High School Classes & Extracurriculars for Aspiring Lawyers
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alexander Oddo in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Anyone in high school who is interested in pursuing a career as a lawyer should begin developing their interest in and understanding of the legal profession. By taking specific courses and participating in certain extracurriculars, you can start to hone the skills that you will need to succeed in college, law school, and your career as a practicing attorney.
Lawyers need to have strong critical reading and writing skills. To prepare, you should prioritize taking reading- and writing-intensive courses in the humanities and social sciences. For instance, you should take honors level, advanced placement (AP), or international baccalaureate (IB) classes in English, history, economics, and political science. These classes will help you prepare for law school and working as an attorney because you will learn how to interpret complex texts, analyze difficult concepts, and write clearly. You will also develop a strong understanding of the social, economic, and political landscape in America throughout history, which will give you the historical context for how laws have been enacted, interpreted, and enforced at the local, state, and federal levels.
As for any college applicant, you should make an effort to have a “spike” by taking classes and doing extracurricular activities that demonstrate a focused interest in a particular area or discipline. That said, you should make an effort to be well-rounded by taking courses in a variety of subjects that are of interest to you. This means you should also take rigorous math, science, foreign language, fine arts, and performing arts classes. It’s important to note that colleges will not penalize you if your school doesn’t offer AP, IB, or honors-level classes, but if your school does offer such classes, you should challenge yourself and take advantage of all the resources and opportunities that are available to you.
In high school, you should fill your schedule with various extracurriculars that will help prepare you for the legal profession. Here are a few ideas:
- Job shadow: Contact a local lawyer, and ask if you can shadow them to better understand the daily responsibilities of a lawyer. If they are part of a firm, you can ask them if they have any colleagues who would also be willing to let you shadow them. Job shadowing is relatively passive, but it helps you gain valuable insight into what it looks and feels like to be an attorney.
- Volunteer at a legal aid clinic: Legal aid organizations offer legal services to low-income individuals who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney. See if there is a legal aid clinic in your city where you can help with basic clerical tasks, client intake, fundraising, marketing, or other projects.
- Speech and debate: Join or start a speech-and-debate team at your high school. Members of this type of club learn valuable research, oral and written argumentation, and public speaking skills. They also learn how to perform at a high level under pressure.
- Mock trial: Join or start a mock trial team at your high school. Mock trial team members participate in imitation trials like the ones that occur in lower courts. Similar to speech and debate, mock trial teaches research, critical thinking, oral and written argumentation, and public speaking skills.
- Model United Nations (UN): Join or start a Model UN team at your high school. Through Model UN, you will develop a broad understanding of international affairs and globally relevant issues while strengthening your reading, research, writing, and public speaking skills.
- Journalism: Become a writer or editor of your high school newspaper or a local newspaper in your community. As a journalist, you will learn how to write clearly and succinctly, conduct interviews, and do research.
High school is just the beginning of your journey to becoming a lawyer. For more information, check out this article on the steps to take after high school to become a lawyer.