The legal arena is vast, with many opportunities for individuals to tailor their expertise to a specific area of the law, such as environmental, bankruptcy, contracts, criminal, immigration, healthcare, etc. Attorneys provide legal advice and representation to individuals or entities who require resolution to a particular problem. They may also work for corporations; government agencies; and local, state, and federal court systems.
A Juris Doctorate and successful completion of the bar exam are required to practice law in the United States. Many attorneys will also seek additional specialized training in a specific aspect of the law. The Vault Guides offer a sample of careers in law. Each guide gives, among other valuable information, an overview of the job and entry-level requirements.
While law schools do not require specific courses, you can gain exposure to legal studies by taking a variety of courses. If you have a specific interest, such as environmental law, you should strongly consider selecting an academic major in that area. Undeclared students are welcome to meet with a career advisor to discuss the choice of major, understanding that there is no pre-law major, and thus no “right” or “wrong” choices.
Applicants who can convincingly demonstrate that they have challenged their thinking, reasoning and writing skills usually impress admission committees. When choosing courses, focus on developing verbal comprehension and expression, critical understanding of human institutions and values with which the law deals and creative thinking. The Law School Admissions Council has outlined six core skills that are critical to a student’s success in law school.
Courses that provide opportunities to increase these core skills are valuable regardless of subject matter. English, logic and political science courses fall in this category. Logic courses, in particular, may help prepare you for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Courses that involve reading cases and statutes and understanding citations will give you an idea of what to expect in law school. Finally, any courses that sharpen your analytical skills can also be helpful, including those that provide a basic understanding of business, accounting, finance and statistics.
Academic excellence, not a specific curriculum, is the principle prerequisite for the legal profession. Very few law schools list specific undergraduate courses as prerequisites for admission. Therefore, you may major in virtually any department within the university, provided you choose a major in which you can excel. Choosing a major that reflects the student’s passions and natural talents often enhances academic performance.
About the philosophy of law minor
The philosophy of law minor is comprised of 18 philosophy credits (three 200-level courses and three 300-level courses) and six history or political science credits, for a total of 24 credits.
These 24 credits include: PHIL 222; one course from PHIL 211, PHIL 212, or PHIL 213; a 200-level elective; PHIL 320; PHIL 327; PHIL 335; and two of the following: HIST 369/370, POLI 314 or POLI 341/342.
VCU courses that include analysis of law or the legal system
- CRJS 302 Legal Writing*
- CRJS 324 Courts and the Judicial Process*
- CRJS 358 Lawyer’s Role in the Justice System*
- CRJS 373 Crime Scene Evidence: Law and Trial Procedure*
- CRJS 475 Criminal Procedure*
- FIRE 325 Real Estate Law*
- FIRE 459 Insurance Law*
- FRSC 375 Forensic Evidence, Law and Criminal Procedure*
- ENGL 302/CRJS 302 Legal Writing*
- BUSN 323 Legal Environment of Business*
- PHIL 201 Critical Thinking About Moral Problems*
- PHIL 222 Logic
- PHIL 320 Philosophy of Law*
- POLI 311 Politics of the Environment
- POLI 313. U.S. Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
- POLI 314 U.S. Constitutional Law
- POLI 315 Courts and Politics
- POLI 316 Women and the Law
- POLI 331 Public Administration
- POLI 332 Administrative Law
- POLI 362 International Organizations and Institutions
- POLI/INTL 363 U.S. Foreign Policy
- POLI/INTL 365 International Political Economy
- POLI 370 Non-Profit Organizations & Society
- POLI 372 Ethics, Law and Governance
- POLI 384 International Law
*Indicates there is a course prerequisite or major restriction. Visit bulletin.vcu.edu to review course requirements.
The LSAT is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all ABA-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools and many non-ABA-approved law schools. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year at hundreds of locations around the world.
Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier — in June or October — is often advised.
How to prepare for the LSAT
Taking a free, timed, practice LSAT is always a good idea so that a benchmark score is available to help determine preparedness for the actual test. The key to success on the LSAT is preparation. Self-disciplined applicants may decide to self-study. Others might consider an LSAT preparation course. Testing dates and practice tests can be found on the Law School Admission Council website.
In addition, there are some LSAT test preparation resources available on hold at the Cabell Library.
LSAT information and preparation courses:
Please consider gaining valuable post-baccalaureate experience before applying to law school. Law school is a tremendous and worthwhile investment which requires careful consideration. While you can always work to enhance your credentials (both legal and otherwise), you are strongly encouraged to become engaged in the application process 18 months before starting law school. VCU recommends that students apply to law school a full year before planning to enter a program.
Spring (15 months before starting law school)
- Research law schools of interest
- Meet with your career advisor to being discussing your options
- Prepare (throughout the spring semester) and register for June LSAT
Summer (12 months before starting law school)
- Take June LSAT or prepare for October LSAT
- Attend the Law School Admission Council Law School Forum in Washington, D.C.
- Contact VCU alumni currently attending law school or working in a law-related profession
- Subscribe to and send college transcripts to the Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
- Gather law school application materials
- Write, rewrite and polish personal statement
- Talk and clarify goals with potential recommenders
Fall (application for following fall enrollment)
- Take October LSAT, if necessary
- Request dean’s certification forms from the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Affairs.
