When you imagine your professional future, what do you see? Do you picture advocating for clients in court, counseling others on their rights, or supporting our country’s legal system? Or maybe you envision diving into research, finding compromises during conflict, and honing your communication skills so you earn the professional respect of those around you.
If so, a bachelor’s in law might be for you. Dr. Bryan Hance, lead faculty for Pre-Law Studies at National University, touts the flexibility of such a program, asking, “What can’t you do with a pre-law degree?” As a licensed California attorney and a former litigation and transactional lawyer, Dr. Hance has seen firsthand how versatile this degree can be for working adults.
Like the students Dr. Hance teaches, you may have realized that post-secondary education will increase your job security and earning potential. Returning to school for a bachelor of arts in law can present you with many options for work or continuing education.
But before you take the leap, you need be certain that pursuing the field of pre-law is right for you — especially if you’re balancing your studies with a full-time job, family, and other obligations. If you’re looking to transition into a more enriching career, enter law school, or brush up on essential skills, the Bachelor of Arts in Pre-law Studies can be a great option.
Get the Training You Need to Become a Practicing Lawyer
If you are hoping to enter law school and become an attorney, pre-law degrees offer an excellent introduction to what you can expect in your advanced studies. You’ll explore how to think like a lawyer and interact within a legal environment.
“I wish I’d learned, before I went into law school, how much of a leg up it would have given me,” Dr. Hance remarks. “I would have known the elements of a contract, what negligence is, or where our laws come from. I would’ve been in a better position to succeed and to feel comfortable more quickly.”
Being accepted to law school and subsequently pursuing a career as a lawyer can be a competitive process, and the more prepared you are the better your chance of success.
Today’s Marketplace for Lawyers is Dynamic
Those who use their bachelor of arts in law as a stepping stone into law school will find themselves entering a field with a wide variety of career focus areas from which to choose. Upon passing the bar, they will have numerous industries, environments, and specialties available as professional options.
“Some legal fields are hot right now,” Dr. Hance says. He lists areas such as immigration, corporate, civil, and family law. Private firms can provide opportunities if you’re interested in specializing in a particular field and allow you to focus your attention on the area you’re most passionate about. You’ll have the chance to closely support your clients and take on a variety of cases.
Maybe you prefer to serve those who can’t otherwise afford private representation. In this instance, you may choose to become a public defense attorney. Or, if you want to bring the accused to justice, you might want to consider a career as a government prosecutor on the local, state, or federal level.
Perhaps you’re seeking the security and stability of a corporate job. As a corporate counsel, you’ll get to know your one and only client — your company — as part of their in-house staff. You will represent them in court when needed, advise their leadership on legal matters, draft important contracts with partners and vendors, and much more.
The Job Outlook
What does the job outlook for lawyers of all types look like? “The legal environment is very different than it was even 10 to 20 years ago,” Dr. Hance says. Employment for attorneys is expected to grow by eight percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a prediction that outpaces the expected employment growth of all occupations by two percent.
Dr. Hance is optimistic about the future. “While there’s never a guarantee of landing the job of your dreams right out of law school, I see the glass as half full. The best time to get into the field is now,” he says.
Within California, there’s even more cause for optimism. The state leads the nation in employment opportunities for attorneys, according to the Bureau’s Occupational Employment Statistics program. In addition, California is the second-highest paying state in the nation for lawyers, with an annual mean wage of over $168,000.
But what if law school isn’t part of your plan? The legal field still holds plenty of interesting alternatives.
Pre-Law Degree Career Options
A pre-law degree won’t limit you to pursuing a career as a lawyer; there are a wealth of job options that don’t require going to law school but will still have you working in the legal field.
For example, you could help reduce the number of cases that are presented before a judge. This career path, known as arbitration, mediation, and conciliation, allows you to manage and facilitate disputes outside of court.
The job outlook for this career path is strong, with an anticipated national employment growth of ten percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). California leads the way in employment opportunities, and its arbitrators and mediators are among the highest compensated in the nation, with an annual mean salary of well over $93,000.
If you love getting into the details of the law and want to work alongside lawyers, law enforcement, and other representatives of the court, consider becoming a paralegal or a legal assistant. These roles provide essential support for attorneys, helping manage the complexity of attorneys’ cases. Paralegal work includes performing legal research, overseeing communication, drafting official documents, and much more. Some paralegals specialize in a particular area of the law such as wills and estates, real estate, or criminal law. Other choose to work in firms where they will be involved in different areas of law practice.
For paralegals and legal assistants, the outlook is healthy, with more than double the expected growth of all jobs nationwide. By 2026, the BLS expects to see a 15 percent surge in employment in this field across the country and acknowledges that those with formal training — from programs such as the Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies program that Dr. Hance leads at National University — will be the most competitive among their peers.
Per the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics data, paralegals in California enjoy the most employment opportunities in the nation. What’s more, several metropolitan areas in the state have among the highest annual mean wage for this career path, including Ventura, San Francisco, San Jose, Napa, and Los Angeles.
These are just some of the opportunities within the legal arena you could choose to pursue once you’ve learned your bachelor’s in law, without ever having to attend law school. However, should you look outside the field of law after graduating, you’ll find even more career opportunities available to you.
Career Paths Beyond the Legal Field
There are boundless options for those with a bachelor’s in law, even outside of the legal sphere. Dr. Hance acknowledges this, saying, “Some of my students are interested in working in corporate environments, while others are interested in dispute resolution. Yet others are entrepreneurs who want to understand potential legal pitfalls and best practices within their own businesses.”
