It’s Thanksgiving Day, so let’s talk turkey about how a business degree from the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business will prepare you for law school. As an attorney who teaches law at the Engler College of Business at West Texas A&M University, I frequently talk with business students who plan on attending law school after they earn their undergraduate degree. One question I hear from these students is: “How will a business degree help me succeed in law school?”
Law School Requirements
To enter law school, no specific undergraduate degree is required. Law schools accept applicants based, not on the applicant’s major in college, but on the applicant’s GPA, LSAT score, personal statement, and recommendations. Although no particular degree or coursework is required to enter law school, some majors may better prepare you for success in law school by developing the skills you will need as a law student.
The American Bar Association has identified the core skills and basic knowledge a student should acquire prior to attending law school. Here are some of the skills that the ABA recognizes as giving students a sound foundation for law school:
- Critical Reading
- Problem Solving
- Relationship-building and Collaboration
- Basic Mathematical and Financial Skills
- Exposure to Law
Critical Reading. Law school requires hours and hours of reading cases and analyzing and dissecting legal opinions. A law student must read and comprehend hundreds of cases during the three years. In law school, students learn the law using the case method. That means students read cases before class, and then professors will use the cases as a starting point for a discussion of the law as set forth in the cases. Students going into law school must be prepared for heavy reading loads. Experience in reading and comprehending complex materials is important. In the Engler College of Business, many of the mandatory core classes for a business degree have rigorous reading assignments giving students the opportunity to enhance their reading and comprehension skills, which will benefit a student who enters law school.
Problem Solving. In law school, students learn to “think like a lawyer’, using inductive and deductive forms of reasoning. Success requires a student to refine their critical thinking skills. The critical thinking skills required for law school are not that much different from the analytical skills taught in business courses. The Engler College of Business recognizes that development of critical thinking skills is important for a business student’s success. Critical thinking components are incorporated into its business courses, allowing students an opportunity to build their analytical problem-solving skills.
Writing. Lawyers do a lot of writing; and their writing must be clear and concise. Lawyers draft pleadings in legal cases, legal opinions, legal briefs arguing points of law, contracts, letters to clients, and the list goes on. The curriculum of most law schools includes at least one writing course where students learn specific writing techniques used by lawyers such as legal briefing. Before entering, however, a student should have mastered fundamental writing skills. Students graduating from the Engler College of Business have successfully completed at least one business course with an extensive communication component. The communication component of a business degree earned at the Engler College of Business teaches students to effectively and concisely convey in written form information and ideas, using appropriate organization frameworks and citation of sources.
Relationship Building and Collaboration. The practice of law requires a lawyer to collaborate with other lawyers, clients, and witnesses. Interpersonal skills built during college can be essential in building a successful law practice. The Engler College of Business has built a diverse collection of student organizations and honor societies that allow students the opportunity to collaborate and build relationships with one another.
Basic Mathematical and Financial Skills. The ABA recommends that students who plan on attending law school acquire “basic mathematical and financial skills, such as understanding of basic pre-calculus mathematics and an ability to analyze financial data.” Each student who graduates with a business degree from the Engler College of Business has developed these skills in the mandatory math, finance, and economics courses.
Exposure to Law. An understanding of the U.S. legal system and the basic concepts of contracts, torts, and property law gives a student entering law school a head start on understanding law school curriculum. Business Law is a required course for each student in the Engler College of Business. Students in this course are introduced to the structure of the U.S. court system as well as the principles and concepts of various laws affecting business, including contracts, torts, property, and business organizations. For students interested in learning more about the law, the Engler College of Business offers courses in employment law, legal aspects of healthcare, gift and estate planning, law and economics, accounting and financial services law, and emerging media law.
An aspiring law student can cultivate the skills and knowledge identified by the ABA as important foundations to law school by earning a business degree. College Consensus lists a business degree as one of the top ten best degrees for getting into law school; largely due to the challenging coursework required by a business degree and the heavy reading and writing requirements. A business degree may be especially relevant for students who plan on practicing corporate or business law.
To learn more about the business degrees offered at the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, click here.