When Law Schools Start Offering Arts Degrees

Author:Omar Ha-Redeye
Date:July 07, 2019
 
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The past decade has generally seen a significant contraction in the admission of legal graduates in the U.S., largely influenced by broader economic trends. The ABA Journal reported in 2017,

For nearly 40 years starting in 1971, law schools had an average first-year class size of 246 students, peaking to 262 in 2010. Since then, that average has dropped 31 percent to an average of 182 students.

This trend reversed last year, which has been attributed in part to greater political polarization in the U.S., especially around key legal and constitutional issues. The Law School Admission Council volume comparisons over 5 years suggests a higher volume of applicants since 2018, which has continued into mid-2019.

This increase in law school is mirrored by the total LSAT tests administered in recent years, with 2019 figures skewed higher in part by a new digital LSAT and three new additional test dates (on top of the historic six dates prior).

Although recovery of the American economy and job market may explain this interest in part, the continued increases are being attributed to politics to such an extent that it is being dubbed a “Trump bump.”

In this environment, the University of Buffalo School of Law is poised to embark on what might appear to be an unusual endeavour, offering an undergraduate degree in law. This isn’t an undergraduate degree in the same way that an L.LB or J.D. is technically a pre-graduate level degree. It is a Bachelor of Arts, one which could be used to apply for law school, but certainly isn’t intended for that purpose.

The announcement, made last week, was covered in the New York Law Journal, where they interviewed James G. Milles, Vice Dean for Undergraduate Studies, School of Law, who explained the rationale as follows,

Whole new careers have developed to support legal work. Many of these careers do not require a licensed lawyer, but do require some understanding of the law among other technical skills.

The school’s website describes the purpose of the degree even further:

Why a degree in Law

People in a wide range of careers encounter legal issues on a regular basis. By gaining an understanding of the basic functional areas of law, you will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace, wherever your career takes you.

    • Human resource professionals routinely encounter issues regarding employment, labor, and contract law.
    • Bankers and financiers often deal with matters involving tax, corporate law, securities...

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