According to the American Bar Association, pre-law students are best served acquiring a particular set of skills called “a lawyering skill set.” The skills include problem solving, critical reading, writing and editing, oral communication and listening, research, organization and management, public service and promotion of justice, relationship-building and collaboration, background knowledge and exposure to the law. To provide this cross section of learning, UH Hilo’s new Pre-Law Certificate program is interdisciplinary and includes a wide array of upper division electives across a variety of majors.
“Like many pre-professional programs at the undergraduate level, certificates such as the Pre-Law Certificate enable students to gain a sense of the practices and expectations in a particular field,” says Sarah Marusek, an associate professor of political science who is serving as pre-law advisor and UH Hilo’s liaison to the Law School Admissions Council.
“In the professional field of law, independent critical thinking with a strong foundation in extensive reading, articulate and engaging written communication and frameworks of interpretive and innovative reasoning is a must,” says Marusek. “Strengthening students’ abilities in these areas is a key focus of the certificate.”
A boost for law school or other careers
UH Hilo’s new certificate program provides students with a wide array of upper division electives across a variety of majors including anthropology, business, English, geography, history, philosophy, political science, sociology and women’s studies. For students wishing to remain in Hawaiʻi and focus on Native Hawaiian as well as environmental issues, theme-based course groupings are available in the areas of rights and disparities, land use and cultural resources and skills and professional expertise.
The new program is expected to increase UH Hilo applicants and admittance rates to William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa, but students also can use the skill set for other careers.
“While not all students who complete the pre-law certificate will choose to attend law school, it is my hope and expectation that students graduating with these skills will apply them in a variety of workplace contexts within our local Hilo community,” says Marusek, “as well as in communities beyond our shores as the intellectual ability to critically engage with society presents opportunities for growth and change.”