Pre-Law Students' Interest in Politics Jumps After Election

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 27, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Since Donald Trump became president, some might think that the path to the White House is through reality television.

Or perhaps it is the billionaires club, except that didn't work out for billionaire candidate Ross Perot. So maybe it's just like the late George Carlin said: "Anyone can become president of the United States. And that's the problem."

In any case, more pre-law students see law school as the way to politics than in recent years. According to Kaplan Test Prep, more than half of 500 students surveyed say they would consider running for political office. At 53 percent, it represents a 15 percent jump in five years.

"Law school has long been a bullpen of aspiring politicians, and we think the recent election showed many pre-law students of all political persuasions how important it is to stay involved and stand up for what you believe," said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

Not Your Grandfather's Law School

In the 1800s, about 80 percent of U.S. lawmakers were lawyers by profession. In those days, someone like Abraham Lincoln could become a lawyer by studying the law.

As advanced degrees and bar examinations became the standard, the professional lawyer and the professional politician evolved. Today, about 35 percent of all members of Congress are lawyers.

Still, lawyers historically have dominated as power brokers in American politics. They have made up more than 59% of the presidents, 68% percent of the vice presidents, and 78% of the secretaries of state.

Law students have not been so interested in recent years, however.

Political Persuasion

The renewed interest, according to Kaplan, appears to be related to the change in administrations. The last time so many students expressed an interest in politics was after Barack Obama was elected president. Kaplan advises students to channel that interest wisely in applying to law school.

"When it comes to expressing political beliefs in your law school personal statement, we advise applicants to do it only when you can do a good job of weaving together your personal narrative and career goals," Thomas said.

For example, he said that a student could express an interest in public law, such as working for an advocacy group or a government office. Another alternative career could be working as a lobbyist.

"But just to spout your political opinions with no larger goal may alienate admissions officers who don't agree with you or who think you didn't use your personal statement wisely," he said. "It can show poor judgement."

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