|Convener: Mark S. Howenstein
Faculty: Aaron Lorenz
About the Major
The Law and Society major invites students to deepen their understanding of law in its historical and social contexts. Through the study of law from ancient societies to our contemporary day, students are urged to regard law not simply as a body of rules but as a dynamic institution shaped by historical forces and social imperatives. While the program’s courses emphasize the origins, values and practices of the Anglo-American legal tradition, equal emphasis is given to such contemporary issues as crime and social policy and the protection of civil liberties amidst a public imperative for a safe society. Law and Society students can choose to tailor their interests to match the courses offered by the electives in the major.
The major offers introductory courses that provide a comprehensive understanding necessary to build a foundation of theory and method for thinking critically about issues concerning the legal system and its relationship with society. In the Introduction to Law and Society, students consider a comprehensive view of the law and the legal system in the United States. Students learn how to read and analyze legal cases, as well as a fundamental understanding of jurisprudence. In addition, students are introduced to a multidisciplinary approach to viewing the interaction of society with the legal system. These various disciplines include: history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, anthropology, and comparative study. The critique of various systems and disciplines help students understand the limits and possibilities available for participation in these systems. In the Introduction to Law and Justice, students consider the theories of justice most influential to the legal tradition of this country including natural law, positive law, utilitarianism, social contract, entitlement theory, law and economics, critical theory. Students study emerging themes such as: the relationship between law and morality; the relationship between law and power; the relationship between the individual and the state; the relationship between domestic legal justice and international justice. Students critically examine competing definitions of justice influence legal decisions, policy and even the structure of how disputes are resolved.
Core courses in Comparative Legal Systems, Contemporary Issues and American Legal History provide an opportunity to deepen the foundational understanding provided in the introductory courses through the examination of more theoretical or case study detail.
Students are strongly recommended to complete the two introductory courses before enrolling in Core and Critical Process courses or electives. Similarly, students are strongly recommended to complete all of the non-elective courses described before advanced courses.
Law and Society Field Study, Directed Readings, and Senior Thesis
In these advanced courses, students are offered special opportunities for independent study and field experience. Working with a Law and Society faculty advisor, students are encouraged to define their Senior program so as to deepen their own intellectual and career aspirations.
Field Study: This course allows students to combine study and practice in a law-related field placement such as in legislative and executive offices, criminal justice settings, and a broad range of legal advocacy groups. Students who wish to conduct their field study in the nation’s capital, may do so through the College’s affiliation with the institute for Experiential Learning. Those students wishing to do field study in Washington, D.C., or other distant sites, should confer in their Sophomore year with the faculty member coordinating Field Studies.
Directed Readings: This course allows students to advance their understanding of the work accomplished through previous coursework and field study, and in preparation for their senior thesis. Students select a comprehensive topic area and pursue a course of reading, discussion, and the completion of a variety of assignments with their faculty advisor.
Senior Thesis: The final course in the major, it encourages students to synthesize their coursework, readings, and field study through the preparation of a Senior paper on a substantive topic of Law and Society inquiry.
Careers in Law and Society
Since the Law and Society major is a broad-based interdisciplinary major in the humanities and social sciences, it provides a solid foundation for many professional and nonprofessional career options, including public service, law enforcements, health care, social services, and legal administration. The major is not designed specifically as a pre-law major, though a number of Law and Society graduates enter law school each year.
The major is offered by the School of Social Science and Human Services and leads to a B.A. degree.
A minor is not available.
Students who have declared, or wish to declare a major in Law and Society and who have attained 45 credits, must see the Law and Society Convener for a conference. Interested students should have successfully completed the two introductory courses: "Law and Society" and "Law and Justice." Criteria for continuation in the program include the following (1) review of grades in the two 100-level Law and Society courses, (2) cumulative G.P.A. at 45 credits, (3) recommendations from Law and Society faculty, (4) readiness for the major’s upper level coursework and the Senior thesis.
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