It is not uncommon for students interested in attending law school to choose to major in philosophy, and with good reason. The skills emphasized in philosophy classes, such as the ability to analyze and construct arguments, reason abstractly, write clearly and cogently, are precisely those that are needed to score well on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and to flourish in law school. Nationally, philosophy majors perennially score at or near the top of all majors on the LSAT. Here is a comparative table of recent LSAT scores.
|Major||LSAT Score||Compared to Average||Popularity of Major||Number of Students|
|Political Science||151.5||-0.8 pts||1||13,229|
|Business Administration||148.2||-4.1 pts||10||1,758|
|Criminal Justice||145.4||-6.9 pts||5||3,185|
Just as importantly, philosophy classes, both applied and theoretical, historical and contemporary, offer opportunities to discuss conceptual issues that bear on the law, thus providing philosophy majors with a solid intellectual foundation with which to enter law school. In keeping with this trend, philosophy majors at Wichita State University with the goal of attending law school have enjoyed great success. Over the past twenty years, every one of our majors applying to law school has been accepted. Indeed, during this period several of our graduates have attended the law schools of Harvard and Cornell. We have also placed our graduates at the law schools of the University of Iowa, Baylor University, American University, Rutgers University, the University of Denver, Washburn University, and the University of Kansas.
Here is what some of our former majors who attended law school have to say about the advantages of majoring in philosophy:
- Of the many learning experiences I've made at Wichita State University, the department of philosophy and my philosophy classes have stood out above the rest. The study of philosophy has always forced me to question my assumptions about the world and our place within it. The philosophy department challenged me to become a better student by fostering an educational atmosphere that encouraged reasoned discussions, critical insights, and meaningful connections with fellow students and professors. I have no doubt that my future success in law school and the legal world will be due in part to the skills I learned and the experiences I lived as a WSU philosophy major.
(Entering Class 2014, University of California, Berkeley)
- In 1989, I made the decision to major in Philosophy at Wichita State University. 5 years later, I was graduating with law degree from Harvard Law School. It was only during LSAT preparation that I realized how critical my philosophy training was going to be with respect to nailing the exam. With two courses in formal logic under my belt, the game questions were nearly automatic. The ability to quickly navigate verbose, conceptually rich material and instantly distill it to its component elements proved critical to success in both the exam and the law generally. Philosophy, as it turned out, was and is the ideal pre-law major.
(J.D., Harvard University, 1994)
- The courses I took as a Philosophy major at WSU were indispensable to my success in law school. The critical thinking skills I developed in those classes not only helped me succeed in my law school courses, but also gave me an "edge" in a very competitive academic environment. My training gave me the ability to extract crucial information through careful reading and to logically structure my thoughts. These skills were central to my success on the LSAT, and my admission to a top law school. That same training pays off every day in my career, as well.
(J.D., Cornell University, 2006 )
- The analytical and logical reasoning skills I developed through the study of philosophy were essential to my success in preparing for the LSAT and in my law school classes, and are skills which I use every day as a practicing attorney. The LSAT directly tests logical reasoning skills, and these skills also provided me with a solid foundation on which to build my knowledge of the law. I believe that law school, though still challenging, would have been much more difficult had I not developed that foundation as an undergraduate. The faculty in the philosophy department are also top quality educators and mentors who helped me develop my career path.
(J.D., Cornell University, 2006)
- Reasonable. Rational. Justified. As a WSU philosophy major (class of 2009), I quickly learned that these concepts are much more complex than I had ever thought. As a philosophy student, I was encouraged to critically analyze complex quandaries that are, generally speaking, without a certain, final answer. Arguments in favor of a particular view require not only compelling reasons for that view, but respectful and critical analysis of other views. As a part of my philosophy education, I was exposed to professors and other students who challenged me to develop my confidence and ability to articulate such rational justifications. I know of no other major that hones these skills as well, and these are exactly the skills that a successful legal education requires.
As a practical matter, I was also introduced to certain philosophers and theories that informed legal theories I encountered even in my very first days at the University of Iowa School of Law--think Dworkin, Mill, and many others. Additionally, Introduction to Logic is possibly the best first step in preparing for the LSAT exam one could take; I still refer to my Logic 125 textbook while helping local undergraduates prepare for the LSAT exam. And, if you've ever had to break down Frege's puzzle, breaking down a Cardozo opinion in your first-year Contracts class will actually seem fun--at least that's what I think.
(University of Iowa)
- As a student majoring in philosophy at Wichita State University, I was given the opportunity to completely immerse myself in conceptual questions involving the same type of logical and moral principles that form the foundation of the law. I was trained to sift through facts and observations to get to the heart of the issue, engage in critical and objective analysis, and then take a step back and prepare reasoned arguments in advocating a particular position. These skills and experiences, coupled with training in how to express myself clearly in writing, have truly provided me the best opportunity to prepare for and practice in the legal world. I graduated from WSU with the ability to think critically, and the foundation and skills to become a successful legal writer within my grasp.
Lara Geer Farley
(former Shocker volleyball player, J. D., Washburn University, 2008)
The major in philosophy at Wichita State University is designed to allow students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, to develop an individualized course of study consisting of at least 27 hours. The following is a sample curriculum for a major with a pre-law focus. (This is only a suggested plan; many others are possible depending on a student's needs and interests.)
Moral Issues or Ethical Theory or Bioethics
Political Philosophy or Philosophy of Feminism
Philosophy of Law
Ancient Greek Philosophy
Early Modern Philosophy
Science and the Modern World or Philosophy of Science or Theory of Knowledge
Philosophy Electives (x2)
Total credit hours: 27 (9 courses @ 3 credit hours)
For more information on the Pre-Law Students Association, please click here
If you are currently a philosophy major or are contemplating becoming one, and you are interested in attending law school, consider contacting our pre-law advisor:
- Dr. Jeffrey Hershfield: firstname.lastname@example.org