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Department of History and Geography

Legal History Emphasis Area and Pre-Law Advising for History Majors

Legal History Emphasis Area

The Legal History Emphasis Area provides structure and courses that are beneficial for History majors who plan to attend law school and/or seek careers in fields associated with the legal profession. In addition to fostering the development of critical thinking skills, the Legal History Emphasis Area is designed to help students to place legal developments in historical context. Perhaps most importantly, courses in the Emphasis Area will introduce students to historical methodologies that are particularly useful in evaluating and crafting legal arguments.


Emphasis Area Requirements

  • HIST 3280 or HIST 3290
  • Two of HIST 3950, HIST 4900, HIST 4960, LAW 3220, PHIL 1020, PHIL 3430, POSC 4360, POSC 4370, POSC 4380, POSC 4390, POSC 4470
  • HIST 2990 and either HIST 4900 or HIST 4980
  • 18 additional credits in History. Students must take three hours each of United States history, European history, and non-Western history, in addition to three hours of history at the 4000 level (in addition to HIST 4900 or HIST 4980). No more than six hours of 1000- and 2000-level history courses (in addition to HIST 2140, HIST 2150 and HIST 2990) may be counted towards the Major Requirements.

Contact: Dr. Lee Wilson

Pre-Law Advising for History Majors

Students who intend to apply to law school are well positioned by studying history at Clemson. Not only does history build analytical, reasoning and writing skills that are critical to a successful legal career, as a history major you will receive special assistance and advice specific to those who study history in our department. Scroll down on this page for more information about pre-law advising for history majors. Additional pre-law advising is also available to students through College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities pre-law advising office.

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    • If you are considering a career in law, a history degree will give you significant advantages, both during the application process and as a law student.
    • Experts consider History to be among the top 10 best majors for aspiring laws students (
    • According to the Law School Admissions Council, more than three thousand law school applicants in 2018 and 2019 held a 4-year degree in history. Of those, more than 80% were admitted to law school.
    • According to the Law School Admissions Council, History majors also have a significantly a significantly higher average LSAT score and a much higher acceptance rate to law school than Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, and Criminal Justice majors.
    • Why?
      • History majors/minors learn to write cogently, to analyze carefully and accurately, to reason logically, and to speak effectively and articulately.  These are the skills that law schools seek in applicants, as they are crucial to success in law school and in professional life. 
      • A solid undergraduate-level foundation in history gives students a deeper understanding about how the American legal system developed over time. History majors learn about landmark court rulings, treaties, and the development of political systems in the United States and elsewhere. 
      • Clemson’s History Department includes faculty who teach courses in which law is a major or primary component. These courses range in subject matter from medieval and early modern European law, American legal history, nineteenth-century slave law, and law in the Indian Ocean world. They introduce students to some of the basic principles of legal behavior and some of the forms that law has taken as it changed over time, an introduction that will prepare students for the rigors of law school.


    • Law schools tend to view the history major as challenging, and this makes a favorable impression when weighing tough admissions decisions.
    • GPA heavily impacts law school admissions, and students tend to perform better when they take courses that they enjoy rather than those they believe that they “should” take. Studying history gives many students deep personal satisfaction, and therefore a better chance for academic success.
    • History students attend smaller courses and seminars, giving aspiring law school applicants the opportunity to build strong relationships with faculty members who can write detailed recommendations.



    When applying to Law School, you should start early and stay active throughout the process.  Dr. Lee B. Wilson ( is the History Department’s pre-law adviser, and is able to assist with all aspects of the application process, from creating a checklist and timetable, to streamlining and perfecting your personal statement.

    As you consider whether law school is the right career path for you, please consult the following resources:

    Law School Admission Council Online:  Your starting point to find the answers to your questions. Information on the LSAT exam, LSDAS (application procedures and services), law school forums, diversity initiatives, publications, and more. Bookmark this site -- you will return to it often.

    PreLaw Insider:  Get advice on studying for the LSAT, choosing law schools, financing your law school years and more.

    Resources for Minority Applicants:  Information from the Law School Admissions Council for members of underrepresented minority groups.

    The Council on Legal Education Opportunity ("CLEO"):  CLEO was founded in 1968 as a non-profit project of the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education to expand opportunities for minorities and low-income students to attend law school and become members of the legal profession by providing pre-law recruitment, counseling, placement assistance and training.

    Resources for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Applicants:  Information from the Law School Admissions Council for members of these groups.

    Equal Justice Works Resources for those interested in learning more about Public Interest Law, including law schools and programs, debt and loan forgiveness, and finding public interest jobs.

    ABA Required Disclosure Forms:  ABA-required information on accredited law schools. 

    Law School Transparency Reports

    AccessLex Institute: Non-profit research organization offering a variety of information on law school admissions and financial aid.   

    To learn more about the admissions process and the law school experience (available at Cooper Library): 

    • Anna Ivey, The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions
    • Susan Estrich, How to Get Into Law School  
    • Atticus Falcon, Esq., Planet Law School II: What You Need to Know (Before You Go)-but Didn't Know to Ask.. And No One Else Will Tell You
    • Deborah Schneider & Gary Belsky, Should You Really Be a Lawyer? : The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During & After Law School  

    The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an integral part of law school admission in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. The test is designed specifically to assess key skills needed for success in law school, including reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning.


    Starting in September 2019, the LSAT will be administered digitally in North America. 


