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2013-2014 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog
Grand Valley State University
2013-2014 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog 
  May 19, 2019
2013-2014 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Legal Studies - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Community and Public Service  section in this catalog.

Director: Bailey; Professor: Mullendore; Associate Professor: Yalda; Assistant Professor: Stevens.


The legal studies major is approved by the American Bar Association and is designed to prepare students for careers as legal assistants by providing a liberal education and the practical skills needed for success in this field. The legal studies program also provides its graduates with skills and knowledge necessary for study at law schools and other graduate programs, including criminal justice, social justice, and related programs. The program’s mission is accomplished through courses which focus on:

  1. Mastery of substantive knowledge critical to the legal profession, including principles of legal ethics and legal restrictions on the unauthorized practice of law;
  2. Critical thinking skills;
  3. Mastery of basic investigative and legal research techniques;
  4. Proficiency in oral and written communication;
  5. Development of appropriate professional behavior and job-seeking skills.

A legal assistant, also known as a paralegal, performs substantive legal work under the supervision of an attorney. While legal assistants play an important role in the delivery of legal services, they are not permitted to practice law, which means they cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, establish a fee, or accept a case on behalf of a law firm. The School of Criminal Justice administers the major in legal studies. Some legal studies courses may be applicable to a criminal justice major. Check with your advisor for possible selections.

Legal Studies Advisory Board

The Legal Studies Advisory Board consists of attorneys and legal assistants representing a broad cross-section of employers, including small and large law firms, the courts, and public sector legal departments. The Advisory Board plays an important role by giving guidance to the program on matters such as curriculum, internship and employment opportunities, and trends in the legal field.

Career Opportunities

Legal assistants are employed by law firms, corporations, federal, state, and local government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Legal assistants also work for banks and companies in various industries, such as insurance, real estate, retail, and manufacturing. Public sector employers include district attorneys, public defenders, attorney generals, and legal aid offices. Regardless of the employer, legal assistants typically work in one or two specialty areas. Examples include civil litigation, criminal law, business law, labor and employment law, real estate law, environmental law, probate and estate planning, family law, intellectual property, employee benefits, and bankruptcy. Legal assistants have used their education and experience to enter other law-related careers such as court and legal administration, arbitration, mediation, computer consulting, and sales. Some legal assistants decide to continue their education and pursue careers as attorneys. Regardless of the setting in which they work, legal assistants need to be able to  think logically and analytically, to present facts and conclusions in a clear, concise manner, to write effectively, to utilize ingenuity during fact-finding, and to demonstrate good judgment and ethical behavior. All of these skills are supported by the academic offerings of the legal studies program.

Legal Education Admission Program (LEAP)

The Grand Valley School of Criminal Justice and the Michigan State University College of Law have partnered to offer a 3+3 program called LEAP which provides legal studies majors with the opportunity to earn a B.S. or B.A. and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) in approximately six years of study. See below for further details regarding the program.

Scholarship Opportunities

There are several scholarships available to legal studies students, including the Mullendore Legal Studies and Criminal Justice Scholarship and scholarships provided by law firms and legal assistant organizations. For details, see the School of Criminal Justice web site,

Student Organizations

Law Society
The Law Society is comprised of students who have an interest in the study of law and pursuing legal professions. Members participate in community service and campus life.

The following programs are available:

Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies 

Legal Studies Minor 

Legal Education Admission Program (LEAP) Legal Studies