The University is justly proud of its tradition in providing students seeking careers in the law with a solid preparation for the demands of legal study and practice. Scranton graduates in all regions of the nation have achieved distinction in virtually every area of the law, including a member who served as a clerk to the late William Rehnquist, former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The clearest measure of the strength of the University’s Pre-Law Advisory Program is the remarkable success its graduates have had in winning admittance to law schools throughout the country. Recent graduates have been admitted to many prestigious law schools, including Berkeley, Chicago, Georgetown, Penn, American University, Boston College, Catholic University, Dickinson, Fordham, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Temple, Texas, and Villanova.
No specific undergraduate major is required for admission to law school; the American Bar Association’s statement on Preparation for Legal Education does not recommend any particular group of either majors or individual courses, noting that “the law is too multifaceted, and the human mind too adaptable, to permit such a linear approach to preparing for law school or the practice of law.” The ABA statement, however, does describe certain skills and values that are essential to success in law school and to competent practice. These are:
1. Analytic and Problem Solving skills, involving critical thinking and the ability to structure and evaluate arguments for and against propositions;
2. Critical Reading Abilities, derived from substantial experience in the close reading and critical analysis of complex texts;
3. Writing Skills, developed through rigorous practice in preparing and revising original pieces of substantial length;
4. Oral Communication and Listening Abilities, based on experience in giving and evaluating formal presentations;
5. Research and Time Management Skills, involving the ability to plan a research strategy, to undertake substantial library work, and to organize large amounts of information within a fixed period of time; and, not least of all,
6. A Commitment to Serving Others and Promoting Justice, based on significant experience in service projects while an undergraduate.
The skills noted above can be acquired by students majoring or minoring in any discipline that involves intensive reading and extensive writing such as, for example, English, history or political science. At the same time, students who have majored in other areas, including philosophy, languages, management, any of the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences, have enjoyed success in the study and practice of law. Ultimately, the best preparation for law school comes from taking challenging courses from demanding professors.
In addition to these skills and values, the ABA has identified several more specific areas of knowledge that pre-law students should acquire as undergraduates. The University’s General Education Program provides a framework whereby all can be acquired through the General Education requirements applicable to all majors.
- a broad understanding of American history (HIST 110 - HIST 111 )
- a fundamental understanding of political thought and the American political system (PS 130 - PS 131 )
- a basic understanding of ethical theory (PHIL 210 )
- a grounding in economics, especially microeconomic theory (ECO 153 )
- an understanding of basic pre-calculus mathematics (MATH 106 or equivalent)
- a basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction (PSYC 110 or SOC 110 )
- an understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States (the 6-credit cultural-diversity GE requirement)
In addition to the courses listed above which satisfy general education requirements, certain departments offer courses that can be of particular value to pre-law students and which, depending upon their major, can be taken as electives within either the major or cognate. Such courses include HIST 337 (British Constitutional and Legal History), PHIL 215 (Logic), PS 311 - PS 312 (American Constitutional Law), S/CJ 218 (The American Court System), S/CJ 210 (Law and Society), CJ 312 (Criminal Law), S/CJ 317 (Trial, Jury and Council, and WRTG 212 (Writing for the Law).
Interested students with a grade point average above 3.00 at the time of application may, with the approval of the appropriate dean, receive academic credit for internships served in the offices of either private law firms or various legal agencies such as the district attorney, public defender, or district magistrate. Prior approval of the planned internship is necessary. A minimum of 120 hours work is required for internship credit in PS 280 . Application forms for these internships are available from the Registrar’s Office.
Pre-Law Advisory Council
A pre-law advisory council headed by Dr. Matthew Meyer, Director of the Pre-Law Advisory Program, provides continuing advice on course selection, career planning and the law school application process. He is assisted by Dr. Gretchen Van Dyke, moderator of the student Pre-Law Society, along with faculty members from the departments of Communication, Criminal Justice, English, History, Management, and Political Science.
Law School Admission Test
Along with a student’s undergraduate academic record, the LSAT score is a critical factor in the law-school-admission process. Ordinarily, pre-law students take the LSAT at the end of the junior year or early in the senior year. As a means of assisting University students to score up to their fullest potential on the LSAT, on-campus LSAT workshops are offered at least once each year. These provide University students with an alternative to costly commercial test-preparation services.