Pre-law Subjects & Skills

At USF, “pre-law” is not a particular track or major. There are no required pre-requisite classes to enter law school and all majors are accepted.

With that being said, it is still important to develop certain skills to enhance your success in law school and your legal career and taking certain classes are a great way to do so!  There are many different subject areas where you can build the necessary skills.  These pre-law electives are general electives that are offered across our campuses and disciplines.

Before selecting pre-law electives, you should identify the pre-law skills you need to strengthen.  

Which skills should I develop as an undergraduate?

The American Bar Association groups these skills into two categories:  (1) emotional intelligence/interpersonal skills and (2) cognitive skills.

Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These are skills that make a great client-focused attorney (i.e. empathizing with your clients’ concerns, via listening, to build relationships and counsel them.) Emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills are often best developed outside the classroom, but some, like written communication, are polished in courses. Below are examples of interpersonal skills:

  • Oral/Written Communication & Listening
  • Organization & Management
  • Advocating & Leadership
  • Relationship Building & Counseling
  • Negotiating & Problem Solving
  • Ethics

Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. These skills are the foundation of legal research/analysis, and allow for persuasive logical communication with judges, clients, and fellow attorneys. These skills are more likely to be developed in courses. Below are some examples of these skills:

  • Research and Critical Thinking
  • Critical Reading
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Logic

Why is it important to develop these skills for LSAT success and success in law school?

The LSAT tests critical thinking, reading comprehension, writing, logic and the ability to evaluate arguments (i.e. if a set of facts/assumptions/premises are given, what must be concluded.) Developing these skills can improve your LSAT performance, which directly impacts admission to law school.

1st Year of law school (1L):  Law students in their first year (1L) are required to review and “brief" individual cases. This requires identifying facts of the case, identifying applicable rule of law (legal precedent,) and applying the rule of law/legal precedent to the case to argue for a specific legal ruling. This requires critical reading, analysis, synthesis and logic. Also, 1L professors often use the “Socratic Method” in their classrooms, probing questions to explore assumptions and rationale. This will require public speaking, listening, and thinking critically “on your feet.” 

Strong grades in 1L affect landing summer internships, securing a spot writing for the schools law review journal, and establishing yourself at the top of your class, all of which are foundation for a successful legal career.

 2nd year of law school (2L):  In year two, you may participate in Mock Trial, Moot Court, or other student organizations. This will entail conducting research, developing legal arguments/briefs/motions, and flexing those rhetorical courtroom speaking skills (i.e. giving persuasive arguments and demonstrating client advocacy skills.)

3rd year of law school (3L):  Year three will find you often taking part in clinics where you represent clients in actual proceedings supervised by a professor. This is where you will be using those interpersonal skills (counseling, advising clients and negotiating with opposing counsel.)