Holy Cross students from a broad array of majors have gained admission to law school and gone on to leverage their law degrees in highly successful careers.
There is no predefined curriculum for prelaw, nor is there a particular major recommended for a Holy Cross student who is interested in law school. Law schools seek candidates who have excelled in their chosen field of study and who demonstrate the oral and written expression, reaching comprehension and creative and critical thinking skills that will make them successful in law school and beyond.
These skills that are necessary for success in law school align particularly well with those that we seek to develop in all students who attend Holy Cross. In fact, they are the hallmark of our liberal arts education.
Choosing a Major
Many of our students choose to major in English, history, economics or political science, but we have had students from all of our majors gain admission to law school. There is no such thing as a “prelaw curriculum.”
Incoming students considering a legal career would be wise to seek a broad liberal arts education from the wide array of courses we offer at Holy Cross. Students should select an undergraduate area of specialization that is of interest to them, since it is well settled that students tend to do better academically in courses they find interesting.
The law school admissions process is competitive, in particular at upper-tiered schools. What ultimately counts to law school admission committees is how well a student has performed in their chosen field of study. Choose a major that you find interesting, exciting and challenging, and where you have the ability to do your best work. No student should mortgage their undergraduate education for the sake of law school.
The "best courses” to take at Holy Cross (or any other institution) are those that will enable a student to complete his or her total undergraduate educational needs as well as provide a solid foundation for law school.
Preparing to be an attorney is preparing to be a capable, intelligent, interesting and thoughtful individual. Students should recognize that the "best" or "most appropriate" courses will vary from one institution to another and will often be dependent on the particular skill and teaching ability of the instructor teaching the course.
What to Look For
- Courses that improve the thought and reasoning process as well as the drawing of conclusions from what is read or discussed. It is natural and easy to point to quantitative and reasoning courses as likely to develop a student's ability to reason. Any course where the professor offering it has a reputation for focusing on problem-solving and encouraging thought will be valuable for the prelaw student.
- Courses that improve an individual's ability to communicate clearly and precisely both in oral and written form. Lawyers are keenly aware of the fact that communication is not only for the purpose of explanation, but is also for the purpose of persuading. To be a lawyer is to be an advocate.
- Students will often seek courses in English and history, but these skills can be sharpened in virtually any course that emphasizes technical writing and/or public speaking. It is also helpful for students to challenge themselves in courses that require the development of independent research skills (using the library or other research resources), in contrast with courses that are aimed at the accumulation of a large number of facts.
- Many seminar courses at Holy Cross provide students with the opportunity to research an issue, write one or more significant papers, and make an oral presentation to a class of peers. If the professor is demanding and provides the student with critical feedback during the process, the seminar experience will be worthwhile and will accomplish more than merely improving one's communication skills.
- Courses or other experiences that require public speaking and presenting of ideas before others. Students have found debating, leading college organizations, dramatics and involvement in theater and even serving as a lector in the Chapel as worthwhile.
- Courses that develop an understanding of the human experience and the evolution of our institutions. Lawyers certainly deal with the interpretation of factual issues as they relate to our statutory and common law. However, these concepts are not dealt with in isolation, but instead in the context of people and their institutions.
- Since the majority of issues dealing with people and their institutions are intertwined with financial or economic issues, students will find the ability to understand economics (micro and macro) and basic accounting helpful and, in some ways, are "tools of the trade." A few law schools, such as Georgetown, suggest (but do not require) that students take courses in both accounting and economics.
- Understanding human life in context with our institutions leads to recommending courses in the social sciences and humanities, including sociology, psychology, literature, religion, political science, classics and history, to name a few.