Jon Lucas, a third year law student at North Carolina Central University School of Law, says his undergraduate major in political science at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill "unequivocally" did not help prepare him for law school. His minor in English, which required him to read "voluminous amounts of literature," however, served him better.
If he were applying to law school today, Lucas would major in English, business, economics, or philosophy. "Most of my colleagues that majored in prelaw advise that there was not much benefit for them in terms of having a head start in law school," he says.
Despite the criticisms, some schools are investing in prelaw training. Saint Xavier University in Chicago created a "pre-law program" in fall 2011, which "assists students in all majors who plan to seek admission to law school or a legal career after graduation." The University of Texas—Arlington, which offers prelaw concentrations through its departments of political science, history, criminology and criminal justice, and philosophy, recently launched a new Pre-Law and Legal Studies Center, and George Washington University is weighing a minor in law and society, the GW Hatchet, a student newspaper, reported last month.
Other schools have longer standing programs, such as University of Maryland—University College, which offers a major in legal studies, and Nova Southeastern University in Florida, which also has a legal studies major designed for students with law school or other graduate legal study ambitions. The UMUC program "provides a solid foundation for challenging paralegal work in various legal settings as well as for further education in a variety of fields," according to its site.
[Read about how recent J.D.'s are skeptical of Yale Law's new Ph.D.]
But the bachelor of science in legal studies program at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., which launched in 2011, is unique, says Eric Friedman, the program director.
Champlain's curriculum emphasizes not only theory, but also practice, with courses in criminal, contract, real estate, torts, family, and constitutional law, he says. Most of the other legal studies majors at other schools are "mere spin-offs of prelaw political science and philosophy courses," he adds.
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