Students can now minor in legal studies

The program seeks to provide a ‘liberal arts look at the law’


Students participate in the Introduction to Law, Justice and Society class. Photo courtesy of Kevin Remington.

Jin Ni

Students browsing course catalogs over this past summer may have noticed a new offering: the Law, Justice and Society minor.

What was a one-liner in the 2018 strategic plan has now launched the creation of a nine-member task force made up of faculty from the law school, the college and the Williams School.

The task force ultimately came up with the Law, Justice and Society minor, which takes a liberal arts look at the law. The 21-credit minor includes an introductory course (LJS101), a capstone experience and five other courses. One of these must be taken at the law school, one at the Williams School and one at the college. The program began this year.

“We wanted to take advantage of the fact that we are a highly ranked liberal arts school that happens to have a law school right across the creek, that also has a number of pre-professional and liberal arts departments from which we can draw expertise,” said Professor Julie Youngman, the program head.

The new minor has already attracted positive attention and feedback from students and faculty. Youngman is teaching the introductory course, LJS101, which has students from all class years with many varied interests.

The class, which meets twice a week, demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of the program with a wide range of readings, guest speakers and discussion-based exploration of philosophical and practical concepts of the law and its role in society.

“I’ve always been intrigued by how law, justice and society works, and this class allows me to learn more about all three of these topics and how they interact with each other,” Katherine Berman, ‘22, said.

This approach addresses one of the main considerations the faculty committee wanted to take into account.

Mark Drumbl, a professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law, chaired the faculty committee that developed the program proposal.

“[We] wanted to present a program that was not ‘in’ law but instead was ‘about’ law,” Drumbl said. “The minor isn’t oriented as a pre-law venture but instead is to offer people interested in law a space to think about it critically and openly and engage with content.”

Emma Callaghan, ‘22, said that is precisely what the introductory course has allowed her to do.

“I took the class to gain a broad understanding of the law and have learned how the law and justice play into American society today,” she said.

Youngman, who practiced law for 20 years before joining the Department of Business Administration, advised those interested in going to law school after graduation to still follow their passions and take classes they enjoy.

“There is no particular major that best prepares students for law schools. The better course is for students to pick something that excites them and that they can excel in,” Youngman said.

Berman said she’s interested in attending law school after graduating and said that LJS101 has also allowed her to dip her toes in the water and see if legal studies was for her.

Though the legal studies program is still young, Drumbl sees a great deal of potential in the program.

“I am heartened by the positive response among students,” Drumbl said. “I look forward to seeing more undergraduates in Lewis Hall classes and more law students offering mentorship in the Williams School and College.”

Youngman hopes there will be students who declare it as a minor, and in a few years, the program may be able to expand and offer internship opportunities and bring in guest speakers.