Legal Studies Concentration May Come to Campus in Fall 2013

Pending the Board of Trustee’s approval and recognition from the state of New Jersey, there could be a legal studies concen­tration added to the political sci­ence department. This course of study will be offered in a similar fashion to the international rela­tions concentration offered.

Dr. Joseph Patten, Chair of the Political Science Department, said, “Our department had an external evaluator a few years back and she, at the time, recom­mended giving more attention to the area of legal studies.”

According to Dr. Gregory Bor­delon, lecturer for the Political Science Department, there are approximately 15 to 20 students minoring in legal studies. He also said that each year since he became the legal advisor, 10 to 15 students from the University apply to law schools around the country.

Next year, however, there will be between 35 and 40 students applying to law schools, which is why the concentration was added.

Bordelon said, “We found a siz­able amount of students gravitat­ing towards the minor and wanted to service them best as possible.”

Bordelon went on to say that the pre-law club has grown in membership, along with the mock trial team, which will field two trial teams next year and will also add a moot trial team.

Dr. Stanton Green, Dean of Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sci­ences, said, “The concentration should provide students with a more focused pre-law program, which will provide them with better preparation so that they can better present themselves to law schools and hopefully better LSAT scores.”

Harmony Bailey, a history major with a legal studies minor, said, “As a legal studies minor, most classes I have to take are political science, criminal justice, and philosophy. I en­joy these types of classes and I think that they help the college student un­derstand the world around them in clearer terms and they really make me feel comfortable with the idea of having to prepare for the LSAT tests.”

Shawna Sullivan, a student in the Master in Public Policy program at the University, said, “The legal stud­ies minor should absolutely be made into a major. I think that an area that has been neglected in the past for the Political Science Department is its pre-law subdivision. The amount of interest in pursuing a legal education is extremely high both within and out­side the department.”

Peter Reinhart, Director of Kislak Real Estate Institute, said, “The big­gest differences from undergraduate at Franklin and Marshall College and law school at Rutgers Camden were the amount of homework and prepa­ration for each class and the pressure on tests. In law school, the entire grade was the final exam.”

Albert Calise, professor of com­munication, said, “I think it will help students make a determination if law is the right approach for them. It will also allow students to pursue other le­gal related careers such as paralegals.”

Green believes this could make the University a more attractive destina­tion for college bound students. “The concentration should improve student success in getting into law school, which in turn will lead to Mon­mouth’s attraction of more and better students,” said Green.

Noah Lipman, instructor of his­tory who attended Pace Law School in New York said, “While having a law or legal studies minor might not help students get into law school, it would bring about an increased in­terest in going to law school. Law schools, for the most part, do not care what you majored in. Rather, their primary focus is on GPA and LSAT scores.”

Lipman continues, “I do not think it is necessary to have a ‘law major.’ Rather, students should focus on courses that concern the Constitu­tion and current government devel­opment.”

Bailey said, “By making it a ma­jor I feel there would be more op­portunities for students interested in law to actually learn along the guideline of the law studies that one may wish to pursue.”

According to Bordelon, the main difference between the general po­litical science major and the legal studies concentration is that stu­dents will have to take 12 credits more of American Legal Studies courses or PSAL and Judicial Sys­tems which was offered in fall of 2012 for the first time. There is also an attempt to create a legal research methods class to be included in the minor and concentration.

The main issue with this new concentration is how the concen­tration will keep up with the trends from law schools.

Bordelon said, “As law schools change, we are trying to just main­tain the curve on how we can best prepare students for a legal educa­tion.”

Patten recommends that stu­dents who are looking to attend law school take undergraduate courses with writing, substantial homework and critical thinking.

Reinhart agrees with Patten. “Monmouth students should take classes that allow them to improve their writing skills as well as speak­ing skills. Also, classes with large amounts of homework are helpful since the workload in law school is far greater than undergraduate. A course with a major thesis would be helpful,” said Reinhart.

Calise said that law classes and un­dergraduate courses are “Completely different in terms of content, context and volume.”

Calise continued, “With under­graduate law classes, they give stu­dents a sample, where law school classes are very detailed in their stud­ies.”

Bordelon believes this concentra­tion will help combine policy and law; however, he recommends that students need to find their “niche” and stick with it for success in anything not just law.

Patten said, “All students interested in political science can see the wide range the major offers.”

Lipman said, “I believe that these courses, especially history, helped me in law school because I could under­stand from where the current prac­tices of law developed.”

The legal studies concentration can offer a multitude of options aside from law school. “Students with legal background can work in myriad ca­reers, including management in cor­porations, non-profit organizations, government and entrepreneurial work,” said Green.

No additional staff will need to be hired because of the concentration. It will be upon the political science department to share the responsibili­ties of teaching the legal classes. The legal studies minor will remain on the books for those who do not want to make legal studies their major.

The first year of law school is known as “The year they scare you to death,” according to Bordelon. The first year of law school is known for Socratic Method, a massive workload and competition from other students to not fall behind.

Bordelon said, “My hope is that students are not blinded sided by the first year and students are prepared with skills such as case briefs and out­lining.”

Reinhart believes that law school has a larger objective, “I believe law school success is achieved by gain­ing the ability to ‘Think like a law­yer’ more so than any particular un­dergraduate course. To the extent an undergraduate law class or law minor expedites a student learning to think like a lawyer that would be helpful. A high GPA and high score on the LSAT are still most important to admittance into law school,” said Reinhart.

According to Bordelon, more law schools want to make students “prac­tice ready” upon graduation which is why a lot of law schools are beginning to change their philosophy in prepar­ing students.

Reinhart agrees that lawyers are expected to be prepared earlier. “The most important skill for a lawyer is the ability to express yourself in writ­ing and verbally. The ability to write concisely, persuasively and under­standably will serve a lawyer well,” said Reinhart.

Reinhart continued, “Another nec­essary skill is the ability to drill down through material to understand the essential points. Also, the ability to manage your time is an important skill to have. Many students must work while attending law school and therefore finding time to work, pre­pare for class and otherwise exist is an essential talent to possess.”