HUNTINGTON — Marshall University has no pre-law major curriculum or law school at its campus for college students interested in law, but it does have a pre-law adviser.
Patricia Proctor is the pre-law adviser at Marshall University, a West Virginia college located in Huntington. She advises students who are interested in pursuing law as a career and are thinking of studying pre-law to get into law school.
"I advise students at all different stages of collegiate careers," Proctor told The West Virginia Record in a telephone interview. "Interests can change. They might change their mind later from the point they were at when they were freshmen. I have students at all levels interested in law school. I would say 40-50 per year. Working with senior students is more intensive."
Pre-law is not a standard core of classes and is not uniform across all college campuses in the United States. In fact, at the University of Washington, pre-law is not a major either. It is also not a minor or a series of courses at the school. Law schools actually do not require any such prerequisite courses and they mostly do not prefer any major in particular, but a healthy interest in law is helpful, if not necessary. According to the University of Washington, pre-law refers to anyone interested in attending law school at some point getting their undergraduate degree.
Courses that are generally or typically recommended to take to successfully get a student's feet on a good path include political science, communications and criminal justice or social work. Many majors, minors or coursework relating to public policy, law, government or philosophy may provide a good foundation or backdrop for the learning curve of pre-law or law school.
"You can major in anything and go to law school," said Proctor. "I advise them to select a major that they are very interested in. Grades are important. It is easier to get better grades when you are interested in what you are studying. I would say that law school requires critical thinking, so study something that challenges you in that regard. Also, you need to be able to write well. Lawyers are writers. It's a very important skill for lawyers to have."
Proctor is the director of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy at Marshall. She explained how the curriculum for the minor in constitutional democracy was modeled after a core of studies useful in studying law and going to law school.
"We do have a minor program in constitutional democracy," Proctor said. "It's essentially a liberal arts minor but it includes the kind of courses that challenge students with the kinds of course material that will prepare them for law school."
Law often involves specialties, so getting a good dose of coursework and material that covers those topics of most interest or concern in law and policy is also helpful. Writing, reading, research and analysis are also very important skills to bring to the legal profession. It is also recommended to get involved with clubs and other local legal-related groups and resources that can help students learn more about the legal environment and industry culture/practice.