Univ of San Francisco and St Ignatius church from the air

Undergraduate Programs

"Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question."This observation came from Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher, during his U.S. travels, early in our history. If we were a legalistic society then, what shall we call ourselves now? Laws have proliferated at an astounding pace, the courts are widely overcrowded with cases, despite the legal short-cuts we've devised. The threat of lawsuits lingers ever-present: we scheme about how to avoid them, and how to bring them.

Besides resolving disputes, we rely on the law to govern ourselves: to create our institutions, regulate our behavior, and make our policy. We believe the law provides fairness, and thus guarantees democracy. Most importantly, we rely on the law to solve our problems. While our confidence in the law, lawmakers, and lawyers ebbs and flows, we nevertheless believe that the law can change our society for the better. These are powerful myths, yet not everyone believes the law serves such benevolent objectives. Grant Gilmore, writing in the Yale Law Journal, argues:


 “Law reflects, but in no sense determines, the moral worth of a society.…The better the society, the less law there will be. In Heaven, there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb.…In Hell, there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.”


Others point to the many “unfulfilled promises” of U.S. law. Some view the law as biased, reflecting an ideology that helps the few at the expense of the many. Still others believe that lawyers do more to impede social change than to promote it. However one assesses the law, its extraordinary role in U.S. culture cannot be denied. Thus, the law ought to be studied widely, and not merely by those who want to practice the law.

Toward that end, the Department of Politics offers a Legal Studies minor, open to all USF students. The minor provides students a broad understanding of the U.S. legal system, including the role law plays in U.S. culture: what legal philosophies have we adopted and rejected, what is the law’s history, what practical purposes does it serve, how well does it work. We’re interested in the relationship between law and politics, and law and society. What can law contribute to improve society? What is justice? Can the law help to achieve it? Does the law help promote social change, or rather impede it? We’ll examine both U.S. law and international law, and study the judicial system from the trial courts to the Supreme Court. We’ll consider legal disputes over issues such as capital punishment, human rights, pornography, terrorism, corporate crime, affirmative action, privacy, flag burning, defendant’s rights, war powers, euthanasia, drug testing, school prayer, gun control, and so forth. Students will see the law in action, not merely in the classroom. Our fieldwork courses place students in law-related internships with organizations such as La Raza Centro Legal, the Legal Aid Society, the Prisoner’s Union, the Tenderloin Legal Clinic, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Some will use Legal Studies as preparation for law school. Others may find our courses useful for other educational and career pursuits.



4 + 3 PROGRAM

Under our 4 + 3 Law Program, USF students (in any major) will have the opportunity to gain automatic admission to USF's School of Law if they have a minimum 3.2 GPA, a minimum 70th percentile LSAT score, and complete either the Legal Studies or Criminal Justice Studies minor.

The USF Pre-Professional Law Committee provides pre-law advising for students interested in pursuing a career in law.

The program is designed to help students through the process of preparing for and applying to law schools – general advice in undergraduate course selection, helping students decide if law school is for them, assistance with selecting schools, and advice on Personal Statements and Letters of Recommendation.

There are no specific course pre-requisites for law school admission and students may apply with any undergraduate degree. There are, however, programs at USF that may students in preparing for law school, and in assessing whether a legal education and legal career are desired. The Legal Studies Minor and Criminal Justice Studies Minor provide students with a broad understanding of the U.S. legal system, as well as an examination of international law.  Having completed the program, students should have a much stronger legal background and a richer liberal arts education.  

For USF undergraduates who would like to consider attending the USF Law School, the 4+3 B.A./B.S.-JD program provides a preferred admissions plan. The 4+3 provides automatic admission to USF’s Law School if students meet three requirements: (1) completion of either the Legal Studies or Criminal Justice minor; (2) the achievement of at least a 3.2 gpa; and (3) the achievement of at least a 56th percentile on the LSAT. Minor information about this program can be gotten from one of the pre-law advisors or from the USF Social Justice Programs office (KA 232). 

For questions and/or advising appointment, please contact:

Robert Elias

Politics
KA 276 (Annex)

Erika Myszynski
Program Assistant
Program Office: KA 232
415.422.2910

In addition to these programs, two student-run organizations provide information and activities for students interested in the law and considering law school: The Undergraduate Law Society and the Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) law honor society. These groups organize events to help fellow students through the law school admissions process as well as forums for people interested in current legal controversies and issues. For upcoming events/announcements/summer programs/scholarship opportunities, contact the USF Social Justice Programs office (KA 232). 

For brochures and other information, please see the Program Assistant.

Services offered by the Pre-Professional Law Committee:

  • Individual appointments with pre-law advisors
  • Guidance during the admissions and/or LSAT testing prep
  • Suggestions for undergraduate courses
  • Tips on how you can write powerful personal statements
  • Educating you about law schools and the BA/BS-JD 4/3 Law Program for the USF Law School
  • Equipping you with appropriate materials including a recommended pre-law timeline
  • Informing you about the pre-law groups on campus  (Undergraduate Law Society, Phi Alpha Delta )
  • Connecting you with USF Law School alum and Bay Area attorneys
  • Providing timely reports on the law school situation and on pursuing a legal career
  • Discussing alternatives to law school

Events

Check back for events.