Pre-Law Minor

The Pre-Law minor provides an excellent foundation for students who plan to attend law school. It is designed to introduce students to the study of law and the judicial process and at the same time to provide an orientation to the law which is more general than that of most law schools. This minor is highly recommended for students who want to enter law school, to prepare for paralegal careers, or to seek careers in criminology.  Students who elect this minor may anticipate legal careers in (1) government and large businesses, (2) law firms, (3) individual or partnership practice of civil law, (4) trial practice, including criminal law, and (5) teaching. The minor is designed to introduce students to the study of law and judicial process and also provides a general orientation for law school.

Since very few law schools provide information about the political, economic, societal, and psychological environment in which the law exists, this background must generally be acquired prior to or after law school. The Pre-Law minor and the liberal arts education are intended to give students the analytical skills and substantive background in those courses which will most likely contribute to the student’s development.

Upon admission, each student works with a pre-law advisor, who helps the student develop a strategy for selecting courses, identifying an appropriate departmental major (degree program), and navigating the law school application process.

Like most of the better pre-law programs, SMWC’s program allows students to major in virtually any field of study while taking a number of courses which will help prepare them for the rigors of law school. While some majors–history, philosophy, political science–are traditionally considered preparation for legal studies, students are admitted to law school from virtually every academic discipline.  In recent years, pre-law students have majored in diverse fields. Students are encouraged to adopt a major which will serve their career goals, often combining a traditional liberal arts discipline with courses oriented towards future legal study and work.

Curriculum - The Liberal Arts Degree Requirements

Our liberal arts curriculum, with its emphasis on critical thinking and effective oral and written communication, will help you hone the skills you will need to perform well on the LSAT, secure admission to law school, and succeed in the legal profession.  The general requirements of our liberal arts curriculum, in both our required general studies (Woods Core) and our liberal arts courses, provide the broad foundation of knowledge and skills that supports the more advanced and specialized studies of the major.  At SMWC, the variety of courses that fulfill these general requirements allows students to choose courses that converge with their particular interests and post-college career plans.  The ABA identifies this as the best approach to preparing for law school in its statement: "The student who comes to law school lacking a broad range of basic skills and knowledge will face a difficult challenge."  Pre-law studies at SMWC prepare you for that challenge.

Pre-Law Minor

All pre-law students meet with the pre-law adviser.  Students plan their curriculum to include a mixture of courses in the student's major plus an array of pre-law courses suitable to the particular student's academic needs and career plans Pre-law students ordinarily take the Law School Admission Test in the summer between their junior and senior years, at which time they also register for the Law School Data Assembly Service.

In addition to this list of courses focusing on law-related topics and skills, students planning on attending law school are strongly encouraged to take elective courses in the humanities and social sciences, including - literature, philosophy, history, sociology, economics, psychology, and political science Pre-law students often take courses in the natural sciences and mathematics to strengthen their analytical reasoning Pre-law students interested in going into international law or immigration law are encouraged to take extensive course work in at least one of the foreign languages offered at the college.

Required Courses (19 credit hours)

Students have the choice between GO 2125 and GO 318

Surveys the United States federal structure of government and the political processes which undergird and mold this structure. Emphasizes contemporary issues, policy-making and the relationship of the United States system to those of other modern governments.

Studies the constitutional basis, organization and workings of state and local government. Emphasizes the interrelationships of states and their political subdivisions and the functioning of state and local politics.

Study of the origin and development of the United States Constitution from the eighteenth century to the present; shows how the era and social and political conditions affected constitutional evolution; judicial appointments and their impact on Supreme Court decisions which shape contemporary and future society.

The study of law and the legal system. Introduces case law, analysis and ethical consideration in our world. Provides an overview of the courts, civil and criminal procedure, torts, contracts, property law and the individual's rights. An excellent course for any student because of its practical, universal content and for students who are interested in attending law school. Fulfills general studies requirement.

Students gain an understanding of legal resource materials and basis techniques of legal research through federal and state case law, statutes, encyclopedias, administrative material, Shepards and other sources. Extensive hands-on exercises in the law library. Excellent for students planning to attend law school. Course fee. Prerequisite: PL200.

Students learn skills which will prepare them to assist attorneys in all activities relating to civil trial practice from pretrial to trial, appeal and enforcement/compliance procedures. Students draft documents, develop discovery plans, conduct discovery, investigate and develop trial notebooks. Prerequisites: PL 200, PL 231.

The PL 395 Junior Seminar course will introduce students to the various careers existing for students who have some pre-law and will also aid those students who wish to pursue study at the graduate or law school level. Topics include preparing for graduate or law school admission and also inventory of careers open to those with the baccalaureate degree and an interest in law.

Special Opportunities

SMWC is well placed to give pre-law students research opportunities related to legal studies. While the ABA does not emphasize work-related experience in its statements on preparing for law school, internships and other opportunities to work with the legal profession can allow students to explore and refine their interest in the law, and to develop a network that is useful in obtaining clerkships while in law school. 

