A new agreement between Syracuse University College of Law and Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College will fulfill a dual objective: diversifying the student body of the law school – and thus the legal profession – while also providing a pipeline for students from the three historically Black institutions to accelerate the time to their bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees.
The 3+3 agreement with the Atlanta University Center (AUC) schools would decrease the time it takes for students to earn their J.D. from seven years to six, reducing the cost of their education and allowing them to enter the workforce sooner. As part of Syracuse’s commitment to access and diversity in legal education, law school officials note that the program will additionally provide comprehensive outreach and supports to AUC students earlier in their higher education journey.
“While students are in this program – and they can indicate their interest in participating in this program as soon as they begin their undergraduate program – we intend to provide for them the kind of exposure to the practice and the profession, to lawyers that will help them master some of the subtle things about the way that law practice works, the way that law firms work [and] a lot of the language and the lingo that’s related to law so that they’re better prepared to be in law school and have a little bit of a leg up,” said Craig M. Boise, dean and professor of law at the Syracuse University College of Law.
Further, selected students will receive scholarships to offset the cost of their legal education, preparation for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and the opportunity to travel to Syracuse to get a sense of where “they will hopefully be studying law,” Boise said. Officials similarly anticipate giving AUC students access to Syracuse Law’s alumni base in Atlanta so they can shadow lawyers in practice or secure internships.
Another component of the new 3+3 agreement will be programming on “hot topics” in law. Officials aim for Syracuse law faculty members to travel to Atlanta to conduct presentations with students; some presentations may be day-long events, Boise said.
“We look forward to exploring those ideas with our partner schools as we move forward and as this program grows and expands,” he said. “We are not just saying, ‘Here we are. Come to the law school after your third year of undergrad,’” he said. “But we really want to provide assistance to students in making the transition into legal education.”
Administrators from the Atlanta HBCUs hailed the partnership with Syracuse for its mutual objective to boost their students’ academic and career success in the legal realm while saving them money.
“I am excited by the opportunities that this program will provide for our students who are interested in pursuing careers in law,” said Dr. Matthew B. Platt, chair and associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Morehouse. “This program is a testament to Dean Boise’s and Syracuse’s commitment to the recruitment of Black students, and I hope it serves as a model for law schools across the nation.”
The new 3+3 agreement with Clark, Morehouse and Spelman adds to the Syracuse Law School’s existing agreements. Other partner schools include Alfred University, Le Moyne College, Nazareth College and St. John Fisher College, Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management.
Boise explained that, in the already-established agreements, it was largely the schools that expressed an interest in partnering with Syracuse for an accelerated law program pipeline. But the new program with the Atlanta schools is different.
“We view the Atlanta program as different in terms of our level of engagement and activity with the institutions,” Craig said. “We thought here’s an opportunity for us to take that same basic framework, but add to it a lot of programming and other kinds of things that will make it particularly valuable, and hopefully, really enhance the diversity pipeline for our law school.”
Denee Page, assistant dean of enrollment management at the Syracuse University College of Law, said all of Syracuse’s 3+3 agreement programs have gleaned more interest from students since they were established a few years ago.
“Giving them that access early on, we make sure, with both these new 3+3 agreements coming up as well as our existing ones, that we have information sessions, we go to the schools, we invite them to [Syracuse], and we really want that to be a part of this because the important thing for these students is that they feel like they’re coming into a supportive community,” she said, especially as students consider a decision like leaving undergrad a year early for law school. “For some of these students, it may be the first big step they’ve taken in considering how time and cost-savings can help their career. We really encourage that to be something that continues to grow.”
April 1 of a student’s junior year in undergrad is the goal date for them to submit their application materials for the 3+3 program, Page said. Syracuse officials will solicit letters of intent from AUC students ideally in their freshman or sophomore year.
“As they commit to being part of the program, then we can provide the scholarship assistance, the LSAT training,” Boise said, adding, “My goal is quite aggressive. I hope in the next three to five years we can double the number of African American students who are coming to Syracuse to the law school.”
A program such as this, where admissions and other law school officials are able to work with students from the beginning of their higher education careers, provides a window into ensuring not only that the student feels comfortable making a transformative decision to go on to law school, but also shows them what it’s really like in the legal field, Page said.
“We are really looking forward to growing this program. It’s such an important thing to do and an interesting way to consider how do we make the law profession more diverse?” she said. “It really does start with [law school] admissions, and it starts, as we know, before that in many cases.”