As students return to Rutgers University–Newark this fall, those contemplating law school will benefit from an array of resources at their disposal to help them decide on, and position themselves for, professional programs and careers in the field.
In the last few years, RU-N has taken major steps to help undergrads navigate and prepare for entry into the law. These include an Undergraduate Legal Studies minor that enables students to take courses at Rutgers Law School, and for those committing early, a new combined B.A./J.D. program that lets them attain both degrees in six years.
In addition, a new Legal Professions Learning Community has attracted an inaugural cohort of 20 students this fall, and a collaboration between RU-N and Princeton Review helps students pay for LSAT prep courses.
These initiatives have been spearheaded by RU-N’s Office of Academic Services (OAS) in conjunction with Rutgers Law School and the History department, which helps administer the Undergraduate Legal Studies minor.
They form a package of resources under OAS’ Pre-Professional Services umbrella, which includes curriculum advising, workshops, campus events and professional development opportunities under four separate areas: health, engineering, pharmacy and law.
“Our goal has been to give our students access to as many learning and advising opportunities as possible around law and other pre-professional disciplines,” says OAS Dean of Academic Services Sofia F. Pinto-Figueroa, who previously served as Assistant Dean of Pre-Professional Services and led the development of all four areas. “The Undergraduate Legal Studies minor is the foundation of our Pre-Law program.”
Our goal has been to give our students access to as many learning and advising opportunities as possible around law and other pre-professional disciplines.
The minor is an 18-credit interdisciplinary course of study designed to provide students with an introduction to the law, with courses taught by faculty in the Departments of History, Political Science, Philosophy, Sociology and the Writing Program, along with the Law School and the School of Criminal Justice.
The core requirements consist of three courses: American Legal History I and II, taught by the History department, and Introduction to American Law, taught by the Law School. Other offerings include Introduction to Law & Legal Research and American Political Theory (Political Science), Philosophy of Law (Philosophy), and Constitutional Criminal Procedure (Law School). This academic year, students can look forward to courses in Islamic Jurisprudence, Sports Law, and Civil Rights and Liberties as well.
The interdisciplinary approach underscores the belief of Pinto and others that the best preparation for law school is a sound background in the liberal arts, which fosters reading, writing, critical thinking and presentation skills, along with exposure to faculty in the Law School and other RU-N colleges.
Furthermore, RU-N students can take courses at the Law School without declaring a legal studies minor. These offerings are part of the school’s Undergraduate Legal Studies Program (ULS), a set of courses developed by the Law School and SASN to feed into the minor and stand alone.
“Many, if not the majority, of students from across campus take ULS courses at the Law School without doing the minor, and the majority of those are from the School of Arts & Sciences,” says Professor Reid K. Weisbord, Chair of the ULS Program. “They count them as electives and are interested in learning more about the law so they can better navigate careers in business or criminal justice or simply have a bit more legal sophistication as they enter the working world.”
Whether students opt for the minor or take courses as electives, Pinto wants them to be aware of the abundant resources and offerings at their disposal, which they can tap by visiting an advisor at OAS.
“We’re here to help anyone who has questions,” she says. “We have an advisor here at OAS and another from the Law School. Both lend unique perspectives for students exploring this area.”