Critical Thinking Is a Learned Skill
Philosophical study is a rigorous activity that facilitates the development and growth of the mind. Learn to think critically, demonstrate intellectual courage by facing criticisms of your most central beliefs and convictions, and learn how to explore the transcendent, the puzzling, and the wonderful in your everyday life.
Majors and Minors
- Philosophy Major
- Philosophy Major--Pre-Law Track
- Ethics Major
- Philosophy Minor
- Philosophy Pre-Law Minor
- Ethics Minor
Philosophy Areas of Study
Undergraduate preparation for law school includes two primary components: (1) an advising component and (2) an academic component.
At Millikin University, all students with an interest in pre-law receive advisory support under the supervision of the Director of Pre-Law, Dr. Robert Money. Dr. Money is available to all students, regardless of academic major, to discuss strategies for preparing for the LSAT exam, preparing law school application materials, the nature of law school education, the nature of work in the legal profession, and the identification of curricular and extracurricular activities that best prepare students for law school.
Dr. Money is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Iowa, a J.D. from Emory University School of Law, and a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Furman University. For more information, see: https://millikin.edu/academics/cas/philosophy/faculty-staff
General Advice: Focus on the Development of Essential Skills
While law schools require a B.A. or B.S. degree, they do not require a particular undergraduate major or undergraduate program of study. Therefore, no specific major or program of study is required of Pre-Law students at Millikin University. Pre-law students may choose to major in any discipline.
While students may major in any discipline or area of study, strong consideration should be given to disciplines in the traditional liberal arts. Pre-Law students are encouraged to seek out those courses and those programs of study that develop the crucial skills that are essential for success in law school and as a practicing attorney: analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, normative-ethical reasoning, persuasive argument writing, and research skills among others. This advice is in keeping with the stated position of the American Bar Association:
The ABA does not recommend any particular group of undergraduate majors, or courses, that should be taken by those wishing to prepare for legal education...Nonetheless, there are important skills and values…that can be acquired prior to law school and that will provide a sound foundation for a sophisticated legal education...The core skills and values that are essential for competent lawyering include analytic and problem-solving skills, critical reading abilities, writing skills, oral communication and listening abilities, general research skills, task organization and management skills, and the values of serving faithfully the interests of others while also promoting justice… (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/pre_law/)
The best general advice for undergraduates who plan on attending law school is to seek out those courses, professors, and academic programs of study that develop the skills necessary for success in law school and for success in the practice of law: analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, normative-ethical reasoning, persuasive argument writing, and research skills.
Specific Advice: Consider Philosophy
The crucial skills necessary for success in law school and for success in the practice of law include analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, normative-ethical reasoning, persuasive argument writing, and research skills. Philosophy develops all of these skills and is, therefore, excellent preparation for the rigors of law school and the challenging nature of work in the legal profession.
Students interested in the legal profession are strongly encouraged to consider preparing for law school by completing either the Philosophy Major Pre-law Track or the Philosophy Pre-Law Minor. These academic programs have been designed to provide students with a quality introduction to key subjects – logic, ethics, legal theory, and legal appellate advocacy. These subjects are crucial to the study and practice of law. In addition, these academic programs have been designed to assist students in developing the crucial skills that prepare students for the law school admission test (LSAT), the academic challenges of law school, and eventually the intellectual and ethical dimensions of work in the legal profession.
Don’t just take our word for it. Instead, consider the advice given by our successful alumni.
Philosophy is excellent preparation for law school because the methods of philosophical investigation are very similar to the methods of legal reasoning and legal argumentation. Federal Appellate Judge (and former law professor) Richard Posner emphasizes the similarity of philosophy and law:
"[T]he methods of analytic philosophy and of legal reasoning--the making of careful distinctions and definitions, the determination of logical consistency through the construction and examination of hypothetical cases, the bringing of buried assumptions to the surface, the breaking up of a problem into manageable components, the meticulous exploration of the implications of an opponent's arguments--are mainly the same." (Richard A. Posner, Overcoming Law [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1995], 9).
Philosophy is excellent preparation for law school because of the way legal education is delivered in the United States. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) provides the following description of law school pedagogy. This description should make clear the value of philosophy as the ideal undergraduate major for those interested in law school:
"Most law school professors employ 'the case method' of teaching. The case method involves the detailed examination of a number of related judicial opinions that describe an area of law. The role of the law professor is to provoke and stimulate. For a particular case, he or she may ask questions designed to explore the facts presented, to determine the legal principles applied in reaching a decision, and to analyze the method of reasoning used. In this way, the professor encourages you to relate the case to others and to distinguish it from those with similar but inapplicable precedents. In order to encourage you to learn to defend your reasoning, the professor may adopt a position contrary to the holding of the case. The case method reflects the general belief that the primary purpose of law school is not to teach substantive law but to teach you to think like a lawyer. Teachers of law are less concerned about rules and technicalities than are their counterparts in many other disciplines. Although the memorization of specifics may be useful to you, the ability to be analytical and literate is considerably more important than the power of total recall. One reason for this approach to legal education is that in our common-law tradition, the law is constantly evolving and changing; thus, specific rules may quickly lose their relevance.”
The American Bar Association also emphasizes the value of critical thinking in legal education and legal work:
“Law is more an art than a science. The reality lawyers seek in analyzing a case is not always well-defined. Legal study, therefore, requires an attentive mind and a tolerance for ambiguity. Because many people believe incorrectly that the study of law involves the memorization of rules in books and principles dictated by learned professors, law schools often attract those people who especially value structure, authority, and order. The study of law does not involve this kind of certainty, however; complex legal questions do not have simple legal solutions."
For more on the nature of legal education, see the following:
Performance Learning Opportunities for Pre-Law Students
Millikin University provides students interested in the legal profession with several high quality “performance learning” opportunities: Moot Court and Ethics Bowl. Both of these performance learning opportunities intentionally target the development and application of the key skills important for legal study, including: logical reasoning, ethical reasoning, critical reading, oral communication, and collaborative learning, among others. Additional information about both of these Performance Learning opportunities can be found at the “Get Involved” section of our website: https://millikin.edu/academics/cas/philosophy/get-involved