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New law degree moves forward

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | DECEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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An impending new degree program from the University of Iowa College of Law, alternatively described by officials as “exciting” and “the wave of the future,” has drawn considerable interest.

The state Board of Regents approved the UI’s proposed Master of Studies in Law degree at last week’s telephonic meeting. Generally, the regents expressed enthusiasm.

“I’m going to sign up for this,” Regent Ruth Harkin said during the Education and Student Affairs Committee discussion.

The new 30-semester-hour degree would be geared toward students who do not want to practice law but would still like knowledge of legal issues for their professions. It still needs to be reviewed and approved by the American Bar Association.

However, the regents did have some concerns, and they requested a follow-up from law Dean Gail Agrawal in February as well as regular communication before signing off on the program.

They discussed whether there could be confusion over admissions standards between different law programs and how the new program will affect resources at the college.

“It sounds like it could be a very exciting program,” said Regent Katie Mulholland last week. “A couple of concerns: concerns on the resources of the law school because, as described to my colleague regents, it could become very popular, and that would add to staffing needs at the law school.”

Agrawal is not fazed by the regents’ questions.

“We’re not anticipating any problems,” she told The Daily Iowan. “Part of what we have to establish for our accrediting agency is that this won’t have an adverse effect on our J.D. program.”

As for admissions confusion, Agrawal said the application process will be completely distinct, particularly as it will not occur through the Law School Admission Council.

Officials have described the program as “slow-growth” and “revenue-neutral.”

“It is difficult to assess what the demand for this new program might be,” Agrawal wrote in an email. “We would be pleased to matriculate an inaugural class of at least five students and eventually to have a class of 20 students.”

Several universities across the country have implemented similar programs in recent years.

Chris Meazell, a Wake Forest professor of legal studies and director of law graduate programs, said enrollment in its similar program is in the mid-teens with a “slow growth” since the degree’s inception three years ago.

“It has grown a bit and we expect that to continue,” he said.

The University of Arizona implemented a similar program last fall, albeit for undergraduates.

Najwa Nabti, the Arizona College of Law director of undergraduate programs, said enrollment for the spring will be 25 students, including full-time and part-time students.

“It’s grown slowly as we watch the program,” she said.


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