing, or any other field that somehow is safer and better for the future and at the same time i have some passion for it but for the future i want to become a criminal lawyer *SO* should i make criminology as my major thus i'll be well prepared with a good background on the criminal law for the JD program or should i take a safer and stronger bachelor degree (acounting, marketing) so i secure myself better for the future and later on i pursue my JD program and take criminal law? I hope this was clear :) 

 

Best Regards ::) 

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All majors can prepare you well for law school.  I can't fault you for wanted to hedge your bets (i.e. major in accounting or marketing) in the event you don't get in to law school, but the best advice you can receive is to take a subject you're passionate about. 

Unless you are interested in criminology for non-instrumental reasons, steer clear.  I'm deeply skeptical that a criminology degree would teach you anything relevant to law school or legal practice -- and, in any case, if you plan on going to law school you'll have plenty of time to learn criminal law then. 

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Strongly recommend pursuing whichever degree you feel you'll do best in/THAT WILL INTEREST YOU. Interest is key, both because you're more likely to get good grades when you find the material engaging, and because if you don't end up pursuing law, it's best to have a degree you actually want. Law schools themselves for the most part couldn't care less what your degree is in, so just enjoy this time. Best of luck. 

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Since you can attend law school after obtaining any undergraduate degree, it is not necessary to choose based on what you think will be the most effective/draw the most utility in law school. Further, because your GPA and LSAT score will be paramount if/when you apply, feel free to choose a major that interests you and that you think you will succeed in. :)

However, some other factors might figure into your reasoning. For most people, these factors are employability and ROI. If you are interested in marketing or accounting because you think they will provide you with the tools necessary to pursue a career in one or the other, and it's a career you can envision yourself in if you ultimately decide against attending law school upon graduation, then give those considerations their necessary weight. It should also be noted that no formal background in criminology is needed to practice criminal law. Good luck!

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Posted (edited)

It's hard for me to comment on your particular situation, and others have already appropriately weighed in on that, but, speaking in generalities, there are some statistics on what UG majors typically do well on the LSAT, and which do not do so well.

Interestingly, "pre-law" majors, business majors, and criminology majors typically do the worst on the LSAT, whereas classics, mathematics, philosophy, and economics majors do very well on the LSAT. 

http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/departments/philosophy/media/Average_LSAT_Scores_by_Major.pdf

My suspicion is the disciplines near the top of the list spend a lot of time engaging critical thinking, reading comprehension, or problem solving/symbolic manipulation (or all three), whereas the other majors do not, and it actually has very little to do with the intelligence of the people choosing those programs. 

Edited by conge

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If you know you want to do law and dont care about not getting the best internships over the summers I’d just take whatever you can do well in with the caveat that I’d mix in some philosophy/logic classes (for LSAT purposes).

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I would add that reversion to the mean is also a factor here. Only a small portion of physics/math students will take the LSAT, so the group that takes it will be more motivated, in a similar way to how Math majors do well on the MCAT while Biology majors perform at an average level. If you're in a field or major where Law is not seen as a default career and you write the LSAT anyway you're likely more competitive than the average "pre-law" or political science major. Having a program that builds thinking skills is definitely useful, but it does seem like something of an post hoc explanation. If, for whatever reason, Sociology, "pre-law" majors, and communications where at the top I'm sure we'd be hearing how these majors build the thinking skills the LSAT tests. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Sambo1261 said:

If you know you want to do law and dont care about not getting the best internships over the summers I’d just take whatever you can do well in with the caveat that I’d mix in some philosophy/logic classes (for LSAT purposes).

I never took a formal logic course under the philosophy department, but I did take discrete mathematics - which is like the intro to logic course within the math department at my university. I did not really think about arguments and logic in a formal way until I took discreet mathematics and I can see how the course can be useful not just for the logic games section, but the logical reasoning section as well. 

4 hours ago, LawCS said:

I would add that reversion to the mean is also a factor here. Only a small portion of physics/math students will take the LSAT, so the group that takes it will be more motivated, in a similar way to how Math majors do well on the MCAT while Biology majors perform at an average level. If you're in a field or major where Law is not seen as a default career and you write the LSAT anyway you're likely more competitive than the average "pre-law" or political science major. Having a program that builds thinking skills is definitely useful, but it does seem like something of an post hoc explanation. If, for whatever reason, Sociology, "pre-law" majors, and communications where at the top I'm sure we'd be hearing how these majors build the thinking skills the LSAT tests. 

