Guide to Pre-Law Studies

Swarthmore College offers an excellent preparation for law school, and for a career in any of the varied fields of law. The ability to read, analyze, critique, write, persuade, and speak well are all central to the work of a lawyer. The need to organize one's time and tasks and to work hard and long are critical for success in law school and beyond. A sizeable percentage of recent Swarthmore alums report doing some sort of law-related work.

Law schools look for an excellent record of achievement in a rigorous course of study. There are no courses or majors that law schools prefer. Therefore, you should study what you like and show an aptitude for. As you might expect, a recent study of Swarthmore alums shows that twenty-three percent of political science majors and sixteen percent of history majors earned law degrees, but so did thirteen percent of philosophy majors, eight percent of German majors and seven percent of English majors. Swarthmore has sent graduates on to law school from such diverse departments as engineering, biochemistry, and art.

Law school admission is a very numbers-oriented process, with LSAT scores and GPAs playing a primary role. When you apply as seniors or as alums, you will be able to refer to a very precise listing of law schools and the range of LSAT and GPAs that they normally accept. In addition, law schools look for students who have had interesting leadership experiences, avocations, and made significant contributions to the community around them. They will read your application essays, which will be more compelling if you've taken the initiative to be involved in something you're passionate about. You will be asked to solicit letters of recommendation, so be sure to take advantage of Swarthmore's small size and emphasis on close student-faculty interaction to get to know your professors and to make a positive impression in your academic performance. Swarthmore College may also be asked to state whether you've ever been involved in any disciplinary problems, so please be sure that your disciplinary and legal records are spotless.

It is important that you have a realistic sense of what lawyers actually do. As you may expect, there is a wide variety of work in the law, ranging from tax law to sports law to admiralty law. Make it your business to get some first hand experience, either through internships, externships, summer jobs or conversations with working lawyers. Don't go on to law school as a default choice, but after having made a realistic and informed appraisal of whether it's a good choice for you.

Gigi Simeone, the Pre-Law Advisor, is always happy to meet with students individually, so if you have questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to schedule an appointment or drop by her office in Parrish West 121. Also, please let her know if you are even considering going on to law school, and she will add you to an e-mail list to get important and useful information about programs and opportunities.