Legal Education

Law isn't tops, but is early on undergrads' degree list, survey finds

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Yale Law School

Yale Law School. Shutterstock

Based on a recent Gallup survey, it appears few undergraduates are thinking about law school—and out of those who are, half have at least one parent with an advanced degree.

The study, titled Before the JD: Undergraduate Views on Law School, will be discussed Tuesday at Gallup’s Washington, D.C., office. It was commissioned by the Association of American Law Schools and sponsored by the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the AccessLex Institute, the American Bar Foundation, the Law School Admission Council and the National Association for Law Placement.

More than 22,000 college students and over 2,700 law students completed the survey, according to a news release, and it’s the first known study in more 50 years that focuses on how undergraduates view law school. Highlights from the report can be viewed here.

When asked what graduate degrees they would like to pursue, 15 percent of the undergraduates listed law degrees, while 63 percent listed master’s degrees, 34 percent listed PhDs, 23 percent listed MBAs, and 14 percent listed medical degrees.

More than half of the 1Ls surveyed considered law school before they started college, and a third thought about it before high school.

Among undergraduates thinking about law school, 60 percent indicated that a family member was their most important source for advice on graduate school information. And out of those respondents, 50 percent had at least one parent with an advanced degree. The study notes that only 12 percent of individuals nationwide between the ages of 45 and 64 have advanced degrees.

Out of the same group, 50 percent reported that professors and college staff were their most important sources for graduate school information. But only 15 percent of the undergraduates surveyed said that they remembered professors talking about the JD, and most considering an advanced degree don’t remember seeing information about law school in college but did recall seeing information about other advanced degrees.

One-fifth of the undergraduates considering law school are first-generation college students. A quarter of the undergraduates considering other advanced degrees are first-generation college students.

Political science majors were the most likely to consider law school. Business and criminal justice majors were the second- and third-most likely.

When asked why they were considering law school, 44 percent of the undergraduates saw it as a way to political, government or public service work, 42 reported that they had a “high interest” in legal work, and 35 percent said that they saw practicing law as an opportunity to be helpful.

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