Law School Academic Preparation

With almost seventy majors and sixteen graduate programs, the University of Michigan-Flint is strategically positioned to prepare its students for the challenges and rewards of a legal career. 

When thinking about the legal profession, great scenes from the judiciary often come to mind, with imagery of drama and high stakes. From literature and plays to televised series about law firms and celebrity court cases, the courtroom has dominated the public perception of what it is to be a lawyer. Lawyering, though, is far more complex, because lawyers fill important roles across many sectors, including public, private, academic, government, entertainment, and nonprofit. In this way, the diversity of opportunities one has as a lawyer is immeasurable and range from—among many others—starting a practice, writing law, or teaching; to advising politicians, reviewing movie scripts, or practicing criminal law. 

Whether you’ve always wanted to be a lawyer or only recently have discovered your calling, you have an entire built-in support network at UM-Flint ready to guide you and push your development potential to the next level. Our core methodology of law school preparation emphasizes the functional approach recommended by the majority of law schools, instead of a structurally predefined approach—and, as such, it is flexible in regard to your ambitions and pliable to your needs. Since our pre-law advisors have advised successful applicants for many years, our advice to you is not only based in developmental theory, but also grounded in practice. 

Getting into law school will be difficult. As you may already know, you will be competing for limited spaces against your peers, and a third up to a half will not get in. Understandably, this might make your goals seem unapproachable at times, but if you’re willing to study hard, come to class prepared, become involved in student life, and approach law school preparation as though your future depended on it (which it does), then our faculty and staff will empower your decisions and support your ambitions with sound advice and a True Blue education. 

The good news is you don’t need to know constitutional case law, like Gideon v. Wainwrightor Miranda v. Arizona, to get into law school (but, if you want to, we encourage you to take POL 380). You don’t need to work in a law firm or clerk for the public defender’s office on your summer break, either—although having these experiences wouldn’t hurt your chances. What matters most are your hard work, solid grades, a good LSAT score, and a well-written personal statement. The entire process to get into law school takes determination. It also takes a sincere conviction—one demonstrated through solid academic preparation and a practical approach to the admissions process.

Pre-Law Advising

The campus culture at UM-Flint is one of a kind, and so is our approach to advising. We foster an environment where we come to know you and your ambitions. Our advising and career philosophies are rooted in developmental advising theory, strengths-based counseling, and student development theory. As such, we are poised not to only advise you on which courses to take and when, but also on how to be a better law school applicant and how to take advantage of the many opportunities at UM-Flint.

Your singularly most important first step toward law school preparation will be to obtain academic advising. As you make informed decisions, we’re here to help make your academic preparation process manageable. Our professionally trained academic advisors, career counselors, support staff, and orientation leaders stand ready to serve each student’s particular needs in parallel with faculty advising.

During freshman orientation, we will evaluate your interests and guide you through the process as you choose a major. We will also help you select courses best suited for your program and interests. But we do so much more than advise you on courses—we have the experience of having advised thousands of students over the years, and have the know-how to guide you through proven best practices in order to make your university life considerably easier.

Throughout the process of preparing for law school you may at times feel overwhelmed. We understand that the pre-law process can be difficult to navigate and that the whole picture might not yet be clear. You might find a preparatory program intimidating, or the application process just as daunting. We can disarm your trepidations and help embolden your decisions. It’s what we do best.

We take pride in assisting you in making informed and smart choices about your academic, personal, social, and career choices. The journey on which you are about to embark—or are embarking—can be memorable and exciting, and we encourage you to explore the many wonderful experiences and opportunities that UM-Flint has to offer.

We trust that the information on the following pages will be of assistance to you and serve to enhance your experience at UM-Flint. We urge you to contact our office with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Majors

Pre-law isn’t a major at UM-Flint—in fact, it isn’t a major at any U of M campus. Instead, what the legal industry recommends is a set of competency benchmarks, all met through focused preparation during a rigorous education. Since there is a level of cognitive complexity that students are expected to achieve prior to graduation from any accredited university, law schools consider all baccalaureate majors from UM-Flint.

