The Pre-Law Program
A FOCUSED DIRECTION OF STUDY, NOT RESULTING IN A MAJOR BUT DESIGNED TO SUPPLEMENT A CHOSEN MAJOR AND ENHANCE A STUDENT’S OPPORTUNITIES IN LAW.
The pre-law program at St. Mary’s has been designed to facilitate the student’s planning and decision-making in a way that accords with the recommendations and observations of most law schools, the Law School Admissions Council, and the Association of American Law Schools. These institutions make clear that there is no prescribed course of study that will better prepare students to do well in the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) or to succeed in law school. Rather, they recommend a rigorous course of study that will enable a student to develop skills in problem-solving, communication (both oral and written), analysis, and synthesis. The courses that are required as part of the College’s Core Curriculum requirements and the Senior Experience requirements of the majors emphasize the above skills, with the various areas of study focusing on different approaches to a common set of abilities.
Pre-law students at the College, therefore, may choose any of the 23 majors offered at St. Mary’s. While it is true that, both nationwide as well as at the College, more students applying to law school major in political science than in any other major, it is far from a requirement, or even an expectation. St. Mary’s students who have applied to and matriculated at law schools across the nation have majored in a number of fields in addition to political science, including biology, economics, English, history, mathematics, philosophy, and psychology. We advise students to major in fields they enjoy and in which they can excel.
Although law schools do not expect first-year students to arrive on campus with substantive knowledge of the law, many pre-law students find it useful to take some law-related coursework in college. Some students discover that the more they know about the legal system, the more determined they are to become a part of it. After taking an undergraduate course on a legal topic, other students find that reading court cases and thinking about legal concerns is not really to their liking. St. Mary’s offers a number of courses on law and legal processes that familiarize students with how law is presented as a field of study. These courses include POSC 266, Women & the Law; POSC 303, Law, Courts & Judges; POSC 351 & 352, Constitutional Law; POSC 366, Law & Society; PSYC 354, Psychology & the Law; and PHIL 215, Critical Thinking & Philosophical Writing. Seminars which emphasize the United States Supreme Court are frequently offered in political science. In addition, students at St. Mary’s have the opportunity to participate in credit-bearing internships with government agencies, private law offices, at the local legal services agency, and with Maryland state court judges.
The pre-law program at St. Mary’s offers advising and other services. In the underclass years, a student may find it helpful to discuss a possible career in law, and a senior may wish to consult an adviser about which admission offer to accept. Faculty advisers and professional career advisers together with student leaders work to provide a program of pre-law advising activities, in addition to meeting individually with students. The Career Development Center, for example, has established MentorNet — an online directory of alumni who are willing to answer career-related questions and provide “job shadowing” opportunities. A faculty pre-law adviser maintains a list of alumni currently attending law school who have offered to discuss the law school application process and the first year of law school with prospective law students. A student-run organization, PLAN (Pre-Law Advisory Network), sponsors speakers and forums on law schools and the law school admissions process. Copies of past LSATs are available at the Career Development Center, and practice exams are administered under simulated conditions several times per year.
Students who think they may have an interest in attending law school after St. Mary’s should consult a pre-law adviser as early as possible to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the College. At the latest, these students should plan to meet with a pre-law adviser in the spring of their junior year to discuss when to take the LSAT, what law schools to consider applying to, whom to ask for letters of recommendation, how to construct a personal statement, and, in general, how to schedule the time-consuming process of law school application. For more information, contact the Career Development Center or the chief faculty pre-law adviser, Susan Grogan, Department of Political Science (in Kent Hall).