The SMWC library has materials suitable to the needs of the undergraduate students.  Pre-law students at SMWC have also been able to take advantage of a number of off-campus internships related to the legal profession with local public and private law offices, banks, county and state offices, and other legal related entities.

As part of their course work, pre-law students have been able to attend a variety of courtroom proceedings to observe firsthand the working of the judicial process.  Our location provides access to Vigo County Courts as well as the Terre Haute Division of the Southern District of Indiana United States District Court  We have three federal prisons in town, as well as multiple state prisons within a short drive from campus.

Pre-Law Career Opportunities

Most pre-law students at SMWC pursue graduate work soon after graduating. While most continue their education towards the juris doctorate (J.D.) degree at an accredited law school, others have gone on to graduate work in their major discipline. The pre-law training, in conjunction with a traditional academic discipline, has prepared SMWC graduates well for a wide range of career opportunities.


Law school affords its graduates many different career opportunities, not all related to legal practice. Students who graduate from law school find employment in a variety of fields such as:

  • academia
  • banks
  • business
  • corporations
  • government
  • medical
  • military
  • politics
  • private practice
  • public interest industries

In addition, there are many specialty areas within law, including, but not limited to:

  • civil rights
  • corporate and securities
  • criminal
  • education
  • labor and employment
  • environmental and natural resources
  • family and juvenile
  • health
  • immigration
  • intellectual property
  • international
  • probate and trust
  • real estate
  • sports and entertainment
  • tax

Famous People Who Majored in Law

  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Molly Sims
  • Gerard Butler
  • Diane Sawyer
  • Judith Sheindlin
  • Andrea Bocelli
  • Christine Lagarde

Can I get into a law school with just a pre-law minor?

Law schools do not require a particular undergraduate major for admission. Instead, law schools recommend that undergraduates take a wide range of courses involving rigorous intellectual training which will sharpen their communication and cognitive skills. Undergraduate students planning on attending law school are best advised to select a major which will strengthen their abilities to think analytically, to read and write well, and to deal with human problems in a realistic context. Even though no set curriculum is required for admission to law school, there are sets of skills that students should develop over their college careers that will help them prepare for the LSAT and for success in their law school classes. Each student selects a major field of study, and a faculty advisor for that major is assigned to develop a plan to meet Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College’s degree requirements. Special emphasis is placed on selecting coursework that focuses on developing the core skills and values recommended by the American Bar Association.

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Can my criminal record hinder my career in pre-law?

Any sort of criminal or disciplinary violation must be explained on a law school application. Minor brushes with the law, such as having many speeding tickets, may need to be explained. Major problems, such as felonies and some misdemeanors, can prevent you from being accepted and/or taking the bar exam, so make sure you stay out of trouble!

How can a Liberal Arts Degree help me?

Our liberal arts curriculum, with its emphasis on critical thinking and effective oral and written communication, will help you hone the skills you will need to perform well on the LSAT, secure admission to law school, and succeed in the legal profession. More Info

What is required for Law School Admission?

Admission to any given law school is based upon several factors decided by each law school. However, the most important considerations for all law schools are graduation with a bachelor's degree from an accredited undergraduate college or university, grade point average (GPA), Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores, and the applicant's personal statement.

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For More Information

Please contact Kathryn L. Myers, (812) 535-5235, pre-law advisor.

Ana Cavasos-Wright ’98; New England Law, Boston MA, JD (2006); Boston University School of Law, Boston MA, LL.M. Banking and Financial Law (2008)
“SMWC was instrumental with the initial development of my critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for the academic success achieved in all of my legal studies.”

Tamra Fields Inman ’99; Indiana University – Indianapolis;
“Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College prepared me for law school by allowing me the opportunity to see pleadings, contracts, etc.  You may go through three years of law school and never see a pleading.”

Stephanie Doran ’90; Valparaiso Law School ’93; private practice

Katie Reagan Jones ’96; Valparaiso Law School ’99; Regional Counsel for Allstate Insurance Company,
General benefits of SMWC education -
“The programs and professors at SMWC encouraged critical thinking, broad based learning and analysis of issues from all perspectives.  These skills are applicable in all careers and are some of the most important keys to success in career development.  SMWC instilled a desire to achieve through support of others and collaboration.  These qualities I carry forward have provided me with career and life successes.”

Specific benefits of SMWC paralegal education -
“Knowing the legal language, basic concepts, and research tools put me far ahead of my peers when I entered law school.  I was able to focus on honing and developing skills I learned from SMWC, rather than the basics of becoming familiar with legal terms, case briefing and legal analysis.  My experience in working with many other legal professionals at various levels is that the education I received from SMWC far exceeds that many legal professionals have the opportunity to experience.”

Marcella Johnson Groves ’99; Indiana University Law School – Indianapolis; Owner and partner Groves Law LLP