Law schools neither require applicants to follow a prescriptive course of study, nor to have a particular major; nor do they encourage, discourage, or prefer any particular field of study over any other. In fact, for public universities’ law schools, the only academic requirement is that you have—or will have, prior to matriculation—a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university. However, some private universities only require applicants to have completed a certain amount of credits toward a baccalaureate degree.

As the American Bar Association (ABA), law school faculty and deans, admissions committees, and the Law School Admission Council have taken a stance against prescriptive majors, the choice of major and minor is completely up to you. What admissions committees are looking for, among other criteria, is how well you performed in school. With this in mind, the worst thing for you to do is to pursue a major in which you are disinterested, thinking that law schools will look at it favorably. There are several reasons for this. Primarily, it is because you should pursue something that academically interests you, no matter what your goals, because, honestly: (a) goals change with time, and (b) law schools do reject applicants. We also recommend you study something about which you are passionate, for law school admissions committees value good grades—and you are more likely to perform better when you study something you find interesting. However, you should consider that some committees will value a B from a challenging program more than an A from one it considers less challenging—regardless of whether it actually had been less challenging.

When you meet with an academic or faculty advisor, you will have a chance to discuss your plans and ambitions and, further, explore several programs before finalizing the selection of your major.

Coursework

Our pre-law recommendations echo those of law schools: Our students are encouraged to pursue a major they find interesting, intriguing, and challenging. Law schools around the nation are looking for well-prepared students from all backgrounds and experiences. They’re looking for “renaissance students” with competent and fluent study. As you now know, there isn’t one particular approach that works best to prepare for legal study, and so UM-Flint’s academic and faculty advisors will work with you to find the one that will work best for you and your interests.

The ABA has issued a list of competency benchmark recommendations for law school applicants. They are useful traits for any successful lawyer, and you will need them in law school. They include:

  • Analytic/Problem Solving Skills
  • Critical Reading Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Oral Communication/Listening Abilities
  • General Research Skills
  • Task Organization/Management Skills
  • Interest in Public Service and the Promotion of Justice

The best way to nurture those talents is through a rigorous education, a practical volunteer effort in the community, sustained good grades throughout your college experience, and an insatiable will to be better and do better. UM-Flint provides this optimal environment and support: Our professors are the leaders and best in their fields; our outreach into the community is deep, providing you with myriad volunteering options; our academic programs and student life opportunities are ideal for developing your potential; and our clubs and student activities provide ample leadership opportunities and the chance to challenge real-world problems.

The ABA recommended skill sets come together in many ways. For example, it’s not enough to have analytical skills—instead, you must be able to work them into a persuasive argument as evidence. The best way to foster this skill is by writing research papers. In academic writing, students are taught to evaluate material, state a claim about it, evidence the claim, discuss the claim, and discuss its ramifications. In this way, arguments in the academic world take on a level of cognitive complexity. In the legal world, your arguments must be equally complex and rely on evidence, because the ramifications are real. By taking courses heavy in research, you will build your familiarity with the persuasive form and enhance your understanding of the use of evidence.

As we have discussed, since pre-law isn’t a major and there isn’t a definitive course list prescribed by law schools, you have great latitude in selecting a major and its corresponding coursework. However, there certainly are courses that will enhance the requisite skills law schools seek. We recommend that you review all of the courses offered each semester because you might find one that sustains, broadens, or narrows your interest in law. Prior to registration each semester, it is recommended that you speak with an academic or faculty advisor to ensure that the courses you select will work with your graduation plans and institution requirements.

