Pre-Law History

Students interested in a career in law may pursue a major in History specifically designed to prepare them for law school admission.

2014-2015 History Pre-Law major Degree Program Course List (DPCL)
2013-2014 History Pre-Law major Degree Program Course List (DPCL)
2012-2013 History Pre-Law major Degree Program Course List (DPCL)

For more information about the major, please contact the Department Chair, David Moore.

The pre-law track requires a minimum of 31 credit hours to complete the major, satisfying the following distribution of courses:

I. History (19 hours)

Global History: T122/T124 (see Intro Common Curriculum)
U.S. History I: A 200
U.S. History II: A 201
Historical Methods Lab: A202
European History Elective
2 Not U.S. or European History Electives
Historiography: A400

II. Legal History (9 hours)

One of the following American Legal History Courses:

  • A230 Law in Early America
  • A231 Law in Modern America
  • A232 American Trials

Two Legal History Electives. Choose from the Following Courses:

  • A230 Law in Early America
  • A231 Law in Modern America
  • A232 American Trials
  • A305 Medieval Crime and Community
  • A332 Revolutionary America
  • U396 Law: Ancient World
  • A394 The Origins of Law
  • A394 Punishment in Modern Japan

III. Global Issues (3 hours)

Students are required to take HIST A235 Global Issues twice.

Please note:

  • One of the above courses (excluding HIST T122) must be a pre-modern course.
  • Legal history courses must be from at least two (2) geographical regions.

How does this program prepare me for law school?

The American Bar Association offers students seeking admittance to law school the following clear advice. Students need to apply to the program prepared in the following areas: analytical / problem solving skills, critical reading, writing skills, oral communication / listening abilities, general research skills, task organization, public service, and the promotion of justice. In developing the pre-law concentration, the History Department has taken these criteria to heart to produce a program that fulfills those goals.

With the multitude of history courses focused entirely on the evolution of the law, students will not only develop the necessary skills required for law school, but they will have a first-hand opportunity to apply their newfound problem-solving skills to historical legal issues. HIST A232 “American Trials,” for example, steps students through famous historical trials, such as Marbury v. Madison, the Scopes Trial, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade. This course not only helps students gain clear insight into the litigation process, but also the social, political, legal, and historical implications of the losses or victories in those famed cases.

Historical analysis plays a huge role in contemporary trends in American jurisprudence. The most pressing debate in contemporary constitutional law has been over the doctrine of “originalism.” Its supporters maintain that the Constitution should be interpreted by the original meanings grasped by people of late eighteenth-century America, in opposition to advocates who consider the Constitution to be a “living, breathing” document that must be interpreted in light of changing social realities. Both of these approaches demand that lawyers and judges develop a sophisticated understanding of historical analysis.

Problem-solving in history, as in law, relies heavily on a strong foundation in research skills. To offer an example: a lawyer hired to initiate a lawsuit in gender discrimination in the workplace must study the changes in the legal status of women, women’s property rights, statistical research on women in the work place, and wage differentiations over the last 100 years. This is exactly the kind of research our students utlize in their historical work, making the discipline of history a natural major for any student hoping to go on to law school.

Lawyers and judges must be able to construct a logical, persuasive argument on their feet. All our students complete 3 credit hours in “Global Issues,” a class dedicated to formal debates on current events in order to prepare them for the courtroom experience. “Global Issues” also focuses attention on globalization. Law needs to be understood in a comparative perspective since it is a field that spans different legal traditions and jurisdictions. In this way, students will be exposed to the world of law and be better prepared for the next step in the pursuit of a degree in law.

History Course Descriptions