for Sociology & Justice Studies Students
Sociology/Justice Studies Pre-Law Advisor:
Professor Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur
Because of the number of law and justice related courses offered through the sociology and justice studies programs at Rhode Island College, many students interested in legal careers choose to major in one or both of these fields. If you have aspirations to a legal career, this page will provide helpful resources for planning your college curriculum and will also discuss some non-attorney career paths in law.
Do be aware that law schools do not require any set curriculum for admission--you can major in any discipline without limiting your chances of getting in. It is worthwhile to make sure you take a broad set of liberal arts courses. Some areas of study that you may wish to include in your program are those in English, writing, computer skills, and philosophy (especially logic); those who are interested in certain legal specialties might consider accounting courses (for those interested in business and tax law) or biology, chemistry, and physics courses (for those interested in patent law). Of course, exposure to legal reading, writing, research, and ideas is important too. It will be particularly helpful if you ensure that you have had the opportunity to take several courses requiring sustained research and writing experiences. Many law schools also like to see that students have had one or more internships or job experiences related to law or public service prior to admission. Do be aware that at many law schools, the average age of students is 25 or 26, so if you are a younger student you might want to consider working in law (as support staff) or in public service for a year or two before applying to law school. Some law schools also consider leadership experiences important, so time spent in student organizations, volunteer work, or other activities may be helpful.
Though there are many decisions about your courses and other activities that can make a difference in law school admissions, far and away the two most important factors are your GPA and your LSAT scores. The LSAT is a standardized test required for admission to law school; it combines reading comprehension and logical reasoning questions and requires you to write an essay as well. The LSAT/GPA calculator is a good way to predict your chances of admission at various law schools. Keep in mind that this site only provides estimates--students can and do gain acceptance at schools for which their credentials seem low, especially if they have life experiences or special skills to draw on. Because the LSAT and GPA are so important, you should focus on ensuring that they are as high as possible. Though LSAT preparation courses are expensive, they can play a significant role in raising your score. At a minimum, you should get LSAT preparation books or software and spend several months working to raise your score.
Applying to law school requires significant advance planning?you will want to begin preparing at least 6 months prior to the date when you will submit your applications. The Law School Admissions Council provides much of what you need to know about navigating this process. Your first step in the application process is to register with LSDAS, the service that will compile and submit your application packet for you. You will need to complete this registration process through the LSAC website at least 6 weeks before you plan to begin applying to law school. The LSAC website is also where you register to take the LSAT. The test is offered four times a year, in February, June, September, and December, and registration is four to six weeks prior to the exam (most applicants take the exam in September). In addition to the LSAT, you will need to provide the LSDAS with transcripts and letters of recommendation, so it is never too early to begin cultivating relationships with professors and others who can attest to your qualifications for law school.
Though the law school application process can seem daunting, many RIC sociology and justice studies majors have been successful in gaining admission to law schools, including Roger Williams, New England School of Law, the University of Wisconsin, and Louisiana State University. If you are interested in law school, you should meet with a pre-law adviser early in your undergraduate career (or at least soon after you begin considering law school) to discuss your curricular choices and the law school application process. Sociology and Justice Studies majors who would like to speak to a pre-law advisor should contact Professor Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur.
There are many legal careers out there besides being a lawyer. These include-but are not limited to-paralegals, legal secretaries, legal translators, court clerks, other court officials, court advocates, and a wide variety of other careers. For many of these positions, a bachelor's degree with some legal training and an internship or job in a legal setting are the primary credentials you will need. Your course choices should emphasize those in which you gain skills in reading and working with legal documents as well as those that providing training in research and writing skills. Legal translators of course need fluency in the language(s) they will work with; you may find it useful to take advanced language courses, particularly those focusing on translation skills. Graduate degree programs in translation are available as well. While paralegal jobs do not require any education beyond a bachelor's degree, some students interested in paralegal careers opt to earn a certificate in paralegal studies after they complete their bachelor's degree. Such certificates take about one semester to complete; Roger Williams offers one, as do many online programs such as those at Boston University and UMass Lowell (online programs can be surprisingly affordable, even at private universities).