Legal Studies in Context: About the Department

Program Description

Legal studies is an interdisciplinary liberal arts major that provides multiple perspectives on legal issues and the conceptual frameworks of law. The program is housed within the Politics Department, but it is intended to appeal to students who wish to gain from a variety of disciplinary themes and methods.

Students who join our major have the opportunity to take courses with faculty from a range of backgrounds and disciplines in the Social Sciences and Humanities, including Law, but also Politics, Sociology, Feminist Studies, Anthropology, Economics, Philosophy, and Environmental Studies. This allows our students to engage their interests through different approaches and analytical frameworks. For example, Legal Studies students might consider civil rights or privacy issues through approaches from critical race theory or feminist studies; they might use approaches from psychology and philosophy to think about problems of crime and punishment; they might use approaches from political theory and economics to think about property rights or market relations; and they might use approaches from history, sociology, and politics to think about human rights and legal systems outside the U.S.

Although Legal Studies may be of interest to students considering law school or law-related careers, the major is not organized as a “pre-law” preparation for law school. Instead, it seeks to provide a broad academic platform from which students may pursue careers or advanced studies in various fields. Graduates from our program work in many areas: education and community services, technology and software engineering, business, consulting, and accounting, the entertainment industry, media, journalism, and communications, government, non-profits and non-governmental agencies, and in the legal profession. Our alums are also successful in pursuing graduate degrees in the humanities, social sciences, business, public policy, social work, as well as in law.

Legal Studies encourages students to participate in program events, such as speakers, and to undertake law-related fieldwork or internships. Some students may also want to consider developing independent research projects on topics of special interest to them. In addition, Legal Studies encourages students to pursue additional academic opportunities. Possible programs include the UCDC program, a one-quarter program at the UC campus in Washington, D.C. that includes coursework and an internship, the Education Abroad Program (EAP), and the UC Center Sacramento, which offers a one-quarter study and internship program at the state capitol. Students with strong academic preparation who know they want to attend law school may want to consider the UCSC/UC Hastings 3+3 program, in which students can apply to the UC Hastings Law School during their Junior Year and, if accepted, earn their B.A. and J.D. in six years.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the major, students will have met the following objectives.

  • an understanding of the nature and function of law, including legal theory, institutions, and analysis;
  • an understanding the role of law and legal institutions in the broader society, including the social, political, and economic context in which it operates;
  • an understanding the unique nature of legal institutions and practices from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives;
  • the ability to analyze and critically evaluate arguments about legal theories, practices, and institutions based on logic and evidence, and from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives; and
  • the ability to develop, sustain, and communicate coherent written and oral arguments and analyses regarding legal issues based on appropriate empirical and/or theoretical evidence and logic.

Declaring the Major and Requirements of the Major

Declaring the major in legal studies is a two-step process:

1) complete and pass Legal Studies 10 with a grade of C or better;

2) bring a completed declaration of major worksheet and legal studies major worksheet to the Legal Studies Advising Office to officially declare.

(Students who are informed that they are not eligible to declare the major may appeal this decision by submitting a letter to the department chair within 15 days from the date the notification was mailed. Within 15 days of receipt of the appeal, the department will notify the student, college, and Office of the Registrar of the decision).


In addition to completing the Introduction to Legal Process course (Legal Studies 10), Legal Studies majors are required to take an introductory course in philosophy, a course on constitutional law, and a course on international or comparative law. They must also take courses in each of three broadly defined thematic areas: legal theory and philosophy, the role of law in society, and public law and legal institutions. Within the theory theme, students may take courses such as jurisprudence, logic, and social and political thought; within the law and society theme, courses range from feminism and race to psychology and economics; within the public law and institutions theme, courses range from environmental law to human rights law to an introduction to litigation. To fulfill the senior exit requirement, students can take a senior capstone seminar or they may opt to write a senior thesis.

Students develop a program of study during the major declaration process. The major requirements consist of 11 courses:

  1. Lower-Division Course Requirements—2 courses

Legal Studies 10, Introduction to Legal Process. All students are required to complete and pass Legal Studies 10 prior to declaring the major. This course is normally taken the first year.

