Philosophy for Pre-Law Students
Philosophy courses, and the Philosophy major, are excellent choices for students who are planning to go to law school.
Many courses in philosophy are concerned with ethics, justice, the nature of the state, the best form of government, and the relations between moral and legal obligation. Some are concerned with the nature of law itself. These philosophical matters often motivate the formulation and application of laws. Knowledge of these matters is clearly relevant to the study of law in law school.
Many of the skills that students need in law school are readily acquired by taking philosophy courses. Students who take philosophy courses learn to read difficult and closely argued material, extract and evaluate theories and arguments from the material, and formulate new theories and arguments. They learn to speak and write clearly and precisely. All of these skills are valuable to the study of law.
Among the skills that the American Bar Association says are essential for competent lawyering are analytic and problem solving skills, critical reading abilities, writing skills, and oral communication and listening abilities (see the ABA website on pre-legal education). Philosophy courses, and the major in philosophy, are obviously good choices for acquiring these skills.
Performance of Philosophy Majors on Standardized Tests
Philosophy majors perform remarkably well on standardized tests, including the LSAT. In a large study of undergraduate students’ performance on standard tests, conducted between 1977 and 1982, Philosophy majors ranked third in performance on the LSAT, immediately behind mathematics and economics. They ranked first in performance on the GRE Verbal exam. On the GRE quantitative exam, they ranked above all other humanities majors and above all social science majors other than economics. (Details of the study are available in the Philosophy Department.)
It is easy for students at UR to major in both philosophy and another area, including areas that may be of interest to pre-law students, such as political science, economics, or history. The Philosophy major requires only 10 courses, and Philosophy majors have considerable freedom in the order in which they take their courses. In fact, a substantial percentage of Philosophy majors at UR are double-majors.
The Philosophy Department offers both a major in Philosophy and a more specialized major in Philosophy with Emphasis on Law and Ethics.
A minor in Philosophy requires five courses chosen in consultation with the Philosophy Department’s undergraduate advisor. There is a minor in Ethics that may be of special interest to Pre-Law Students.
The Philosophy Department offers six clusters: Philosophy and Law; Ethics and Values; History of Philosophy; Knowledge, Mind, and Nature; Philosophy and Teaching Internship; and Logic. Each is a cluster in Humanities, except for the Logic cluster, which is a Natural Sciences cluster. Students may begin any of the Humanities clusters with any 100-level Philosophy course, except for 110 (Introductory Logic). Some Philosophy courses are part of the Legal Studies cluster.
Courses of Special Interest to Pre-Law Students
Pre-law students might be especially interested in PHL 102 (Ethics), 103 (Contemporary Moral Problems), 105 (Reason and Argument), 110 (Intro Logic), 118 (Business Ethics), 220 (Recent Ethical Theory), 223 (Social and Political Philosophy), 224 (History of Ethics), 225 (Ethical Decisions in Medicine), 226 (Philosophy of Law), and 230 (Environmental Justice).