Alma College has substantial resources to help its pre-law students prepare to compete successfully in the “paper chase.” Small class size and committed faculty/staff enhance opportunities for individualized learning and development of reasoning, communication, and research skills essential to success in law school and legal careers. For decades more than 90 percent of Alma seniors who worked closely with pre-law advisors gained admission to at least one American Bar Association (ABA)-endorsed law school. Alma graduates attended and did well at such nationally-renowned law schools as Michigan, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Duke, Indiana, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Case-Western, California, Georgia, Virginia, George Washington, William & Mary, Emory, Washington, Southern Methodist, Wisconsin, Tulane, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon, Ohio State, Cornell and Iowa, as well as numerous regionally recognized law schools. Resources and opportunities available to pre-law students include the following:
Compared to most other liberal arts colleges, Alma has a unique pre-law advising system. In any given year, it consists of a coordinator and faculty who comprise the Pre-Law Advising Group (PLAG). They help students majoring/minoring in particular disciplines plan their academic programs and careers. The Pre-Law Program Coordinator maintains a Facebook page for pre-law students and provides pre-law juniors the latest edition of the LSAT & LSDAS Registration and Information Book. Additional information about specific law schools, study aids for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and the most recent edition of the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools are all available from the Pre-Law Program Coordinator, Dr. Kristin Olbertson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The education I received at Alma was invaluable to my career as a lawyer … . The writing skills I developed at Alma helped me considerably in law school. I learned to use a critical thought process [at Alma] which I have employed daily in my practice. -Margorie Rowe Mann ’82; Wake Forest ’85
The American Bar Association and the American Association of Law Schools advise that “There is no specific ‘pre-law’ course of study that will enhance a student’s chances of gaining admission to law school.” While many pre-law students have traditionally majored in either History or Political Science, many law schools favorably view those majors that are historically under-represented in law school, especially in the natural sciences and arts.
Therefore pre-law students are encouraged to major in a discipline which excites them and which will train them in analytical and problem solving skills, critical reading abilities, and advanced written communication skills. These skills can be learned from any major at Alma College.
Recent studies show that students majoring in Math or Philosophy tend to score highest on the LSAT. Additionally, Alma alumni have told us that certain courses were especially helpful in preparing for the LSAT and for the first year of law school. View our course recommendations for further information.
This student-run organization for pre-law students sponsors panels, visiting speakers, workshops, visits to law schools, community service projects, and social events. Pre-law students are strongly encouraged to get involved in the Barrister Society. First-year Pre-Law Scholarship holders are expected to attend Barrister Society meetings regularly. For more information, contact faculty advisor Dr. Elizabeth Cameron (email@example.com).
The Center for Student Opportunity and the Reference Section of Monteith Library
have additional materials, including LSAT study aids, useful to pre-law students. Pre-Law Advisors and counselors in the CSO are available to help students decide if law school and legal careers are good options for them.
Completing a pre-law internship (practicum) is not a requirement for attending law school. However, some Alma students have found pre-law internships valuable in applying classroom-acquired knowledge and gaining hands-on comprehension of the diversity of career opportunities in the law. Pre-law advisors and other faculty and staff work closely with Alma students to help them find challenging internships during the regular academic year and in the summer. The CSO and the Pre-Law Coordinator maintain files of hundreds of Alma graduates, working in varied legal fields, who can serve as useful contacts for students seeking pre-law internships. In recent years, Alma pre-law students have completed successful internships with private practice firms, prosecuting attorneys’ offices, the headquarters of the F.B.I., migrant workers with legal needs, youth in the juvenile justice system, the American delegation to the U.N., the Department of State, and many elected officials. Funding for pre-law internships may be available on a competitive basis through the Lilly, Yehle, Kinney, and other special college endowment funds.
Alma pre-law alumni often report that they had an “edge” in their first year of law school because of research skills acquired at Alma. Being a skilled researcher is critical to becoming a successful attorney. Research is built into many Alma courses. Students learn a variety of research techniques, including mining off-campus archival sources to using the Web. Research resources available to Alma students include unlimited, free access to the LEXIS-NEXIS database, which includes a mint of legal information, and to other Internet sites. Pre-law students frequently take advantage of opportunities to present their research findings in local, regional, national, and international forums.
I cannot say enough … about my four years at Alma College. The skills I learned helped make the transition to law school go smoothy. I felt like I had a huge advantage over most of my law school classmates. -Patrick G. Byrne ’85; Kentucky ’88
Alma’s Public Affairs Program strongly complements other academic work done by pre-law students. The program includes seminars and workshops on public affairs issues, notable speakers from the public sector, and a related internship. Many pre-law students gain much from the College’s Model U.N. program by honing their research, communication, persuasion and negotiating skills and by enhancing their self-confidence.
Law School Representatives
Every Fall and Winter term the College hosts visits by representatives (usually administrators, but sometimes faculty and alumni) from different law schools. Most of these representatives are from law schools in the midwest, but some come from as far away as Kentucky and North Carolina. They can answer your questions about admissions standards, financial aid, lodging, study abroad, areas of legal specialization, summer employment while you’re in law school, and career opportunities after you complete your J.D. The Pre-Law Coordinator or the Career Development Center notifies pre-law students well in advance of the scheduled visits by law school representatives.
Visiting Speakers and Panelists
Every year the Alumni Office, CSOr, PLAG, the Barrister Society, and other groups bring members of the legal community to campus as solo speakers or panelists. In recent years, such speakers and panelists have included private practice attorneys, judges, prosecuting attorneys, law school professors, and private sector and public interest professionals who use their legal training without literally practicing the law. Pre-law students should make every effort to hear these visiting speakers in public forums and to ask questions of them there and when they give presentations to classes.
Law School Forums and Law School “Days”
Every year, usually in September, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) sponsors a two-day session in Chicago, Illinois. Pre-law students have the chance to meet with representatives of most LSAC-member schools in the U.S. and Canada and to obtain View Books and application materials. Each Fall the University of Michigan Law School sponsors a Law Day where pre-law students have a similar opportunity, though the number of law schools represented at Ann Arbor is fewer than those represented at the Chicago LSAC forum. Moreover, nearby law schools, such as Cooley, Detroit-Mercy and Michigan State University’s Detroit College of Law, regularly host Law Day sessions intended to highlight the positive features of those law schools and to provide generic information about life as a law school student. If you are on the Pre-Law Coordinator’s mailing list, you will notified in a timely fashion about these events.
Michigan Supreme Court
In recent years, the CSO and PLAG have collaborated to put Alma pre-law students together with an alum who is in private practice in Lansing. This attorney spends part of a day talking to students about legal careers; the rest of the day the students attend a session of the Michigan Supreme Court. Since space is limited, pre-law students are notified well in advance to make a reservation to be part of this group.