The pre-law pathway in the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University offers advising, resources, programs and courses to prepare undergraduates for admission to and success in law school and legal careers. Pre-law is not a major; rather, it is a carefully designed plan intended to prepare each student to achieve his or her unique academic and career goals.
Students who choose the pre-law pathway may select a major in any discipline that fulfills the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at WMU. No special college program is required or recommended by most law schools. As long as a student receives a quality education featuring critical analysis, logical reasoning, and written and oral communication, any WMU major is acceptable for a pre-law student. Most often chosen are business, economics, English, history and political science, but disciplines such as accounting, anthropology, aviation, communication, education, engineering, fine arts, mathematics, natural sciences, philosophy and sociology also are suitable disciplines. An advisor or the departments listed above can help with these decisions.
Regardless of one's major, courses in the following foundations are essential:
- Writing, such as English and technical communication;
- Legal reasoning, such as administrative law, constitutional law and business law;
- Awareness of the structure and processes of government, such as national government, legal environment and judicial processes; and,
- Structure and development of American business, the American historical experience, economics and logic.
Law School Admissions
There is serious competition for admission to law school which is based on a variety of factors:
- An undergraduate record that is seen as a good predictor of likely performance in law school;
- Grades will be carefully examined and afforded substantial weight;
- Selection of advanced courses will be viewed favorably as will consistency of performance; and,
- Academic performance in the last two years.
Law School Admission Test
The LSAT standardized test assesses mental capabilities, and measures reading ability and comprehension, writing and reasoning. The test does not stress particular areas of academic content and no advantage or disadvantage results from majoring in one field rather than another. All law schools require the LSAT and its role in determining admissions cannot be overemphasized. Other factors such as personal accomplishments, graduate or professional schoolwork and letters of recommendation are often considered, though they are given less weight than GPA and the LSAT.
Practice exams, as well as additional information on various law schools and their LSAT score requirements, are available from the College's pre-law advisors.
WMU Cooley Law School
WMU became affiliated with Cooley Law School in 2014, a partnership that combines Western's status as a nationally-ranked, public comprehensive research university with the commitment to practical legal education of an independent, non-profit, national law school. WMU Cooley Law School is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. As part of the affiliation, WMU pre-law students have access to opportunities such as:
- Accelerated programs that allow WMU students to complete both an undergraduate and law degree in a time frame shorter than the traditional seven years, saving students time and tuition dollars.
- Cross-listing of courses that allow WMU graduate students to take law classes and law students to take graduate courses, with each earning credits toward their respective degree programs.
- Dual courses team-taught by faculty at both schools.
For more information on the WMU Cooley Law School, visit their website.
WMU Pre-law Society
The WMU Pre-law Society is an organization for students interested in pursuing careers in law. The society routinely sponsors discussions with judges and practicing attorneys, trips to law schools in the area, and visits from admissions officials from various law schools.
Supervised internships for pre-law students are frequently arranged. Internship experiences provide an invaluable opportunity for educational growth and enhance a student's undergraduate record substantially. Depending on specific interest and background, students may intern with sponsors from judicial, legislative and executive branches of government at the federal, state and local levels. Private sector internships, often with law firms or business corporations in the area, may be arranged as well. Academic credit may be earned for work done as an intern through the academic departments or through the college and prior to the actual internship. Students should meet with their major advisor for more information.
Students thinking about a career in law are encouraged to systematically examine what lawyers do and the wide variety of activities that comprise the practice of law. The need for legal services is expected to remain stable and the services of capable attorneys will continue to be in demand.
Pre-law students are advised to cultivate career alternatives to law during their undergraduate careers. It is wise to have other options in the event that admission to a law school does not materialize or in case circumstances require employment prior to beginning law school. Developing career alternatives is a form of insurance and should be a primary consideration as students discuss the choice of major and minor areas with their pre-law and departmental advisors.
More information about WMU's undergraduate pre-law pathway can be found on the WMU Libraries' pre-law information page.