Wichita State University has entered an agreement with the University of Kansas School of Law to offer the Legal Education Accelerated Degree program, with an anticipated launch of fall 2021.
LEAD students will begin and end their educational journeys together, completing the program with a bachelor’s degree from Wichita State and a juris doctorate from KU.
“Through LEAD, we expect an espirit de corps to develop in the cohort,” Jeff Hershfield, program director and associate professor of philosophy, said. “The program is designed to really acculturate students to the legal profession.”
LEAD students will complete three years of work in one of five liberal arts and sciences areas. When students have met all program requirements, which includes qualifying LSAT scores and a character and fitness test mandated by the state bar association, they are guaranteed a place in the first year of law school at KU, Hershfield said. After the first year, 29 hours will transfer back to Wichita State as general education credits to complete the bachelor’s degree.
In the LEAD program, approved areas for study at Wichita State are criminal justice, English, history, philosophy and political science.
The strong liberal arts and sciences preparation will help students succeed at KU Law.
“Students and families see college as a way of improving their career prospects, and colleges do that in a multi-dimensional way, introducing hard skills, ‘soft’ or ‘power’ skills such as ethical reasoning and communication, and putting students on a path to self discovery,” Andrew Hippisley, dean of Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said. “The LEAD program with its explicit goal of preparation for a legal career through a liberal education makes the case for both the intrinsic and practical values of the liberal arts as preparation for life and work.”
The program may also appeal to honors students majoring in one of the five approved study areas.
“I’m confident that honors students will find the LEAD program an exciting, challenging option,” Kimberly Engber, dean of Dorothy and Bill Cohen Honors College, said. “It makes the pathway to a career in law less of a mystery and connects our students to a larger world more quickly.”
LEAD provides support for challenges
LEAD students will benefit from preparatory experiences before they attend KU. Enrollment in Career Paths in the Legal Profession, a one-credit hour course which will feature local attorneys and judges as invited speakers, will expose Wichita State students to different areas of law, current issues and what to expect in law school.
“The class is a chance for students to really get a heads up on what career possibilities will be open to them upon graduation from KU Law,” Hershfield said. “This will equip them to make informed decisions about their career paths.”
As sophomores, LEAD students will be encouraged to volunteer with local law-affiliated organizations such as CASA and Kansas Legal Services. There will also be opportunities for internships with area law firms. Through these experiences and interaction with attorneys, students will learn about the practice of law and law school.
As juniors, LEAD students will be encouraged to meet with practicing attorneys, attend community events connected to the legal field, and visit KU and speak with KU law students.