A pre-law degree allows you to obtain and refine skills that can be applied to the career path you’re most passionate about. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers across the board are seeking strong skills in problem-solving, communication, and analysis. All of these are refined throughout a pre-law degree program, making graduates more competitive in any marketplace.
Some of the fields with the highest growth potential in the next decade, according to the BLS, are general and operations managers, accountants and auditors, and management analysts — all of which utilize the critical thinking, verbal communication, and analytical skills you’ll gain studying law.
Additionally, a deeper understanding of legal processes and research techniques can complement a variety of fields, such as education, human resources, law enforcement, management, politics, and entrepreneurship.
Not only that, but legal education can teach valuable negotiating skills. Even if you don’t harbor visions of becoming a world-class lawyer, this ability will benefit you professionally — whether you’re asking for raise, seeking out a new opportunity, investing in real estate, or negotiating a better rate for your company with suppliers and vendors. Negotiating skills are applicable anywhere you go.
What Does a Pre-Law Degree Program Look Like?
When you decide to earn your pre-law degree you are beginning a journey of personal development and growth. You’ll learn to analyze a variety of situations and to address multiple sides of any given issue. You’ll discover how to advocate for others and articulate your arguments in a clear and confident way.
“One of the reasons studying law is so exciting,” Dr. Hance says, “is that it requires both left-brained and right-brained thinking. You have to think analytically and logically, breaking down difficult or complex concepts into basic elements — but you also think creatively to argue your position from different angles.”
The coursework required for a bachelor’s in law introduces broad topics such as contemporary legal issues, negotiation techniques, litigation, and more. These topics are similar to the areas of law you’d study during your first year of law school — so you can rest assured that you’re receiving a comprehensive introduction to the field.
Elective courses allow you to focus on topics that include constitutional law, ethical standards, international law, and more. The purpose of these courses, Dr. Hance points out, is not to teach specific specialties, but instead to lay the groundwork for students’ careers. “We teach core principles and concepts that apply in all areas of the law, so our students can follow the topics that interest them the most.”
By this point, you may be excited about the coursework and career options available to you. If so, it’s time to get serious about applying to programs.
Traditionally, universities and colleges follow a four-year model that requires significant in-person class time. But when you’re trying to balance full-time work or family responsibilities with your studies, this type of program isn’t always feasible and flexibility becomes the key to making it all work.
National University: A Unique Approach to Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Law
Flexibility and accessibility are core values at National University — in addition to providing a strong education for students many of whom are adult learners. Founded in 1971 and the largest nonprofit university in San Diego, National’s students include busy parents, full-time workers, active duty servicemembers, and veterans. With 30,000 students and more than 185,000 alumni across the globe, National University understands the unique needs of adult students who lead busy lives outside of their academic pursuits.
This is why National University initiated its online degrees in 1996 and has developed 70 online programs to date, including Pre-Law Studies.
As lead faculty for the pre-law program, Dr. Hance acknowledges, “Many students at National University are working full-time or have families and other commitments. It’s so gratifying that students are able to earn their pre-law degrees in a way that’s convenient for them.”
A Variety of Online and Offline Learning Opportunities for Students Interested in a Pre-Law Degree
National University offers its Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Law Studies under the umbrella of the School of Professional Studies. The program can be completed online or in-person, enabling students to learn from anywhere in the world.
Because the university invests heavily in technology, students enjoy a flexible virtual classroom. This allows them to learn in an asynchronous fashion — meaning they don’t need to be present for live video lectures and can instead take in information on their own time.
If you’re concerned about what it’s like to learn in a virtual classroom, Dr. Hance reports, “My colleagues and I love to use video conferencing, chat rooms, and other technology to create an online environment that feels just like a real classroom.” As a result, students are fully supported during their education and are finding it easier than ever to complete their degree.
National University Makes it Possible for You to Finish Your Degree Fast
Busy adult learners do not have time to waste. National University allows you to structure a degree program that makes the best use of the time you have available. For example, the university offers year-round rolling admission, allowing you to kick off your program at the beginning of any month, so classes are always ready when you are.
In addition, National University offers a unique four-week class format. These intensive and robust courses make it possible to complete your degree quickly, without sacrificing quality of education or your work or family time. You also have the option to adjust your course load month by month, so you can fashion a learning experience that fits any changing demands of your schedule.
Mentorship for Pre-Law Students at National University
One of the greatest benefits of National University’s programs are the mentorship opportunities provided by the faculty. Dr. Hance speaks highly of his colleagues, and he was recognized for his own excellence by being awarded National University’s 2013 Professoriate Award, an honor that is given to exceptional faculty who are nominated by their colleagues as demonstrating excellence in their profession. “All of our outstanding faculty have at least 15 to 20 years of experience practicing law, and we even have several judges among our ranks,” says Dr. Hance.
The program’s faculty truly go above and beyond. They don’t shy away from sharing their professional experiences, such as what it’s like to practice as a litigator for three decades or their experiences serving as a judge for a regional circuit court of appeals. “Some faculty have even invited students to court with them,” Dr. Hance adds.
“My colleagues and I go beyond the textbook,” he summarizes. “We aren’t just teaching law; we’re investing in our students, their education and their future.”
National University is Here to Support You
Enrolling in a post-secondary degree is a big step for your education and career, and that’s exactly why National University has made it as simple as possible to get started. Once you’re a student, the National support system of advisors, faculty, and mentors are there to support you on your academic journey and keep you on target to meet your personal and professional goals.
“I’ve kept in touch with a number of former students who have been accepted into law school and gotten their dream jobs,” Dr. Hance reflects. “They’re ecstatic to be pursuing this whole new world that has opened up for them.”
To learn more about our Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Law Studies and related program offerings, please visit our program page. You can also follow us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.