Saint Leo Opening New Pathways to Law School for Undergraduates

November 21, 2017

From left to right: Lauren Boos, Jonmichael Fernandez, Caleb Kroh, Anthony Polio, Darelius Ortiz-Vega, and Veittoria Statuto. From left to right: Lauren Boos, Jonmichael Fernandez, Caleb Kroh, Anthony Polio, Darelius Ortiz-Vega, and Veittoria Statuto.

Saint Leo University has a new program to help new University Campus students who know they want to be attorneys streamline their path through college. Through the 3+3 Accelerated Law Program, students become well prepared for admission to a cooperating law school while saving a year’s college tuition costs. By following a rigorous schedule, students reduce the time they spend at university to three years from the standard four.

The university already has an agreement with Florida State University College of Law, and is seeking similar agreements with other schools of law. Being accepted into Saint Leo’s 3+3 program does not guarantee admission into law school. But it does give students access to ongoing faculty mentoring and direction in selecting the most appropriate courses, assistance in finding an undergraduate internship, generous aid in preparing for the standardized law school admission test, and other activities to keep students motivated and flourishing.

This approach enables students to enter law school after the end of their junior year of college, pending acceptance. The student is awarded his or her bachelor’s degree after the successful completion of their first year in law school. Upon completing law school, they are awarded the juris doctor or JD, and have saved a year’s worth of expenses. 

Saint Leo was happy to welcome six students, the inaugural 3+3 cohort, in Fall 2017. The group meets every other week with Dr. Heather Parker, a historian and associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. David Persky, an attorney and Saint Leo’s pre-law faculty advisor. They areassisted by other university faculty who include a constitutional law expert, a professional writing expert,and another historian.

Pre-Law Students in class room with Dr. Heather ParkerAcceptance into the 3+3 program is competitive,” said Dr. Parker. “We carefully selected students for this program based on their academic performance as well as their demonstrated interest and participation in law-related activities and study during high school. They are a dynamic, enthusiastic, and diverse group of bright, outstanding students. We have been meeting with them every two weeks in order (pictured) to prepare them for taking the LSAT and to ensure that they are properly advised.”

The students selected for the first cohort have a range of career interests from general law to politics and human rights law. The students are:

  • Lauren Boos, of Elkhart Lake, WI;
  • Johnmichael Fernandez of Orlando, FL;
  • Caleb Kroh of Wabash, IN;
  • Anthony Polio of Clearwater, FL;
  • Veittoria Statuto of Land O’Lakes, FL; and
  • Darelis Ortiz-Vega of Dade City, FL.

Most have decided they want to major in political science, with the exception of Veittoria Statuto, who is a criminal justice major. All will fulfill the legal studies minor, which requires five courses (15 credit hours) among topics such as an overview of the American legal system, various offerings on aspects of criminal law, and other approved courses. The successful completion of the minor should help make the students attractive candidates for law school. Just as important, the academic work required in Saint Leo’s core liberal arts program will develop their writing and critical thinking skills as well as their individual capacities for compassion, humanity, and sense of social justice, all in keeping with the Catholic teaching tradition, Dr. Parker noted.

Further, the 3+3 program also offers students, at no extra cost to them, help in readying themselves for the standardized LSAT. Freshmen in the program are already starting to get used to understanding the test and studying for it, with resources supplied by the university. By contrast, many pre-law students don’t start preparing for this mandatory admissions test until their junior year in college, or later.

It is important for parents and prospective applicants to know that participation in the 3+3 Accelerated Law Program is not the only path to law school from Saint Leo University. Most students can prepare for law school by working with Saint Leo’s pre-law advisor.Some students need time during college to decide whether a legal career is for them, and some take a break between their four years at college and the three years of law school.

In fact, a number of graduates from majors such as political science, history, criminal justice, English, and business—at University Campus (and from Education Centers)—have been admitted and graduated from law school. And if a student begins in the 3+3 program, but decides he or she would rather take four years to complete college, the student may transition into a regular four-year program.

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