Opportunity U sat down with Josh Deason, Pre-Professional Academic Advisor at the University of Nevada, Reno, to talk about the path from high school to becoming a lawyer.
Opportunity U: For high school students that are just kind of starting on a journey to law school or maybe, they're thinking about becoming a lawyer. Could you give a quick kind of rundown on what it would look like from start to finish?
Josh: I think you know obviously the first step is to make sure this is something you want to do. So I would say even in high school if you have a chance to shadow or some type of intern opportunity in a law office, that would be really important. As far as classes in high school, if you're interested in anything like political science or philosophy, that could be helpful.
Then moving to the University. There isn't a pre-law degree. That's not a major. So you really can major in anything you want to. So the advice would be to choose a major that you're passionate about. Also, if you're interested in a specific type of law, if you're interested in environmental law, maybe you want to major in something in the sciences.
Then, when it comes time to apply to law school, the two really huge pieces are your GPA and your LSAT (Law School Admissions test) score.
LSAT preparation is really important. You want to take time to study, get some practice exams and see where your scores are falling. Then there's different tools that you can use to see ‘With my scores here and my GPA here, what are the schools that I might have the best chance of getting into?’ But just know that those metrics are going to be really, really important. It sometimes surprises students how much weight is put on those two things.
High school opportunities for pre-law students
Opportunity U: So you kind of touched on this, but going into it a little bit more, as a high school student what classes would be important? You mentioned in college you can major in anything, but high school you're a little bit more limited.
Josh: For high school students, I would say we don't really see any specific things. High school is really important for students to kind of form who they are becoming. But we really can't use any of those experiences for our application for professional school. So I think for high school, if students had a chance to take some communication courses, maybe economics, if they're interested in business law, there's just so many different ways that can go.
Opportunity U: So, if they're thinking maybe they want to do a specific type of law, just getting a more general sense of that?
Josh: Yeah, getting a general base of that subject in that area that can be helpful.
Opportunity U: And then, are there any extracurriculars or clubs in high schools that you know about that you would recommend? Or national organizations that you see people participating in?
Josh: I mean depending on what you wanted to do. There are schools out there with things like We The People, but those, a lot of times, have more to do with government. So, if students wanted to do law, that was focused on government, peace or working for the government with them all things like that might be helpful.
But again, it's such a broad field. Lawyers are in so many different areas and students need to understand if they want to be a lawyer, very, very few lawyers are doing trial law where it's like Legally Blond or something, right? So much of it is reading and research and writing and details. And you have to really like those types of things, because law is very research heavy and writing heavy and reading through briefs and briefs and briefs.
What to look for in a law internship
Opportunity U: You did mention in high school students could look for a job shadow or an internship. Is there anything that you recommend they would look for? Something that would really help them see what it's like to be a lawyer?
Josh: Yeah, that's a good one. I mean, just like you look for in most internships, is there an opportunity for me to ask questions? Is there an opportunity for me to observe the actual work happening as opposed to answering the phone or filing papers, which might be common to have to do some of those things. But I think if you're able to see the lawyer in action and then able to have a chance to either get some feedback or ask some questions after that.
Opportunity U: Awesome. Is there anything else that you think would be useful for high schoolers thinking about law school to know about?
Josh: You know, if they're really interested and there’s a law school close to them, it might be good for them to visit a law school. That would be really early in the game in high school, but it never hurts to get that experience to just see what the law schools like, and maybe talk to admissions counselors and people there and just hear about what their experience is like at their law school.
Opportunity U: Thank you so much for taking your time to share this with us!
Catherine Schofield is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno. She will be graduating in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and dual minors in information systems and women’s studies. She is currently interning with the Office of Marketing and Communications and serving as social media manager for two Reynolds Media Lab accounts, The Reynolds Sandbox and Our Town Reno. She is passionate about new media and challenging herself to get more young people engaged with news online.