This year, the first two graduating seniors of Philadelphia University’s Law and Society Program, Maggie Frank and William Benjamin Jackson, will continue their education in law school — both having been accepted for graduate study this spring.
“It’s a great accomplishment and we feel very proud of them,” said Evan Laine, director of the Law and Society Program. “They worked hard to get good LSAT scores and good grades. Both of them are well known in our program and they received strong recommendations.”
The Law and Society Program began three years ago at PhilaU. The new course of study was designed to engage students in the study of society’s competing power bases, marrying practical knowledge with liberal arts and theory. “We’re not just a law program; we also educate students on criminal justice, psychology and other fields,” Laine said. “We’re law AND society, interested in how things work in a way that opens up the world to students.”
Jackson was accepted by the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University and the DePaul University College of Law, and is waiting to hear back from a few other schools before deciding where he will attend. Frank was accepted into the New England School of Law in Boston and is also considering other schools in the northeast.
As the first seniors to graduate from a budding program, both students said they appreciated the close-knit environment and extra attention they received from faculty and peers during their three years as law and society majors — Jackson transferred into the program after one year at PhilaU and Frank transferred into the program after receiving her associate’s degree in marketing from another institution.
“The program gives you all of the individualized attention you need, and the kind of attention you won’t get anywhere else,” Jackson said. This year’s senior seminar on first amendment issues consisted of just the two graduating students with Laine teaching.
“Even our lower-level classes, which are open to everyone, consist of the same handful of people. It adds a certain level of comfort,” Frank added. “We all know each other well, we’ve formed friendships, and we know each other’s learning styles, strengths and weaknesses.”
The collegial atmosphere of the program not only helps students learn, but gives them an advantage when choosing to pursue further study in law, Laine said. With recommendations weighed heavily in the graduate school application process, strong connections can have a meaningful impact on acceptance.
“That is one of the benefits of being a small program,” Laine said. “The faculty gets to know the students well and can strongly advocate on their behalf. They know who they are.”
The programs depth is also complemented by its breadth of study. After interning for Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones, Frank said she thought she might be interested in studying politics and was drawn to the open nature of PhilaU’s Law and Society curriculum.
“The fact that the program is not just law appealed to me in the beginning because I was so unsure of what direction I wanted to go,” she said. “The program is a compilation of pre-law, political science, public policy and history. Each professor brings something entirely different to the table, and because we only have a few professors, we are able to absorb different knowledge from each one.”
Jackson agreed. “The program helps make the law more real, not analyzing it alone, but applying it to society and bringing abstract ideas down to a more understandable level.”
Jackson plans on enrolling in law school starting the fall after his graduation, and Frank plans on deferring one year to work as a paralegal or in a law-related field before attending.
“We’re extremely proud of their hard work and dedication,” Laine said.