Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What (Pre) Law Students Should Know

According to Michael Froomkin and Yair Listokin, one thing all (pre)law students should know more about is statistics.

Here's Michael:

I've long believed that statistics should be a near-prerequisite for law school, and if you haven't had before law school we should offer it for credit, and encourage -- maybe even require -- students to take it.
And here's Yair:
I think statistics should be a mandatory class for law students. Why? Because there are entire fields of law that are nearly impossible to fully grasp without a basic knowledge of statistics. To name a few, I would put employment discrimination, products liability, and much of torts and evidence in this category. In addition, statistical evidence or thinking plays (or at least should play) some roll in almost every area of law. The point is not to enable lawyers to produce competent statistical evidence, but rather to allow lawyers to be educated consumers of statistics.
What is the least useful major for pre-law students? Pre-law:
If you really want to be a good lawyer, I don't personally recommend majoring in anything directly related to law as an undergraduate, or even taking courses in it. That includes "Juvenile Justice". Colleges always teach the stuff "wrong" from the point of view of a lawyer - maybe right from the point of view of a cop or probation officer or something, but wrong from the point of view of someone who needs to work with law rather than recite it. So you will start out behind the other students since you will have to 'unlearn' what you think you know. Really.

Far, far, better to major in something that teaches you about the world: history, economics, literature, math or even art. You will get all the law you need in law school - why waste college getting a 3rd-rate version of it? Why not get the stuff that makes you a well informed person, and thus a much better lawyer in the long run.

The only rule that over-rides the one above is: major in what you like best. Because ultimately you will get the best grades in what you like best, and grades count! A lot. A whole lot. Especially if you are not going to college at a very high prestige Ivy League or similar school.

If possible - it's not essential - I'd try to take the following courses at some point regardless of what you major in:

  • two semesters of economics
  • at least one Intro to Philosophy and/or Political Philosophy
  • as much US history as you can stand (law is about context, and precedents must be understood in the context of their times)
  • a course that covers the structure of the US political/governmental system

No comments: