Although the Honors Program is compatible with any major, pre-law students have found it especially valuable. A major in Liberal Studies, coupled with a minor or second major in such disciplines as English, political science, history, economics, or philosophy, provides an excellent preparation for law school. Concentration on analytic reading, extensive writing with constructive feedback from faculty, and continual opportunity in a supportive environment to speak one’s mind, help Honors Program students to develop the skills needed for success in law school.
Below we highlight some portions of the recent statement of the Pre-Law Committee of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar [hereafter cited as ABA]. The ABA Pre-law recommendations show why the Honors Program is ideal preparation for law school.
Since “The student who comes to law school lacking a broad range of basic skills and knowledge will face a difficult challenge” (ABA), the ABA recommendations include the following:
“Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education” (ABA).
Honors courses provide an adequate challenge. We study real books that are classic texts, not dumbed-down textbooks.
“You should seek courses and other experiences that will engage you in critical thinking about important issues, challenge your beliefs and improve your tolerance for uncertainty. Your legal education will demand that you structure and evaluate arguments for and against propositions that are susceptible to reasoned debate” (ABA).
This exactly describes Honors Program seminar courses.
“Preparation for legal education should include substantial experience at close reading and critical analysis of complex textual material, for much of what you will do as a law student and lawyer involves careful reading and comprehension of judicial opinions, statues, documents, and other written materials. As with the other skills discussed in this Statement, you can develop your critical reading ability in a wide range of experiences, including the close reading of complex material in literature, political or economic theory, philosophy, or history” (ABA).
Close reading and critical analysis of complex material is one focus of all Honors Programs courses.
“Language is the most important tool of a lawyer, and lawyers must learn to express themselves clearly and concisely. … You should seek as many experiences as possible that will require rigorous and analytical writing, including preparing original pieces of substantial length and revising written work in response to constructive criticism” (ABA).
The Honors Program includes Writing Labs in which students revise papers following constructive criticism, all seminar courses require writing, and the Senior Essay course requires a lengthy essay, so Honors students have many chances to learn to write well.
“The ability to speak clearly and persuasively is another skill that is essential to your success in law school and the practice of law. You must also have excellent listening skills if you are to understand your clients and others with whom you will interact daily” (ABA).
All Honors Program courses are conducted by directed discussion, so students practice daily the skills of speaking clearly and listening carefully.