Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

When 3+3=2: Ohio Law Schools Adopt Joint Degree Programs

Image of law school students sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture

Students listen to a lecture at the University of Dayton School of Law, where a two-year law degree program is offered. (Photo: University of Dayton School of Law)

Image of law school students sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture

Students listen to a lecture at the University of Dayton School of Law, where a two-year law degree program is offered. (Photo: University of Dayton School of Law)

Payton Orosa was a sophomore at Hoover High School in North Canton, Ohio when he was asked to join the mock trial team.

“I enjoyed reading through case briefs and witness testimonies for mock trial, highlighting important passages, and developing a strategy and overarching message,” Orosa recalled of the experience that sparked his interest in law.

Currently, Orosa is a freshman at Capital University in Columbus, majoring in political science. His dreams of becoming a lawyer, if things go according to plan, will come true one year earlier than usual thanks to Capital University Law School’s 3+3 program.

“The program made sense for me,” Orosa said. “Attaining a seven-year education in six was an opportunity I could not ignore.”

3+3 is an accelerated way to earn a bachelor’s and law degree in a total of six years. The Ohio Supreme Court approved rule changes in July 2014, allowing eligible students to enter law school after just three years of undergraduate course work. First-year course work in law school counts toward electives for an undergraduate degree. Law schools are partnering with colleges and universities to offer the joint degree programs to students who meet admissions requirements, including successful completion of general course work toward a major and taking the Law School Admission Test.

With the average college education in Ohio at about $10,000 a year, shaving off a year of tuition and fees can mean big savings for students.1 However, cost is not the only factor Ohio law schools are looking at as they embark on offering 3+3 programs for their students.

Varying Degrees of Implementation
Ohio Law schools are at different stages of implementing 3+3 programs. Capital was the first in April 2015. Law school Interim Dean Rachael Janutis is pleased with the response in the first year with about 20 freshmen and sophomores currently enrolled.

“We are working with our undergraduates now to include them in programming at the law school,” Janutis said. “They are invited to attend events such as special lectures to help give them a better understanding of what legal education and the profession are all about.”

The goal, Janutis added, is to get the students engaged now and set them up to succeed in law school and, eventually, in a legal career.

A similar idea is being formulated for a 3+3 program at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Associate Dean for Admissions Kathy Seward Northern said the program is being designed to help educate students about leadership and cultural competency to better understand what’s expected of them in law school. While details are still being worked out, including the internal agreement with an Ohio State college, Northern said the plan is to provide a pathway to law that students can apply for at the end of their first year of undergraduate coursework.

Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law in Ada started its 3+3 program last fall, with agreements to allow students majoring in one of eight areas to participate. Professor Stephen Veltri said while a few students have expressed interest to their undergraduate advisors, the true measure of whether the program is a success won’t be known for another two to three years.

The University of Akron School of Law should have several 3+3 relationships functioning by the end of this year, according to Dean Matthew Wilson. “A lot of careful planning and consideration has been given to provide our future and current students with an affordable pathway to a legal career. There’s no financial downside for the students to enroll in the program, and they still complete their undergraduate degree even if they decide not to continue with law school,” Wilson said.

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law has a pipeline ready for students from nearby Lake Erie College who want a quicker way to get a law degree. Deborah Geier, law professor and chairwoman of Cleveland-Marshall’s admissions committee, said Lake Erie approached them as soon as the 3+3 program was announced.

“Ohio is behind the times in offering 3+3. Lake Erie already had an agreement with Duquesne University Law School in Pennsylvania and saw value in being able to provide their students an option if they wanted to go to an Ohio law school,” Geier said. Cleveland-Marshall is in discussion to partner with other Ohio colleges and universities, she added.

The University of Toledo College of Law has also been looking at expanding its agreements beyond the initial one launched a year ago with the University of Toledo’s College of Languages, Literature, and Social Sciences. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Geoffrey Rapp said it will be a year or two before they see any applicants. However, “our recruiters and our undergraduate partners tell us there’s quite a bit of enthusiasm about the program from high school students.”

Creating enthusiasm to gain students’ attention might be a plus for law schools. According to the American Bar Association, Ohio law schools saw enrollment numbers for first-year students fall 5 percent in 2015, when compared to 2014.2

“One less year of college debt is a good way to attract pre-law students when enrollment numbers are trending down,” Case Western Reserve University School of Law Dean Michael Scharf said. “We’re not expecting a large number at first, but will be happy if the program brings in a handful of additional enrollments.” Having concluded its first agreement with John Carroll University, and with negotiations currently underway with several other partners, Case Western hopes to welcome the first cadre of 3+3 students into the law school in the fall of 2017.

Attracting a certain kind of student is something University of Cincinnati College of Law Professor and Special Assistant to the Dean for Strategic Initiatives Michele Bradley sees as an added benefit to 3+3: “A student who can complete their college work in six years is likely to be hardworking, and attracting that kind of student is something we like to see because it’s good for our undergraduate college.”

Law School in Two Years
One Ohio law school has an accelerated law degree program that is slightly different than 3+3. Since 2005, students at the University of Dayton School of Law have been able to complete their juris doctorate in just two years.

“Law students can complete the degree in two years because their first semester is May through August and they attend classes the following summer,” the law school’s Assistant Dean and Executive Director of Enrollment Management and Marketing Claire Schrader said.

That expedited time table appealed to John McManus.

“Having spent time in the workforce, I wanted to spend as little time out of it as possible. That’s why I decided to complete my law degree in two years. There are so many advantages tied to saving time and money, and the rationale behind entering a two-year program made perfect sense to me,” McManus said.

Despite the demanding class schedule he has to keep in order to be able to graduate this year, McManus found an opportunity to serve his community by being elected to the Dayton Board of Education.

While the University of Dayton will continue to offer the accelerated program for students like McManus, who want to finish in two years, Schrader said they are also considering a 3+3 option.

How Many Will Choose the Path?
It’s still too soon to say how many students will choose the 3+3 pathway to a law degree. That’s especially true because many high school seniors don’t know what they want to major in when they head to college, let alone if they want to go to law school. University of Akron’s Wilson points to his own daughter as an example because “she changed her major four times.”

As one of the early participants, Orosa is looking forward to graduating from Capital’s law school in 2021.

“Law as a practice is appealing to me because of its intricacy and the very real consequences it has on the lives of ordinary people. The idea that a lawyer or judge can effectively determine the fate of an individual or group speaks to the importance of law and litigation, and I want to be a party to that practice,” he said.

ENDNOTES

1 The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges: Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, http://trends.collegeboard.org/ college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-feessector-state-over-time (Accessed on March 11, 2016).

2 ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, Change in 1L Matriculants by School – 2015 vs 2014, http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/ aba/administrative/legal_education_and_ admissions_to_the_bar/governancedocume nts/2015_2014_1l_matriculant_comparison. authcheckdam.xlsx (Dec. 15, 2015).

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