Overview of the Honors Program
The Legal Studies Honors Program offers outstanding seniors the opportunity to conduct original scholarly research on a topic of interest, to learn how to integrate theoretical and empirical perspectives, to work independently under the supervision of a Legal Studies or Berkeley Law faculty member, to write an honors thesis, and ultimately to graduate with departmental honors. For students seriously considering the Legal Studies Honors program please plan to attend the annual Honors Information Session in April.
In addition to writing a thesis, Legal Studies Honors Program participants also present their work at the annual Legal Studies Undergraduate Research Conference at the end of April or early May. Prospective Honors students are encouraged to attend. More information about the conference can be found here.
Course Requirements for the Honors Program
Students must enroll in the Legal Studies H195A Honors Seminar in the fall semester of their senior year prior to writing their thesis. Legal Studies H195A is a rigorous five unit letter-graded seminar designed to refine a student’s knowledge about how to conduct research in Legal Studies. The course covers: developing and motivating research questions, grounding research in theory, reviewing the literature, developing a research design, and writing a research proposal.
Eligibility to Apply for the Honors Program
To apply for the Legal Studies Honors Program, students must have an overall UCB GPA of at least 3.5 and a GPA in the Legal Studies Major of at least 3.5. In addition, all applicants must have completed at least half of the Legal Studies course requirements and have no remaining incompletes.
All interested students must apply for admission to the Honors Program. To apply, students must submit the following documents via e-mail to Lauri La Pointe (Lauri@berkeley.edu) by June 15 of the summer prior to the senior year.
- An unofficial transcript showing grades through Spring of the year.
- A writing sample, such as a paper completed for a Legal Studies course.
- A statement (about 1 page) that outlines why the student is interested in the Honors Program and specifies the student’s general interests within the broad field of Legal Studies. The statement might also discuss any ideas about thesis topic (although students need not have chosen a thesis topic at this point) and, if relevant, how the student’s interests and/or background might contribute to the diversity of the LS Honors program.
- Resume (if you have one)
Students will be selected on the basis of the following criteria: overall UCB GPA, GPA in upper division courses for the Legal Studies Major, quality of the writing sample, quality of the statement of interest, and contribution of student’s interests and/or experience to the diversity of the LS Honors Program. About 15 students will be selected to participate in the Legal Studies Honors Program.
Decisions on admission will be made by the faculty member serving as the Legal Studies Honors Coordinator and the Legal Studies Teaching Fellow in consultation with the Director of Legal Studies.
All applicants will be notified before the middle of August of the decision. Students who are admitted to the Honors Program must confirm their interest within one week after receiving notification. Students who accept will be added to the fall Honors Seminar by Lauri La Pointe.
LS H195B and LS H195C
In order to enroll in Legal Studies H195B, students must earn a grade of B+ or higher in H195A and must have an approved faculty supervisor, typically from the Legal Studies Program or Berkeley Law Faculty although a faculty supervisor from another campus department may be approved in exceptional cases. In addition, students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.5 and a GPA of 3.5 in the Legal Studies Major as demonstrated by fall semester grades posted to a student’s official transcript. Students who qualify must submit the H195B form signed by the student, the student’s faculty supervisor , and the faculty coordinator of the Honors Program. The faculty supervisor and honors coordinator may send an email notification to Lauri La Pointe Lauri@berkeley.edu in lieu of a signature on the form. Lauri La Pointe will then enroll each student into LS H195B and LS H195C.
Legal Studies H195B is an independent study course (no lecture involved) for 3 units, under the supervision of their faculty supervisor, in which students conduct the majority of the research and complete the writing of their thesis.
Honors thesis students will also take a two unit, one hour seminar that meets once per week and is numbered LS H195C. The purpose of the seminar is to guide students through the research and writing process as they complete their Senior Honors Theses.
Please note that while the Legal Studies H195B form can be turned in prior to the end of the Fall semester, a student will not be able to formally enroll in LS H195B and LS H195C until his or her Fall semester grades have been posted to his or her official transcript.
Requirements to Graduate with Departmental Honors in Legal Studies
To graduate with departmental honors, students must:
- Enroll in LS H195A Honors Seminar in the fall semester before writing the thesis;
- Enroll in LS H195B and LS H195C in the spring semester following successful completion of the LS H195A Honors Seminar with at least a B+ grade while continuing to meet the GPA requirements;
- Meet periodically throughout the semester with the faculty supervisor during the spring;
- Complete an honors thesis, of at least 40 written pages, and have the thesis approved by their faculty advisor; and
- Finish their final semester with at least a 3.5 UCB GPA and at least a 3.5 major GPA.
- Students must earn at least a B+ grade in H195B and earn a Pass in H195C.
The thesis is read by the faculty supervisor who will assign a letter grade. To graduate with departmental honors, students must achieve a grade of B+ or higher. Students who satisfy all the above requirements will be assigned one of three levels of departmental honors: Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors. The level of honors is determined both by the quality of the thesis as determined by the student’s thesis supervisor, in consultation with the Director of Legal Studies, and by the final upper division GPA in the major. The following factors may be used as a guide by faculty in determining the level of departmental honors.
Level of Honors Quality of Thesis (50%) Upper Division GPA in LS (50%)
Honors Meets Honors Standard 3.50 – 3.65
High Honors Exceeds Honors Standard 3.66 – 3.79
Highest Honors Far Exceeds Honors Standard 3.80 or above
Note: The three units from H195B can count towards one of the two courses taken in one Area for the New Plan. The five units of H195A can count towards the 32 upper division units required for the major, but not towards a distribution requirement.
Note: For purposes of determining the level of honors, if a student has taken more than 32 upper division units of Legal Studies requirements, the Honors GPA will be calculated using the best 32 upper division units that fulfill the major requirements. However, for purposes of admission to the Honors Program, all Legal Studies courses will be used to calculate the GPA in the major.
Note: Both the H195A and H195B grades are used in the final upper division major/Honors GPA calculation, as well as the UCB GPA.
Note: A safe due date for the final thesis is the last day of class. However, a different due date can be decided upon by the faculty supervisor and student as long as the grade can be submitted by the last day of e-grades. The e-grades deadline varies each semester.