Philosophy 9, 22, or 24 (Logic or Ethics). All legal studies majors are required to take one of the three listed (Transfer students are strongly encouraged to take a similar course prior to enrolling at UCSC).

Philosophy courses. (See the Philosophy section in this catalog for course descriptions.)

  1. Upper-Division Course Requirements—2 courses

111A, Constitutional Law OR 111B, Civil Liberties


160B International Law OR 116 Comparative Law

  1. Core Course Thematic Requirements—6 courses

Students are required to take six core courses, two in each of three thematic areas or concentrations: A. theory, B. public law and institutions, and C. law and society.


103 Feminist Interventions (Politics course)

105A Ancient Political Thought

105B Early Modern Political Thought

105C Modern Political Thought

106 Marxism as a Method

109 Legal Theory

109 Orientalism (Politics course)

128C Genealogy of Political Thoughts on Democracy, Socialism, and Anarchism

128J The World Jury on Trial

144 Social and Political Philosophy

146 Philosophy of Law

155 Topics in American Legal History

157 Political Jurisprudenc

B. Public Law and Institutions

111A Constitutional Law

111C Issues in Constitutional Law

115 Law and the Holocaust

116 Comparative Law120A Congress, President, and the Court in American Politics

120C State and Capitalism in American Political Development

125 History of U.S. Penal Law

128 Poverty and Public Policy

128J The World Jury on Trial

128M International Law and Global Justice

131 Wildlife, Wilderness, and the Law

132 California Water Law and Policy

133 Law of Democracy

134 Congress: Representation and Legislation in Comparative Perspective

135 Native Peoples Law

136 Federal Indian Law and Tribal Sovereignty

137 International Environmental Law and Policy

139 War Crimes

149 Environmental Law and Policy

152 Courts and Litigation

155 Topics in American Legal History

156 Administrative Jurisprudence

159 Property and the Law

167 Politics of International Trade

171 Law of War

175 Human Rights

C. Law and Society

107 Political Morality of Survivorship and Recovery

108 Gender, Sexuality, and the Law

110 Law and Social Issues

111B Civil Liberties

112 Women and the Law (Politics)

113 Gay Rights and the Law

114 Jews, Anti-Semitism, and the American Legal System

117 Sports, Law, and Politics

120B Society and Democracy in American Political Development

120C State and Capitalism in American Political Development

121 Black Politics and Federal Social Policy

122 The Sociology of Law

123 Law, Crime, and Social Justice

126 Law and Politics in Contemporary Japan and East Asian Societies

127 Drugs and Society

128I Race and Criminal Justice

135 Native Peoples Law

138 Political Anthropology

142 Anthropology of Law

147A Psychology and Law

147B Psychology and Law

150 Children and the Law

151 Politics of Law

154 The Legal Profession

155 Topics in American Legal History

160A Industrial Organization

162 Legal Environment of Business

169 Economic Analysis of the Law

183 Women in the Economy

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement. The DC Requirement in legal studies is satisfied by completing one of the following three paths:

  1. Completion of Legal Studies 111A and Legal Studies 160B or
  2. Completion of Legal Studies 196 or
  3. Completion of a senior thesis, Legal Studies 195A, B, C (2-3 quarters).

Comprehensive Requirement—1 course

Students can satisfy the comprehensive requirement in the legal studies major by successfully completing one of the following:

Senior Thesis (2-3 quarters). Completion of a senior thesis (Legal Studies 195A-B-C) of a minimum of 50 pages with a substantial research content, supervised by a legal studies faculty member.

Senior Capstone. The capstone (Legal Studies 196) is designed to provide an interdisciplinary integration of themes related to the study of law and includes a substantial writing requirement.


Honors in the legal studies major are awarded to graduating seniors, based primarily on a review of grades, whose academic performance is judged to be consistently excellent by a faculty committee. Highest honors in the major are reserved for students with consistently outstanding academic performance.

Transfer Students

A student transferring to UCSC must meet with the legal studies undergraduate adviser as early as possible to discuss declaring the major and course enrollment. This ensures a smooth transition. Students should bring a copy of their UCSC Transfer Credit Summary, which may be printed from the student portal.

Requirements for the Minor

To complete a minor in legal studies, a student must take Legal Studies 10 and any five upper-division legal studies core courses numbered 101-190.


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