Photo of Professor Gardner teaching a classroom of undergraduate students.

Professor James Gardner teaches an introductory law class to undergraduate students.

Undergraduate law degree addresses new demand for law-ready graduates

The School of Law is addressing the changing market for legal services and law-related careers with its first ever undergraduate bachelor degree in law, designed to prepare students for careers that demand a sound understanding of law but do not require a licensed attorney.

By Charles Anzalone, anzalon@buffalo.edu

“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 at the law school. “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, according to Milles.

“Compliance specialists work in corporations of all kinds to avoid risks and ensure that organizations are in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations,” Milles 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 stage, according to Aviva Abramovsky, dean and professor at the UB School of Law.

photos of Vice Dean James Milles.

James G. Milles, Professor and Vice Dean for Undergraduate Studies

Other recent initiatives

“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 law school’s undergraduate major in law responds to this changing need and these new specialties, according to Milles.

“Whole new careers have developed to support legal work,” says Milles. “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 this fall semester, has numerous markets, according to UB educators: 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; students who decide to go on past this degree and earn a J.D. 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 of Law 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 J.D. program,” according to Milles.

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 undergraduate law 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 in other departments such as economics, sociology, political science, English and philosophy, to develop a program tailored to their needs.