Sociology and Political Science


General Pre-Law

General Pre-Law (GEPL) is for students interested in entering Law School after graduation. The Student Success Center offers a General Pre-Law program that provides guidance in selecting a major best suited for the student and his or her particular area of interest. Since there is no recommended major for entrance into law schools, students should focus on developing proficiency in writing and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically. These are the kind of skills that can be acquired with any bachelor's degree offered at this university.

Tennessee Technological University offers many activities specifically designed for students interested in the study or practice of law. First, the Pre-Law Club keeps members in touch with law schools, legal issues, and the culture of the legal profession. The members participate in a Moot Court competition at the state level and are eligible to enroll in a Mock Trial Course. Practice LSATs are available through the club.

The American Bar Association's (ABA) Statement on Selecting a Major

There is no single path that will prepare you for a legal education. Students who are successful in law school, and who become accomplished professionals, come from many walks of life and educational backgrounds. Some law students enter law school directly from their undergraduate studies without having had any post-baccalaureate work experience. Others begin their legal education significantly later in life, and they bring to their law school education the insights and perspectives gained from those life experiences. Legal education welcomes and values diversity and you will benefit from the exchange of ideas and different points of view that your colleagues will bring to the classroom.

The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. You may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics or business, or you may focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, nursing or education. Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills. Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education.

A sound legal education will build upon and further refine the skills, values and knowledge that you already possess. The student who comes to law school lacking a broad range of basic skills and knowledge will face a difficult challenge.

For Political Science Majors

The Department of Sociology and Political Science is one of three departments at Tennessee Tech University that offers the pre-professional program of pre-law. Dr. Maxwell directs the pre-law program within political science, and most of our majors consider themselves to be pre-law at some point in their academic career. A substantial percentage of these continue this pursuit throughout their undergraduate tenure and apply for law school. To facilitate this substantial number of students, Dr. Whitney has developed a Pre-Law Club. This club holds regular meetings, provides information about law school deadlines, applications, sponsors speakers, and gives practice LSATs (Law School Admission Test). For more information, contact Dr. Lori Maxwell

Mock Trial

Mock Trial course (POLS 2230 & 2240) is available to all students across campus as well as political science majors. These students prepare for state and regional competitions, gain valuable practice arguing legal cases and working as a team, and are exposed to judicial practices. For more information, contact Dr. Lori Maxwell


General Pre-Law (GEPL) is for students interested in entering Law School after graduation. The Student Success Center offers a General Pre-Law program that provides guidance in selecting a major best suited for the student and his or her particular area of interest. Since there is no recommended major for entrance into law schools, students should focus on developing proficiency in writing and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically. A college degree and a satisfactory score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) are generally required for admission to an approved law school. Dr. Henry Mannle, a pre-law advisor, can provide information regarding law school admission requirements and standards and can assist students in planning a program for careers in law.

Tennessee Technological University also offers two activities specifically designed for students interested in the study or practice of law. First, the Pre-Law Society keeps members in touch with law schools, legal issues, and the culture of the legal profession. Second, Mock Trial is open to members of the Pre-Law Society and students who have participated in mock-trial competitions in high school.

A legal education is also excellent preparation for many other careers, because the course of study provides a framework for organizing knowledge and teaches an analytical approach to problems. Any or all of the skills described here are useful for those law school graduates who choose not to practice law, but to go into another field. Professions such as banking, insurance, real estate, public relations, human resources, government, education, and international trade are significant areas of employment for law school graduates. The fields of health care, media, and publishing have also attracted law school graduates to their ranks. Law school does not train you for any particular kind of law, but rather acts as a springboard into various professional opportunities. Among the skills learned in law school that are basic to a variety of nonlegal positions are ease in dealing with legal terminology and concepts, ability to analyze facts, and facility in persuading others.

According to the American Bar Association,

Many lawyers develop expertise in a particular field of law. Large law firms that provide a full range of legal services tend to employ more specialists. The solo practitioner, who must handle a variety of problems alone, may have greater opportunity to work in several areas. Of course, there are lawyers in large firms who maintain general practices, and lawyers in one-person offices who concentrate on a particular legal issue. Both specialized and general practice can be rewarding. One offers the satisfaction of mastering a particular legal discipline, and the other the challenge of exploring new fields. Following are brief descriptions of selected areas of specialization, though there are many areas of the law that can rightly fall into more than one category.

Civil Rights

Many lawyers entered law school wishing ultimately to work in the field of civil rights—the area of law that is concerned with the balance of governmental power and individual liberties. Although the number of full-time jobs in this field is relatively small, many lawyers whose principal practices are in other fields are able to work in this area by taking cases on a pro bono basis. Full-time civil rights attorneys often work for nonprofit, public interest law firms, or as part of a larger firm with a diverse practice.

