Prelaw students at Hamilton have the opportunity to explore the curriculum as they pursue their academic interests. Whatever the major, students develop the skills crucial to the attorney - approaches to solving difficult problems; clear, effective communication, both orally and in writing; reading with a critical eye; and skills in the logical analysis of issues.
Hamilton encourages prelaw students to explore a variety of courses throughout the curriculum and to develop an interest in an area that they might like to study in depth. Some prelaw students choose to explore areas that they may never have an opportunity to study again or to devise their own concentrations, while others select classes related to their future profession. Since law schools do not require applicants to pursue a specific curriculum, students from virtually every concentration at the college have gone on to study law.
Minimum requirements for entry to law schools are set by each institution. Law schools take particular account of grades, scores on the LSAT, depth and breadth of curriculum, and involvement in extracurricular activities that require responsibility and leadership. Acquiring a broad-based liberal arts education will satisfy the kind of curricular background law schools seek, but students may wish to take courses which emphasize the development of skills in communication, both written and oral, and logical analysis, as well as law-related courses.
A meeting for first-year students interested in pursuing careers in law is held during the fall semester. During that meeting, students subscribe to an email list so that they can receive information of interest through campus email. After that meeting, initiative is left to the student. Students are encouraged to meet with Heather Wixson, the prelaw adviser, at the Career Center at any time. Furthermore, members of the Prelaw Faculty Committee are prepared to offer advice to any student who inquires. Committee members include Heather Wixson (ex officio), Bob Simon, Yvonne Zylan, Catherine Phelan and Rob Martin. The Career Center has a full range of materials useful to prelaw students. Those interested in studying law are urged to consult such materials early in their college careers.
During their junior year, students interested in law should begin serious planning for the application process by attending a group meeting held early in the spring semester. General procedures, LSAT advice and timetables are reviewed at this time. However, any time that students have questions about application, testing or other facets of prelaw studies, they are encouraged to visit Heather Wixson or one of the members of the Prelaw Faculty Committee. Many students choose not to apply during their senior year, but pursue another interest for a year or two after graduation, then go on to law school. During their senior year, students can meet with Heather Wixson to discuss their selection of schools, and preparation of essays and applications.
Many students interested in careers in law participate in the programs of the Levitt Center, Hamilton's public policy think tank. The center provides facilities for student and faculty research projects that have included a report on national health policy that earned recognition from both White House officials and national news media. Each year, the center also sponsors undergraduate Levitt Fellows, who prepare oral summaries of their own research for presentation in secondary schools around the country.
Hamilton provides several opportunities for students who are interested in careers in law, including the Law@Hamilton student organization. Through this organizations programming, alumni and special guests provide opportunities for students interested in careers in law to learn more. A significant number of Hamilton alumni are attorneys, and they provide a range of opportunities for students who seek them out. By talking to a Hamilton graduate in the law field, students can find out first-hand if such work truly appeals to them.
Additionally, law schools frequently send representatives to Hamilton to inform students about opportunities at their institutions. Students will be notified of such visits by the Career Center. A third opportunity is provided for especially well qualified students through Columbia University's Accelerated Interdisciplinary Legal Education (AILE) Program. This program permits admitted students to enter Columbia Law School after their junior year and to earn both the Hamilton baccalaureate degree and the Columbia juris doctor degree after three years of study at each institution. Students interested in this program normally contact the Heather Wixson in their sophomore or early in their junior year. Although this program may not be of value to all students, most of whom benefit from completing their undergraduate education at Hamilton, it does provide a special opportunity for especially mature students with strong academic records to accelerate their education.
Preparation for law school demands focus on academic achievement, including development of skills in writing, speaking and logical analysis, but not to the exclusion of other facets of campus life. Prelaw students at Hamilton participate in volunteer organizations such as HAVOC (Hamilton Action Volunteer Outreach Coalition), athletics, student government and the more than 70 student clubs and organizations that flourish on campus. Moreover, the environment for learning at Hamilton, while competitive, is also cooperative as students enrolled in the same courses often study together and contribute to each other's learning. Focus on academics and participation in campus life each help to optimize students' chances for success in entering their career of choice.