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Each year, many Northwestern students and recent graduates apply to law school. The best preparation for law school is simply to get the most out of your liberal arts education. There is no specific major you must choose and no particular set of courses you must complete in order to prepare for law school. Your College Adviser can help you make academic decisions and devise a strategy for positioning yourself to make a successful application.  Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) can also help you; they offer a range of pre-law advice, and they maintain a detailed list of pre-law resources.

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Academic and extracurricular preparation

If you are considering a career in law, then during your undergraduate years you should develop your intellectual abilities as much as possible, while also exploring whether your initial interest in the law is sufficient to carry you on through law school and a law or law-related career.

Develop key skills

A liberal arts education prepares you for law school because it prompts you to think critically about broad issues from multiple vantage points. You develop the ability to write cogently and coherently, to analyze carefully and accurately, to reason logically, and to speak effectively and articulately. These are the skills which will take you farthest in law school and the practice of law, and these are the skills which law schools look for in applicants. It doesn't matter whether you develop these skills by analyzing political institutions, metaphysical arguments, underlying syntactic structures, or molecular structures; what matters is that you learn to use your mind effectively in a range of intellectual domains. Look for courses that demand a considerable amount of challenging reading and writing, especially small classes and seminars which can give you opportunities to develop your speaking ability. It is also vital to build strong relationships with a few faculty members who can write detailed recommendations for you. Your College Adviser can help you make these academic decisions.

Consider Weinberg's Legal Studies program

The Legal Studies Program provides opportunities for undergraduates to learn about legal issues, legal institutions, legal actors, and legal processes. It offers both a minor and a major, as well as individual courses that may be of interest to you as you consider a law career.

Consider a Chicago Field Studies' law internship

Chicago Field Studies (CFS) coordinates full-time internships for credit in legal fields, as well as part-time internships in social justice, civic engagement, and community research, among other programs.  An internship through CFS can be a great way to learn about a law-related field, gain work experience, and link your academic and professional interests.

Learn about the legal practice

There is a practical element to preparing to apply to law school: you should learn more about what law school and legal practice are really like.  You can do this through internships and extracurricular activities, as well as by thoroughly researching your law school options.  Consult the information on Career Paths in Law maintained by Northwestern Career Advancement to learn more about law school and the legal profession in general. The website of the Law School Admissions Council is an excellent source of information too. Finally, the Northwestern Alumni Association Externship Program (NEXT) arranges opportunities to "shadow" NU alumni at their workplace for one to three days. This is an excellent opportunity to learn first-hand about a particular profession, including the law.

Applying to law school

The two most important factors in gaining admission to law schools are your GPA and your score on the LSAT. That being said, however, your GPA will be considered in light of the school and courses in which you earned it. You have to strike a balance between the desire to get the highest GPA possible and the equally compelling need to have a GPA that represents real intellectual heft.

Law schools do look beyond the numbers.  They want to learn the following from your application and your record: that you have a good, well-trained mind; that you have what it takes to succeed in law school and the legal profession; and that you would bring something unique to your law school class. This latter point is especially important since such a large part of law school learning results from peer-group interactions. Your College Adviser can help you put your studies and experiences into perspective as you prepare to apply, and advisers at Northwestern Career Advancement will be glad to speak to you in more detail about preparing your personal essay, choosing which professors to ask for recommendations, and deciding where to apply.

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