The University of Alaska Southeast Juneau campus on July 31, 2020. UAS and Willamette University College of Law recently announced a direct admissions partnership between the two schools to try and make it easier for Alaskan students to study law. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

The University of Alaska Southeast Juneau campus on July 31, 2020. UAS and Willamette University College of Law recently announced a direct admissions partnership between the two schools to try and make it easier for Alaskan students to study law. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

UAS and Willamette partner for law program

Direct admission program for students, alum

University of Alaska Southeast students will now have the option of a direct admissions program with Willamette University College of Law thanks to a recent partnership between the two schools. The 4+3 Direct Admission Program will allow undergraduate UAS students and alumni to be admitted to Willamette Law based on certain academic credentials, Willamette said in a news release.

UA Anchorage already has a similar agreement for law students with Willamette and the University of Washington, said former Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho — himself is a graduate of Willamette Law — and he suggested to representatives from both institutions a similar arrangement be made with UAS.

“You should ask the Law School for a list of Juneau lawyers with degrees from there,” Botelho said in a phone interview Wednesday. “There’s quite a few.”

Alaska doesn’t have its own law school, and many prominent Alaskans have received their legal degrees at Willamette, according to the release.

Among Willamette’s notable Alaska alumni are Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Judge Joshua Kindred of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, according to Willamette.

Students in the program would spend four years at UAS earning a Bachelor’s degree and three at Willamette Law, located in Salem, Oregon.

[Cautiously optimistic, UAS will open its doors]

Botelho said he introduced representatives from UAS and Willamette Law last year to discuss the idea and both sides received it enthusiastically, but the process got stalled when the leadership of both those organizations changed. But the new leaders of both schools were just as receptive to the idea as their predecessors, Botelho said, and the program’s details were finalized this year.

“What was particularly attractive here was the offer of a $10,000 basically scholarship for each person that stayed in good standing in the law program. I think that’s good incentive,” Botelho said.

Students are only eligible for the $10,000 scholarship for the three years they’re at Willamette, according to a news release announcing the program, and students must remain in good standing.

“We look forward to welcoming many future law students through this unique partnership,” said Willamette Dean Brian Gallini in the release. “The 4+3 Direct Admission program will help expand access to a legal education while providing a transparent path to admission that builds on our historic legacy of educating Alaskan attorneys.”

Willamette is already accepting applicants for the program, said Leah Straley, Assistant Dean of Recruitment at Willamette Law.

“It’s good timing for students may have been thinking about law school,” she said Wednesday in an interview. “Now they have a direct path.”

The scholarship money will be available to any qualified UAS students, Straley said, and there is no limit on the number of scholarships awarded in a single year. The law school enrolls about 120 students a year, she said.

The only requirements for enrollment are a completed Bachelor’s degree by the time the program begins, generally in August, Straley said and LSAT or GRE test scores.

Students must remain in good standing with the law school in order to maintain their scholarships. The school doesn’t have a set GPA for that designation, Straley said, but it’s generally around 2.0. The scholarship will only cover a portion of the tuition, Straley said, which generally runs in the $48,000 range annually. More detailed information about the program would be added to the school’s website next week, she said.

In an email, UAS spokesperson Keni Campbell said the program is open to students pursuing any major offered at UAS, but they must complete their major at the school.

“This is a program for alumni and students in any major who have completed at least 90 credits (45 at UAS), but must complete the requirements of the bachelor’s degree before starting classes at Willamette,” Campbell said. “Students must apply to Willamette Law for admission into the full-time or part-time law program between Sept. 1 and June 15 in the academic year before the student intends to begin study.”

Botelho said Willamette had a regional focus well-suited to Alaska’s needs.

“In addition to simply providing the option, it allows students to study issues that are important to the region,” Botelho said. “There are offerings in the law school that speak to UAS students’ concerns; American Indian Law, resource law, particularly fisheries law. And hopefully out of this will grow other forms of collaboration.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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