Psychology and Law
Admission to law school requires no specific major and no specific prerequisite courses. Psychology is one of many undergraduate majors chosen by pre-law students. Northwestern students considering a career in law should read the Pre-Law Webpages prepared by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
Success in law school and in the practice of law require the ability to carefully analyze a problem, to collect relevant information, to combine information from various sources to reach a conclusion, and to communicate your conclusion to others. These are all skills that students acquire through the study of psychology, particularly through our more research-oriented courses (201-Statistical Methods, 205-Research Methods, and the upper-level research courses.)
Many other psychology courses can also be beneficial to those who hope to engage in the study and practice of law. Two courses relate directly: Psychology 340-Psychology and Law and Psychology 381-Children and the Law. Courses in cognition (for example, 228-Cognitive Psychology and the 200-level courses in cognitive science) can help pre-law students learn more about how people perceive and interpret information; among other things, this can increase understanding of how witnesses and jurors process evidence. 218-Developmental Psychology and other courses focusing on children are particularly relevant for those with an interest in juvenile and family law. Courses such as 204-Social Psychology, 384-Interpersonal Relations, 385-Psychology of Attitudes, and 386-Sterotyping and Prejudice provide information about techniques of persuasion, the interpretation of evidence, and the interpersonal processes relevant in legal settings. 303-Psychopathology and 306-Introduction to Clinical Psychology may provide useful insights for those interested in criminal law or in law related to mental health.
In choosing elective courses outside the department, pre-law students might consider courses in linguistics, such as 221-Language and Prejudice, in communication studies, such as 205-Theories of Persuasion, or in sociology, including 206-Law and Society. Many courses in political science cover topics of particular interest to pre-law students, and some choose to complete a minor in this area or in legal studies. Finally, any course in the School of Communication, or elsewhere, involving public speaking can be valuable for pre-law students.