How to Apply to Law School Ahead of a Career in Politics

 Julie Ketover
  24th-Jul-2018

One of the remarkable aspects of the law field is that people attend law school with a vast array of interests and experiences and go on to pursue an equally wide variety of careers.

Law school attracts applicants who studied arts and humanities; business; social sciences; or science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects and produces professors, judges, private and public sector lawyers, government officials, politicians and all types of business professionals across industries.

Some people who apply to law school have designs on a career in politics. Though a law degree isn't necessarily a requirement to work in a political or policy-related job, many successful professionals in these types of jobs have J.D.s. Law school provides excellent training in analytical reasoning, research and writing, all of which are useful skills in most jobs in politics.

If you are considering a career in politics, think critically about your choice of major, as well as your extracurricular activities and work experience and investigate specific law school programming.

Choice of Major

It is in your interest to effectively align your choice of major with your desired career path.

If you know as an undergraduate that you will pursue a career in politics, consider choosing a major like political science, international relations or comparative politics, each of which would provide a solid foundation of knowledge for you to leverage as your academic and professional careers progress.

Having a major in a politics-related area of study can also help you to write compelling essays to support your law school candidacy about your interest in law school and postgraduate plans.

All of this said, most of us don't know exactly what we want to do with our lives when we are 18 or 19 years old. If you are a person in this camp, do not despair. A career in politics does not depend on a perfectly aligned choice of major in college.

College is a time for exploration and exposure to many different subjects. If you are thinking about holding a political job one day, even if you don't choose a closely connected major, aim to take courses in politics so that you can at least solidify your interest and reference key coursework as part of the law school application process.

Even if you never take any classes in this area, you will not be precluded from a career in politics if you are passionate and committed.

Experience

Outside of coursework, choose activities, internships and employment opportunities that relate to politics in some way. For example, you can get involved in academic clubs in the political science arena or in political or activist groups. As is true with any extracurricular activity involvement, aim for depth over breadth and look to grow your skills and establish your leadership.

You should also take advantage of internship and employment opportunities that will give you real-world experience in the field of politics. Consider, for example, working in a congressional office or on a political campaign. If you are able to find these types of opportunities, do your best work and forge relationships with people who could write strong recommendations on your behalf as part of your law school applications.

In addition, volunteer yourself for challenging and interesting assignments even if you are scared to do so. Putting yourself out there could enable you to secure meaningful recommendations and create fodder for compelling essays to support your law school candidacy.

Specific Law School Programming

If you are committed to pursuing a career in politics, you may want to consider applying to law schools that have interdisciplinary programming and joint degree options.

For example, Harvard Law School offers a course entitled Law and the Political Process, which examines "the way law informs and regulates representation and participation in the political process," according to the school's website. At the New York University School of Law, students interested in political science can take up to 10 credits from the NYU Department of Politics.

The Election Law Society at William & Mary Law School is the student arm of the school's Election Law Program. It is a multipartisan student organization that studies the legal issues raised in the American electoral process and helps bring election-related programs and courses to campus.

Many law schools also offer joint degree programs to support students interested in more in-depth studies related to political science. Schools that offer joint J.D./M.A. programs include Duke University, Case Western Reserve University, NYU, the University of Florida, Loyola University Chicago and the University of Kansas. Schools that offer joint J.D./Ph.D. programs include NYU, Stanford University and the University of Southern California.

If you are considering pursing a joint degree, make sure to understand the scope of the commitment required and do a thoughtful analysis of the importance of the additional degree in your career pursuits. Law school is hard enough, so be sure that a master's degree or Ph.D. on top of that is worth your while.

If you envision a political career, choose your major, coursework, activities and work experiences accordingly. If your aspirations require more in-depth studies, consider interdisciplinary and joint degree programming at law schools during the application process.

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