Philosophy & Law

Pre-Law Program

If you are interested in a career in law, the Department of Philosophy encourages you to consider a major in philosophy. Philosophy courses provide an excellent foundation for the study of law, and the department offers a B.A. in Philosophy with a Pre-Law emphasis.

Why Should Pre-Law Students Study Philosophy?

Philosophy teaches the skills and knowledge that law schools value. As the American Bar Association has said, there are some "important skills, values, knowledge, and experience that you can acquire prior to law school and that will provide a sound foundation for a legal education." These attributes include: abilities or skills to analyze and solve problems, to read critically and to communicate clearly and effectively; concerns and commitments to relationship-building, public service and social justice; and exposure to and knowledge of human experience and of our society. (American Bar Association, Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, “Preparing for Law School").

While no single curricular path is recommended or singled out as furnishing the best preparation for law school, study of philosophy is widely acknowledged as a highly effective way of preparing students for success in law schools and in the legal profession thereafter.  In particular, students who take philosophy courses learn to read difficult and closely argued texts, to analyze and clarify sophisticated concepts, to explicate and critically evaluate complicated arguments, to construct and articulate independent positions and to test and defend these positions clearly. Philosophy also explores many dimensions of human life, and thereby provides a broad exposure to and knowledge of human nature and experience.

According to the American Philosophical Association, a wide range of philosophy courses are valuable to Pre-Law majors: Intermediate to advanced courses in logic; a number of courses in ethics, including political and social philosophy, philosophy of law and medical ethics; epistemology, which examines standards of evidence; philosophy of mind, which bears on issues of human motivation as well as those of moral and legal responsibility; philosophy of language, which dwells on multiple dimensions of communication; and philosophy of science, which is of particularly value for those interested in practicing in the areas of law concerned with technology and sciences.

(American Philosophical Association, “Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates”).

Philosophy Coursework is Rigorous and Challenging

One very significant indication that a study of philosophy is an excellent way for students to acquire many skills necessary for success in law schools and in the legal profession is the high degree of success that philosophy students have had in the LSAT.

Some of the most recent published data indicates that philosophy (along with economics) is the major that produces the highest average LSAT score among test takers. 

Average 2007-08 LSAT Scores (for major fields with at least 1,900 students taking the exam)
Rank Major Fields Average Score No. of Students
1 Philosophy 157.4 2,184
1 Economics 157.4 3,047
3 Engineering 156.2 2,197
4 History 155.9 4,166
5 English 154.7 5,120
6 Finance 153.4 2,267
7 Political Science 153.0 14,964
8 Psychology 152.5 4,355
9 Sociology 150.7 1,902
10 Communications 150.5 2,230
11 Business Administration 149.1 1,971
12 Criminal Justice 145.5 3,306

*Taken from

Student Success

Email from SF State philosophy student:

Hello Professor Hood,

Many years ago you gave me a letter of recommendation to go to law school. I finished my undergraduate at SF State in 2002. I wanted to inform you that I passed the July 2009 California Bar Exam.Thanks for everything - I would not have made it through law school without the wonderful education that I received at San Francisco State University.

Richard Ballesteros

What Courses in Philosophy Should Pre-Law Students Take?

B.A. in Philosophy with a Pre-Law emphasis

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