    Test Dates, Deadlines, and Score Release Dates


    Preparing for the LSAT


    Students prepare for the LSAT in different ways.  A number of companies offer paid LSAT test prep courses.  These include:


    • Blueprint
    • Testmasters
    • Next Step Test Prep
    • Power Score
    • Kaplan
    • Princeton Review


    The Khan Academy also offers free LSAT test preparation materials.


    The timeline below is a general overview of the application process. You should always consult the materials and timeline that each individual law school specifies.


    • Contact Dr. Wilson ( for assistance with the decision making and application process
    • Sign up to take LSAT prep courses in the spring or summer, if necessary
    • Register to take the LSAT exam in June or October
    • Research law schools of interest
    • Request letters of recommendation from two or three faculty members


    • Take the LSAT exam or prep courses, depending on LSAT exam date
    • Prepare a draft of your personal statement and have it reviewed by Dr. Wilson
    • Prepare a draft of your resume
    • Create a list of law schools to which you are applying
    • Register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
    • Verify with the Office of the Registrar that your official transcript is accurate and current
    • Request that your transcripts be sent to the CAS
    • Visit law schools of interest (optional)


    • Finish revisions and finalize your personal statement
    • Update and finalize your resume
    • Ensure you have all necessary letters of recommendation and/or LSAC evaluations
    • Start looking into financial aid:
    • Take the October LSAT if applicable
    • Complete the LSAC application
    • Send completed applications by Thanksgiving
    • Contact law schools to confirm the completion of your applications
    • Relax and enjoy the holidays!


    • Develop a ‘Plan B’ by brainstorming and discussing alternative options
    • Prepare for interviews, if necessary
    • Evaluate and submit offers of acceptance

    Your personal statement is an opportunity to present yourself as more than an LSAT score and GPA. The personal statement sets you apart from other candidates. It is also a sample of your ability to express thoughts clearly and cogently.


    1. Brainstorm any topics or themes you might want to consider for your statement.
    2. Select 1-2 topics/themes you believe will be the strongest.
    3. Write a rough draft. Don’t worry about length, style, or grammar.
    4. Put it away for a while. Time adds an interesting perspective on your writing.
    5. Redraft and edit as needed.
    6. Have several people read it.
    7. Consider the feedback you have been given and craft your final draft.
    8. Proofread, proofread, and proofread.


    If the school does not specify a topic (and many don’t, but always check) here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm:

    • Hobbies/work/other experiences that have shaped you
    • How you became interested in the law (using a very specific example)
    • Life events that have changed or motivated you
    • Challenges & hurdles you have overcome
    • An issue or subject that you feel strongly about and why (just make sure not to “preach”)
    • A unique experience that you have had inside or outside the classroom
    • Your goals and the events that have shaped those goals


    • Ensure that you answered the essay questions they provided
    • Remember to put the “personal” in the personal statement
    • Avoid just restating your resume or transcript
    • Most schools do not place restrictions on the personal statement, but a general guideline is 2-3 double-spaced pages (check with each school for specific guidelines)


    • Spelling and grammatical errors
    • Sending the wrong letter to the wrong school
    • Using too many big words, “legalese,” or research jargon
    • Writing a general, non-specific essay about your love of law or justice
    • Spending just a few hours on your personal statement and submitting your first draft
    • Not following directions: exceeding the specified page limitations, not answering the questions
    • Using gimmicks: writing in crayon, modeling your personal statement as a legal brief, or writing it as a poem

    Many law schools have sections on their admission pages/blogs that contain guidelines and/or samples of personal statements. See also:

    101 Law School Personal Statements That Made a Difference by Dr. Nancy L. Nolan

    Law School Essays That Made a Difference, 6th Edition (Graduate School Admissions Guides) by the Princeton Review


    To ask professors for letters of recommendation:

    • Choose wisely. Your goal is to obtain letters from professors who can speak well of your reading and writing skills. They need not be from your major; nor need they be from a law-related class. 
      • The two required letters of recommendation should be written by those familiar with your academic work; if you'd like to include a letter from an employer or someone else who knows you outside of the academic context, send 3 letters.
    • Ask promptly. Your professors will need adequate time to draft a letter on your behalf; last-minute requests will not impress them with your ability to manage your time.  If you know you'll be applying to law school in the fall, approach your selected professors early in the semester and ask them to write on your behalf.  You should leave at least four weeks between when you ask for the letter and when you hope to have it at LSDAS.
    • Ask politely. What you want to know is whether the professor is willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation - you also want to know if she won't.  Thus, feel free to ask your professor if she feels she knows you well enough to write on your behalf - this provides a way of asking the question and a graceful way out for a professor who may not feel she can write a particularly specific or helpful letter for you, whatever the reason.
    • Make sure to provide your professor with all of the information he or she could possibly need to write you a strong letter of recommendation. This should include:
      • the LSDAS recommendation form, with a stamped envelope
      • a list of the schools to which you're applying, with deadlines
      • your LSAT score, if available
      • a 1-page resume (keep it to 1 page!)
      • an up-to-date, unofficial transcript
      • a draft of your personal statement (if available)
      • copies of the work from the class(es) in question (exams and/or papers with the professor's comments are ideal)
      • a date by which you plan to have your parts of the applications submitted (which then serves as a deadline for the letter of recommendation). If you've given your professor plenty of time to draft the letter, a polite email reminder around this date is not inappropriate.
      • any other piece of information she may request.
Department of History and Geography
Department of History and Geography | 126D Hardin Hall, Clemson, SC 29634