USM offers pre-law emphasis for students

Michael Lavender, attorney professor in paralegal studies, will be teaching in Southern's new pre-law program which allows students to add pre-law as an emphasis to a major.
Michael Lavender, an attorney and professor in Paralegal Studies, will teach in USM’s new pre-law program, which allows students to add a pre-law emphasis with their major.

Students at The University of Southern Mississippi can now officially declare a major with a pre-law emphasis. More specifically, the university offers a pre-law track option, which prepares students academically and professionally for the law field.

The university’s Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs has been in discussion with the law schools of the state, The University of Mississippi and Mississippi College, concerning a pre-law track program.

Students pursuing further education in law school have showed interest in the university having a formal pre-law emphasis. Previously, most USM students wanting to pursue careers in law majored in political science, while some majored in business, criminal justice, philosophy and English. The department of the new pre-law emphasis offers different classes such as an introduction to law course and 480-level political science courses.

The new pre-law track also includes courses to prepare students for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) such as a critical thinking course for philosophy majors.

“It’s fair to mention that political science has a pre-law program, paralegal studies has a pre-law program and philosophy has a pre-law program,”said Allan McBride, chair and associate professor of the Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs.

Students should note that the pre-law emphasis is not officially offered as a major in the department yet.  The course of study is for students wishing to attend law school or practice in the field of law. Although a major relating to law is not required, the department aids students who are not particularly majoring in a pre-law major.

“We do offer pre-law advising so if a student doesn’t want to declare a pre-law emphasis, we offer suggestions on what they should take,” McBride said. “There are two lawyers working in the department who are paralegal faculty, and they are open to chatting with students about the LSAT, the BAR and law school.”

Paralegal Studies Professor and Attorney William Newman said that if students are interested in law school, they have three options in pre-law studies.

If you major in paralegal studies, you can go the paralegal track or you can go the pre-law track,” Newman said. “The second option is to major in political science with a pre-law emphasis and you’d look at the political side of the legal system. The third option is to major in a philosophy degree with a pre-law emphasis, which teaches critical thinking, logic and skills useful in law school.”

If students choose the pre-law emphasis in any one of those three majors, they would be taking courses designed to prepare them for the tough experience of law school, a rigorous process and very different experience than undergraduate and graduate experience,” he said.

The faculty in the Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs is putting forth the effort to prepare pre-law students for the vigorous competition ahead.