Pre-Law Advising

Courses and Skills

Law schools are quite flexible in the requirements they have for applicants and instead want you to focus on delving deeply into your own interests and developing the skills that will make you successful in both law and life.

Brown students and alumni enjoy a high degree of success when applying to law school. Our data show that no particular pre-law track or academic concentration is required for admission to law school. We encourage students to pursue the course of study that best meets their academic and professional interests.

Law is, at its heart, the articulation of collectively enforceable social norms; its goal is to allow us to live together and achieve our collective and individual goals. Academic disciplines that look at society are natural precursors to the study of law, but they are not prerequisites. Law school prepares practitioners; students learn first and foremost on what the law IS, not what a model set of laws for a society would look like.

Backgrounds in science, engineering and digital technology are critical for the growing legal fields of data security and privacy, decentralized finance and blockchains, algorithmic fairness, copyright and intellectual property in the biometric age. We recommend that you take advantage of the Open Curriculum at Brown and take courses that match your interests, require you to take intellectual risks, and expose you to new ideas in a deliberate way.

While these types of courses are not required for admission to law school, it is likely that you might be interested in them. If you are trying to get a taste of what law school is like – look for courses in which you’ll read cases and study, write and talk about law.  As you will notice during your time here, there are many courses at Brown that will offer you the opportunity to study and think like a lawyer. 

As you plan your courses you want to choose those that demonstrate your ability to handle a rigorous course load which will show that you are prepared for the demands of law school. Therefore, we recommend that you take 4 classes each semester at Brown with judicious use of the S/NC option.

Of course, there are exceptions to this general recommendation. If you have a semester with many extracurricular activities or an internship, then perhaps taking only 3 credits is a good option. If the classes you are interested in are offered in the mandatory S/NC format, then this is not an issue for law school admissions, as there are many rigorous courses that are mandatory S/NC so law school admissions are not a reason to avoid them.

There’s no hard and fast rule on course-load or S/NC courses. Be mindful that law schools are looking for academic excellence and rigor; but they are also looking for intrepid and adventurous students with diverse interests and intellectual curiosity. 

Although there are no specific course prerequisites for law schools, they do look for a core set of skills and values as a necessary foundation for success in legal education and the profession. As you plan your course of study, select courses that will help you develop the following skills and abilities: 

  • Analyzing and solving problems
  • Reading critically 
  • Writing well
  • Speaking effectively 
  • Listening closely
  • Researching 
  • Organizing tasks and managing your time
  • Serving others and promoting justice


You can find courses with a legal focus by going to Courses at Brown and typing “law”, “legal,” “justice,” or “constitution” into the search bar. We have created a list of some courses that are commonly offered in this area, but these can change often and you should be sure to search for others that may be relevant. 

It will be clear on your transcript that the course was offered in the mandatory S/NC format so you did not have an option to take it for a grade. This will not be viewed unfavorably by the law schools.

No, courses completed "with distinction" are only used for the conferral of Brown honors such as Magna Cum Laude. The distinction does not appear on your official transcript.