The study of law is a three-year post-baccalaureate program designed primarily for those who wish to become practicing attorneys. Because attorneys play many roles in our society, legal education is broad-based. It is as much a lifelong approach to learning as it is the study of specific laws and court decisions. Lawyers are trained to seek solutions to problems and to anticipate ways in which problems may be averted. Legal education is designed to prepare graduates to meet the changing demands of individuals and of society as a whole, in local, national and international contexts.
Broadly speaking, legal education involves the careful analysis of the principles underlying past and current statutes and court decisions, how those principles may be applied to current problems, and how new ideas can solve current and future problems.
Pre-professional is a category for any student who intends to enter professional school after graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Pre-law is the pre-professional program for students who want to become lawyers. Identifying your pre-professional interest will enable your college advisor, your major advisor and your pre-professional advisor to provide you with a wide range of support to realize your goals.
Pre-law preparation at Ohio State
There are a number of advantages in pursuing undergraduate education at Ohio State in preparation for law school. At the time of freshman application to the university, students will be asked to choose a major as well as to indicate an interest in the pre-law option. By indicating an interest in pre-law, admitted undergraduate students will receive information periodically from the university’s pre-law advisors about pre-law resources and events on campus. Students are encouraged to meet early in their academic careers with the designated pre-law advisor in their academic area who will work with them to integrate the course work required for their intended major with course work that should foster the development of the critical skills necessary to be a successful law student.
For more information about pre-law at Ohio State and to find a list of pre-law advisors, students should visit preprofessional.osu.edu/prelaw/advising.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no one “right” major for preparation for law school. Students are encouraged to pursue a course of study that will enable them to think critically, to analyze written materials with care, and to communicate effectively in both verbal and written form.
Traditional majors followed by potential law students include English, history, political science and business. However, students with degrees in areas as diverse as agriculture, engineering, philosophy and music have done well in law school. The options are numerous, and students are encouraged to choose a major that personally interests them. It is not so much a matter of the major chosen but rather selecting courses that really challenge students to develop critical reading, writing and analytical skills. Consider pursuing honors courses and independent studies that go a step beyond the “normal” course requirements of a degree program.
Every autumn semester, Ohio State hosts a law school forum, where representatives from many law schools visit campus and provide students with information about their schools. This forum provides an excellent opportunity for students to meet law school representatives and to get a good idea of their chances for admission at different schools and how each law school’s offerings fit with their career goals.
Like at most quality law schools, admission to the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State is highly competitive because many more people seek admission than the college can accommodate. In recent years, the college has had as many as 1,800 people apply for approximately 180 spaces.
Applicants are evaluated on the basis of their undergraduate performance (including any trend in cumulative point-hour ratio and the caliber of the undergraduate college or university), their score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), any unusually time-consuming extracurricular activities or work experience, and, when applicable, postgraduate studies or employment. Applicants are required to submit two letters of recommendation from faculty members. The college also considers other factors; however, past academic performance is a good predictor of law school performance. As a result, students are best advised to commit themselves to their academic program right from the start when entering Ohio State.
There is no set curriculum for the nation’s 202 American Bar Association-approved law schools. However, most law schools offer very similar courses to help prepare their graduates to pass a state bar examination. Most states test on areas of the law common to all jurisdictions, such as contracts, torts, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, evidence, taxation, domestic relations, legal research and writing, constitutional law, ethics, administrative law, corporate law, property, and commercial law.
In The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, students are required to take contracts, torts, property, legislation, criminal law, constitutional law, civil procedure, and legal research and writing in the first year. The following upper-level courses are also highly encouraged and/or required for graduation: Appellate Practice, one course with substantial writing, one course with a skills perspective on the law and course work in legal ethics.
The remainder of the curriculum is elective. Popular courses include trial law and practice, legal clinics, criminal law, alternative dispute resolution, international law, and intellectual property.
Students may spend a summer studying in England through the college’s program with the University of Oxford.
Students considering law might explore the profession of law on their own—be it through work or volunteer experience in a law firm or in a government or judicial setting or by conducting informational interviews with people in the profession. Not only does this exploration provide prospective students an opportunity to learn how diverse the law field is in relation to the law degree, but it also helps them to confirm that law is the right career choice for them.
Once admitted to the law program, students can participate in eight clinics where students represent clients under close faculty supervision.
The undergraduate law fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta (PAD), is a professional service organization for pre-law students at Ohio State that assists students in making informed decisions about selecting law as a career, deciding which law school to attend, preparing for law school and understanding the practice of law. PAD coordinates a variety of education events, such as panel discussions, tours, seminars and debate. Traditionally, participants at these events include lawyers, current Ohio State law students and law graduates who may be using their degrees in different career paths.
Because legal education is broad-based, it is excellent preparation for many careers in addition to those that most people associate with the traditional practice of law. The popular perception of lawyers as courtroom litigators and judges is representative of only one branch of the profession. Lawyers are also found in planning and policy-making roles in both the private and public sectors, in large corporations, at all levels of government, and in international practice.
Lawyers work as managers and administrators in many different fields. Many serve the community as prosecutors and public defenders. Because of their training, lawyers are often called upon to represent the broad interests of their communities.
For all salaries reported for the Class of 2012, the range was from $55,000 in the 25th percentile to $91,250 in the 75th percentile. Of course, salaries earned may depend on the career goals, desires and interests of particular students, and even vary widely within sectors. In private law firms, the median salaries ranged from $52,500 for firms with 2 to 10 attorneys to $110,000 for firms with 251-500 attorneys. In the public sector, median salaries ranged from $55,000 for government positions to $57,000 to for judicial clerkships.
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At Ohio State, pre-law is not a major but is an officially recognized area of academic interest. Learn more about pre-professional programs at preprofessional.osu.edu.