Psychology and Law

Admission to law school requires no specific major and no specific prerequisite courses. Psychology is one of many undergraduate majors chosen by pre-law students. Northwestern students considering a career in law should read the Pre-Law information prepared by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Prelaw advising at Northwestern is provided through University Career Services. Chicago Field Studies offers an option specially designed for students interested in legal professions.

Success in law school and in the practice of law require the ability to carefully analyze a problem, to collect relevant information, to combine information from various sources to reach a conclusion, and to communicate your conclusion to others. These are all skills that students acquire through the study of psychology, particularly through our more research-oriented courses (PSYCH 201-Statistical Methods, PSYCH 205-Research Methods, and the upper-level research courses.)

Many other psychology courses are beneficial to those who hope to engage in the study and practice of law. Two courses relate directly: PSYCH 340-Psychology and Law and PSYCH 381-Children and the Law. Courses in cognition (for example, PSYCH 228-Cognitive Psychology and the 200-level courses in cognitive science) can help pre-law students learn more about how people perceive and interpret information; among other things, this can increase understanding of how witnesses and jurors process evidence. PSYCH 218-Developmental Psychology and other courses focusing on children are particularly relevant for those with an interest in juvenile and family law. Courses such as PSYCH 204-Social Psychology, PSYCH 384-Close Relationships, PSYCH 385-Psychology of Attitudes, and PSYCH 386-Sterotyping and Prejudice provide information about techniques of persuasion, the interpretation of evidence, and the interpersonal processes relevant in legal settings. PSYCH 303-Psychopathology and PSYCH 306-Introduction to Clinical Psychology may provide useful insights for those interested in criminal law or in law related to mental health.