Pre-Law Information for Political Science Majors
Political Science is a traditional undergraduate field of study for students applying to law school. There is a close relationship between the study of law and politics. The discipline of Political Science is concerned with advancing students’ understanding of: how laws are made, the political actors who are responsible for making the laws within the context of political institutions at the state, national and international levels, and how laws are interpreted by legal institutions and implemented by bureaucracies and political communities.
According to the most recent data obtained from the Law School Admission Council, Political Science continues to be the top undergraduate major of law school applicants:
The Political Science pre-law curriculum follows The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools’ recommendations for preparing undergraduates for law school. The Political Science major is compatible with what law schools are looking for in prospective students: students who are able to think, read, write and communicate well.
The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools states that there are some areas of basic knowledge that are helpful in preparing for law school. The Political Science major helps students develop general knowledge in 4 of the 5 areas listed in the Official Guide:
- “A broad understanding of history, including the various factors (social, political, economic, and cultural) that have influenced the development of our society in the United States.”
- “A fundamental understanding of political thought and of the contemporary American political system.”
- “A basic understanding of human behavior and social interaction.”
- “An understanding of diverse cultures within and beyond the United States, of international institutions and issues, of world events, and of the increasing interdependence of the nations and communities within our world.”
Political Science Pre-Law Curriculum
Introductory Level Courses
- PS 1100: Introduction to American Politics
- PS 1500: Introduction to Comparative Politics
Courses in Political Theory
Any course in political theory
- PS 1200: Foundations of Law: Introduction to Legal Studies
- PS 2260: Law, Politics & Society
- PS 2280: Judicial Politics & Policy
- PS 2290: Gender and the Law
Case Law Courses
These courses are taught in Political Science using the “case law” format which requires students to read, brief and critically examine U.S. Supreme Court cases in the areas of separation of powers, federalism, property rights, First Amendment rights, rights of the criminally accused, equality and the right to privacy. Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties courses (the names of the courses may vary in law schools) are part of all ABA-approved law schools’ curricula.
- PS 3200: Constitutional Law
- PS 3210: Civil Liberties
Courses in American National Institutions
These courses help students understand the structure and operation of national political institutions:
- PS 3260: The Supreme Court
- PS 3300: The American Presidency
- PS 3310: Congressional Politics
- PS 3400: Bureaucratic Politics
- PS 3350: Political Parties and Elections
Courses in Comparative Politics or International Relations
For those students interested in International Law:
- PS 4850: International Law; and
- Any 2000-3000 level course in comparative politics or international relations, depending on the student’s interest
Public Affairs Internship
The Official Guide states that members of the legal profession should promote the values of serving others and improve fairness and the quality of justice in the legal system. One way for undergraduates to demonstrate their commitment to these principles is through participation in campus or community service projects. Another way is to sign up for an internship for course credit through the Political Science Department. The Department’s Faculty Internship Coordinator will assist students in choosing an internship in a law-related organization (Public Defender’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office, ACLU, for example).
PS 3940: Public Affairs Internship
- PS 3900: Special Readings, is an independent-study flexible course option for students who wish to do in-depth reading and research in some substantive area beyond the regular course work they have already taken in that area.
- Study Abroad gives Political Science majors a global outlook and enhance their studies.
- Any elective course that emphasizes critical thinking, analytic, problem solving and research skills will preparestudents for a challenging legal education.
Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity
Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity is the leading law fraternity in the world. It is a professional service organization composed of pre-law students, law students, legal educators, attorneys, judges and government officials. There are many law school chapters, pre-law chapters and alumni chapters in the United States and abroad. Phi Alpha Delta is the only fraternity (coed) to recognize the needs of pre-law students. The UM-St. Louis Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Chapter was chartered in 2000 through the efforts of the Political Science Department’s Pre-Law Advisor.
As stated in the Bylaws, the purpose of Phi Alpha Delta, UM-St. Louis Pre-Law Chapter, is “to provide an effective, cohesive forum . . . to promote the principles, ideals, and precepts of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International; to promote the principles for the professional advancement of its members; to promote the principles of liberty and equal justice under law for all citizens; to stimulate excellence in scholarship; to provide a forum for the interchange between members of this chapter and the other members of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, and to develop lasting friendships among its members.”
Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity is devoted to addressing the needs of pre-law students and help them pursue a career in law. The motto of Phi Alpha Delta is, “Service to the student, the school, the profession and the community.” This organization will accomplish the following through regular meetings and advice from the Phi Alpha Delta Faculty Advisor: establish networking opportunities to develop contacts with Phi Alpha Delta students, legal educators, attorneys and judges; access to valuable information in order to make an informed choice about law school; opportunities to engage in Mock Trial competitions; and to allow pre-law students a forum to discuss legal topics, programming ideas, and chapter events.
Pre-Law Advising Information
The Political Science Department assigns a faculty member in the law-related area to act as advisor to Political Science majors who are interested in attending law school. The Political Science Pre-Law advisor assists students in designing their political science curriculum and choosing elective courses that will reveal their capacity to perform at an intellectually challenging level to law school admission committees.
The Political Science Pre-Law Advisor assists political science majors in the following ways:
- Selecting challenging courses that will help majors prepare for law school.
- Help majors understand the law school admission process, including filling out applications, writing personal statements, how to obtain good letters of recommendations, the LSDAS (Law School Data Assembly Service), financial aspects of law school and dispelling “myths” about the law school admission process.
- Assist in preparation for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) which is required for admission to all ABA-approved law schools.