It isn’t going to win me many friend with students, but I have to say that Yair Listokin is basically right: Statistics Should be Mandatory for Law Students. I’ve long believed that statistics should be a near-prerequisite for law school, and if you haven’t had before law school we should offer it for credit, and encourage — maybe even require — students to take it.
Meanwhile, if you’re an undergraduate thinking of going to law school, may I point you to my FAQ about going to law school, which for many years has included this advice:
If you really want to be a good lawyer, I don’t personally recommend
majoring in anything directly related to law as an undergraduate, or even
taking courses in
it. That includes “Juvenile Justice”. Colleges always teach the stuff “wrong”
from the point of view of a lawyer – maybe right from the point of view
of a cop or probation officer or something, but wrong from the point of
view of someone who needs to work with law rather than recite it. So you
will start out behind the other students since you will have to ‘unlearn’
what you think you know. Really.
Far, far, better to major in something that teaches you about the world:
history, economics, literature, math or even art. You will get all the
law you need in law school – why waste college getting a 3rd-rate version
of it? Why not get the stuff that makes you a well informed person, and
thus a much better lawyer in the long run.
The only rule that over-rides the one above is: major in what you like
best. Because ultimately you will get the best grades in what you like
best, and grades count! A lot. A whole lot. Especially if you are not going
to college at a very high prestige Ivy League or similar school.
If possible – it’s not essential – I’d try to take the following courses
at some point regardless of what you major in:
- two semesters of economics
- at least one Intro to Philosophy and/or Political Philosophy
- as much US history as you can stand (law is about context, and precedents
must be understood in the context of their times)
- a course that covers the structure of the US political/governmental system
Big bonus points if you can manage a course in basic statistics.
I also **very** highly recommend you subscribe to a first-rate national
newspaper and read it every day (your college may have a student discount
deal). You will learn essential information about the political and legal
system without even realizing how much you are learning. The New York Times
is the best, but if your interests are more business oriented then the
Wall St. Journal or the Financial Times are ok too. Local papers don’t
really have enough national and international news to cut it.
Get the above under your belt and you are really ready for law school!
Incidentally, UM Law has a very good page for people thinking about law school, 28
Critical Questions about law school. (There used to be 29 of them, but one seems to have gone non-critical.) They even give the answers, which shows it is about law school rather than being like law school…