Legal studies is an interdisciplinary major offered under the auspices of the Politics Department. It is designed for students who wish to use the methods and perspectives of various academic disciplines to study legal issues and to use the conceptual framework of the law to illuminate empirical and theoretical concerns in the various disciplines. For example, a student might use approaches from psychology and philosophy to study the legal problem of punishment; or draw on doctrinal categories from public and private law to study the changing historical role of market and nonmarket relations within ongoing institutions; or use approaches from critical race theory and feminist studies to better understand matters of civil rights and privacy.
To complete the major, students are required to take courses in legal institutions, constitutional law, and international law, as well as take courses in each of three broad themes: legal theory and philosophy, the role of law in society, and legal institutions. Each of these themes is intentionally broadly defined. Within legal theory, students may take courses in legal jurisprudence, logic, and theories of crime and punishment; within law and society, courses range from feminism and race to psychology and economics; within public law and institutions, courses range from environmental law to human rights law to an introduction to litigation. Students are also expected to take an introductory course in philosophy. To fulfill the senior exit requirement, students have the option to write a senior thesis or take a senior capstone seminar. The seminar topic changes quarterly.
Legal studies is intended to appeal to students who wish to take a concentration of courses on the law from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. The major is not intended as a substitute or preparation for any part of a law school curriculum but rather as a full field of study within the liberal arts curriculum. As such, it is a good preparation for a variety of future activities. Students graduating in legal studies are particularly well qualified to pursue graduate work on legal topics in humanities and social science disciplines or to attend professional school in fields such as public policy, business administration, social work, and law. Students are also encouraged to participate in field work and law-related internships in the community, and to develop their own extensive independent research projects.