Published June 28, 2019
The School of Law is addressing the changing market for legal services and law-related careers with its first ever bachelor’s degree in law, designed to prepare students for careers that demand a sound understanding of the law but do not require a licensed attorney.
“The market for legal services has changed from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market,” says James G. Milles, professor of law and vice dean for undergraduate studies for the School of Law. “Businesses are looking more closely at their ‘legal spend’ and seeking ways to reduce their reliance on lawyers.”
Employers now expect non-lawyer employees in critical areas to have knowledge about the law and regulations, Milles says.
“Compliance specialists work in corporations of all kinds to avoid risks and ensure that organizations are in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations,” he says.
The new undergraduate major is part of the School of Law’s ongoing efforts to “open the door” to legal education by expanding at the undergraduate level, according to Aviva Abramovsky, professor and dean. The school began offering an undergraduate minor in law in the fall 2018 semester.
“As New York State’s law school, we are committed to broadening access to legal education,” says Abramovsky. “The BA in law allows us to provide new pathways for a meaningful legal education in a constantly evolving society.”
The undergraduate major in law responds to this changing need and these new specialties, Milles explains.
“Whole new careers have developed to support legal work,” he says. “Many of these careers do not require a licensed lawyer, but do require some understanding of the law among other technical skills.”
The new major, which debuts in the upcoming fall semester, has numerous markets, UB educators say: students who want to pursue a career where they can add value by acquiring knowledge of the law; students who might want to pursue graduate studies in such subjects as political science, social work, economics, sociology or international relations; and students who decide to go beyond this degree and earn a JD and practice law.
“The response has been extremely supportive,” says Milles. “Law school alumni have been enthusiastic about the School of Law’s many new initiatives, and most of them immediately understand the value of an undergraduate degree in law for many students.”
Milles says the school is doing a “soft launch” for the new undergraduate degree this fall, with the grand opening coming in spring 2019.
“We anticipate that the undergraduate program will come to rival the size of our JD program,” he says.
UB is only the second law school in the nation, besides the University of Arizona, to offer an undergraduate degree in law.
Required courses for the new degree provide a broad understanding of how law works in society, including Introduction to the American Legal System, common law, public law and legal reasoning.
Upper-division courses range from contract law, criminal law, intellectual property, business organizations and business law, and federal income tax to international climate change law and sports law. Students can also choose from dozens of electives offered by other UB departments, among them economics, sociology, political science, English and philosophy, to develop a program tailored to their needs.
The new undergraduate law degree is the latest innovative academic offering provided by the School of Law. The school recently launched a veterans legal practicum and a new concentration in sports law to address the growing need for specialized expertise in these areas.
A wonderful idea that I think many undergraduates are going to respond to. A perfect complement to this program would be a course in ethics focused on the problems encountered by legal professionals in doing their work.