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Law School Bound program offers Willamette students direct admission pathway

by Jessica Rotter,

Law school

Two years ago, Willamette University College of Law launched a series of direct admission pathway programs designed fundamentally to increase transparency for prospective students in the law school admission process. That effort has grown to six total partners, including the Willamette University College of Arts & Sciences. 

Known on and around campus as “Law School Bound,” the Willamette-specific program is an initiative for qualified College of Arts & Sciences students to have direct access both to robust pre-law advising and to a legal education. Launched in January of 2021, the program enables undergraduate students to be admitted into Law School Bound at the time of their matriculation to the undergraduate college. Then, once admitted, students can pursue either the 3+3 direct admission program or the 4+3 program that is available to both undergraduates and alumni. 

Willamette’s 3+3 program enables students to complete their education more quickly by enabling them to spend three years in the College of Arts & Sciences and three years at the College of Law. Admitted students enter law school prior to completing their undergraduate degree. After finishing the first year of law school, their credits can apply toward completion of a baccalaureate degree. Meanwhile, the 4+3 direct admit program enables Willamette undergraduate students to receive direct admission into the College of Law based on academic credentials. This program includes four years of undergraduate studies and three years at College of Law. Students admitted to the 4+3 program are guaranteed a durable scholarship. 

Since the launch of the Law School Bound program, four students have successfully graduated from the College of Law through the program. At present, fourteen students are currently enrolled in the program, with four students enrolling this 2022-2023 academic year. When discussing the currently enrolled students, Assistant Director of Admissions Jessica Kliewer commented that individuals in Law School Bound are “high-achievers and generally more prepared for the rigors of a Willamette Law education.” 

Readiness for law school for those enrolled in Law School Bound undoubtedly stems from the collaborative and mentorship-based approach that underlies the program. Indeed, students enrolled in Law School Bound have access to practice LSAT and GRE tests, a lending library of study materials, and numerous open houses and events throughout their time in the program. Moreover, preparing students for the College of Law is a highly collaborative effort on the part of the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Law and an embodiment of the culture of community at Willamette.

Current participant in the 3+3 direct admit program and JD/MBA dual degree program, Amy Nelson shared she “initially chose to attend Willamette mostly because of the 3+3 program.” Nelson will be graduating in 2025 with her BA, JD, and MBA. One of the highlights of her experience in the program has been that she was “able to curate time efficiently and keep up the energy and love of learning that may be lost in full-length programs.” Nelson is hopeful that her education will allow her to be a member of the in-house legal team for a large company, she shared. In reflecting on her experience Nelson expressed that, “Law School Bound has provided me with the most invaluable asset: time.” 

For his part, Henry Harder is a current member of the 3+3 program and is also pursuing a JD/MBA. Harder will graduate in 2023 from the College of Law and is currently pursuing a commission into the U.S Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. If he receives this commission, he would be a practicing attorney as well as an officer in the United States Military. Harder expressed that he has been broadly interested in the legal profession for most of his life. In reflecting on his experience, he shared “law school has exposed me to so many wonderful opportunities, and has challenged me both personally and academically. I have had excellent work experiences in civil litigation at a firm here in Salem and I have improved my leadership and public speaking skills by participating in Moot Court.” Looking back on his experience, Harder reflected, “Law School Bound has given me a jump start in a professional career” and that he “would not have had the same opportunities without the years of education received at Willamette University.”

As for the future for the Law School Bound program, Kliewer shared that her hope is to “continue to create accessible pathways into law school,” and enable students to “gain the opportunity to explore different types of law through mock classing and in-the-classroom experiences.” The Law School Bound program fits within a larger effort to increase collaboration between the College of Law and the College of Arts & Sciences, Kliewer said, with an emphasis on ensuring students feel connected early and have the support they need to be successful students and lawyers. 

For more information on the Law School Bound Program, connect with the College of Law Admission team.

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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