Columbian College could add law minor

by Bronte Dinges

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is planning a law and society minor that would create GW’s first undergraduate academic program tailored to legal studies.

The 18-credit minor would launch next fall and mostly include existing courses in political science, economics, sociology and history – a step to strengthen legal education at a University which has a top law school but no specific pre-law degree for undergraduates.

Michael Gabriel, a pre-law adviser in the Columbian College, is spearheading the effort, which will introduce undergraduates to legal writing and strategies in areas like constitutional law and criminal justice before they decide on attending law school.

He said it would not be designed as a specific pre-law program, because law schools prefer a broad liberal arts education.

“It can show them what to expect and to see what lawyers do for a living. Or students can say this is really interesting, but I don’t want to [become a lawyer]. An informed, intelligent decision is great either way,” he said.

Gabriel will present a case for the minor at the school’s Oct. 11 meeting of the undergraduate studies committee, a body that would ultimately give it the green light. He said it could potentially be housed in the sociology department, which trains students on social justice theory.

Columbian College’s associate dean for undergraduate studies Dan Ullman said while he’s not “out there stumping for new majors and minors,” a law and society program would make sense in enhancing students’ critical thinking skills.

Michael Fazio – vice president of the Pre-Law Student Association, a group of about 100 undergraduates who write legal briefs and preps for the LSAT – said the program would fit the legal field’s interdisciplinary focus.

“I think that it would be a good addition for students on the pre-law track. It’s a good way for students to get a good idea of what the legal field is about,” Fazio, a junior, said.

Jill Kasle, an associate professor of public policy and public administration, said the program would appeal to undergraduates’ legal ambitions. About 28 percent of GW graduates pursue further study in law, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“So many kids come to GW wanting to make a career in law, so anything that introduces study in this subject is beneficial to their education,” she said.

Neighboring American University has maintained its own law and society department for more than two decades, offering both a major and a minor in the field for undergraduates. Schools like Florida State and Cornell universities also have similar minors.

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