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The Pre-Law Program at Hope College

In brief . . .

  1. Be pro-active. Get involved!
  2. Get to know one or more of the pre-law advisors, the sooner the better.
  3. Get practical legal experience. Go on the Washington D.C. honors semester or another off-campus program.
  4. Take advantage of what we have to offer.

Pre-law advisors

Perhaps the most important resource Hope provides for its pre-law students is individualized personal advice and counsel from its pre-law advisors. Their goal is to assist pre-law students in any way they can with the decision on if and when to go to law school, advising on how best to prepare to take the LSAT, successful completion of the law school application process, and much more.  If you are even casually interested in law as a possible career track, we strongly urge you to contact one of the pre-law advisors to introduce yourself and discuss the opportunities.

  • Coordinating Pre-Law Advisor:  David K. Ryden.

Phone: 395-7546
Office: Lubbers 205
Dr. Ryden, professor in the political science department, is also a lawyer with substantial experience as a practicing attorney. He teaches a number of law-related courses at Hope, including The Judicial Process, American Constitutional Law, The Practice of Law & Legal Advocacy, and Law & Society. He also serves as faculty advisor of the Hope College Pre-Law Club.

  • Associate Pre-Law Advisor:  Jeffrey J. Polet.

Phone: 395-7547
Office: Lubbers 206
Dr. Polet is a professor of political science who specializes in political philosophy, with a particular emphasis in 20th century theory, as well as American political thought. Before coming to Hope, he was pre-law advisor while teaching at Malone College.

Several others on the Hope staff have practical legal experience. Dr. Janis Gibbs, Email:  Phone: 395-7591.  Office: Lubbers 330.  Dr. Gibbs is an associate professor of History, is a J.D. and worked with a large Chicago law firm prior to obtaining her PhD.

Law related courses

Hope College offers an impressive array of courses centered on law and the legal profession.  These courses are by no means required for law school, but they provide a rich opportunity for those who want to explore their interest in the law by delving into the substantive study of legal reasoning, jurisprudence, and legal systems. These courses include:

American Constitutional Law. This course is a topical survey of key principles of the U. S. Constitution. The course focuses on the development of constitutional law in the realm of civil liberties, criminal procedure, and civil rights. It also examines the main structural elements that regulate our system of governance:  judicial review, federalism, and the separation of powers.

The Practice of Law & Legal Advocacy. This course is aimed specifically at pre-law students. It introduces students to the realities of the legal profession and examines the profound influence of lawyers in American society. In addition to interacting with panels of lawyers from a variety of backgrounds, students engage in the art of legal advocacy through participation in a moot court simulation, presentations on contemporary legal controversies, and short writing projects.

The Judicial Process.  This course examines the fundamentals of the judicial process in America.  Topics explored include the selection of judges, factors effecting judicial decision making, courts as policy makers, and the appeals process.  Special attention is paid to the judiciary as a political institution, and course participants examine the host of ways in which political forces influence and shape judicial behavior and legal outcomes.  An important component of the course is a moot court simulation, as students take on the roles of lawyers and judges in arguing and deciding a current, controversial legal issue.  We also draw on the expertise of practicing members of the legal community.

The Philosophy of Law.  What is law, and what gives law its obligatory force? This course engages such issues as the nature of law, the relation of law to morality, and problems with interpreting and applying the law, especially in regard to the Constitution, rights and responsibilities, and justice and equity.

Business Law.  This course is a survey of business law.  Aspects of the course stress contracts and include an introduction to sales, agency, negotiable instruments, and partnerships and corporations.

Law & Society. This course will explore the intersection of law with American politics and society, how law influences society and how society influences the law. We will consider definitions and concepts of law, the ways people understand and perceive law and the legal system, and how they interact with it and are impacted by it. We will look at legal structures, practices, and institutions as well as legal actors - judges, the legal profession, the political class, and others. The ultimate goal is to better understand just what is responsible for the unique American legal culture.

International Law, Organization, and Systems. This course examines the formal and informal organizational structure of the international community, as well as international legal norms, customs, and practices. Contemporary international systems and organizations are studied as part of an extensive Model United Nations simulation. A lab culminating in a Model United Nations is completed before Spring Break.

The Hope College Pre-Law Club

Pre-law students at Hope are strongly encouraged to get involved in the Pre-law Club. This is a student-led organization open to anyone, from freshman to senior, who has an interest, casual or serious, in law or in pursuing a legal career. One of the Club's primary aims is to furnish various opportunities for students to interact with practicing lawyers and other legal experts. The Club also hosts seminars on a variety of topics relating to the LSAT, applying to law school, and much more. Moreover, the Pre-Law Club is an excellent way to get to know and develop camaraderie with other pre-law students on campus. Past activities sponsored by the Pre-Law Club have included:

  • The Hope Pre-law Forum, where admissions representatives of regional law schools came to campus to interact with interested students
  • Movie nights showing films with a legal or law school theme
  • Discussion panels with area attorneys over dinner
  • Panel discussions with Hope seniors who have just completed the taking of the LSAT and the law school application process
  • Group advising sessions with the Hope pre-law advisors
  • Tours of local law firms
  • The hosting of law-related speakers on campus, including Michigan State Supreme Court Justice Robert Young, federal district court judge Robert Bell, and past president of the Michigan Bar Association Bruce Neckers.
  • Panel discussions on alternative legal careers

Interested students should contact members of the Pre-Law Club steering committee:


Legal internship opportunities

Hope College offers a variety of off-campus opportunities for exploring legal careers through practical experience. The political science department's banner program is the Washington D.C. Honors Semester, a hugely successful internship program that allows students to spend a semester in D.C. working with law related offices. Past internships have been with the U.S. Attorney, the D.C. Public Defender, the American Bar Association, the D.C. Attorney General, numerous public interest law firms or legal defense funds, and a variety of other law-related enterprises [Washington Honors Semester]. Other off-campus programs are offered in Philadelphia and Chicago. Local internship opportunities also are available; students who are interested should contact Coordinating pre-law advisor and internship coordinator, Dr. David Ryden of the Hope political science department. Finally the political science department has compiled a data base of Hope alumni now practicing law who are open to mentoring and shadowing experiences that will give students a sense of the reality of practicing law.

The Hope Alumni Network

The best sources of information for those who want to learn more about the legal profession are actual lawyers. Hope is fortunate to have many alumni now practicing law who are eager to share their expertise and experiences with current students. The data base of Hope alums in law-related fields includes those in private practice - with firms large and small in Holland, Grand Rapids, Chicago, and elsewhere - as well those in governmental or other law-related fields. Events on campus or hosted by the Pre-Law Club regularly enable students to meet and interact with lawyers to find out more about what they do and about what the law entails. Pre-law students are encouraged to take advantage of these unparalleled opportunities.