Legal Studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of law and society within a liberal arts framework. Legal Studies explores the myriad ways in which law study is connected with other disciplines pertinent to an understanding of society. Legal studies is education about law, whereas law school is education in law. In fact, as a discipline, Legal Studies is based on the assumption that “law is too important to be left to lawyers.” The critical, humanistic approach of the program encourages students to investigate and develop their attitudes toward law and justice within the context of a growing literature of legal studies and related disciplines. Legal Studies also examines law and society from the perspective of other cultures.
The legal studies major requires 11 courses. Students must take an Introduction to Legal Studies (LEGAL 250); Seven Legal Studies courses drawn from the 200-400 levels; Legal Research and Writing (LEGAL 450); and two liberal arts law-related courses outside the department. The department is allied with law and law-related faculty at the other colleges of the Five College Interchange, where UMass Amherst students may also take courses.
Special Opportunities for Majors
Each year, a few legal studies juniors and seniors are able to work with faculty to shape an area of concentration within the field. These special opportunities require extra work beyond major requirements and are based on current projects or special interests of the faculty. Students are invited to meet with the faculty member whose current project interests them most in order to work out an agreement. Students pursuing this opportunity may expect additional academic advising tailored to the faculty-student interest, suggestions for coursework and for the integration of legal studies courses with those of other disciplines, independent study opportunities, involvement in the faculty member’s research or special project, possible participation in departmental honors, and a transcript notation or faculty letter indicating the student’s area of concentration and accomplishments.
No minor is available in Legal Studies.
Legal Studies encourages students to consider honors courses and other honors work. Virtually all legal studies faculty are open to being approached by students wishing to establish honors colloquia or independent studies, or to create an honors thesis or project committee.
Study Abroad and Internships
Legal Studies encourages study abroad to expand cross-cultural understanding in an increasingly global political community. Students should contact the International Programs Office (413.545.2710) and consult with their academic advisor as necessary.
Internships are a very useful experience and students are encouraged to investigate available opportunities. Click here for more information on internships.
A clear understanding of the role of law in society is increasingly important to any career concerning public issues. Legal Studies helps student s become informed, active, well-rounded, critical thinkers about law and society. Society is increasingly dominated by law and legal consciousness, and legal literacy is important for many careers. For example, Legal Studies graduates pursue careers in the justice system and other public agencies, work as mental health advocates, legislative aids, and teachers. Over twenty percent of legal studies graduates go on to law schools, including some of the most prestigious schools in the county. Legal Studies is useful preparation for graduate work in such fields as psychology, history, anthropology, natural sciences, journalism, economics, or sociology.
218 Thompson Hall
Undergraduate Academic Advisor: Barb Ciesluk
210 Thompson Hall, 413.545.2695