Sociology/Justice Studies Pre-Law Preparation
Plan your pathway to a career in the legal profession.
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. However, law schools do not require any set curriculum for admission – so, 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).
If you are interested in specializing in certain areas of law such as business and tax law, you might consider accounting courses, or if you’re interested in patent law, you might consider courses in biology, chemistry and physics.
Of course, exposure to legal reading, writing, research and ideas are important, too. It will be particularly helpful if you take several courses requiring sustained research and writing experiences.
Many law schools also like to see that students have had one or more internship or job experience 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 a 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.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
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
Applying to law school requires significant advance planning. You will want to begin preparing at least six months prior to the date when you will submit your applications. The Law School Admission Council provides much of what you need to know about navigating this process.
The first step in the application process is to register with Law School Data Admissions Service (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 six 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 University, New England School of Law, the University of Wisconsin and Louisiana State University.
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 provide training in research and writing skills. Legal translators, of course, need fluency in the language(s) of the people they will be working with. You may find it useful to take advanced language courses, particularly those that focus 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 University offers one, as do many online programs such as Boston University and UMass Lowell (online programs can be surprisingly affordable, even at private universities).
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.
The Department of Political Science oversees degree programs in political science, public administration, geography and a certificate program in international nongovernmental organizations.