About the Department
The Legal Studies program at Northwestern University provides an environment where students and scholars study legal issues using the methodology and perspectives of the social sciences and humanities.
Legal Studies offers undergraduates the chance to engage in exciting, critical work with professors from all over Northwestern and from the professional world, with courses on a variety of innovative topics. Recent favorites include Law & Society; Human Rights and U.S. Refugee Law; Sociology of Law; Legal and Constitutional History of the United States; and Race, Politics, and the Law.
We offer an Adjunct Major and a Minor. Beginning in Fall 2016, we will also offer a standalone major. (For the next few years, we will be transitioning from an adjunct major to a standalone major; students should check the major / adjunct major page to determine which one(s) they are eligible for.
Are you an incoming First-Year student? Take a look at our First-Year Focus page.
At the graduate level, Legal Studies provides programmatic content for graduate students throughout the university interested in the interdisciplinary study of law, legal institutions, and/or legal processes broadly construed. Graduate Fellows in Legal Studies (GFILS) include J.D./Ph.D. students, Ph.D. students who entered graduate school with J.D.s earned elsewhere, and graduate students working on legal topics and questions in a variety of disciplines (economics, anthropology, sociology, political science, theater, and English, to name just a few). GFILS and faculty participate in regular reading groups and writing seminars and attend lectures and events.
Interested in joining us as a GFILS? Read more about the application process.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What other majors and minors combine well with a major or minor in Legal Studies?
We do not recommend any particular combination of majors and minors; our students have successfully combined majors and minors in Legal Studies with majors and minors across WCAS and across the university. If you are interested in exploring socio-legal questions in other departments, note that the History Department offers a thematic major in Law & Crime and the Department of Religious Studies offers a concentration in Religion, Law & Politics.
- Does Legal Studies offer pre-law advising?
No. 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 and their tips on applying to law school.
If you are interested in pre-law programming, make sure to sign up for CareerCat to get information about events: Start here.
- Does Legal Studies offer Legal advice?
No. You may be able to find assistance through the Northwestern Law Bluhm Legal Clinic.
- What can I do with a major or minor in Legal Studies?
Graduates of our program are well trained to become active and thoughtful citizens engaged with local and global questions of power and justice and with the role of law in everyday life. Our graduates are ideally situated to succeed in careers in law, policy, education, politics, and in graduate work in the social sciences and humanities. Our students and alumni have been awarded Fulbright grants to study in Denmark, Romania, Poland, and Greece; have received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study in South Africa and China; and have participated in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals to study in Germany. Our students have gone on to participate in the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program, the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, and Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship; others have participated in programs like the New York City Teaching Fellows Program and the Urban Teacher Center. They have gone on to work at the Consumer Financial Protection Board, the ACLU of Colorado, the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science, and at a variety of consulting firms. Our students have also studied at UC Berkeley Law School's Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, the Yale Department of Political Science, Harvard University Law School, Yale University Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, George Washington University Law School, and Fordham University Law School, among many others.
Join us on LinkedIn to see what some of our alumni have been up to post-graduation.