Summary: Fitchburg State University and the University of Massachusetts Law School have established a joint program in which aspiring JDs can receive their degree in 6 years instead of 7, the first such deal that Law School has set, though more are anticipated.
Given the aching market for JD’s, which still is burdened by the ratio of aspiring lawyers to actual positions available, it is no wonder that law schools who wish to remain competitive and relevant are repackaging their offers to hook more law students. The new union between Fitchburg State University and the University of Massachusetts Law School has negotiated such a repackaging deal, streamlining the typical 4-years undergrad, 3-years law school into an even 6-year degree program: the fourth year of the undergrad degree will be satisfied by classes taken in law school. FSU President Robert V. Antonucci and UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek signed the apparatus into place this Wednesday, announcing it as the first of its kind between the law school and a state university.
“This agreement is about institutional collaboration that puts students first,” said Antonucci, according to sentinelandenterprise.com. “We are opening doors that will bring affordable, high quality law degrees within reach of our students.”
Certainly a gesture has been made that this is “for the students,” and Bilek furthered it in that direction, saying “We want the kind of student that gets on a path and stays on a path, knows what they want to do, goes after it…[who] has the habits and values that lawyers need. They’re self-intentional, they’re prepared, they’re disciplined, they’re motivated.”
Naturally, such broad sweeping characteristics would be applied to any realistic law student: what would make the six year program any more interesting to a student with a lawyerlike mindset than those seeking a more traditional program? Perhaps only that one must have decided as an undergrad that he or she absolutely wants to be a lawyer, and further, that they want to be a lawyer from this particular law school.
Aside from saving a year’s tuition, by which “they can reduce their entire debt and financial obligation by an entire year…a significant difference,” as Antonucci said, students canny enough to take this route won’t have to bother applying to various law schools. They will simply slip through from the undergrad program directly to UMass law, for as Paul Weizen, interim vice president for academic affairs explained, such a sure admission “takes a lot of the angst out of the law school application process.”
“We are the first state university to have reached such an agreement with them,” said Weizen, “I’m sure we will not be the last, but I’m glad we got here when we did and we’re going to be able to start immediately providing those opportunities for students entering this fall.”
Such get-yer-JD-fast programs are merely one of many strategies law-schools have resorted to in the recent pains felt in many law schools throughout the states, but whether they also offer the same quality education as normal programs remains to be seen.