How to Prepare for Law School as a High School Student
High school is a perfect time to start exploring what you want to do with your life. This is the time when students might be busy preparing to apply for college. They might be participating in school events, volunteering in the community, and working on essay writing for college applications. While high school students aren’t expected to know exactly what they want to do in the future, some just know that they want to grow up and become a lawyer. Whether you are that student or are still exploring options for your future, this post will give you an idea about what steps you can take in high school to prepare for law school.
How to Prepare for Law School as a High School Student
Law school is a challenging undertaking for any student. The more you work towards this goal in high school and college, the more successful you will be at getting into the school of your dreams. Law school comes with long reading assignments, challenging legal writing assignments, and other opportunities to help you prepare for a career in the law. There are so many things you can do ahead of time to prepare for law school!
Reading and Writing (but Very Little Arithmetic)
A lot of high school students, and college students for that matter, think they want to be a lawyer because they are good at arguing. Really, though, reading and writing are the most important skills to work on if law school is a future goal. High school is a great opportunity to master persuasive writing. Most students start working on persuasive essay writing in middle school. While it might not have seemed to be very important at the time, becoming a good persuasive writer is an essential skill to master and will help you prepare for law school.
Legal writing is very different from other types of writing. Being effectively persuasive by using specific facts and primary sources will help you prepare for law school. If you are serious about going to law school one day, take a look at case filings and case law. It may seem boring, but pick a case that interests you. Maybe you saw a case being discussed on the news and want to see what is really going on. Many legal filings on cases you are already familiar with are available online for free.
Another incredible resource that provides case background and also has digital recordings of oral arguments, is the United States Supreme Court website. Listening to the Supreme Court justices questioning the attorneys will you a good idea about legal analysis and how law school students study case law.
Most law school classes have daily reading assignments that can be between 50-100 pages. To improve your reading comprehension, practice taking organized notes on your homework reading assignments prior to class. Then take those same notes and supplement them in class as you listen to the lecture and discussion. This is a great way to be engaged with what you are reading and to prepare for law school.
If you ask any law school professor what the most important skills are to have in law school, they will likely say reading and writing. These skills continue to be paramount if you become a practicing attorney. Many attorneys never see the inside of a courtroom during their careers. If you work on improving your reading and writing now, you will likely be a successful law school student down the road.
Schoolwork and Grades
In addition to taking classes that focus on reading and writing, studies in history, civics, political science, and sociology may help you prepare for law school. Classes like these help you develop the necessary vocabulary to be successful in law school. It is also a good idea to take AP and honors classes because they prepare students for the intense course load that comes with law school. Also, take classes where you will give presentations in front of a group of people. High school is an excellent time to develop your public speaking skills.
Additionally, high school grades are very important because they will help you gain acceptance into college. College is the next step in the law school process. In college, you can select a major that will benefit you in law school such as political science, criminal law, English, or business. (Don’t be afraid of STEM majors, either! Many attorneys have a background in STEM!) There are so many excellent majors that will help you prepare for law school.
Extracurricular Activities and Volunteer Work
While in high school, it is important to be involved in extracurricular activities and volunteer work. Not only does participating in activities look great on an application, but it can also help you manage your time. Not sure where to start? The debate team, student government, and the student news publication are great high school activities that will give you experience in skills that are transferable in law school. Even better are activities like high school moot court or volunteering for your local state representative. Many state courts offer summer internships for high school students. Activities and volunteer work like these examples will help you prepare for a legal career in the real world.
These are just a few examples, but any type of extracurricular is beneficial. Activities such as sports, choir, band, and even a part-time job will help you with time management skills and teach you how to balance schoolwork and activities.
Participating in extracurricular activities and volunteer work will also help you network. Working hard for a local politician or judge may earn you a letter of recommendation down the road that will help in your law school application process. Also, it will help you meet people who have attended law school and may have invaluable advice to offer you. Networking can open doors to internships and jobs that will help you prepare for law school.
High School Jobs
You would be surprised how many law firms and courts are willing to take on high school student interns. Many attorneys see it as an excellent opportunity to mentor. Additionally, agencies like the United States Department of Justice offers both paid and unpaid internships for high school students. A job in a federal or state agency will teach you about administrative law. This might help you determine if you want to work in the private sector or the public sector.
Working in the legal field during high school is also a great opportunity to learn the basics. You may be completing clerical tasks like filing and answering phones, but you will be surprised about how much legal knowledge you will pick up. If preparing for law school is your goal, a high school job at a law firm or government agency will give you real-world experience and help you network. Additionally, it might also help you realize that you do not want to attend law school.
If you do not know where to look to find this type of work, talk to your guidance counselor or career services office. They may know alumni who are attorneys or have information about high school jobs in the area. Starting out with a legal job in high school will be a great addition to your resume when applying to law school.
Do you live in an area where these types of opportunities aren’t available? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of job opportunities that provide you with the skills needed to succeed in law school! For example, working at a local restaurant or in retail store helps you build a customer service skillset. Working in a factory or for a landscaping company allows you to work with others toward a common goal. Volunteering at a summer camp or babysitting helps you to teach others. All of these skills are invaluable to practicing attorneys and are necessary for a successful career in law!
In-Person and Online Law School Resources
Visiting your local courthouse is an excellent way to prepare for law school. Most courtrooms are open to the public. You can sit and watch a variety of cases from family law to criminal cases. Observing in a courtroom will give you an idea about litigation, objections, witness testimony, how juries operate, and so much more. If you can, observe not only in a local courthouse, but plan a visit to your state court of appeals or supreme court. These courts practice a different level of advocacy that involves oral arguments and legal questioning. Further, these experiences will help you learn legal vocabulary and procedures that all law students need to know. Make sure to review the court website before attending because many have rules such as submitting a request to attend prior to your visit. Further, you can view the docket to see when cases are being heard.
While this may seem premature, it is a good idea to take a look at online law school resources such as our JD Advising Law School Prep Course. The course is free and teaches students about what it takes to succeed in law school.
Some of the core teachings include:
- How law school differs from college + an overview of useful vocabulary
- How to speed-read and book-brief cases
- How to take notes and answer questions when you are on call
- How to outline and learn your outlines
- How to answer law school exam questions using IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, and conclusion)
- How to create a law school study schedule
- Legal writing and research tips
It is never too early to prepare for law school, even if you are still in high school. You can start working today to make sure you will be ready for law school when the time comes.