Friday June 22, 2012

Students Came to Law School, Found a Family

Students who begin their legal education during the summer enjoy an earlier start in May, smaller classes and the chance to graduate in two years.

Students who began their legal education at the University of Dayton School of Law this summer say they were attracted by the law school’s early start date in May, the smaller classes offered during the summer and the chance to graduate in two years.  

“I love that the summer-start program allowed me to jump in and start classes months before I would at other schools,” said Katie Wright, who was city editor at the Times-Gazette in Hillsboro, Ohio, before enrolling in the School of Law. “The summer start at UDSL was a huge draw for me because I was ready to go to law school, and I wanted to get started.”

Spending time covering criminal and civil cases as a reporter inspired Wright to earn a law degree so she could be an advocate both for people and for causes she believes in.

“I wanted to have an education that I could put to use, whether by helping people solve problems, advocating for a change in policy, or by simply having an impact by being involved in the legal system,” said Wright, who is from Wilmington, Ohio, and studied English at Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey.

Like Wright, other students said they enrolled in the summer semester because they were anxious to begin law school.  

“I had the ability to begin right away, so I decided not to waste any more time and get started sooner so that I could finish sooner,” said Chad Houston, who studied theology at the University of Notre Dame.  

A number of first-year students also hope to take advantage the law school’s Two-Year J.D. Program.  

Amy Givens, who previously taught second grade and studied marketing and French at Georgetown University, wants to graduate early while her husband is stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. “I am hoping to complete the law program in two years so I don't get left behind when he moves to his next station!” she said.

Samuel Coffey, who is from Waynesville, Ohio, came to the same conclusion as many other summer-starters when he said: “Why go to school for longer than you have to?”  

“Getting into the field quicker and gaining another year of salary is too much to pass up,” said Coffey, who majored in theater at Miami University.

The Two-Year J.D. Program often attracts professionals like Elaine Hammonds who are interested in starting a new career. Before enrolling this summer, Hammonds was a teacher and fundraiser for several nonprofit organizations in Danville, Ky. “I wanted to get in and get out a quickly as I could so I could start this third act,” she said.

A number of students said they found the smaller class size to be an asset. Many feel more comfortable in classroom dialogue and appreciate the extra time professors have to spend with them.

“We are able to receive more attention from the teachers and one another in order to help learn the information,” Houston said. “The smaller size makes everything seem just a little bit more relaxed and at ease.”

Being in a smaller class has made the transition to law school easier, Givens said. “The small class size makes it a little less scary to speak up or ask questions in class,” she said. “There's no room to hide, but it forces you to be prepared.”  

Though law school is challenging, Wright has found the atmosphere at UDSL encouraging. “I feel like there are people who want to help me succeed and are there for me if I need help,” she said.

The size of summer-start class has also allowed students to create a collegial, supportive environment.

“Everyone knows each other’s name. We’re pretty tight,” Coffey said. “We're an energetic group, always jumping at the chance to help a classmate who maybe doesn't have the right answer.”

As the summer semester progressed, Givens said that the new classmates were getting to know one another well.

“We're like a family,” she said, “and look out for one another.”

The University of Dayton School of Law offers a traditional three-year J.D. program and a Two-Year J.D. Program. For more information, contact the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at 937-229-3555 or lawinfo@udayton.edu.