University of AZ to offer Bachelor’s degree in law

Since there’s a bunch of lawyers blogging online here at Blog for Arizona (and a bunch of lawyers reading us online), I thought I’d better announce the news that the University of AZ will be offering the nation’s first B.A. in Law.   Read about it more in UA News:

http://uanews.org/story/university-of-arizona-to-offer-nation-s-first-bachelor-of-arts-in-law

The new degree – the product of a partnership between the College of Law and the School of Government and Public Policy in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences – is very different from existing legal studies or paralegal programs. Those programs focus on obtaining legal skills for supporting lawyers. This new degree, however, will offer a rigorous foundational education in critical thinking, analysis and complex problem resolution, as well as a deep understanding of law and the inner workings of the legal system.

After completing core courses at the UA School of Government and Public Policy, students in the interdisciplinary program will be required to take core law courses. These courses will provide an understanding of subjects such as property, contracts and torts, constitutional law, administrative law, and civil and criminal procedure. They will be taught by full-time faculty at the law school and designed to train students to “think like a lawyer.”

It sounds like a condensed version of our current 3 year law schools, but these will not be graduates who can practice law. While at the University of Hawaii at Manoa I created my own “pre-law” curriculum with classes such as Business Law, Philosophy of law, Women & Law, prior to going to law school.

Hopefully these undergraduate students will be able to find legal-type  jobs with this new B.A.  At the least they will learn critical thinking, analysis, and about conflict resolution. And I bet a lot of them will go on to law school anyway.

The UA will also be offering a 3 year + 3 year program for top law undergraduates to fulfill more classes and finish up a law degree in  6 years:

A 3+3 program also will be offered and allow students to complete their Bachelor of Arts in law and a Juris Doctor in six years of study. The 3+3 program will be open to UA law majors with a minimum 3.8 GPA. Students will apply for the program their junior year and, if accepted, take 30 graduate law credits their senior year, as first-year law students. They will spend their fifth and six years completing the remaining 58 Juris Doctor units.

Fellow lawyers, let me know what you think by commenting below. The current system requires a bachelor’s degree (usually 4 to 5 year study) plus the 3 years of law school.

2 responses to “University of AZ to offer Bachelor’s degree in law

  1. Carolyn Classen

    Thanks for your comments Richard. Like you, I’m not sure how useful a B.A. in law will be except to work for law firm in a pseudo-paralegal capacity. It will certainly help students learn more about legal literacy and dealing with contracts in their lives. The 3 + 3 program will enable the brightest ones to pursue a law degree, and then practice, cutting off one year of the current process. I guess we’ll just have to watch how this program develops at the UA.

  2. I’ve worked at two law schools — at one as a research faculty member (who worked with law students who had fellowships in our state’s IOLTA program and who worked at public-interest law firms, programs and institutions), at the other as director of academic support and acting director of student services — and I’ve also been a full-time faculty member teaching in an undergraduate legal studies program.

    I just don’t see the rationale for this, not as long as you can no longer get an LL.B. without other undergraduate experience as in the old days (I’m old enough so that I knew many lawyers in New York, including Democratic politicians from the Ed Koch/Hugh Carey/Mario Cuomo era) and not as long as law school is a three-year curriculum, rather than a two-year curriculum as suggested by many and supported by President Obama.

    The 3+3 program, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense, although I can tell you that even back when I was an undergraduate (1969-1973, as you can see if you click on the link by my name), my college had such a program admitting “freshmen”/first-years with guaranteed admission to a local law school after three years (as long as they maintained a certain GPA), as it did with a medical school.

    Given the crisis in legal education, the incredible falloff in applications, the coming demise of a number of fourth-tier law schools (how does InfiLaw’s Phoenix school stay in business?), the problem of finding employment — I don’t see the point of the stand-alone bachelor’s degree as you describe it.

    I’d say that as long as the system is ABA-sanctioned as is, it would be better for law school applicants and future lawyers (many of whom will make the majority of their livelihood doing something other than practicing law, though most will not prosper the way Mitt Romney did) being liberal arts majors and learning to write, think critically, work collaboratively, and be able to go beyond summarizing, synthesizing, and memorizing to being able to do the kind of analysis and application necessary for both law school courses and the work attorneys — and many other professionals — do.