You're probably right that there is selection bias at play. But what's interesting is that even though engineering, physics, and math are all majors in which "law is not seen as a default career", physics and math majors outperformed engineering majors on average (assuming a statistically significant difference - shame on LSAC for not providing standard deviations and confidence intervals!). I think a similar thing can be said about economics vs. business administration majors. I would assume the same proportion of "pre-law defaulters" are present in both majors, but economics majors scored higher. 

Of course this is not to say that there aren't any/a lot of smart people in all majors; it's been humbling to have met so many brilliant people from various academic backgrounds in law school.

With respect to choosing a major, there are so many other important factors to consider! Please don't pick a major just because you think it will help you do very well on one test. If I'd known I would end up in law school, I would have considered majoring in philosophy (because it interests me), sociology with a concentration in gender and family issues (because I'm interested in pursuing family law and I feel like that background would help), or fine arts (because I think all the cool aesthetic kids major in fine arts and I low-key always wanted to be a cool kid). However, I'm still very happy with my choice, so there's that. 

Edited by Twenty

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1 hour ago, Twenty said:

I never took a formal logic course under the philosophy department, but I did take discrete mathematics - which is like the intro to logic course within the math department at my university. I did not really think about arguments and logic in a formal way until I took discreet mathematics and I can see how the course can be useful not just for the logic games section, but the logical reasoning section as well. 

Agreed, mathematics majors consistently score the highest on the LSAT I believe. However, at least at my university, averages for math courses are consistently between 1.3 and 2.3, marks which OP should definitely be avoiding. 

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My major was Philosophy, a large amount of which I've forgotten completely other than a few interesting thought experiments that stuck with me. I took a few logic courses and absolutely loved them. None of that helped for the LSAT or law school in a discernible way, especially since I went to law school seven years after leaving undergrad studies.

Take what interests you. Marketing, accounting or whatever sounds great and will be usefull. Criminology will be useless both in real life and for law school so definitely don't do that.

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I don’t think it matters much. The general consensus seems to be something that you enjoy and can do very well in. One thing I’ll add is that I spoke with a partner at Bennett Jones who said an undergrad degree heavy in reading and writing (eg. History, Poli Sci, etc) will be very advantageous in law school and beyond.

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Posted (edited)

Honestly, do what you love and are interested in. Life is too short, and you will find your way. At my law school, there were tons of different majors: political science, philosophy, neuroscience, music, theatre, engineering, Econ - you name it! Just focus on being your best and learning as much as possible. Your passion and hard work will get you where you need to be.

In my year, some of the highest scoring students were people who did fine arts degrees, and some of the lowest scoring students came from polisci and economics backgrounds. This doesn't say anything about the MAJOR, but just about the individuals' motivation, understanding, and ability to grasp the legal concepts. Honestly. You may be a bit more familiar with certain concepts coming from a political science background, but it won't make you get the A. And vice versa - you might have done theatre, but it won't make you the top mooting participant. 

My experience has been that nothing can truly prepare you for law - you just have to immerse yourself and work very hard once you're there.

Edited by poshspice

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I have a math degree. I found the LSAT pretty straight-forward and there were very few topics in law school that I couldn't wrap my head around. But going from reading <10 pages to prepare for a lecture to reading nearly 100 at times was challenging.

I wouldn't change a thing about it though. The math degree was always an interesting talking point during interviews and people assume I'm a "genius" 🙃

From an admissions perspective, if you're mainly looking at index schools, then GPA is your primary concern. For holistic schools and for recruiting purposes, IMO you're better off studying something you find interesting that is different from law. As different as possible. Law applicants and law students are generally interested in the law. Show that you've got other interests, and you'll look like a more interesting and well-rounded person. I also agree with @poshspice's comment - life's too short!

In the markets I am familiar with, criminal law firms/the Crown aren't super interested in your undergraduate degree. And of my classmates, there was no overlap between those with a criminology degree and those who actually wound up in criminal law.

I'd steer clear of criminology and "law and society" and those sorts of programs for the reasons outlined above and in the other replies.

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