It should be noted that taking courses in law does not make anyone a stronger candidate for law school. Courses in legal studies at UM-Flint will certainly expose you to the field and hopefully give you insight you hadn’t had before—but if doing poorly in coursework bodes badly for any subject, such poor performance certainly will apply with legal courses. You are encouraged to carefully consider all course registrations with the assistance of an academic or faculty advisor. With that in mind, here are some courses you might find worthwhile:
 

         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         

 

GPA

Along with test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements, law school admissions committees pay close attention to the GPA of each applicant. Prior to applying to law schools, you must request from each college you have attended that your transcripts be sent to the Law Schools Admissions Council’s Credential Assembly Service (more information about this can be found in the application preparation section). The CAS will recalculate your GPA to reflect all undergraduate courses attended. In essence, the service will combine all of your transcripts into one uniform report in order to provide admissions committees with a simpler holistic evaluative tool, as opposed to several transcripts in differing formats for each applicant.

Law schools will review your GPA and transcripts from the CAS Academic Summary Report. Admissions committees will note any trends in your GPA, such as progressively better grades from one year to the next. The Academic Summary Report GPA is based solely on one’s undergraduate GPA. Although the grades you get in a graduate program are not included in the GPA calculation, the report will include them.

In addition to reviewing your undergraduate GPA in and of itself, admissions committees will also review your GPA against alumni from your school who had the same GPA, as well as their law school GPA at the committee’s law school. Using this data, the admissions committee establishes a statistical model, from which it will predict an applicant’s potential law school GPA.

The LSAC maintains a database of application statistics for each school based on LSAT score and GPA. It also lets you declare yours in a search box, from which it will estimate the likelihood of your acceptance to certain schools. For more information on this service, please review this website.

Student Life and Leadership

UM-Flint has a rich history of student involvement and activism. With the Student Government, Campus Activities Board, The Michigan Times, Greek Life, and over eighty academic, social, cultural, political, religious, and athletic clubs to choose from, you’re bound to become involved. When you do, we’re big enough to offer you a choice of major clubs and organizations—but small enough so that you never become a nameless member in them.

Students who are involved in campus life and activities are shown to perform better academically—and, as a benefit, receive a well-rounded and meaningful university experience. By becoming involved in campus life and advancing to leadership positions, you will demonstrate to law schools that you are capable of handling increasing levels of professional and personal responsibility.

Beyond sharing common goals and interests, in joining an organization you also gain a built-in social network that will provide you with friends for life. To that end, you might consider meeting new friends and study buddies in the Pre-law Club. If you are interested in or have ever considered entering the legal field, becoming a member of this club will be a valuable asset. For more information, please visit Student Life in the UCEN.

Equally as important as joining a club is finding a way to be a leader on campus. Serving on the UM-Flint student government or on the executive board of a club is a fantastic way of demonstrating your ambition. If you’re the type of person who likes to influence change, our student government is exceedingly active in shaping policy at UM-Flint. For more information, please visit Student Life.

As with your selection of a major, you are encouraged to join a club that interests you, not one you think will look good on an admissions application. Join something you will be passionate about; it will further enrich your life, and it will demonstrate your sincerity.

Real-Life Value Assesment

Before fully committing yourself to pre-legal study, it is imperative that you obtain a value assessment of the legal industry and professional opportunities from a real-world perspective. You might not like the result, or you might find your ambitions reaffirmed—and approach your studies with greater zeal, knowing you’re on the right path.

The last thing you want to do is spend considerable amounts of tuition money going to law school only to realize that you do not want to do anything lawyers do. Although a degree from UM-Flint will open many doors for you beyond applying to law school, it is not worthwhile for anyone to devote his or her life and resources to something that may later be a matter of regret. In this light, we encourage students to obtain a real-life value assessment of the legal career most interesting to them—prior to applying for law school.

There are many ways to do this. The best thing to do is interview someone in your chosen field, like a lawyer, a judge, or a legal professor. If you are interested in, say, criminal law, then you could contact the public prosecutor’s office and ask for a volunteer clerkship or an interview with the office, or perhaps shadow their associates throughout a prosecution case. Or, if you are interested in environmental law, then you could find a public interest firm that champions environmental cases and similarly volunteer for a case. You could even attend trials in cases of interest to you. Although we encourage students to work with lawyers, it is important to note here, however, that becoming a runner in a law office will not give you a value assessment of what law is, even if it’s in the same field. Above all, you are encouraged to dialogue as much as possible with lawyers.