Gunter Hall on the UNC Campus
The question prospective law students most frequently ask is: “What subjects should I take in college to prepare for law school?” There is not and cannot be a single answer for all students. For one student an undergraduate concentration in a social science would best develop reasoning powers. Another student might find an interdisciplinary curriculum more intellectually stimulating. At UNC, we feel the course of study must be individually tailored by Pre-Law students in close consultation with their advisor. Unequivocally, the prospective law student should select courses that are interesting, challenging, and stimulating in terms of individual perspectives. Further, students should avoid frequent use of the “pass/no pass” grade designation. This type of grading deprives law school admission officials of a major source of information about an application’s academic qualifications.
Three Principles of Course Selection
At UNC, we urge our Pre-Law students to select courses which enhance the following basic skills and insights.
Comprehension in Written and Verbal Expression: The American lawyer’s working tool is the English language. An ability to communicate accurately and effectively is an essential quality for the practice of law. Not only must lawyers be equipped to express their thoughts with clarity, precision, and persuasiveness, but they must also develop an ability to comprehend others’ ideas. A sensitivity to the fluidity and deceptiveness of language is essential. Law professors commonly complain that beginning law students cannot write effectively. A prime advantage for Pre-Law students at UNC is the opportunity to gain the necessary writing experience directed by skilled faculty members. Classes are small, permitting close and frequent student-professor interaction. “Essay” examinations and research papers, so often absent at larger colleges and universities, are used regularly in UNC classes.
Creative Thinking Power: The art of problem solving is the lawyer’s craft. This art involves knowledge in research sources and methods, ability to marshal and use facts, inductive and deductive reasoning skills, critical analysis and constructive synthesis abilities enhancing the power to make decisions. Use of creative thinking will often merge with and become dependent on knowledge about and understanding of human institutions and values. The power to think must be utilized in a social context. Lawyers will be called on to help to solve actual or potential conflicts in an infinite variety of human relationships. Nourishing and developing this creative thinking will constitute a major portion of any prospective law student’s program at UNC.
Critical Understanding of Human Institutions: Developing insights into human institutions and values is a primary goal of lawyers. Understanding these institutions requires n intensive study of selected subjects, implemented through individual observation and actual experience. Only through a regimen of self-discipline and hard work can this understanding be achieved; there are no shortcuts to its attainment. The prospective law student must grasp insights into human nature, the physical world, the socioeconomic systems of societies, the various types of political organizations and processes (paying particular attention to democratic values and institutions) and our cultural heritage including philosophy, ethics, and religion.
Facilitating Skill Development
The development of these three abilities depends on both the student and the university. Without strong motivation and a willingness to work, no student can meet the criterion necessary for completion of a law school curriculum. Likewise, the university must possess sufficient resources and have a commitment to the maximum educational development of every student.
UNC helps motivate students by offering a wide choice of concentration areas with careful attention given to how these educational resources can best be used to develop student abilities. More specifically, UNC students in a prelegal curriculum consult regularly with the Pre-Law advisor and other faculty members in an effort to be certain that no available resource goes unused. UNC students have available to them a broad spectrum of material pertaining to the legal education and careers in law.
Law School Selection
Undergraduates also commonly ask: “How do law schools decide who gets in?” The answer depends on the admission standards of each respective law school. Almost without exception, law schools utilize the record established by an undergraduate as a primary basis for being accepted or not accepted. Virtually every law school requires a Bachelor’s Degree. Beyond this achievement, applicants are evaluated primarily on their undergraduate cumulative Grade Point Average (G.P.A.) and their scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Although each school has its own individual formula for weighing the relative worth of these two criteria, no prospective law student can ignore one or the other and hope to gain acceptance into a American Bar Association accredited school of law. Scoring well on the LSAT requires possession of certain intellectual skills such as those outlined here. UNC provides its extensive resources to prospective law students in their efforts to gain entry into the profession.
Law schools also recognize an undergraduate’s participation in nonacademic activities and programs. Law school applicants demonstrating assertive leadership qualities, a sense of social responsibility and exceptional abilities to solve “real world” problems are usually given favorable consideration. Students at UNC are actively encouraged to participate in various extracurricular activities, both on and off campus. There is, for instance, an active legal internship program wherein prospective law students can gain valuable experience in law related activities prior to law school entry. In this program, many UNC Pre-Law students have served as bailiffs in court, legislative aids, lawyers’ assistants, and in other legally oriented capacities.
In the final analysis, UNC makes available all it has to offer in terms of academic and experimental resources; prospective law students must contribute their own intellectual abilities, self-discipline, in-depth concentration, and personal motivation to utilize what is offered. The resources and commitment are here, and through a concentrated effort, the prospective law student’s maximum potential can be realized.
There is an active Pre-Law Assocation at UNC whose function is to help students gain information pertinent to their legal aspirations. Among recent activities sponsored by the Association are visits to law schools, colloquia chaired by judges, practicing attorneys, law school professors and students, and publication of a newsletter covering items of interest to Pre-Law students. Participation in this Association is open to all UNC students.
Liberal Arts Education
All students at UNC are provided with a grounding in the liberal arts through the core curriculum. This education is designed to prepare one for life as well as a career. The core curriculum requires a student to reflect on the purposes of existence, to understand the roots of culture, to come to grips with philosophical and religious perspectives and to think critically. These courses will enrich our perceptions, challenge assumptions and broaden visions in response to the question, “How ought we to live?”