Corporate and Securities Law

The corporate lawyer helps clients conduct their business affairs in a manner that is efficient and consistent with the law. The responsibilities of a corporate lawyer can range from preparing the initial articles of incorporation and bylaws for a new enterprise to handling a corporate reorganization under the provisions of federal bankruptcy law. Examples of other areas of corporate law practice include (but are not limited to) contracts, intellectual property, legislative compliance, and liability matters.

Securities law is an extremely complex area that almost always requires the services of a specialist. Lawyers who acquire this specialty are involved with the formation, organization, and financing of corporations through securities such as stock, as well as mergers, acquisitions, and corporate takeovers.

Criminal Law

Criminal defense lawyers represent clients accused of crimes. Their public counterparts are the prosecutors and district attorneys who represent the interests of the state in the prosecution of those accused of crimes. Both types of criminal lawyers deal with fundamental issues of the law and personal liberty. They defend many of the basic rights considered crucial to the preservation of a free and just society.

Education Law

An education law attorney may provide advice, counsel, and representation to a school district or other educational agency in matters pertinent to education law (such as student residency, governance issues, the principal and teacher selection and retention process, student discipline, special-education law, and tuition fraud), and in the development of educational policies. Other education law attorneys may represent parents with special-education or student-expulsion matters against a school district.

Employment and Labor Law

Employment and labor law addresses the legal rights of workers and their employers. Issues might include disputes regarding wages, hours, unlawful termination, child labor, workplace safety, workplace injury and disease, family and related leave, pension and benefit plans, the right to unionize, regulations of and negotiations with union employees, sexual harassment, government civil service systems, and discrimination based upon race, gender, age, and disabilities. Attorneys practicing employment and labor law might represent an individual employee, a group of employees, job applicants, a union, union employees, government workers, a large or small business or organization, a government agency, or interest groups.

Environmental and Natural Resources Law

Environmental law was born out of widespread public and professional concern about the fate of our natural resources. Lawyers in this field may tackle legal and regulatory issues relating to air and water quality, hazardous waste practice, natural gas transportation, oil and gas exploration and development, electric power licensing, water rights, toxic torts, public land use, marine resources, and energy trade regulation. They may work directly for governmental agencies that address environmental problems or represent corporations, public interest groups, and entities concerned about protecting the environment.

Family and Juvenile Law

Family, or domestic relations, law is concerned with relationships between individuals in the context of the family. Many lawyers who practice this kind of law are members of small law firms or are solo practitioners. They specialize in solving problems that arise among family members and in creating or dissolving personal relationships through such means as adoption or divorce.

Health Law

The practice of health law encompasses many different disciplines. Lawyers in this field can be in the private bar or at government agencies. Health lawyers can represent hospitals, physician groups, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), or individual doctors, among many others. Government health lawyers can investigate fraud, deal with Medicare policy and compliance, or oversee public health policy. Many health lawyers are engaged in the business of health care, spending significant time in mergers and acquisitions, tax law, employee benefits, and risk management issues. The impact of technology on health care has been great, with health lawyers helping to guide their clients through intellectual property, biomedicine, and telemedicine issues. Other health lawyers specialize in bioethics and clinical ethics, representing universities and other academic research centers.

Immigration Law

US immigration law deals with legal issues and US policies relating to foreign nationals who come to the United States on a temporary or permanent basis, including the associated legal rights, duties, and obligations of aliens in the United States and the application processes and procedures involved with the naturalization of foreign nationals who wish to become US citizens. US immigration law also deals with legal issues relating to people who are refugees, people who cross US borders by means of fraud or other illegal means, and those who traffic or otherwise illegally transport aliens into the United States. An immigration lawyer may assist clients with all aspects of immigration law, but many choose to specialize in subcategories of immigration law, due to the complexity of the law and the frequency of updates and changes. Specialization areas include asylum/refugee law, business immigration law, and criminal and deportation defense. An attorney practicing in one of the above areas of immigration law may work for the  government, a law firm, a community-based organization, or in-house for a company employing foreign nationals.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law is concerned with the protection of inventors’ rights in their discoveries, authors’ rights in their creations, and businesses’ rights in their identifying marks. Often, an intellectual property lawyer will specialize in a particular area of the law. For example, for those attorneys with a technical background, patent law is a way to combine one’s scientific and legal backgrounds into one practice. A copyright attorney counsels authors, composers, and artists on the scope of their rights concerning their creations and personal identities; negotiates contracts; and litigates to enforce these rights. In recent years, copyright law has also focused on technological advances, particularly developments in electronic publishing. Additionally, in today’s global economy, intellectual property issues are at the forefront of international trade negotiations.

