While it's an appropriate major for pre-law students, a bachelor's degree program in non-professional general legal studies is usually not designed to prepare students for law school, nor does it bestow paralegal training. Instead, it introduces the fundamental concepts of the field, which can provide an educational foundation for a wide range of careers.
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Pre-law and other interested students can find programs at several universities that were highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 2017. Northwestern University, the University of California in Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the University of Pittsburgh are four of these schools and are profiled below.
Northwestern University in Evanston, IL
|School Highlight: The school offers a minor in legal studies for those who do not want to major in it.|
Northwestern University ranked as the 12th-best school among national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report in 2017. The school offers a legal studies bachelor's program that requires an individualized research paper, as well as interdisciplinary studies that focus on the intersection of legal systems and human society. The legal studies major at Northwestern must be combined with another major from any one of the university's other schools.
University of California - Berkeley
|School Highlight: Legal studies department offers an honors program with a thesis option for qualified seniors.|
U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of California in Berkeley 20th among national universities for 2017. The university offers a bachelor's degree program in legal studies that includes coursework in legal theory, history and justice administration, as well as focused topics on the Constitution and ancient cultures. Each year, the university's law school and legal studies departments co-host a conference for undergraduate students engaged in law-focused research.
University of Wisconsin - Madison
|School Highlight: The Center for Law, Society and Justice coordinates mentoring prospects for legal studies students.|
In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Wisconsin in Madison 44th among national universities. The Center for Law, Society, and Justice at the university offers a Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies with a corresponding honors program for qualified students. The program draws on courses and faculty from various departments in the social sciences. Required courses include the study of law in relationship to politics, society and culture; criminal justice; statistics and research methodology.
University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA
|School Highlight: The school was ranked #24 by U.S. News & World Report among all public schools for 2017.|
The University of Pittsburgh confers a Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies. As part of this interdisciplinary major, students must take core courses in legal studies as well as classes in related social science disciplines, such as political science, psychology, public service and English composition, among others. A minor is also available in the field. For 2017, Pitt was ranked #68 among national universities by U.S. News & World Report.
Top Non-Professional General Legal Studies Schools
These schools also offer strong legal studies programs:
- The unconventional curriculum structure at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, allows legal studies students to take classes in the major during their first semester.
- At Indiana University in Bloomington, the legal studies major may be combined with an additional business school major.
- Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, offers an interdisciplinary legal studies program that incorporates politics, communication and ethics.
- At St. John's University in Queens, NY, students are provided with access to online law libraries such as Westlaw and WestNext.
- The legal studies program at the University of Illinois in Springfield offers concentrations in general legal studies or legal assistant.
- At the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, legal studies students are encouraged to participate in the study abroad program.
For undergraduates who want to study concepts of law, whether to prepare for a paralegal career or not, there are legal studies programs available at well-regarded colleges and universities. Many of these schools offer unique opportunities to students, such as exclusive access to online libraries and dual-degree options.