- Request recommenders send evaluations or letters of recommendation to CAS
- Complete and send applications before December 1
Winter (before, during or after applying)
- Take December or February LSAT, if necessary
- File financial aid applications
- Send an updated transcript with fall term grades
Volunteering or interning in a legal setting will bolster your application to law school and help to demonstrate your interest in pursuing law as a profession.
Legal experience is essential for admission to law school. Consider applying to the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Capitol Semester program, a semester-long fellowship at the General Assembly.
Volunteering and shadowing
Shadowing lawyers or judges is the best way to learn about the legal profession, and the best way to get shadowing opportunities is to ask! Research firms, companies and agencies that will develop your interests. For volunteer legal experience, contact the clerk’s office at a local court and research law firms that specialize in an area that appeals to you.
Regardless of what each school requires for admission, it’s important to get legal experience so that you know as much as possible about your chosen profession at the time that you apply.
Log in to Handshake with eID and password to view law-related internships and experiential opportunities.
Location, cost, specialization and difficulty of admission are just some of the many factors to consider when selecting a law program. Carefully research each program prior to submitting your application to ensure that the program aligns with your career aspirations.
Use these links to begin your search:
Apply to law school through the Credential Assembly Service, an arm of the Law School Admissions Council (or LSAC). The CAS provides a means of centralizing and standardizing academic records from all undergraduate schools to simplify and streamline admission to U.S. law schools.
All schools require a personal statement, and each has its own instructions. Your personal statement is your opportunity to expound upon experiences not represented in other parts of the application. Perhaps you interned for a lawyer, judge, or politician, or volunteered a lot of hours, but what kind of experiences did you gain? Think about how your experiences have motivated you to pursue a career in the legal profession. Express unique qualities or experiences you have that you would like the committee to consider.
- Proofread each essay before copying and pasting to your application! Many students have been denied admission simply because they forgot to properly identify the school to which they were applying.
- Quality is more important than quantity.
- Make sure the essay is typed (paper applications). Do not squeeze the lines together to make a long essay fit — shorten the essay.
- Have others read your essay, ask them to comment on grammatical errors and also on your sincerity. Do you come across as the person you really are?
- Creativity and quality are important, but you are not expected to write a masterpiece. It should be apparent that you can express yourself well, but do not try to “woo” the admission committee with big words and elaborate descriptions. Be genuine.
- Try to stick with why you are interested in the legal profession and your experiences. Do not try to use this as an essay to review the political process, strengths, and weaknesses of the legal profession or current trends in the courts. This essay is intended to provide details about you, not your chosen profession.
- If you are reapplying, write a new personal statement. Show that you are willing to put effort into your new application or how you have grown as an applicant.
- Once you complete the first draft of your personal statement, make an appointment with a career advisor to review your progress.
Letters of reccomendation
The LSAC provides a letter of recommendation collection service. Use of the service is optional unless a school specifically states it is mandatory. (Students not wanting to use this service can elect to have their individual letter writers send letters directly into the admissions office of each law school to which they apply. Please provide a stamped, addressed envelope for each school to each recommender.)
The LSAC online account allows you to have your recommendation letters sent to law schools based on each school’s requirements or preferences and to direct letters intended for specific schools. The LSAC allows you to submit up to four general letters to be sent to every school to which you apply.
These general letters require applicants to identify recommenders, print out pre-filled recommendation forms generated by the service and provide the forms to the chosen recommenders. Recommenders must complete the form, sign the letter, insert it into his or her envelope and send it directly to LSAC. The service will send general letters to law schools in the order in which they are received.
To ensure a strong recommendation, you should give each letter writer a personal profile or a copy of your resume.
- Know you well.
- Be able to speak well of your intelligence, personality, and motivation toward your chosen career.
- Have worked with you in an academic/professional capacity (except for peer/character recommendations) and who can speak of your academic skills and potential.
Ask for letters early. Some professors take quite a while to write and submit the letters. It is your responsibility to make sure each program receives the letters by the appropriate deadline. Find out if professors will be at VCU over the summer. If not, ask for the letters well before they leave. Give letter writers one to two months’ notice to write letters or fill out evaluation forms. Provide very specific instructions on where to send them. If postage is required, be sure to provide it to the person who agreed to write a letter.
It’s a good idea to consider people other than professors who might write a strong recommendation. Often, letter writers are advisors to student organizations or lawyers who were shadowed for a significant period (as opposed to one or two weeks). Other letters can come from supervisors or co-workers.
Transcripts from all coursework completed at VCU and other undergraduate institutions must be sent to LSAC.
Most schools request a Dean’s certification. These are obtained from the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity.
Nearly all interviews contain two parts, common questions about your past experience and situation-based questions to gauge your fit for the position. Afterward, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer.
While you can’t control the interview format, you should be prepared to speak about your relevant skills and experiences. Take some time to reflect on what you’ve done and how you can fill this organization’s need. Review our interview resources to get started.
You’ll feel more comfortable during your interview with a little practice first. InterviewStream is web-based video interface that allows you to respond to a series pre-recorded interview questions from your computer. Afterward, you will be able to review your recording to see how you did.
Have an interview coming up? Practice with one of our career advisors. Schedule a one-hour mock interview and we will show you how to answer likely interview questions and offer tips to help you make an excellent impression.