NSO 2017: Welcome to UMass Amherst!

Welcome incoming first-years and transfer students!

If you’re already thinking about an eventual legal career, this post is for you. If you missed or can’t make one of the NSO Pre-Law info sessions (Mondays and Thursdays at 2:15 pm in Student Union Room 411), or you lost the printed handouts amidst all the other paper you gathered during New Student Orientation (NSO), fear not—it’s all right here. 

First off:

There is nothing you MUST or SHOULD do as an incoming first year or transfer student in order to prepare for law school – no required classes or majors, no magic extracurricular activities.

Study what you love, pursue your passions, explore your interests.

You’ll find pages of info on undergraduate preparation for law school right here. This post is the short version.


Beyond studying what you love, the most important things you can do in the classroom to enhance your eventual application to law school are the following:

  • Learn how to be a good writer – take classes in which you’ll write a lot and get good feedback on your writing.
  • Maintain a strong GPA.  Studying what you love will make this much easier.
  • Get to know your professors.  They’re an amazing resource, and the more they know about you, the better their eventual letters of recommendation can be.

Enrolling in law-related classes is NOT a prerequisite for getting into law school, but it may help you decide if law is the right path for you.

The list of courses here can help you sample law in the classroom. This is NOT a complete list of all courses that touch on or provide background for understanding legal issues, only those most directly related to law. It is also limited to those classes offered at UMass (and not the other local colleges) this Fall. Unless otherwise noted, upper level courses (300 and 400) are NOT appropriate for entering freshmen. This list also does NOT indicate availability – classes may be full (check SPIRE). This list is in addition to ALL of the courses in the Legal Studies major.

In addition to that larger list, there are a few opportunities that are available to first years only:

Faculty First Year Seminars

FFYS 197EDU18 - Discourse and Power
FFYS 197NRSG5 - Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Health
FFYS 197POL11 - Activism, Advocacy, and Citizenship
FFYS 197POL20 - Controversies in Public Policy
FFYS 197PUP1 - Policies for a Perfect Country

Residential Academic Programs (RAPs)

Connecting With Social Justice
Impact: Self Awareness, Social Justice & Service
Investigating Consumerism
Investigating Politics
Sustainability and Society


Debate Team
The UMass Debate Team is “dedicated to learning and practicing effective debate strategy and skill, UMass Debate aims to facilitate student competition at intercollegiate American Parliamentary Debate.” UMass Debate has a storied history, and after a period of quiet, has been revived in its current form for the last two years. More information is available at UMassAmherstDebate.com.

Mock Trial Team
Intercollegiate mock trial competition is unscripted and competitive in nature. Each team receives an identical case packet of a fictional criminal or civil legal case (containing evidence exhibits, witness affidavits, etc) and works together to strategically prepare a case.  Cases are tried against teams from other colleges/universities at tournaments. Collegiate mock trial contains theatrical elements (i.e., witness character performances), as real court cases often do, but is unpredictable in nature. Competing undergraduate teams take on the roles of lawyers and/or witnesses, using provided case law and rules of evidence to build a case against opponents.

UMass Amherst Mock Trial is open to entering freshmen, but students must try out to secure positions on the team.  For more information visit the Mock Trial website.

International Relations/Model UN
The University of Massachusetts International Relations Club is a registered student organization dedicated to the study of international relations, foreign policy, and world affairs. Through our Model United Nations team, students are able to travel to colleges and universities throughout North America to compete and learn about the inner workings of the United Nations and other international organizations. Students must negotiate and compromise during these intense weekends in order to address a number of issues that the world faces.

For more information, visit the IR/Model UN Club site and Facebook page.

Other clubs and teams
It’s important to remember that participation in these particular clubs or teams will not offer you any kind of preference in the law school admissions process. You should pursue those activities that most interest you – the more you put into the activity, the more you’ll get out of it. So whether it’s athletics, community service, student government, performing arts, Greek life, or anything else, explore it, pursue it with passion, and take on greater responsibilities throughout your college years. Regardless of the activity, you’ll acquire skills and experiences that will serve you well in law school and beyond.


“Internships” comprise a range of work experiences at companies, organizations and government bodies that can be for credit, for pay or volunteer. A law-related internship can provide you with an excellent opportunity to get a close-up view of legal practice in order to determine whether it’s really the career path you’d like to pursue. Credited internships are available to you once you’ve completed 45 credits at the university (paid or volunteer internships are available at any time). The Career Services website has much more information on all kinds of internships here. If you have declared a major, your department’s Internship Coordinator is also an excellent resource.

There are two law-related internship opportunities on campus.  The first is with the Student Legal Services Office, which provides free and low-cost legal assistance and representation to students at UMass.  Additional information can be found on the SLSO website. The second is the Student Government Association’s Conduct Advisor program, which provides counsel and support to students in the student conduct process.  Find out more about the program here.


The UMass Pre-Law Advising Office is available to answer questions large and small as you explore legal careers and legal education. We also host information sessions and lawyer-alumni events throughout the year.  Contact the Pre-Law Advisor, Diane Curtis, for an appointment, and “like” the Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @UMassPreLaw to keep up to date on news and events related to law school.