Gould offers first undergraduate degree

USC Gould School of Law combines various legal disciplines in releasing the new bachelor of science in legal studies. (Jenna Peterson | Daily Trojan)

As of June 2022, the USC Gould School of Law is now offering its first undergraduate degree — the bachelor of science in legal studies.

The new major, geared towards giving students an extensive breadth of knowledge about the United States legal system, is a 48-unit major that blends law, society, historical precedent and legal reasoning in the U.S. court system. Required courses for the major cover a broad range of topics, ranging from criminal justice to cybersecurity, and pair alongside a required law internship and capstone project.

An additional component of the legal studies major is the four tracks students must choose from for their upper division courses — regulatory state, public law, private law and general legal studies. 

Both the regulatory state and public law tracks carry many governmental law courses that dive into areas like administrative agency activity or landmark Supreme Court decisions, aimed at giving those students an understanding of how the government regulates society. Private law courses will answer questions of how transactions are regulated between individuals, including the workings of contracts and corporations. And if students are looking to touch on all three specialties and gain a more wide-spanning legal perspective, there is a general legal studies track just for them.

“We heard that what students really like to do is to be able to tailor the degree to themselves but have some guidance,’’ said Professor Bob Rasmussen, a professor of law and political science. “[So we] put together three broad categories, plus a catch-all, to give people some sense if they want to specialize.”

The decision to create the bachelor’s degree was a natural next step in the law school’s long participation in undergraduate education over the last 30 years, according to Rasmussen.

“We partnered with the folks in philosophy to start the philosophy, politics and law major,” Rasmussen said. “Then we partnered with the folks over in the humanities to start the law, history and culture major … [and started] a lot of law-related minors in the college. So it’s kind of been growing organically.” 

Students taking their first steps into their new bachelor’s degree have shown excitement and optimism about the courses. Clarissa Rosales, a sophomore now majoring in legal studies, plans to specialize in immigration law and assist undocumented immigrants in the Southern California area.

“Even just the three classes that I’ve taken [have] definitely given me a good foundation and some basic knowledge that’s definitely increasing my confidence for when I do go to law school,” Rosales said.

The addition of the new Gould bachelor’s also made some students’ academic plans at USC clearer. Sophomore Madi Ingrassia is now double majoring in music industry and legal studies after a long journey to find her desired majors and minors and switching between several combinations across many disciplines to best prepare herself for a career in entertainment law.

“I’ve been pre-law since I was admitted to USC. But I always wanted to add an extra little something interdisciplinary to bump up my education and take advantage of my time here,” Ingrassia said. “Then I found out about the legal studies major and immediately went, ‘This is it. This is what I was looking for.’”

According to Rasmussen, the new Gould degree was tailored for students to gain an appreciation of how law and society affect one another, and can be a valuable area of study regardless of if a student wishes to pursue law school or not.

“Everyone who graduates from USC is going to be a leader in something — whatever that something is, law is going to affect that,” said Rasmussen. “If they have a nuanced appreciation for how law affects things, they can use [the major] to their advantage to be more successful in their careers and maybe help guide us to a more just and equitable society.”