There isn’t a law school in Alaska, but the University of Alaska Anchorage is launching a new program to make it easier for Alaskans to attend law school.
It’s a partnership with Willamette University College of Law in Oregon.
Prospective law school students in Alaska face a lot of obstacles, including cost and having to attend school out of state.
Deb Periman, the UAA Legal Studies Program Coordinator, says the goal is to create more options for Alaska students.
“This partnership is designed as a way for very high-achieving, very highly-motivated and focused students to reduce their education costs and be able to get that law degree and their undergraduate degree in six years rather than seven,” Periman said.
This approach is called a “3+3” program, and it’s modeled after Willamette’s current partnership with Oregon State University.
Students will complete all the requirements for their undergraduate degree at UAA during their first three years – with the exception of a year’s worth of general elective credits.
For their fourth year of school, students will attend Willamette University College of Law before they receive their undergraduate degree, which Periman says is unusual.
“They’ll complete their first year of law school and what they’ll do then is transfer those law school credits back to UAA as upper-division elective credits,” Periman said. “So, essentially, they’ll be graduating with their baccalaureate degree after their first year of law school.”
Periman says the program will help ease some of the financial burden on students by eliminating the cost of the final year of undergraduate work, and it will increase graduates’ earning potential by getting them into the workforce a year earlier.
Curtis Bridgeman, the Dean of the Willamette University College of Law, says there are a number of similarities between Willamette and UAA, so the partnership is a natural one.
“We really focus on a student-centered education, and by that we mean the sort of education where the students aren’t just a number; we really try to get to know them early on; get to know their goals for their career and try to help make them connections that are gonna lead to good employment outcomes,” Bridgeman said.
One requirement of the program is after their first year of law school, students must return to Alaska to complete an externship or capstone project. The idea is to allow students to get first-hand experience with Alaska law and Alaska employers.
With over 150 Willamette law school graduates in Alaska, Periman says there should be plenty of externship opportunities.
“There’s a tremendously active alumni association here and an association that takes a lot of pride in giving new graduates a leg up,” Periman said.
Job prospects bode well for students who graduate from the program. For the class of 2013, Willamette ranks fifth in job placement among West Coast law schools.
Periman says the program will kick off this coming fall, and anticipates between 4-6 students being accepted each year.