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Summer pre-law program provides law school ‘test-drive’ for undergraduates

Professor Wilson Parker conducts a class of undergraduate students as part of the Law School's pre-law school program.

Professor Wilson Parker conducts a class of undergraduate students as part of the Law School's pre-law school program.

Wake Forest Law will once again offer a Summer Pre-law Program for undergraduates taught by Law Professors Wilson Parker and Chris Coughlin, and Communication Professors Jarrod Atchison and John Llewellyn.The program consists of two courses that will be taught in the law school but will qualify for credit from the undergraduate college: “Legal Theory, Practice, and Communication” (Communication 370D) and “Advocacy, Debate, and the Law” (Communication 370E).

“The primary purpose of this program is to show undergraduates what law school is like,” Parker explained.  “Many college students in the past have applied to law school simply because they could not decide what else to do after graduation.  Law school is now far too expensive to engage in a ‘test drive’ for a whole year.”

The program gives college students a realistic view of law student life and educates them about the career opportunities of lawyers.

“After participating in this program, some students may well decide that law school is not for them,” Coughlin said.  “Others will have their interest in law school confirmed and emerge committed, enthusiastic, and better prepared for law school and their chosen career path.”

For the latter students, Wake Forest Law faculty members in the program are available to help them with counseling about selecting an appropriate law school and to provide guidance on the law school application process.

“Since we will have gotten to know the students and the quality of their work, we will also gladly write letters of recommendation where appropriate about the student’s ability to do law school work,” Parker said.

“Legal Theory, Practice, and Communication” is a unique class designed to expose undergraduates to a wide variety of legal subjects that law students’ study and tasks that lawyers confront in the practice of law. “Advocacy, Debate, and the Law,” developed in consultation with Wake Forest College’s nationally ranked Communication Department, focuses on basic communication theory as well as the special demands of legal communication. Both courses have proven popular with students.

“We have offered ‘Legal Theory, Practice, and Communication’ for two summers and it has received rave reviews from the students,” Coughlin said.  “In fact, we are very excited that some of our students, who have applied to law school with our help, have been accepted at several top-ranked law schools or have obtained prestigious internships.  We know others who will apply next year.  In all likelihood, some may decide not to apply to law school.  However, these students will have still taken an excellent communication course and learned much about civics and the way that the law impacts their lives.”

Students who have taken the course seem to agree.

Lauren Hunstad, Wake Forest Class of 2014, said, “My biggest question about this moment was what kind of law to participate in and what kind of law to practice later in life. [I received] exposures to different areas of law which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain. Law school is, as you know, a pretty big financial commitment, and you want to be pretty sure about that decision before you start down this long road.”

Ian Rutledge, Wake Forest Class of  2015, said, “This program has definitely confirmed that I want to go to law school, and has definitely confirmed for me the difficulties and advantages of going to law school.  You know, it was great to learn about the different areas of law, and Professor Coughlin and Professor Parker did a great job of making it fun and interesting for undergraduates.”

In talking with other students who have taken the class, the professors learned there was demand for a second law school-oriented class, so that the entire summer session could occur in the law school.

“We are excited to say we have developed ‘Advocacy, Debate, and the Law’ in consultation with Wake Forest College’s nationally ranked Communications Department,” Parker said.  “Everyone entering today’s job market needs effective oral communication skills.  Even those students who decide not to apply to law school will leave the Summer Pre-Law Program with greater self-confidence and increased speaking ability, benefits that will assist them in any career.”

The two classes will be offered during Summer Session 1 (May 28-June 19). Wake Forest students as well as students in good standing at other undergraduate institutions should register via the Wake Forest College Registrar’s Office. Summer School registration begins March 18. The cost is $3,240 per course. While a student may enroll in either course independently, the classes are taught in a coordinated fashion. According to the professors, students receive maximum benefit from enrolling in both classes.

“We are convinced of the educational value of this Summer Pre-Law Program for undergraduates,” Parker said.

For more information, please contact Parker at parkerjw@wfu.edu or Coughlin at coughlcn@wfu.edu.

Professor Chris Coughlin and Professor Wilson Parker teaches a class of undergraduate students as part of the Law School's summer pre-law program.

Professor Chris Coughlin and Professor Wilson Parker teach a class of undergraduate students as part of the law school’s summer pre-law program.