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Legal Studies

Legal Studies | Courses | Faculty

102 Gordon Hall

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Department
Office: 102 Gordon Hall
Phone: (413) 545-0021

Chair of Department: Professor John Hird. Professor Arons; Assistant Professors Hussin, Siulc, Yoon; Senior Lecturer Holmes; Lecturers Carhart, Gaitenby, Levinsky, Wing.

The Field

Legal Studies is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of law and society. As a department within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Legal Studies offers its courses to the entire University and maintains a major. There is no minor in Legal Studies. The purpose of this multifaceted program is to develop the study of law within a liberal arts framework and to explore the myriad ways in which law is connected with other disciplines pertinent to an understanding of society.

One can say that Legal Studies is education about law, whereas law school is education in law. 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 society 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 department encourages study abroad to expand cross-cultural understanding in an increasingly global political community.

The Major

Admission to the major is open to all. The introductory course, LEGAL 250, cannot be taken until sophomore year so freshmen concentrate on their General Education and Global Education requirements. Since Legal Studies is part of the New England Regional Student Program (NERSP), students from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine with Legal Studies as their primary major may be eligible for a tuition reduction. For more information, contact the Registrar’s Office. Note: a cumulative average of 2.000 is required for graduation, both within the major, and overall.


1. 250 Introduction to Legal Studies
2. Seven courses drawn from the 200-400 levels (excluding 250, 296, 298, 396, 450, 496, 498-499)
Courses recently offered include:
252 Law and Personal Freedom
275 Interdisciplinary Legal Studies
297 Special Topics:
Youth Violence and Justice
Evidence, Witnessing, Testifying and Reporting
333 Law and Culture in America
350 Modern Political Trials
367 Law, Politics and Social Change in the 20th Century
375 Human Rights and Wrongs
391 Due Process in the Criminal Trial
Cultural Theft and Intellectual Property
Victims and Offenders in the Legal Process
Law and the Family
Law and Social Activism
Women and the Law
No Place to Hide: Law and Politics of Info/Data
397 Special Topics:
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Law, Crime and Society
Law and Public Policy
Law, Society and Islam
Civil Liberties in Wartime
Legal Fictions: Makin’ It and Fakin’ It
Theories of Law and Society
Citizenship and Race
Torture, Terrorism and the Law
460 Legalization of the American Indian
465 Globalization
470 Indigenous Peoples—Global Issues
480 War Crimes Tribunals
485 Death Penalty in America
491 Seminars:
Muslim Women and the Law
Borders, Immigrants and Refugees
Law and Literature
Conflict in Cyberspace: Online Dispute Resolution
Law and Conscience
Law and the World Wide Web
Race, Gender and the Law
497 Special Topics:
Human Trafficking
Immigration Debates and Public Policy
Intimate Justice
The Irish Peace Process
Segregation, Housing Policy and Civil Rights Law in the U.S.
Who Owns Equality: Civil Rights Law in the United States
Racial Conflict, Mediation and Social Justice
Environmental and Public Policy Dispute Resolution
Social Justice Denied: Workers’ Rights in United States Law
Environmental Justice
Law in the Media
Lawyers, Advocacy and Civil Rights
3. 450 Legal Research and Writing (Junior Year Writing requirement)
4. Two liberal arts law-related courses outside the department selected from a list prepared by the department and available on its website.
Total: 33 credits.

Honors Work

The department encourages students in the major 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 honors thesis or project committees. For additional information, contact the Departmental Honors Coordinator, Diana Yoon, tel. (413) 577-0614 or email:

Independent Study Opportunities

The department offers Independent Study opportunities to graduate as well as undergraduate students through LEGAL 296, 396, 496, 596, 696 and 796. A faculty sponsor is required, and the credit does not fulfill any Legal Studies requirements.

Legal Studies/Civil Rights Clinical Project

The Civil Rights Clinical Project began in 1997 as collaboration between the Department of Legal Studies and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), and has now moved to the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (MFHC), a major advocacy organization with offices in Holyoke. The project includes a full-semester’s full-time clinical placement at MFHC and enrollment in three academic courses (one before, one during, and one after the clinical work). Since its founding, the project has grown significantly in response to the changing landscape of civil rights enforcement nationally and in Massachusetts. With the move to MFHC, the project involves students both in handling civil rights complaints at the MCAD and in assisting in cases for filing in state and federal courts. Study and research on current civil rights policy issues and in community outreach are also part of the work of interns at the agency.

The primary focus of the clinical semester is learning firsthand about the work of the MFHC, which deals with housing discrimination and predatory lending, issues closely connected with many other forms of discrimination. Allegations of discrimination are brought, with the help of MFHC attorneys and interns, to the state Housing Court, the Federal District Court or the MCAD. The work provides students with a significant opportunity to gain professional skills in investigation, application of statutory law, alternative dispute resolution, and administrative and legislative policy. A common theme that runs through the clinical training and work is development of individual and collaborative work habits and respect for critical perspectives on the broader questions of law and social justice.

For further information, contact Professor Arons, tel. (413) 545-3536 or or consult the Legal Studies website at


The department encourages students to pursue internships that will bridge the gap between the theory and practice of law. Students are required to work under the supervision of an attorney on matters that have a public interest component. Internship opportunities are posted on a bulletin board opposite Room 108 in Gordon Hall. For more information contact Judith Holmes, or tel. (413) 545-2305.

Five College Legal Studies

The University’s Legal Studies Department is allied with law and law-related faculty in the four area colleges. Students at one school may take courses at any of the other schools. A listing of law-related courses in the Five Colleges is available in the department’s main office, or from Tami Paluca, tel. (413) 545-9698 or

Career Opportunities

The focus of Legal Studies is to help students become informed, active, well-rounded, critical thinkers about law and society. Modern society is increasingly dominated by law and legal consciousness and legal literacy is important for many careers.
Legal Studies graduates have found employment in the justice system; as mental health advocates, legislative aides, and teachers; and in other public agencies. Over 20 percent of legal studies graduates go on to law schools. A clear understanding of the role of law in modern society is increasingly important to any career concerning public issues. Legal Studies is useful preparation for graduate work in such fields as psychology, history, anthropology, natural sciences, journalism, economics, or sociology.

Legal Studies | Courses | Faculty