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2016-2017 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Legal Studies - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Community and Public Service section in this catalog.


The legal studies B.A./B.S. degrees are designed to prepare students for careers as paralegals by providing a liberal education and the practical skills needed for success in this field. These programs also provide graduates with skills and knowledge necessary for study at law schools and other graduate programs, including criminal justice, social justice, and related programs. The postbaccalaureate certificate in legal studies is intended for students who have completed a bachelor's degree in another field and who seek to prepare for a career as a paralegal.

The B.A./B.S. and postbaccalaureate Legal Studies Certificate are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). The Legal Studies program also offers a minor which is not approved by the ABA.

The legal studies program's mission is accomplished through courses which focus on:

1. Mastery of substantive knowledge critical to the legal profession, including principles of legal ethics and legal restrictions on the unauthorized practice of law;
2. Critical thinking skills;
3. Mastery of basic investigative and legal research techniques;
4. Proficiency in oral and written communication; and
5. Development of appropriate professional behavior and job-seeking skills.

Paralegals perform substantive legal work under the supervision of an attorney. Paralegals work in a variety of employment settings, including law firms, corporations, government entities, and non-profit associations and their specific job titles vary. Their job titles may include titles such as "legal assistant", "contract administrator", "claims specialist", or other titles indicating the nature of the legal work they perform. While paralegals play an important role in the delivery of legal services, they are not permitted to practice law, which means they cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, establish a fee, or accept a case on behalf of a law firm. The School of Criminal Justice administers the major in legal studies. Some courses can be applied to both a criminal justice and a legal studies major. Check with your advisor for possible selections.

Legal Studies Advisory Board

The Legal Studies Advisory Board consists of attorneys and paralegals representing a broad cross-section of employers, including small and large law firms, the courts, and public sector legal departments. The Advisory Board plays an important role by giving guidance to the program on matters such as curriculum, internship and employment opportunities, and trends in the legal field.

Legal Education Admission Program (LEAP)

The Grand Valley School of Criminal Justice and the Michigan State University College of Law have partnered to offer a 3+3 program called LEAP which provides legal studies majors with the opportunity to earn a B.S. or B.A. and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) in approximately six years of study. See the B.A. or B.S. in Legal Studies section for further details regarding the program.

The following programs are available:

Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies

Legal Studies Minor

Legal Education Admission Program (LEAP) Legal Studies

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