Recommended Curriculum for Students Interested in US Law Schools

Prospective law students are free to choose from the wide variety of courses offered at NYU Shanghai. As stated in the NYU Shanghai Undergraduate Bulletin, NYU endorses the position of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) that a single "best" preparation for law school cannot be recommended. As a result, there is no prescribed prelaw curriculum or a prelaw major.

While NYU Shanghai considers the prescription of particular courses unwise, it does advise taking courses that require extensive reading, research, and writing. The Core Curriculum is an excellent beginning for prelaw students because it offers a rigorous and multidisciplinary foundation for advanced study in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The honors programs offered by some majors provide opportunities to do extensive written work during the junior and senior years. No matter what one majors in, law schools value a well-rounded liberal arts education, so students should choose their electives wisely. For example, the precision of methodology and thought required of students in mathematics, computer science, logic, and the natural sciences will aid in the development of analytic skills, while a background in the behavioral sciences and the humanities (such as politics, economics, history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology) will offer a deeper understanding of human institutions and values as well as opportunities for critical thinking and writing.

There is no specific major that best prepares you for law school. The American Bar Association (ABA) states the following on their website:

“The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. You may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics, or business, or you may focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, nursing, or education. Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills. Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education. A sound legal education will build upon and further refine the skills, values, and knowledge that you already possess.”

ABA’s Preparation for Legal Education statement suggests that prelaw students develop skills in the following areas:

  • Analytical skills
  • Writing skills
  • Research skills
  • Critical reading skills
  • Oral communication skills

Given the above, it is possible to sketch the following areas, which are most suitable for a legal career:

Reading, Writing, and Research

Since verbal and critical thinking skills are at the core of the legal profession, courses which require rigorous reading, writing, and research should be taken. Seminar and honors courses are also encouraged as they require extensive verbal engagement in class.

Analytical Skills and Precise Methodology

Precise methodology, thinking, and analytic skills can be developed in a broad array of liberal arts and sciences courses, particularly in mathematics, computer science, logic, and the natural sciences.

Behavioral Sciences and Humanities

Course work in the area of behavioral sciences and humanities—politics, economics, history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, sociology—is recommended since each will provide crucial insight into human institutions and values with which the law deals. 

Quantitative Data

In addition to the verbal disciplines that are traditionally valued by law schools, a basic understanding of economic principles, business, and finance is of increasing importance in law schools, and courses in finance, economics, business organization, and accounting are highly valued.


  • The courses listed above are suggestions only and please note that courses offered at NYU Shanghai are subject to change from semester to semester.
  • All the suggested courses mentioned above are offered at NYU's campus in New York in all semesters.
  • All the course offerings listed from NYU's global locations are nonexhaustive.  All courses offered at NYU’s global locations can be found here. Please note that they are subject to change from semester to semester.
  • Although some law schools offer scholarships or fellowships to all admitted students on a selective basis, most often funding opportunities are limited and you are expected to finance your education by yourself. US federal financial aid are available only to US citizens and permanent residents.

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