Frequently Asked Questions: Pre-Law Study Through The Legal Studies Program

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1 Frequently Asked Questions: Pre-Law Study Through The Legal Studies Program 1. Why was the Legal Studies degree program created? The pre-law program was created to provide students with an opportunity to study a variety of areas of law and the operation of the American legal system as a foundation for entry into law school or as a career path to become a paralegal professional. 2. What legal knowledge will I acquire through the program? Upon completion of the program, you will understand the basic legal concepts and practices that underpin the law of torts, family law, probate, criminal law, the law of real property, dispute resolution, and civil litigation. You will also acquire the legal research, writing, and critical thinking skills necessary to foster lifelong learning and adaptability for the future study of law. Learning the important role that the system of trial by jury, the appellate process, and the various forms of dispute resolution play in preserving the rule of law in a democratic society are emphasized throughout your pre-law studies. 3. What can I do with a degree in Legal Studies? For those students interested in attending law school, the degree provides a basic foundation in legal concepts, legal terminology, and case brief analysis that will assist a first year law student with their transition into the study of law at the graduate level. For the current paralegal professional, the completion of a bachelor s degree enhances their chances for professional advancement in those law firms that require their support staff to attain a college education. For the student seeking to start a career as a paralegal professional, the degree meets the necessary educational requirements to work as a paralegal in a law firm or other legal environment. 4. What legal courses are required in the program? All Legal Studies majors must complete the following courses: LEGL 3037 Legal Writing & Appellate Process LEGL 3133 Introduction to Law & the American Legal System LEGL 3231 Logic LEGL 3432 American System of Trial by Jury LEGL 3531 Legal Research LEGL 3533 Introduction to Texas Rules of Pre-trial Civil Procedure LEGL 4532 Family Law & Procedure LEGL 4533 Dispute Resolution LEGL 4534 Property Transactions LEGL 4535 Criminal Law LEGL 4536 Torts LEGL 4539 Estate Planning & Administration

2 5. Who are the faculty members who teach these required courses? All our law faculty are licensed attorneys in Texas. They bring more than 150 years of combined legal experience to the classroom. Many remain professionally active within the legal community. None of our law classes are taught by non-lawyers. A short bio on each faculty member is included on the School of Business website under the Legal Studies program. 6. What time of day are the legal courses taught? The legal courses are taught in one of two time slots; 4-6:50PM and 7-9:50PM, Monday through Thursday. 7. Are there specific lower level (freshman and sophomore) courses that I must complete as part of the Legal Studies degree requirements? Yes. You must complete the lower level courses requirement for a general business degree with two exceptions; Accounting Principles II and Math 1324 Finite Mathematics may be replaced with English beyond the core curriculum requirements. These courses are listed in the University catalogue, or you can check with your community college counselor. If you have specific questions about these lower level course requirements necessary for transfer, contact Gayla Brashears in the Office of Academic Advising for the School of Business at or by at 8. How does completing lower level courses in business benefit me? First, the practice of law is a business that requires the knowledge and application of general business principles and concepts like any other service business. Second, by combining the study of law with the study of business you are better prepared to pursue a broad range of related graduate programs including law school or alternate careers outside the legal field. 9. Will completion of the Legal Studies degree program increase my chances for being admitted to law school? No. Law schools generally base their admission decisions on the applicant s grade point average (GPA), the applicant s score on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the applicant s personal statement and letters of recommendation, regardless of the nature of the undergraduate degree that the student has completed. 10. Will completing the Legal Studies degree program benefit me upon my admission to law school? Yes. Former Legal Studies graduates enrolled in law school report that the legal foundation they acquired through the degree program facilitated and eased their transition into the graduate study of law. 11. What is a paralegal and what type of work do they do in a law office?

