Starting this fall, the University of Arizona will be the first university in the country to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Law.
Undergraduate degrees in law are already offered in numerous countries such as England, Australia, Canada, Mexico and China. The degree is seen as a good way to prepare individuals for a number of professions in which a strong knowledge of law is advantageous, such as corporate compliance, city planning, water resources management, business management, health care administration, human resources, policy analysis, and legal technology consulting.
“A Juris Doctor is a highly valuable degree and there are roles that only lawyers can serve,” said Marc Miller, dean of the James E. Rogers College of Law at the UA. “But training a broader range of students will serve society, open careers in areas of substantial regulation, respond to changes in technology and the forces of globalization, and invite opportunities for the delivery of new and more accessible legal services.”
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.”
In addition to required core law courses, students will have to complete an additional 15 units and will be able to specialize in areas such as international, family, environmental, immigration or business law, among others.
The new undergraduate degree in law presents an opportunity for unique double majors, noted John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
“A degree in law can be combined with degrees in fields focusing on the environment, health, technology, social justice, business, science, culture and economic development, to name just a few,” Jones said. “In addition to adding value to existing degrees, undergraduates interested in the legal professions will be well-served by augmenting their law degrees with study in other fields. The long-term success for students will be found in the overlaps between areas of study.”
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.
“The new undergraduate law degree and the expedited path to the J.D. provided by the 3+3 are examples of how law schools can collaborate with other departments to deliver a rich liberal arts education and make legal education accessible to a broader array of individuals, ” said Brent White, associate dean at the College of Law.
“The B.A. in law will prepare undergraduates for numerous law-related careers for which legal education is beneficial, but for which a J.D. is not required,” White added. “It also responds to structural changes we are seeing in the legal profession where some legal work is now being performed by nonlawyers.”
The degree “fits squarely within the new public affairs education model of the School of Government and Public Policy in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences,” added Chad Westerland, associate director of the School of Government and Public Policy. “By combining a rigorous social science education with legal training, graduates from the program will have a unique skill set that will allow them to be highly competent professionals and fully engaged citizens.”
More information about the new degree is available at http://sgpp.arizona.edu/bachelor-law.