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Law School discussing possible new degree

BY CORY PORTER | NOVEMBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Knowing the ins and outs of the legal system can be a huge boon to any student’s career prospects, but going to law school isn’t always necessary or an option.

Officials at the University of Iowa College of Law are developing a program to aid students who may want this experience without going to law school.

“[The degree] really is designed to give [students] exposure to the legal system and to specific areas of the law for people who don’t want to practice law but who run into legal issues in their work,” law Professor Christina Bohannan said.

The program is called the Master of Studies in Law and will potentially be presented to the state Board of Regents at its next meeting.

College of Law Dean Gail Agrawal said she started thinking about the program around a year ago, and soon after, she got a group of law professors together, with Bohannan leading the way, to formulate the specifics of the program.

“It’s something that we realized was important because we hear regularly from people who say ‘I’d like to take a law-school course, I need to know a little bit more about ‘fill-in-the-blank’ … but I don’t need a law degree because I want to be an engineer or a business person,’” Agrawal said.

The value of the program is that it could supplement a variety of degrees and be applied to so many careers, Agrawal said.

“It’s a master’s program that can be very targeted to the interests and needs of each student, so a student who might be interested in the financial-services industry, that student’s coursework might look very different from a student who’s interested in the health-care industry,” Agrawal said.

The program would be 30 credit hours, so it could be completed in one year of full-time classes or four years of part-time classes, Bohannan said, and it would also be a cheaper option than a traditional law degree.

Bohannan said she submitted the program’s policy to both the law-school faculty and the Council of Provosts for review, and it was approved, so she’s hopeful about its prospects.

After that, she said, the regents will review it, possibly at their Dec. 3 meeting, and if they approve, the proposal will then go to the American Bar Association for a final review.

The American Bar Association is the accrediting agency for the UI law school, so if it approves, Bohannan said, the school could have students in the program by fall of 2015.

Currently, the Drake University Law School is the only other school in the state that offers a degree similar to the Master of Studies in Law, called the Master of Jurisprudence.

Preston Nicholson, the associate director of admissions and financial aid at the Drake school, said the one-year program started approximately a year and a half ago, and in that time, it’s been a success.

“It’s opening us up to a new population of people that we weren’t previously reaching,” Nicholson said.

This is also the goal with the UI’s potential program as well, Bohannan said.

“We think this has the potential to bring in a lot of different kinds of people, people who have been out working for a while, people who maybe got their bachelor’s degrees,” she said


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