International Law

International law has grown significantly as a field of practice, reflecting the increasing interdependence of nations and economies. Immigration and refugee law has also assumed increasing importance as more people move more frequently across national boundaries for business, tourism, or permanent resettlement. Public international law provides a limited range of job opportunities, particularly with national governments, international institutions, and public interest bodies. Private international law may offer more extensive employment opportunities, either through law firms or for corporations, banks, or telecommunications firms. Fluency in another language or familiarity with another culture can be a decided advantage for law school graduates who seek to practice in the international arena.

Real Estate Law

Real estate law generally involves anything dealing with real property (land). These laws are designed to determine who owns land and the buildings on it, who has a right to possess and use land or buildings, the sale and purchase of real property, landlord and tenant issues, the development of real property, and compliance with local, state, or national regulations affecting the use of real property. An attorney practicing real estate law may focus on contractual issues by drafting and reviewing contracts; some real estate attorneys may be more focused on litigation issues, such as determining the ownership of land in  court, challenging or enforcing easements, seeking to allow the specific development of property, or trying to prevent or alter a planned development of real property. In addition, an attorney practicing real estate law may focus on a specific type of real estate law or a related area of law, such as oil and gas or natural resources law.

Sports and Entertainment Law

Sports law is divided between amateur and professional sports. At the amateur or university level, sports lawyers ensure that athletes and donors are in compliance with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules. They also work with colleges and universities that receive federal aid and are thus subject to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in athletic programs. At the professional level, sports lawyers address contract and antitrust issues. They may serve as agents to individual players or represent team owners. Entertainment law generally consists of legal issues affecting television, films, recordings, live performances, and other aspects of the entertainment industry. Entertainment law may involve employment law issues, such as contracts between actors and studios; labor law issues affecting trade unions; and intellectual property law issues, including the protection of creative works such as new songs and the collection of royalties. Entertainment lawyers may assist their clients in negotiating contracts for a record deal or for appearing in a movie, may ensure that their songwriting client obtains the correct amount of royalties for the songs he or she has written, or may go to court to litigate many issues involving the entertainment industry, including disputes over ideas for movies or songs.

Tax Law

In the past 50 years, the importance and complexity of federal, state, and local taxes have necessitated a specialty in this field of law. It is one area of the law where change is constant. The federal Internal Revenue Code and its associated regulations are now several thousand pages in length. New statutes, court decisions, and administrative rulings are issued frequently, and the tax lawyer must be alert to these changes. Economic planning usually includes attention to taxes, and the tax lawyer often assists clients in understanding and minimizing their tax liabilities.

Lawyers are central figures in the life of a democratic country. They may deal with major courtroom cases or minor traffic disputes, complex corporate mergers or straightforward real estate transactions. Lawyers may work for giant industries, small businesses, government agencies, international organizations, public interest groups, legal aid offices, and universities—or they may work for themselves. They represent both the impoverished and the wealthy, the helpless and the powerful. Lawyers may work solo, in a small group, or in a large law firm.

According to the American Bar Foundation's 2005 Lawyer Statistical Report (January 2012, pp. 7–8):

  • 75 percent of American lawyers are in private practice; of these
    • 62 percent work as solo practitioners or in offices of 5 or fewer lawyers,
    • 18 percent work in offices of between 6 and 50 lawyers, and
    • 20 percent work in firms of more than 50 lawyers.
  • 7.5 percent of the profession work for government agencies.
  • 8.5 percent work for private industries and associations as salaried lawyers or as managers.
  • 1 percent work for legal aid or as public defenders.
  • 1 percent work in legal education.
  • 2.5 percent work in the judiciary.
  • 4.4 percent are retired or inactive. 

Many lawyers develop expertise in a particular field of law. Large law firms that provide a full range of legal services tend to employ more specialists. The solo practitioner, who must handle a variety of problems alone, may have greater opportunity to work in several areas. Of course, there are lawyers in large firms who maintain general practices, and lawyers in one-person offices who concentrate on a particular legal issue. Both specialized and general practice can be rewarding. One offers the satisfaction of mastering a particular legal discipline, and the other the challenge of exploring new fields. Following are brief descriptions of selected areas of specialization, though there are many areas of the law that can rightly fall into more than one category.

