The Legal Studies major and minor are open to all undergraduates currently enrolled at Northwestern University in any school. The information here should help you, but if you have more questions, please contact Prof. Joanna Grisinger, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Legal Studies.
Watch this Virtual Information Session presentation from Fall 2020.
Why Legal Studies?
Legal Studies offers undergraduates the chance to engage in exciting, critical work with professors from all over Northwestern, the Law School, and the professional world, with courses in a variety of innovative topics. Recent favorites include Law and Society, The American Lawyer, Human Rights and U.S. Refugee Law, Constitutional Law I and II, and Legal and Constitutional History of the United States.
It is not a "pre-law" program. Legal Studies conceives of law broadly to include the study of legal institutions, legal actors, and legal processes. Law, broadly conceived, is a social institution that provides an excellent lens through which students may learn about and critically examine a variety of themes central to other disciplines, shedding light on both the understanding of law as well as debates central to those disciplines. Legal Studies emphasizes the reciprocal relationships between law and society to examine the social environment.
Good Classes for First Years
The usual starting point is Law & Society (Legal Studies 206/Sociology 206), which we offer twice a year.
- Legal St 206: Law and Society - offered Fall 2020 and Winter 2021
Law is everywhere. Law permits, prohibits, enables, legitimates, protects, and prosecutes citizens. Law shapes our day to day lives in countless ways. This course examines the connections and relationships of law and society using an interdisciplinary social science approach. As one of the founders of the Law and Society movement observed, "law is too important to leave to lawyers." Accordingly, this course will borrow from several theoretical, disciplinary, and interdisciplinary perspectives (such as sociology, anthropology, political science, critical studies, psychology) in order to explore the sociology of law and law's role primarily in the American context (but with some attention to international law and global human rights efforts). The thematic topics to be discussed include law and social control; law's role in social change; as well as law's capacity to reach into complex social relations and intervene in existing normative institutions, organizational structures, and the like.
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We also offer several small, discussion based classes that offer a great opportunity for you to flex and develop your analytical skills. Legal St 276: Introductory Topics in Legal Studies will be offered periodically with changing topics.
- Legal St 276-0-20: Corporation in US Law and Culture - offered Fall 2020
A corporation is its own person under the law, separate from those whom it employs or who may own its stock. How did this happen, and what does it mean for the humans who live and work alongside corporations every day?
In this course, we will trace the evolution of the corporate person in the United States from the colonial era to the present. Our focus will be twofold: the evolving legal rights and responsibilities of the corporation, and the role that the corporate person has played in the American cultural imagination. To that end, we will read court cases and law review articles as well as novels and cultural ephemera. By the end of the course, we will have developed a deeper appreciation of the persistent and evolving problems of corporate personhood and corporate social responsibility, both from a business and a consumer perspective. This course assumes no prior experience with U.S. law or the legal system—we will engage with how to read legal texts effectively as they come up—and is appropriate for first-year students as well as anyone else interested in corporations and how they came to be what(ever) they are.
You don’t have to be scared off by 300-level course numbers! Many of these classes are designed to be accessible to anyone, regardless of year or major. You’ll get a lot of individual attention and great interaction with your classmates. You can review our course lists on the Courses page or via Caesar.
What other departments offer courses/programs focused on legal questions?
- Our electives list shows the wide range of socio-legal course offerings on campus.
- The History department offers a thematic minor in Law & Crime. View more information on their website.
- The department of Religious Studies offers a concentration in Religion, Law & Politics. View more information on their website.
If you have questions about our major, minor, or courses, please contact Ann Kelchner, our Program Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general information about Weinberg College, please go to the undergraduate section of the Weinberg College site.
For information about law school and legal careers, please see Weinberg College's advice on preparing for law school and Northwestern Career Advancement's legal career advice.Back to top