The Best Pre-Law Summer Programs for High School Students

The law school admission process is notoriously difficult for many students. For high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in law, one of the best ways to prepare for law school is to start as early as possible.

Participating in a pre-law summer program is an excellent way to kickstart your legal education. The purpose of attending an intensive summer pre-law program is to understand better what a career in law might look like by giving students first-hand exposure to the legal system. 

Many pre-law programs help students become stronger writers, critical thinkers, and public speakers. These types of programs also offer an opportunity to learn from some of the nation’s leading experts in the law field, from law professors, practicing attorneys, legal scholars, and more.

Each pre-law summer program will have a somewhat different curriculum, but common subject areas that are covered include Constitutional law, courtroom etiquette, trial procedure, and any of the most pertinent legal issues facing our world.  

In addition to serving as an opportunity to develop a basic understanding of law, pre-law summer programs are also a great way to connect with like-minded peers, gain a stronger sense of your professional aspirations, and become a stronger applicant to the college — and law school — of your dreams. 

If you are interested in finding an amazing pre-law summer program for high school students, this article is for you. Read on to discover 10 of the best pre-law summer programs for high schoolers in the United States. 

UCLA Mock Trial Summer Institute (Los Angeles, CA)

UCLA Law School
Coolcaesar, Hughandhazeldarlinglawlibrary, CC BY-SA 4.0

Offered at the prestigious University of California – Los Angeles, the Mock Trial Summer Institute is a week-long program for students interested in learning more about American law, and especially trial advocacy. 

In order to be eligible to participate in the Mock Trial Summer Institute, students must be between the ages of 14 and 17 and be enrolled in eighth through twelfth grade. Although the program is targeted toward students who are already involved in competitive high school mock trial programs, no prior experience is required. 

During the Mock Trial Summer Institute, students learn the fundamentals of courtroom etiquette, giving opening and closing statements, examining evidence, and more. In addition, Summer Institute students get the opportunity to visit real criminal felony trials taking place at the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The program is offered both in-person on UCLA’s campus and virtually, taking place in July each year.

NSLC Law and Advocacy Program (Washington, DC)

The National Student Leadership Conference, an organization dedicated to providing young school-aged children and young adults with the opportunity to gain career-focused leadership experience in their desired area of study, offers numerous summer programs for high schoolers. 

One of these is the Law and Advocacy Program, a nine-day summer intensive program open to high school students enrolled in grades 9 through 12, including graduating seniors. 

During the program, students collaborate with real attorneys to examine evidence, research relevant legal issues, and build a case to defend during a mock trial taking place in an actual state courthouse. 

The Law and Advocacy program also offers several workshops, during which students learn to write strong opening and closing statements, how to cross-examine evidence, and what the jury selection process is like.

Other program highlights include field trips to some of the nation’s most prominent law schools.

ACLU National Advocacy Institute (Washington, DC)

One of the most prominent nonprofit organizations in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union is a crucial player in defending Constitutional rights for all citizens in the country. 

Each summer, the organization holds the ACLU National Advocacy Institute, open to high schools between the ages of 15 and 18. It is led by ACLU lobbyists, lawyers, and activists in the DC community.

The cost of attending the Institute is $2,500. The tuition fee includes not only educational expenses, but also meals and housing in DC for the duration of the program.

Over the course of this week-long summer program, students take part in a series of classroom sessions, engage in lively discussions about policy, go on field trips, and attend lectures, all focused on defending civil rights in the US. 

JTB Summer Legal Institute (Chicago, IL)

Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization is a nonprofit organization offering free educational programs relating to legal studies for middle school, high school, and college-aged students who are interested in increasing diversity in the field of law. 

One of these is the Summer Legal Institute, a four-day program with an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to prepare students for success in the remainder of their high school careers, as well as college and their professional lives down the road. 

Through a series of highly engaging sessions, students at JTB’s Summer Legal Institute work on skills such as reading comprehension, critical thinking, effective writing, public speaking, and even financial literacy.

SLI’s programming is created by practicing attorneys who volunteer their time to the program, offering students a uniquely personal look into legal careers.