Lawyers and Their Skills

Law practice is so diverse that it is not possible to describe the so-called typical lawyer. Each lawyer works with different clients and different legal problems. Ordinarily, certain basic legal skills are required of all lawyers. Along with being adept at both reading and listening, they must know how to

  • analyze legal issues in light of the existing state of the law, the direction in which the law is headed, and relevant policy considerations;
  • synthesize material in light of the fact that many issues are multifaceted and require the combination of diverse elements into a coherent whole;
  • advocate the views of groups and individuals within the context of the legal system;
  • give intelligent counsel on the law's requirements;
  • write and speak clearly; and
  • negotiate effectively.

To enter law school, students must have an above average GPA, letters of recommendation and do well on the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test. This section provides answers to questions about the LSAT from the official website.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test administered four times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. The test is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.

In the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and some other countries, the LSAT is administered on a Saturday, except in June, when it is generally administered on a Monday. For Saturday Sabbath observers, the test is also administered on a weekday following Saturday administrations.

Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier—in June or September—is often advised.

View Video: About the LSAT

Test Format

The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker's score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to prerequisite new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

What the Test Measures

The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.

The three multiple-choice question types in the LSAT are:

  • Reading Comprehension Questions—These questions measure the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school. The Reading Comprehension section contains four sets of reading questions, each consisting of a selection of reading material, followed by five to eight questions that test reading and reasoning abilities.
  • Analytical Reasoning Questions—These questions measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure. You are asked to reason deductively from a set of statements and rules or principles that describe relationships among persons, things, or events. Analytical Reasoning questions reflect the kinds of complex analyses that a law student performs in the course of legal problem solving.
  • Logical Reasoning Questions—These questions assess the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language. Each Logical Reasoning question requires the test taker to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer a question about it. The questions are designed to assess a wide range of skills involved in thinking critically, with an emphasis on skills that are central to legal reasoning. These skills include drawing well-supported conclusions, reasoning by analogy, determining how additional evidence affects an argument, applying principles or rules, and identifying argument flaws. 

Repeating the Test

Test takers frequently wonder whether they can improve their LSAT score by taking the test a second time. If you believe that your test score does not reflect your true ability—for example, if some circumstance such as illness prevented you from performing as well as you might have expected—you should consider taking the test again. Data show (PDF) that scores for repeat test takers often rise slightly. However, if your score is a fairly accurate indicator of your ability, it is unlikely that taking the test again will result in a substantially different score. You should also be aware that there is a chance your score will drop. Law schools must have access to your complete test record, not just your highest score; therefore, LSAC will not honor requests for partial score reports.

Unusually large score differences are routinely reviewed by LSAC. This could involve handwriting analysis of the writing sample and other documents, a comparison of thumbprints and/or photographs, or comparison of a test taker's answers to the answers of other test takers seated nearby in the testing room. The same comparisons may be performed in cases of alleged misconduct or irregularity.

Law schools may compare your original test score to your scores on subsequent tests. You should notify law schools of any facts relevant to the interpretation of your test results, such as illness or extenuating circumstances. In the absence of specific circumstances that may have undermined one or more scores on your test record, schools are advised that the average score is probably the best estimate of ability—especially if the tests were taken over a short period of time.

NOTE: LSAC does not automatically inform law schools of a candidate's registration for a retest. It is your responsibility to inform law schools directly about your registration for additional tests.  

Limitations on Test Taking

You may not take the LSAT more than three times in any two-year period. This policy applies even if you cancel your score or if your score is not otherwise reported. LSAC reserves the right to cancel your  registration, rescind your admission ticket, or take any other steps necessary to enforce this policy.

For significant extenuating circumstances, exceptions to this policy may be made by LSAC. To request an exception, submit a signed, detailed explanation—along with verification, if possible—addressing the circumstances that you feel make you eligible to retake the LSAT and specify the date that you wish to test. E-mail your request as an attachment to or send it by fax to 215.968.1277.

You will be notified by e-mail of approval or denial of your request. Be sure to submit your request well in advance of the regular registration deadline so that you can receive timely notification of our decision. Barring unforeseen circumstances, LSAC will respond within seven working days of its receipt. LSAC's decisions are final.


Legal Database - Law school rankings, LSAT info.
Law School Admission Council (LSAC)
Financial Aid Information - regarding paying for law school

Law School Admission Council (LSAC)

Law Schools in Tennessee

University of Tennessee School of Law
C. Humphreys School of Law - Memphis
Vanderbilt School of Law
Nashville School of Law - Not listed as ABA approved

Law Schools in the Southeast

(hyperlinks to law schools in the SE)

Law Schools

(hyperlinks to various law school websites)