BACHELOR OF ARTS (BA) IN LAW & MASTER OF LAW STUDIES (MLS): GOLDEN GATE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA
I sincerely thank Dean Colin Crawford for taking the time to answer my questions regarding Golden Gate Law‘s plan to transform its legal education offerings and newly offered degree programs. GHK
GHK: Dean Crawford, diversity is one of the leading features of GGU, and in fact, GGU Law is top ranked as one of the most diverse law schools in the United States. Could you explain to us why diversity within GGU Law matters fundamentally?
CC: GGU Law was founded in 1901 as a night school. At that time, most of its graduates were people who could not follow a traditional path to a law degree- working adults, many of them immigrants. This characteristic of GGU Law, as a school of access and opportunity, continued to grow over the years. In the U.S. and in the rest of the world, law tends to be one of the most elite professions, favoring more privileged members of society. GGU Law continues to build upon its original mission by challenging that tendency with a commitment to help make the profession reflect the diversity of the society it serves. By doing this, we hope to help foster the training and development of advocates for the underrepresented and underserved.
GHK: GGU Law recently announced a comprehensive plan to transform its legal education offerings, and this includes full-tuition scholarships to all students in its in-person Juris Doctor (JD) program. What are your thoughts on the GGU Law announcement of full-tuition scholarships going forward?
CC: Educational debt is a growing problem in the U.S. While the quality of U.S. education tends to be high, the debt that often accompanies it can severely limit life and career choices. GGU Law seeks to develop a model that will help those who wish to become a licensed lawyer to get a good education and follow the career path of greatest interest to them, freed from the burden of tuition debt.
GHK: Other than its economic benefits, how do you think this full-tuition scholarship will affect current and future GGU Law students and the current environment in US legal education?
CC: Full-tuition scholarships will position students to explore a wider range of career choices suitable to their abilities and interest – from lower-paying public interest or government employment to higher-paying corporate jobs. We are thrilled to be able to give students that flexibility going ahead. We also hope that our model will inspire other law schools to do the same.
GHK: Would these full-tuition scholarships offered to all JD students change GGU’s acceptance criteria to the Law School?
CC: Since 2018, GGU Law has offered full-tuition scholarships to between 17-33 students a year. The difference now is that the entire, smaller class will receive these full-tuition scholarships. In other words, we have not changed our admissions criteria for those who receive the full-tuition scholarships. GGU Law is, however, admitting fewer students overall. GGU Law hopes to continue to build upon our current strength.
GHK: Law schools in the United States historically award the Juris Doctorate, which is generally a standardized degree in most states to sit for the bar exam. In light of this, could you please tell us a bit about the introduction of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Law at GGU Law? For whom is the BA in Law degree intended?
CC: As you probably know, the U.S. is unusual internationally in that, historically, law is not an undergraduate subject of study. This means that to become a licensed lawyer, one must complete four years of undergraduate education, earning a bachelor’s degree, and then complete another three or four years of focused law study before taking a bar examination and obtaining a license to practice law. The BA in Law degree, like our new Master of Law Studies degree, is designed to break that pattern. Both degrees, which have been priced very affordably, offer some legal knowledge and training for those who wish to enter a career or improve their current career prospects if they do not have the time or personal circumstances that will allow them to study for a JD for three or four years. Increasingly, a wide range of careers demand such knowledge and training – from social workers to corporate compliance officers to those working in the judicial system or as paralegals. These degrees will serve people working in those and many other areas.
GHK: What are some career opportunities in the United States where BA in Law is beneficial but for which a JD is not required?
CC: In today’s market, there is an increasing demand for experts with advanced legal knowledge but without a JD. MLS and BA in Law graduates can use their knowledge and skills in a variety of professional legal settings for non-lawyers, including, but not limited to legal assistant, contracts officer, management consultant, compliance officer, government official, paralegal, corporate ethics officer, lobbyist, social worker, educator, public affairs specialist, human resources professional, court administrator, financial officer, health care administrator, grants officer, and many more.
GHK: Does BA in Law at GGU Law provide an accelerated track for those who wish to obtain a JD degree, or do BA in Law courses count toward the JD degree if the students decide to pursue that degree at GGU Law?
CC: GGU Law’s professional accrediting body is the American Bar Association (ABA). Under ABA accrediting requirements, credits earned prior to commencement of JD study may not be applied towards the JD degree. The BA in Law and the MLS will, however, provide students with the chance to see if they will excel as JD law students. We anticipate that our best BA in Law and MLS students will be offered the opportunity to earn a JD with a full-tuition scholarship once they complete their BA in Law or MLS degree. They will have a leg up – having already spent a year pursuing a curriculum that closely tracks the first year of JD study.
GHK: I now would like to ask about the Master of Law Studies (MLS) degree program at GGU Law. Who can benefit from the Master of Studies in Law degree?
CC: The Master of Law Studies degree seeks to provide those with a BA in another discipline the chance to obtain a master’s degree in one year at an affordable price, both providing them with basic legal knowledge and skills and also helping some determine whether they want to take the plunge and make the commitment to obtain a JD, whether in GGU’s tuition-free program or elsewhere.
GHK: Are international law students and lawyers eligible for admission to the MLS program? Are there scholarships available to MLS students?
CC: Approximately 7% of GGU Law’s entering JD class this year consists of international students. Moreover, across the university, GGU has a strong international presence. Diversity includes welcoming international students. International students are welcome to apply for any of our degrees, whether the tuition-free JD, the MLS, the BA in Law or one of our Master of Laws (LLM) or Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degrees. At present, there are no scholarships for the MLS, which we have priced affordably in terms of the U.S. market. Some of the LLM and SJD degrees (which require applicants to have a law degree) offer scholarships.
GHK: Lastly, are there any exciting developments, programs, or opportunities on the horizon at GGU Law School that you would like to share with our readers?
CC: GGU Law is expanding its international presence as part of the GGU Worldwide initiative, with asynchronous online degrees, such as an LLM in International Business and Finance Law. This degree, for example, is priced for the non-U.S. market. We anticipate that soon we will offer the opportunity to pursue this and similar degrees both entirely asynchronously and in a model that is mostly asynchronous online but with the possibility to spend a portion of the student’s time studying in San Francisco, as a student’s personal circumstances permit. We are also hopeful to establish foreign micro-campuses that will allow us to expand the GGU Law family globally.
In conclusion, let me welcome inquiries or questions regarding any of the above. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from your readers.