Pre-Law and Legal Studies

The Department of Political Science offers a broad and challenging undergraduate program for students with career interests in law or legal studies. The pre-law and legal studies track is the most popular among the Department’s tracks, and we annually place a significant number of majors in the nation’s law schools and in various public and private agencies that require broadly educated individuals with a background in legal affairs. Many of our graduates have become governors, judges, state and local government officials, partners in major law firms, prosecutors, legal aid representatives, and private attorneys. Although most of the students who enter the Pre-Law and Legal Studies track to apply to law school, many seek careers in other legal fields, such as criminal justice administration, research and analysis in law and public policy, or law enforcement. 

It is generally recognized that there is no prescribed set of courses for students who wish to pursue careers in law or legal studies. Instead, most law schools emphasize the importance of developing strong verbal, writing, and analytical skills and a sophisticated understanding of the social, political, economic, and cultural context of our society. In stressing both skills and breath of knowledge, the Pre-Law and Legal Studies curriculum in Political Science combines the best of a pre-legal education with the rich and full tradition of a liberal arts education. As part of their pre-law and legal studies training, our majors select among strong offerings in the Departments of Philosophy, History, Sociology, and Economics.

The curriculum of the Pre-Law and Legal Studies program is rich in several respects.First, our faculty offer a core set of courses on the legal dimensions of the American political process: POLS210 Introduction to Law and the Legal System, POLS312Judicial Politics, POLS313 American Constitutional Law, and POLS214 Civil Liberties in the United States. Closely related are courses on public law and administration: POLS331 Criminal Law, Policy, and Administration (public policy/administration sub-field) and POLS344 Administrative Law (public policy/administration sub-field)

Second, across the other Political Science sub-fields of our curriculum, interested students have the opportunity to take courses that address the legal dimensions that extend to broader dimensions covered in the Political Science curriculum. These courses, and each’s respective “subfield”, are: POLS337 Women and the Law (public policy), POLS357 Comparative Law and Politics (comparative politics), POLS363International Law (international relations), and POLS374 Theories of Justice (political theory). Taken together, these courses provide a broader appreciation of the role of law and the legal process in understanding politics and society at the state, national, and international levels. The political theory course provides the opportunity for students to explore the larger philosophical issues that underlay American law and legal processes, e.g., issues of equality, justice, and order.

Third, the Department offers “study abroad” programs specifically designed to “internationalize” the study of law and legal system by Political Science majors. One of these is its three-week Strasbourg Summer Program in European Law and Institutions held in Strasbourg, France. Students who enroll in the the Strasbourg Program take courses on “Comparative European Legal Systems” and “European Union Law and Institutions”. Our other core program is the opportunity to spend a full semester enrolled in the School of Law at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Students in this program are able to core law courses (such as “torts” and “contracts”) and/or substantive courses in international law, human rights, and European institutions. Not to be missed is that the Manchester pre-law program provides students with a law school educational experience during their undergraduate education. See this website’s section on Study Abroad Programs in Pre-Law, Comparative Legal Systems, and International Law.

Finally, many pre-law and legal studies students take advantage of the Department’s internship programs in order to have a first hand experience in a political or legal setting. Through the Frasure Singleton Student Legislative Program and the Herndon Legislative Internship, the Department sponsors and arranges internships for students in the West Virginia Legislature and with the Governor’s Internship Program. In addition, the Department is affiliated with the Washington Center, an academic center in the nation’s capitol that offers a wide array of internship experiences. Pre-Law and Legal Studies students can work with their advisor in developing a specific internship tailored with their legal and policy interests in national governments.