Professors promote GW’s first-ever law program for undergraduates

The University is trying to boost interest for its first undergraduate program in legal studies, which has only had two students sign up since it started this fall.

Fran Buntman, an assistant sociology professor who directs the law and society minor program, is pitching the new program to student organizations such as the Pre-Law Student Association. She also will meet with classes across GW that relate to legal studies, like media law, this fall.

GW, one of the top feeder schools in the country for law schools, created the 18-credit minor last year as an opportunity for students considering jobs in the legal field. The program is meant to resemble the pre-law track that can be found at other colleges, but take a more liberal arts approach to legal education.

“By doing this minor, [students] will have a better understanding of what the law is,” Buntman said. “So if they decide they will go to law school they will have a much better expectation of not only what they might be doing, but what the career possibilities look like.”

The program is housed in the sociology department but combines courses from multiple departments, mirroring the structure of GW’s sustainability minor launched in 2012. Students can take classes in sociology, political science and health law, as well as patent law for engineers. Students can apply to the minor after they’ve earned at least 30 credit hours.

Pre-law adviser Michael Gabriel said the program will help budding law students because law schools typically look for applicants who have taken courses that emphasize critical thinking and writing, not necessarily specific pre-law programs.

“Reading, researching and writing are really what lawyers, what law students – how they make their grades and therefore how they get their jobs and ultimately what lawyers do for a living,” Gabriel said.

Interest in law schools nationwide, however, is dropping fast. The number of applications to law school fell by nearly 18 percent in the U.S. this year.

Senior Max Lesser, director of the student-run Undergraduate Law Review, said he did not sign up for the minor because he wanted courses that stressed technical skills such as “legal writing, research and citations, as well as practical experience through internships.”

“Many of the classes described in the minor sound like they could easily be taken as part of a standard political science or sociology minor,” he said.

Sophomore Emily Daenzer, who also plans to apply to law school, said she immediately turned in her application after she was told about the program.

“I’m just interested for getting a feel for how law, how the legal system, how all of that permeates into all of the different aspects of society,” Daenzer said.

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