Pre-Law Advising Program at Clemson: How English Majors Can Get Involved
In April 2020, Clemson implemented an official pre-law advising program after hiring Dr. Tim Garrison. Dr. Garrison started his career as an attorney and eventually realized his passion for studying history. He earned his master’s degree in history at Clemson in 1993 and later received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. After completing his education, Garrison began working at Portland State University as a history professor, casually giving students advice about practicing law in his spare time. Exchanges with students helped Garrison realize that “advising by personal anecdote” was not the most efficient way to make a difference. He quickly began attending conferences and learning as much as he could about advising students.
The pre-law advising program at Clemson is associated with the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, but the services are available to all students. Dr. Garrison encourages English majors to explore opportunities related to pre-law at Clemson and utilize his advising services to determine the best path for them. Since Dr. Garrison started at Clemson near the beginning of the pandemic, it has been difficult to establish a strong presence on campus. However, Dr. Garrison offers many online resources, such as a Canvas page and a website for alumni that offers information on law school, upcoming events and a link to schedule a virtual appointment with him.
When asked about how English majors could apply their skills to a degree in law, Garrison said, “English is a natural preparation for law school.” The refined reading comprehension and writing skills of English majors help them to craft and understand a well-thought-out argument.
English majors often find great success in law school. There is no need to switch into a different major, but it is necessary to broaden the scope of classes that one is taking. Enrolling in classes related to government and familiarizing oneself with court cases is important. English is normally within the top five majors for law school students, considering that the majority of exams are in the form of an essay.
There are many resources available to students interested in learning more about the pre-law program, including a book written by Dr. Garrison and Dr. Frank Guliuzza called “Before the Paper Chase: The Scholarship of Law.” Garrison thought that a quantitative analysis of law school admissions was missing from the scope of resources that already exist. His passion for pushing others towards success created an opportunity to write this book. Other than his book, there are other resources intended to educate students on law school and pre-law in general. Clemson hosts an annual law school fair that grants students the chance to speak with representatives from over 120 schools. Dr. Garrison also recommends learning more on the Law School Admission Council website, https://www.lsac.org.
English majors interested in pursuing pre-law have a great resource at their disposal with Dr. Garrison. His main mission is to get students who should go to law school to go. This program is available to Clemson students as early as summer orientation and certain resources continue beyond graduation. In regard to why English students should explore this opportunity, Garrison says that he wants to help students succeed, whether that be in law school or somewhere else. It is important to note that Dr. Garrison tells students that, “You do not have to get fully serious about going to law school until junior year.”
“The best thing that I can provide to English students is being the funnel or filter to tell them what is important and what’s not important,” Garrison said. “My goal is for students to come back in 10 or 15 years and say ‘I’m happy.’ What I want to know is that students made the right decision and followed the right career path for them.”
If students are interested in pursuing law school, there are steps that they can take before junior year. Maintaining good grades, establishing relationships with professors who can provide letters of recommendation and getting involved outside of the classroom, especially in areas related to public interest, are all things that students can do before getting serious about post-graduation plans. It is essential to take the time to research various law schools and prepare for the LSAT when applications begin to open up for future law school students.
While April is nearing the end of the law school decisions being distributed, the cycle of law school will pick back up again during the late summer. Dr. Garrison encourages students to read materials related to law school and start creating relationships that will be important when applying to schools and needing letters of recommendation. English students should take advantage of this program by exploring what opportunities exist within the pre-law program at Clemson and what guidance Dr. Garrison can offer. More information can be accessed through the pre-law advising webpage, https://www.clemson.edu/academics/programs/pre-law/.
Written by: Chandler Brown