Envision Intensive Law and Trial Program (Stanford, CA)

Stanford University School of Law
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Offered through collaboration with Stanford Law School — the #2 best law school in the United States, according to US News and World Report’s annual rankings — the Envision Intensive Law and Trial Program offers students the opportunity to spend 10 days exploring careers in the legal field in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Open to students in ninth through twelfth grade, the Law and Trial Program involves immersive study of law, ethics, and legal rhetoric under the guidance of professors from Stanford Law School, as well as other prominent legal professionals.

Students in the program practice crucial legal skills, like making opening and closing statements, preparing witnesses for cross-examination, and examining evidence. After students develop these skills during workshops and other interactive exercises, the program culminates with a full trial simulation in a realistic courtroom environment.

UCI High School Summer Institute in Law (Irvine, CA)

The University of California – Irvine offers a wide range of excellent intensive summer programs for high school students, one of which is the High School Summer Institute in Law.

A week-long program open to students entering their junior or senior year of high school, the program exposes its participants to the American legal system and a variety of significant areas of law, from criminal prosecution to First Amendment rights, and many more. 

Beyond law-specific areas of study, the High School Summer Institute’s curriculum also offer students the opportunity to develop various academic skills that are important in practicing law, such as public speaking, analytical reasons, negotiation, and writing. 

Tuition to the Institute is $1,100, which includes the cost of room and board in UC Irvine’s residential halls for the duration of the program. 

Stanford Pre Collegiate Summer Institutes (Stanford, CA)

One of the foremost institutions for higher education in the United States, Stanford University is home to a number of online Pre Collegiate Summer Institute programs allowing high school students to engage with advanced academic areas of inquiry that may not be covered by standard secondary school curriculum. 

Although the 55 different courses offered include many subjects that are highly relevant to the study of law, the most pertinent choice for students considering a career in law is a course titled Legal Studies: Critical Thinking Tools.

Students in this course attend lessons by Stanford professors of law, education, and business, learning how to identify flaws in their own thinking skills, develop effective arguments, evaluate evidence, and anticipate counterpoints. 

The program’s capstone experience consists of an interactive mock trial, during which students play the role of attorneys or witnesses.

Penn Law Pre-College Academy (Philadelphia, PA)

The University of Pennsylvania — an Ivy League university ranking seventh in the nation for its excellent academic programs — is home to an excellent law school, the Carey School of Law. 

Penn Carey Law offers an outstanding Pre-College Academy, a three-week intensive program open to high school students of all ages. 

During the first two weeks of the program, students develop a strong understanding of fundamental aspects of how the American legal system functions. 

In the third week of the program, students have the opportunity to engage in a more in-depth exploration of the specific areas of law they are most interested in, such as human rights, environmental, and business law.

The cost of attending the program is $9,499 for those who opt to stay on campus, with commuter fees coming to $5,999.

National Bar Association Crump Law Camp (Washington, DC)

Established in 1925, the National Bar Association is the oldest and largest network of primarily African-American judges and attorneys in the United States. 

The organization offers a number of programs for young students interested in the study of law, one of which is the Crump Law Camp.

Open to students who are between 14 and 17 years old and in grades nine through 11, Crump Law Camp is run by professors from the Howard University School of Law. Each student is paired with a professor who will offer individual tutoring to hone skills relevant to trial. 

During the program, students are introduced to civil and criminal law through classes, lectures, and panel discussions offered by prominent attorneys from major entities such as Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, and the Bar Association of DC. 

At the end of the program, students participate in the Evett L. Simmons Mock Trial Competition.

Northwestern CTD Academic Summer Camp (Evanston, IL)

The Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University is home to a variety of summer programs for high school students. Although the school offers a wide variety of courses that are highly pertinent for those who are interested in pursuing a legal career, one of the strongest options is the class called equal justice under the law.

This intensive, three-week course is open to students in grades nine through twelve, offering younger students an opportunity to engage with advanced content that would otherwise not be offered at their grade level.

The course provides an overview of the American legal system through rigorous study of landmark cases, Constitutional law, and more. At the conclusion of the program, students have the opportunity to take part in a mock trial.