Deans consider adding joint law degree

The University may offer a six-year combined undergraduate and law degree as early as fall 2005, officials said.

Deans of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the GW Law School are developing a program that would allow students to directly enroll in the University as undergraduates and stay to earn their juris doctor degrees.

Currently, GW seniors must apply to the law school by submitting an application, which includes grades and a student’s law school entrance exam score. A combined program of six years would cut back overall studies by a year.

The idea needs approval from the deans and faculty of the law school and CCAS in order to move forward, officials said. Law School Dean Michael Young and CCAS Dean William Frawley are researching the idea.

Officials said they have not yet decided whether undergraduates enrolling in all schools or only those in CCAS would be eligible for the degree.

“It is a great idea, but it is not a formal proposal,” Frawley said. “I would hope it would be well-received by the faculties of the two schools.”

He said the program is still in the “idea stage” and that there is no set timetable.

Officials must work to resolve several questions before moving forward with the program – whether participating students would need to take the LSAT, what SAT and grade point average requirements would be, and how tuition and financial aid would be managed, said Roger Trangsrud, the Law School’s senior associate dean for academic affairs.

If the deans and faculty members agree on a formal proposal, the idea would go to the Curriculum Committee at the Law School, chaired by professor Todd Peterson. If the committee decides to go forward with the proposal, it is likely to be approved by May 2004 and could be implemented by fall 2005, at the earliest, Trangsrud said.

In a meeting last Saturday, University officials decided that the undergraduate curriculum should include special freshman seminars and “tailored advising, mentoring and internship experiences” to facilitate a successful transition into the Law School, Frawley said.

Officials are also considering designing the program so that students would finish their undergraduate major within the first three years of school and then concentrate on law classes their senior year.

Frawley said skills such as strong writing and the “ability to think on your feet” will play a large role in the undergraduate curriculum.

The Law School curriculum would be the same for students in the six-year degree program and those already in the Law School.

Trangsrud said no extra faculty would be required to begin the program and that it would not affect total enrollment in the law school, which received a record 11,800 applications this year.

Frawley said the program is geared more toward building a stronger undergraduate program at GW than toward improving the Law School’s academic reputation, although it will improve overall quality.

“The Law School is interested in recruiting the best and brightest students and views this program as an opportunity to do just that,” Trangsrud said.

He said the program is not likely to have a significant impact on the Law School’s academic reputation or rankings.

Some students said the combined degree program is a good idea because it guarantees Law School admission as an undergraduate.

“The idea of not having to apply to law school is enticing – definitely a reason to consider this program,” senior Dan DeSpirito said.

Other students said they prefer to have more flexibility when deciding which law school to attend.

Sophomore Caitlin Kilroy said, “It’s a good idea for people who are very focused on law, but I would rather take a few years off between college and law school to travel and go to law school when I’m more prepared for it.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.