First-Year Focus

The Legal Studies major and minor are open to all undergraduates 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.

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
    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.

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, but don’t be scared off by 300-level course numbers! 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 Caesar, or on the Courses page.

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 major 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.


Please review the information about our Major and Minor.

If you have questions about our major, minor, or courses, please contact Ann Kelchner, our Program Assistant, at

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.