Centre prepares pre-law students for success
October 28, 2010 By Leigh Cocanougher
extremely helpful,” says Jeff Kaplan ’12, president of the College’s
law society. “And what is truly great about our college is that
Centre constantly sends its graduates to the top. The College is
being increasingly recognized as being amongst the best in the
country, and law schools take note of this.”
Government professor Dan Stroup (far right) is one of the two
pre-law advisors at Centre. To his left is Judge Pierce Lively,
Centre College Class of 1943, a former judge with the U.S. Court
of Appeals who now team teaches a civil liberties class with Stroup.
Centre College prepares students for extraordinary success in a wide array of career fields, from medicine to academia to theater to law. The legal field is one that an ever-increasing number of students hope to enter, and Centre and the liberal arts education it offers make it a top choice for pre-law students.
“For students going into law, Centre’s liberal arts education is extremely helpful,” says Jeff Kaplan ’12, president of the College’s law society. “The wide base of knowledge required by Centre’s general education requirements allows students to develop a background of science and mathematics, which could be used to specialize in intellectual property law, while students are also developing writing skills and public speaking skills with classroom papers and presentations. It’s truly a win-win for pre-law students.
“And,” he adds, “what’s truly great about our college is that Centre constantly sends its graduates to the top. The College is increasingly recognized as being amongst the best in the country, and law schools take note of this.”
Dan Stroup, Pierce and Amelia Harrington Lively Professor of Government and Law, agrees that Centre’s liberal arts education paves the way for students’ success in getting into top law schools and succeeding in their careers.
“There’s no single course that’s a prerequisite for law school or for taking the LSAT,” Stroup says. “Law schools instead are looking for applicants who bring to them a set of skills—the ability to think analytically and read critically, the ability to speak and write clearly and articulately. They’re looking for people who are broadly educated. The law schools want to teach their students the law. They want those students to have, what my colleague Larry Matheny used to refer to as ‘well-furnished minds.’”
These skills and this “furniture of the mind,” Stoup says, “are developed in nearly every course taught at Centre. A strong liberal arts background is precisely what law schools look for in their applicants.”
George Stevens ’11 believes that Centre has indeed provided him with the education he needs to excel in law school.
“Centre certainly prepared me well for the LSAT, and the writing that I’ve been doing has helped me prepare my personal statement and applications,” he says. “And Centre has taught us how to effectively take a test within a tight time limit while still maintaining the level of critical thinking necessary to do well. I’m extremely lucky to have had the help that I have had here, particularly from the economics and philosophy departments, that makes me confident that I have the tools necessary to succeed in law school.”
For students—current or prospective—who are hoping to enter the legal field, Stroup, who along with instructor of government Jamey Leahey is one of Centre’s pre-law advisors, is on hand to offer advice and assistance.
“I often meet with parents and prospective students to explain the advantages of liberal education as preparation for law school,” Stroup says. “I also meet with pre-law students, at their initiative, to talk about course selection, to advise them in the law school application process and to help them polish their personal statements. Since these meetings are student-initiated, I’m generally as involved in the process as a student wants me to be.”
For many pre-law students, Stroup is also the faculty supervisor for internships that Centre students serve with judges or law offices.
“Additionally,” Stroup says, “I try to keep records about the successes and failures of our graduates in the law school applications process. I keep these records to help me in my advising, but also to provide to prospective students and to the communications office. Many of our graduates have met with great success both as law students and as attorneys, and their achievements are a great selling point for the College.”
Centre’s pre-law society also helps pave the way for success in law school and legal careers. This year, Kaplan says, the group is holding small LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) practice sessions, where students work through five or six practice problems individually and then as a group.
Another of the law society’s goals for the year is to bring current lawyers and judges to campus provide insight into various areas of the profession. The group also holds discussions about law school rankings, admissions and the application process.
One former law society program that Stroup hopes to bring back to campus is a series of legal forums. “For several years, we sponsored a series in which we invited local experts from various fields to address—usually in something of a debate format—contemporary issues that have legal import. These were usually very informative convocations, well attended both by students and townsfolk. I’d like to resurrect that practice.”
In addition to the law society, Centre’s Office of Career Services also helps prepare students for entering law school. From LSAT tips to helping students connect with alumni in the legal field and land internships at law firms, Career Services is eager to assist students in the law school preparation process.
With so many methods of helping students prepare for law school and the legal field, the College provides exceptional opportunities for pre-law students to gain the knowledge needed for the future.