Pre-Law Overview

So, you want to be a lawyer, but how do you begin?

According to the American Bar Association, preparation for law school is key. “The student who comes to law school lacking a broad range of basic skills and knowledge will face a difficult challenge,” the organization said. Pre-law studies at SMWC will prepare you for that challenge.

The pre-law minor is designed to introduce you to the study of law and the judicial process. It provides an orientation to the law which is more general than that of most law schools. Our liberal arts curriculum, with its emphasis on critical thinking and effective oral and written communication, will help you hone the skills you will need to perform well on the LSAT, secure admission to law school, and succeed in the legal profession.

Upon admission, each student works with a pre-law advisor, who helps the student develop a strategy for selecting courses, identifying an appropriate departmental major (degree program), and navigating the law school application process.


The pre-law minor requires 19 credit hours. All pre-law students meet with the pre-law adviser.  Students plan their curriculum to include a mixture of courses in the student’s major plus an array of pre-law courses suitable to the particular student’s academic needs and career plans.

In addition to this list of courses focusing on law-related topics and skills, students planning on attending law school are strongly encouraged to take elective courses in the humanities and social sciences, including – literature, philosophy, history, sociology, economics, psychology, and political science.

Required Pre-Law Courses

16 credit hours required. Students have the choice between GO 215 and GO 318.

GO 215 American Federal System
Campus & Online | 3 Credits
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Surveys the United States federal structure of government and the political processes which undergird and mold this structure. Emphasizes contemporary issues, policy-making and the relationship of the United States system to those of modern governments. As needed.

Campus & Online 3 Credits
GO 318 State and Local Government
Campus & Online | 3 Credits
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Studies the constitutional basis, organization and workings of state and local government. Emphasizes the interrelationships of states and their political subdivisions and the functioning of state and local politics. As needed.

Campus & Online 3 Credits
GO/HI 418 The United States Constitution: Origin and Evolution
Campus | 3 Credits
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Study of the origin and development of the United States Constitution from the eighteenth century to the present; shows how the era and social and political conditions affected constitutional evolution; judicial appointments and their impact on Supreme Court decisions which shape contemporary and future society. Spring, odd years.

Campus 3 Credits
PL 200 Law, Ethics, and Society
Campus & Online | 3 Credits
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The study of law and the legal system. Introduces case law, analysis and ethical consideration in our world. Provides an overview of the courts, civil and criminal procedure, torts, contracts, property law and the individual’s rights. An excellent course for any student because of its practical, universal content and for students who are interested in attending law school. August, October, January, May every year.

Campus & Online 3 Credits
PL 234 Legal Research I
Online | 3 Credits
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Students gain an understanding of legal resource materials and basic techniques of legal research through federal and state case law, statutes, encyclopedias, administrative material, Shepards and other sources. Extensive hands-on exercises. Excellent for students planning to attend law school. Course fee.

Online 3 Credits
PL 232 Legal Communication
Online | 3 Credits
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The fundamentals of working and legal vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and diction, proper citation form, writing logically and effectively for the legal setting and reading for comprehension. Writing-intensive course culminating with research presented in a professional memorandum format. January, every year. Course fee. Prerequisite: PL 231.

Online 3 Credits
PL 395 Junior Seminar
Online | 1 Credit
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This course will introduce students to the various careers existing for students who have some pre-law and will also aid those students who wish to pursue study at the graduate or law school level. Topics include preparing for graduate or law school admission and also inventory of careers open to those with the baccalaureate degree and an interest in law.

Online 1 Credit

Choose one:

(3 credit hours)

HI 211 United States History to 1877
Campus | 3 Credits
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Survey of European influences in exploration; the colonial, revolutionary and federal periods; sectional rivalries that led to the Civil War; the Civil War and Reconstruction. Emphasis is given to the U.S. Constitution and to the development of political and economic systems. Fall, even years.

Campus 3 Credits
HI 212 United States History Since 1877
Campus | 3 Credits
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Survey of the post-Civil War period beginning with the Industrial Age. Major consideration is given to the rise of the United States as a world power; causes and effects of the World Wars; the Cold War; Korea and Vietnam; and such contemporary topics as popular dissent, urban crises, the impact of mass media; and the end of the Cold War and the advent of the “New World Order.” Spring, odd years.

Campus 3 Credits

Information about Course Requirements
We do our best to keep this information updated, but you should always double-check to ensure you are meeting graduation requirements. For the most current course requirements please review the latest undergraduate college catalog. Always consult your academic advisor when registering for courses or when you have questions about course requirements.

Pre-Law Career Paths

Most pre-law students at SMWC pursue graduate work soon after graduating. While most continue their education towards the juris doctorate (J.D.) degree at an accredited law school, others have gone on to graduate work in their major discipline. The pre-law training, in conjunction with a traditional academic discipline, has prepared SMWC graduates well for a wide range of career opportunities.


Law school affords its graduates many different career opportunities, not all related to legal practice. Students who graduate from law school find employment in a variety of fields such as:

  • Academia
  • Banks
  • Business
  • Corporations
  • Government
  • Medical
  • Military
  • Politics
  • Private practice
  • Public interest industries

In addition, there are many specialty areas within law, including, but not limited to:

  • Civil rights
  • Corporate and securities
  • Criminal
  • Education
  • Labor and employment
  • Environmental and natural resources
  • Family and juvenile
  • Health
  • Immigration
  • Intellectual property
  • International
  • Probate and trust
  • Real estate
  • Sports and entertainment
  • Tax

Can I get into a law school with just a pre-law minor?

Law schools do not require a particular undergraduate major for admission. Instead, law schools recommend that undergraduates take a wide range of courses involving rigorous intellectual training which will sharpen their communication and cognitive skills. Undergraduate students planning on attending law school are advised to select a major which will strengthen their abilities to think analytically, to read and write well, and to deal with human problems in a realistic context.

How else will SMWC help me prepare for a legal career?

While the ABA does not require work experience, it does emphasize service by providing: “If you are thinking of entering the legal profession, you should seek some significant experience, before coming to law school, in which you may devote substantial effort toward assisting others.”  SMWC offers a variety of activities and organizations that enable students to participate in service learning, volunteer activities, internships, and community service. SMWC also provides opportunities for service projects within individual classes that help students to develop and demonstrate the commitment to public service and justice that the ABA emphasizes.

SMWC is well placed to give pre-law students research opportunities related to legal studies. While the ABA does not emphasize work-related experience in its statements on preparing for law school, internships and other opportunities to work with the legal profession can allow students to explore and refine their interest in the law, and to develop a network that is useful in obtaining clerkships while in law school.

Pre-law students at SMWC have also been able to take advantage of a number of off-campus internships related to the legal profession with local public and private law offices, banks, county and state offices, and other legal related entities. As part of the course work, pre-law students have been able to attend a variety of courtroom proceedings to observe firsthand the working of the judicial process.  Our location provides access to Vigo County Courts as well as the Terre Haute Division of the Southern District of Indiana United States District Court. We have three federal prisons in town, as well as multiple state prisons within a short drive from campus.

Can my criminal record hinder my career in pre-law?

Any sort of criminal or disciplinary violation must be explained on a law school application. Minor brushes with the law, such as having many speeding tickets, may need to be explained. Major problems, such as felonies and some misdemeanors, can prevent you from being accepted and/or taking the bar exam, so make sure you stay out of trouble!