A career in law can be exciting and rewarding. If you’re already contemplating a path that leads to law school, consider how you are preparing for that law school application, your upcoming studies, and your future career.
You may be drawn to study law for a number of reasons: furthering a more just society; a passion for learning and thinking critically about legal problems; the desire to make a difference in others’ lives; or a dream of starting your own law firm.
Whatever your motivation, if law school is in your future, here’s how spending a summer studying law can prepare you for the future.
What You’ll Learn in a Pre-Law Summer Program
Legal studies isn’t just a single topic — it covers different types of law across different applications, industries, and functions. In a summer program, you can dig deeper into a specific area of law if you know what you want to study or use this as an opportunity for an introduction to a topic that’s new to you.
Here are just a few of the topics and courses you can explore in a summer program, as well as some examples from courses at Harvard Summer School.
History of Law
You may be interested in the history of law, how various legal codes emerged, how they’ve evolved, and how different civilizations applied the law to their developing societies.
The course “Global Law, Global History: A Comparative Perspective” takes students through the application of law from the founding of the Americas to the mid-20th century, and asks students to evaluate how law impacts nationalism, government creation, religion, and other societal factors.
Law in Digital Technologies and Cybersecurity
Technology is evolving at an accelerated pace, and you may be interested in how the law is keeping up with new technologies like artificial intelligence or how it addresses evolving cybercriminal behavior.
The course “Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Ethics, Governance, and Laws” covers just that: the ethical and privacy concerns around rising technologies like AI and data science, and how today’s laws apply to these technologies to keep people safe.
The intersection of law and business — including how businesses are governed, how business tax or real estate law functions, and how law works to uphold business ethics — all fall under the umbrella of business law.
The course “Start-ups from the Perspective of Business and IP Law” gives students an overview of how the law protects the intellectual property (IP) of entrepreneurs through patents, trademarks, and copyrights, and provides an introduction to IP litigation.
You may be interested in how legal structures work around the world, how legal codes and practices have evolved, and how they currently are applied in different countries under varying governmental structures.
The course “The History of Law in Europe” examines how the law evolved across European countries from the Roman Empire to the present day, and provides an opportunity to discuss various modern law topics across European countries.
You may be interested in pursuing a law degree to help enact change across structures and systems to create a more just society.
“Power and Privilege in the Criminal Justice System” helps students better understand the processes of the criminal justice system and how psychology, power, and privilege play out across criminal behavior at each stage.
Critical Skills You Can Learn and Practice in a Pre-Law Program
Enrolling to study pre-law over the summer expands your knowledge across a variety of law topics. Through engaging readings and rigorous coursework, you’ll also learn and build a number of key skills as well.
A critical skill for any law student is the ability to research cases and legal frameworks, and understand how to analyze those materials as they apply to the legal issue at hand. Whether you pursue law or another area of study, research is a valuable skill that can be applied across nearly every discipline.
Summer courses offer the opportunity to practice and hone your research skills with the support of instructors and expert librarians.
Practicing critical thinking will give you the ability to evaluate the research you conduct in an objective manner, make connections and draw conclusions based on your knowledge of the law, and increase how you apply logic and reasoning to those decisions — critical skills for practicing lawyers.
Oral and written skills are necessary for a future in law studies and practice, as you’ll need to write briefs and articulate case facts out loud, and you can take the opportunity to practice and to get feedback on both methods in the safety of a classroom.
The Benefits of Enrolling in a Pre-Law Summer Program
Beyond learning something new and honing your research, critical thinking, and communication skills, there are a number of other benefits that you can gain from taking summer law courses as you anticipate applying to further studies.
- Get a sense if it’s right for you: A great benefit of taking a summer law program is that you’ll get the chance to see if that type of coursework is what you’d want to study. Before you invest the required years into undergraduate and graduate study to practice law, you can use the summer to determine if this is a career path you want to pursue. You may also learn whether the topics are of interest to you, how heavy the workload is, what class discussions would be like, and other factors that can help you make more informed decisions on your future career.
- Explore topics in depth: Exploring interesting topics in-depth may help you focus on choosing a major or concentration, or a specific area where you want to dedicate your law career.
- Make connections: Taking a summer course in law isn’t just about coursework; it’s about making connections with like-minded students from a wide variety of backgrounds who you can learn from and befriend. You may even find that you’re applying to the same law school and continue your journey together there as part of a graduate cohort!
- Reduce your course load: Another benefit of taking a summer course is that it can ease your course load throughout the rest of the year, freeing up more time to devote to extracurricular activities or to studying for the LSAT.
- Elevate your law school application: Taking summer courses in law can be a great addition to your law school application by not only showcasing your dedication to studying, but also demonstrating your interest in specific topics you want to pursue.
Who Should Enroll in a Pre-Law Summer Program
Consider enrolling if any of the following apply to you.
- You have an interest in law: If you’re interested in pursuing law as a career, taking a summer course or two in law is a great way to be introduced to legal concepts, topics, and issues, as well as to the potential coursework.
- You want to narrow your focus or refine your application: If you’re already set on applying to law school, taking law courses beforehand can be a great way to narrow down your concentration or decide which area of law you want to focus on.
It can also be a great addition to your law school application, and may result in a recommendation from an instructor or from other connections in the field.
- You want to evaluate the college or university: As you look at law school, you may be wondering which school will be the best fit for you. Taking a summer course at a particular university is a great way to decide whether you want to attend that university and pursue applying there.
StudyPre-Law at Harvard Summer School
If you’re looking for law courses to expand your knowledge or prepare you for graduate school, look to the courses offered by Harvard Summer School.
Harvard Summer School offers courses for learners of all ages, including summer courses for current college students and programs for high school students. Taught by distinguished Harvard faculty, courses can be taken on campus or online from wherever you are in the world, and there are over 300 courses available for college credit as well.