Why Psychology Is a Great Subject to Study Before Law
Ahad Rahim is a first year Law LLB student at King's College London. Ahad is interested in the intersection of technology and the law. In his blog post below, Ahad discusses how a degree in psychology is a great primer for law school.
Are you fascinated with the mind but also picture yourself arguing in court? Perhaps you want to learn how to treat mental illnesses but also see yourself protecting a company’s legal interests? If you’re torn between doing law and doing psychology in college, there’s good news for you; you can do both. It is a common practice in the UK to do a degree in any subject before taking a 1-year long law conversion course to complete an LLB. Common picks for prior degrees are literature, history, or political science, but what if I told you that the best pre-law course is Psychology? Here are some reasons a psychology degree will help you ace a conversion course and become a far better lawyer than if you hadn’t done it.
Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing will be Second Nature
The fundamental skills of law school are reading, writing, and formulating arguments. Psychology is firmly entrenched in the humanities; this means you will be required to read, write, and critically think through the course of your major. The skills you will exercise while reading and evaluating academic articles in psychology are identical to those you will use while reading cases and law textbooks. The practice you will get critically analyzing hypotheses and explaining complicated concepts in clear written language will make legal essays very easy. By the end of your psychology degree, you will be a persuasive writer, a quick reader, and a clear thinker, ready to take law school by storm.
Insight into heuristics
There is substantial psychological research on the common logical mistakes people make, often because of heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts which our mind tends to take while reasoning. For example, the availability heuristic is our tendency to estimate the probability of something based on how easily it comes to mind. If asked, you’d probably incorrectly say that there are more words which have ‘K’ as their first letter than words which have ‘K’ as their third letter, because words which start with ‘K’ come to mind quicker. Psychology provides insight into all the common pitfalls which our minds wander into when we reason. This is invaluable knowledge when reasoning or when trying to anticipate what conclusion a judge or lawyer will come to after being given some information.
Psychological insight is helpful when trying to convince someone of something. Persuasion is a fundamental pillar of the legal profession; whether you’re persuading a judge to take your view on a legal issue or convincing your opposing lawyer on a settlement, the ability to persuade ethically and effectively is an invaluable skill as a lawyer. There are psychological principles which underpin the art of persuasion. Doing a degree in psychology will allow you to study these principles in depth, and in turn, master them for use in the real world.
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Empathy for Others
To be a good lawyer you need to be able to respect the rule of law and live by a set of principles. The study of how the mind works is a sobering and enlightening experience. It will help you realize that there are reasons why people are the way they are. This, in turn, may help you become a more levelheaded and less vindictive person. This will only help your practice as a lawyer as you develop contacts and build a rapport with your colleagues. Depending on what kind of law you are interested in, you may find yourself in moral dilemmas; a degree in psychology will help you navigate these issues.
Allrounders Are in Demand
During your psychology degree, you will also learn basic statistics, computer science, neurobiology, and game-theory. This means you will be an allrounder with tons of practical skills. These skills will carry over effortlessly into your legal practice. This will make you not only more employable but also able to solve problems in unique innovative ways. These skills can also help you carve out a niche in the already super saturated legal workforce.
I have found my psychology degree incredibly useful in my study of the law so far. But if the idea of studying for 4 years puts you off, or if that is not on the cards for you financially, you can glean a lot of the benefits of a psychology degree by reading some popular psychology books. Thinking Fast Thinking Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini are two fantastic books covering practically useful psychology information. Psychology is a subject that if you invest in, will pay dividends in your legal career.