Thursday, March 28, 2013

There's a University of Baltimore?

By Rachael Dirzuweit
Photo by Daniel Lobo

Why, yes, there IS a University of Baltimore. It has nothing to do with the University of Maryland, either. As a graduate of the Jurisprudence program at the University of Baltimore, UB for short, I am asked about this all the time--and I'm sure quite a few people who didn't ask just assumed. There is in fact a University of Baltimore, right next to the University of Baltimore School of Law (yes, there's a law school, too). My undergraduate education prepared me more for law school than I could have imagined.

Aside from the glowing recommendations about UB that I got from various professors and practicing lawyers when I was at Harford Community College pursuing an Associate's degree in Paralegal Studies, I felt partially compelled to select UB from my undergraduate education based on one thing: early entry. 

You see, you when you take the Jurisprudence or History track to get a Bachelor's degree at the UB, UB Law will let you in to the law school if you have a high enough GPA and LSAT score BEFORE you finish your Bachelor's degree education. The last year of your Bachelor's education is waived, and you enter the School of Law to graduate with what is essentially a complimentary (but well-deserved) Bachelor's at the successful completion of the first year of law school. You get an entire year shaved off your cumulative total years of education, a year's worth of undergraduate tuition saved, and the opportunity to graduate law school a year sooner! Aside from that, if you don't qualify for the early entry option, the law school guarantees a seat in the entering law school class for you if you graduate from UB, provided you meet the minimum requirements

Lorraine Bright, a practicing attorney and my pre-law teacher in community college, best described UB's Jurisprudence program to me.  "It's like a watered-down version of law school." That's exactly what it was. The classes were taught using the Socratic method, which is used in law school. This saved me the awkward period of adjusting to law classes along with the other pressures of the first year of law school. The reading requirements, the exams, the substance of the classes--all watered-down law school. All I was missing was the law school's mandatory curve. 

When I entered law school, I had a basic knowledge of criminal law, constitutional law, contracts and courtroom procedure--all things many of my classmates struggled to understand. Knowledge of the law is only workable when it's built like a house, which requires a strong foundation. Otherwise, everything you put on top of it crumbles. In law school, each class builds on basic principles from previous classes; if you try to stack knowledge on top of a weak base, you'll never fully grasp what is going on and your legal education will crumble.

The University of Baltimore's Jurisprudence study program gave me the foundation I needed to become successful in law school. And because my foundation was already strong when I came to law school, I didn't have to spend valuable hours going back and filling cracks in with mortar.

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