"There are many good reasons to explore the law and the legal profession before entering law school. You will gain a more realistic view of the actual practice of law, the skills you will need, and the realities of the legal employment market. Greater familiarity with the legal system—its institutions, concepts, and even vocabulary—can advance your understanding of law school curriculum. You may identify potential practice areas that suit your personality, interests, and values. You may even enhance your candidacy for admission to law school, as well as your opportunities for employment during and after law school.
"Take advantage of opportunities to shadow, network with, or be mentored by practicing lawyers. Seek credit-bearing or paid internships in law-related settings during college breaks and summers. Consider law-related employment between college and law school. While these experiences are not required for admission to law school, they can help you make informed decisions that lead to a successful law career. Legal employers are increasingly seeking law school graduates who are practice-ready. Your experience before law school can help you hit the ground running when you become a lawyer." - American Bar Association Pre-Law statement on Exposure to Law
Below are some of the opportunities available to Ohio State students considering a legal career.
Every pre-law student, whether determined to attend law school or uncertain about making the decision, should attempt to know as much as possible about the profession they are considering joining. What we see on the news or in movies or on social media is only a small fraction of what attorneys actually do in real life; most are not in the courtroom banging their fist on a table in front of a jury and screaming for justice.
Reading about the profession only accomplishes so much. In order to really get a feel for what attorneys do it's important that students observe attorneys in action and if possible gain practical experience. Below are just a few examples of how OSU students engage with attorneys and learn what it's really like to practice law.
...Shadow an Attorney
Students considering a career in criminal law, either prosecution or defense, can reach out to the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and request to shadow an attorney for a half day or a day. Many attorneys start their legal careers this way, plus several of the prosecuting and defense attorneys as well as a few of the judges working in Franklin County have ties to Ohio State.
...Volunteer with a Non-Profit Organization
"For many low income and elderly individuals living in Columbus and Central Ohio, equal justice under the law is not an abstract concept or a phrase with no meaning, it is an every day struggle to provide for themselves and their families. The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) exists to provide assistance and guidance to those attempting to navigate our complex legal system. Our attorneys know that without proper representation, justice can be difficult to come by and it is the mission of LASC to improve the lives of low income residents and senior citizens of Columbus and Central Ohio by providing high quality legal representation that meets our clients’ civil legal needs." - LASC website. Columbus Legal Aid welcomes college students who are interested in volunteering on a regular basis; to learn more visit the Non-Attorney Volunteer webpage.
...Work a Part-Time Job or Internship
"The State Government Internship Program is coordinated through a partnership of the Ohio State University Office of Government Affairs and Department of Political Science. It provides sophomores, juniors and seniors a semester-long internship with the Ohio General Assembly. Students selected for the program will be placed in the office of a State Representative, State Senator or caucus policy office in downtown Columbus and have the option of earning 3 hours of credit for their work. The program also offers 3 on-campus seminars focusing on different aspects of working in state government." - OSU Government Affairs
Reach out to your college's Career Services office and to your Pre-Law advisor for more ideas!
Columbus, the state capital and largest city in Ohio, is home to a thriving legal community. As extensive as the community is, there are several out-of-state opportunities for OSU students to explore their legal and related interests.
Canadian Parliament Internship Program
"The Canadian Parliament Internship Program is a five-week program during which interns work in the office of a Member of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Students may choose which party and what area of expertise the Member represents. Students may be asked to answer constituency mail, assist in writing and editing materials to be sent to the Member’s Riding, research issues of importance to the Member, write a statement/question for Question Period, write speeches, conduct tours of Parliament, and complete general office work. Interns will live and socialize at the University of Ottawa with other students from the U.S., Canada, and other countries." - Department of Political Science
Oxford Pre-Law Program
"The Ohio State University and the University of Oxford have partnered since 1993 to offer their Summer Pre-Law Program at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. The program, which is the oldest overseas pre-law program in existence, takes place from late June to late July every year. It is generally known that the American legal system developed out of Great Britain’s legal system, and the strong influence of English law is still apparent in our system of law. Studying in a university that, for some 900 years, has had a major role in developing the current Anglo-American legal system, is valuable preparation for students who are contemplating studying law in America. In addition, we specifically devote time to helping pre-law students hone the skills necessary for success in American law schools." - Moritz College of Law
Washington Academic Internship Program
"The John Glenn College of Public Affairs offers an exciting opportunity for Ohio State students to study and work in the nation's capital. The Washington Academic Internship Program selects outstanding undergraduates from any major to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., as John Glenn Fellows. Students work in field placements that reflect their particular areas of academic interest. While in Washington, John Glenn Fellows remain fully registered Ohio State students. Students earn academic credit hours for their internship, the research seminar in which a policy paper is developed, and a course on policymaking and public service in the Washington community. Students will deepen their understanding of policy issues through weekly policy salons with experts. Friday study tours each week will also allow students to explore and experience different aspects of Washington. Participants in the program meet policy professionals and interact with Ohio State alumni in the region. This interaction has value far beyond the semester in which the students are involved in the program. Real opportunities are presented for career advice, professional development, and cross-generational exchange." - John Glenn College of Public Affairs
In addition to these popular programs Ohio State students are adept at seeking out opportunities on their own, often selecting a Global Education program that is tangentially related to their pre-law interests, from Environmental Law to Health Care Law. Click here for the Global Education Office website.
There are several options for students looking to get involved with pre-law organizations on campus. Some groups have an open membership year round, others require a competitive tryout or application as part of a selection process, however all welcome any interested student. The descriptions below are taken from each organization's purpose statement.
Organizations with a focus on getting to law school and exploring various legal career options:
Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) Pre-Law Fraternity International
"The purpose of [the Phi Alpha Delta] Fraternity shall be to form a strong bond uniting students and teachers of the law with members of the Bench and Bar in a fraternal fellowship designed to advance the ideals of liberty and equal justice under law; to stimulate excellence in scholarship; to inspire the virtues of compassion and courage; to foster integrity and professional competence; to promote the welfare of its members; and to encourage their moral integrity."
Undergraduate Black Law Students Association (UBLSA)
"The purpose of the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association is to cultivate and foster the needs and interests of the diverse pre-law community at The Ohio State University through meetings and events focused on connections with legal professionals as well as preparation for the demands of the law school and the admission process."
Organizations focused on a practical aspect of the legal world:
"The purpose of the Undergraduate student Mock Trial is to replicate all aspects of the legal process. Student will learn how to prepare witnesses for trial and how to portray them at trial. Student attorneys will also learn to prepare witness examinations and statements for trial and the rule of evidence and procedure used in actual courtrooms. All of this preparation is tested at invitational and regional competitions. To test our performances, Mock Trial must travel to invitational tournaments in Ohio and neighboring states. These tournaments allow students to perform the materials they’ve prepared for months and be critiqued by attorney judges. Mock Trial provides students with valuable experience in preparing for trial and being in the courtroom. Secondary purposes of Mock Trial are to: Establish a group of students interested in attending Law school or law-related professions and to increase interactions between undergraduate students and the OSU Law School."
Ohio Innocence Project - Collegiate Chapter
"The Ohio Innocence Project - Collegiate Chapter works to prevent wrongful conviction by promoting awareness of its existence on college campuses and to generate student and community support for the Ohio Innocence Project."
In addition to the organizations above, pre-law students can be found in many more of the 1400+ Ohio State student groups across campus.