Pre-Law

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For UNC/Chapel Hill Students interested in pursuing a Law Degree

Laws schools neither require, nor expect, nor prefer any specific course of study when it comes to making admissions decisions.  See the American Bar Association’s information concerning preparation for law school HERE.

Still, it is worth noting that philosophy majors consistently secure among the highest scores on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

More than anything, law schools are looking for students who have acquired significant analytic skills and the capacity to present arguments in a compelling way.  Any number of majors will support well the development of these skills. Nonetheless, philosophy is widely regarded as an excellent preparation for law school and a career in law.  Students who wish to prepare for law school should therefore consider a major in philosophy.  Alternatively, they may wish to supplement a major in another discipline with a minor in philosophy, and should in any case supplement whatever major they pursue with a number of philosophy courses (most especially a logic course and at least a couple of courses at the intermediate level or higher).  Above all, students should seek out courses that will give them extensive opportunities for analytical, critical writing.

[T]he methods of analytic philosophy and of legal reasoning — the making of careful distinctions and definitions, the determination of logical  consistency through the construction and examination of hypothetical cases, the bringing of buried assumptions to the surface, the breaking up of a problem into manageable components, the meticulous exploration of the implications of an opponent’s arguments–are mainly the same.
— Judge Richard Posner [Overcoming Law (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 9]

Incidentally, in recent years UNC philosophy students have gone on to study law at (among other places) Boston College, University of California/Berkeley, University of Chicago, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, Harvard, University of California/Los Angeles, New York University, University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Rutgers, Tulane, Vermont, University of Virginia, Wake Forest, William and Mary, and Yale.

The following suggestions reflect a collaborative effort by members of the UNC Law School and the Department of Philosophy to identify a program of study that will put students in a good position to secure admission to, and then thrive in (or at least survive), law school and the legal profession.

I. Courses in Philosophy.

Students should take at least one course in each of the following groups.

A. Logic:

PHIL 155 (logic),
PHIL 157 (Logic and Decision Theory)
PHIL 356 (topics in logic) or
PHIL 455 (advanced logic)

B. Introduction to Philosophy:

PHIL 101 or 110 (general introductions), or
PHIL 160 or 163 (introduction to ethics, practical ethics)
PHIL 170 (introduction to political philosophy)

C. Intermediate Courses (general):

PHIL 150 (philosophy of science),
PHIL 145 (language and communication),
PHIL 230 (experience and reality)
PHIL 210 (ancient philosophy), or
PHIL 220 (modern philosophy).

D. Intermediate/Advanced Courses (ethics, law-related):

PHIL 280 (morality and law),
PHIL 360 (history of ethics),
PHIL 312 (contemporary ethical theory),
PHIL 384 (philosophy, politics, and economics), or
PHIL 480 (philosophy of law)

E. Advanced Courses:

PHIL 300 – 495 (any course)

II. Cognate courses

Students are also encouraged to take courses in other departments that develop basic writing, reasoning, or analytic skills and basic understanding of American society, political institutions, and principles of economics and finance.  Courses of the following kinds would be especially useful:

In Political Science or Sociology: introductions to American government and legal institutions and basic social institutions.

In History: history of American legal institutions, constitutional history, and the like.

In Economics: introduction to basic micro-economics and welfare economics.

In Public Policy Analysis: techniques, methods, and ethical basis of policy analysis.

In English: legal writing, non-fiction composition