3 The State Bar of Texas defines a paralegal as a person, qualified through various combinations of education, training, or work experience, who is employed or engaged by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity in a capacity or function which involves the performance, under the ultimate direction and supervision of a licensed attorney, of specifically delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal principles and procedures that, absent such a person, an attorney would be required to perform the task. Substantive legal work includes, but is not limited to, the following: conducting client interviews and maintaining general contact with the client; locating and interviewing witnesses; conducting investigations and statistical and documentary research; drafting documents, correspondence, and pleadings; summarizing depositions, interrogatories, and testimony; and attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with an attorney. 12. Does completion of the Legal Studies program qualify me for a paralegal certificate? No. Professional associations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants provide certification through its Certified Paralegal examination. Graduates of the Legal Studies program are eligible to apply to take this certification exam upon graduation or just prior to graduation. 13. Is there any way that I can earn a Paralegal certificate while enrolled in the Legal Studies program? Yes. The School of Business Center for Advanced Management Programs offers an online Paralegal Certificate program through the Center for Legal Studies in Golden, Colorado. There are additional fees for this program. You can enroll in this program by contacting the Center for Advanced Management Programs at or through the University of Houston-Clear Lake website at 14. Does enrollment in the Legal Studies program qualify me to apply for student membership in the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas? Yes. You must complete an application for student membership with the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas, have your faculty advisor sign your application and tender the required annual membership fee which is approximately $ The application and qualifications for student membership can be found on the website for the State Bar of Texas, Paralegal Division. Enrollment also qualifies you for student membership in the American Bar Association. The membership application is online and the membership fee is $ I plan to attend law school after completing my bachelor s degree. Is there any benefit to becoming a student member of the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas when my career goal is to become a lawyer? Yes. It is never too soon to begin acquiring professional credentials that you can list on your application for law school as well as on any future job application. 16. Can a student enrolled in the Legal Studies program receive academic credit for completing an approved continuing education course offered by the Paralegal Division of the State Bar?

4 Yes. Enrollment in a State Bar approved paralegal continuing education course for academic credit is subject to the approval of the student s faculty advisor. From one to three hours of academic credit may be earned and be counted as elective credit toward the completion of the Legal Studies degree. For example, students can earn three hours of academic credit by registering for and completing the three day Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar (TAPS) offered by the Paralegal Division each Fall. The Paralegal Division charges a registration fee for this seminar. Information can be found on the website for the State Bar Association, Paralegal Division. Interested students must also enroll for directed project credit through their faculty advisor. 17. Are there other career opportunities for me, if I choose not to pursue the paralegal profession or go to law school? Yes. The American Bar Association sells a publication titled Fifty Legal Careers for Nonlawyers. Go to the website for The American Bar Association, click on the ABA Web Store. 18. Will I have access to the computerized legal research programs known as Westlaw and Lexis when enrolled? Yes. Both Westlaw and Lexis computerized research services are available to the students enrolled in the Legal Studies program at no additional cost. 19. I have completed a Paralegal/Legal Assistant program at a local community college. I noticed that many of the legal courses at UHCL have similar course titles to the courses I completed for my community college degree. May I substitute these lower level legal courses for the upper legal courses required in the Legal Studies program? No. In order to be conferred a Legal Studies degree by the School of Business you must complete the legal courses required in the Legal Studies plan of study as taught by the UHCL faculty. However all lower level legal course hours will transfer and count toward the minimum 54 hours you need to enroll at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Students who have completed a Paralegal/Legal Assistant program may substitute another legal elective for LEGL 3133 Introduction to Law and The American Legal System. 20. Are there scholarships available for students enrolled in the Legal Studies program? Yes. The University offers numerous scholarships through its financial aid office. Three specific scholarships are available for qualified Legal Studies majors; the James C. Benson Scholarship, Donna Bobbit McCall Scholarship, and the Honorable Russell P. Austin Scholarship. 21. Is there a Legal Studies student association? Yes. There is a Legal Studies Association that is open to any UHCL student interested in the study of law. You do not have to be enrolled in Legal Studies to be eligible to join. 22. Can internship credit be earned while enrolled in the Legal Studies program? Yes. Up to six hours of internship credit can be awarded toward the completion of the degree program. However, an internship must be a working/learning experience separate from a student s current employment. No more than three credit hours may be earned in any one semester. Enrollment requires approval of your faculty advisor.

5 23. If I have additional questions about the Legal Studies program or the study of law in general, is there someone I can address my questions to? Yes. Contact James C. Benson, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Legal Studies at or Alix Valenti, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Legal Studies at

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