For nearly 130 years, each incoming first-year law student at Case Western Reserve University began their legal education in the fall. Following a series of administrative reforms to increase flexibility in accommodating and recruiting students, the law school welcomed an inaugural spring class that exceeded expectations and serves as a promising beginning to the new program.
This January, 15 law students began their first year of school under the new “Spring Start” option, allowing them to start school in the spring semester and either graduate three years later in December, or two-and-a-half years later in May with the students who started the preceding fall. The length, structure and content of the January start program mirror the traditional fall start program, but students can accelerate by taking required courses during consecutive summers.
“As one of the first law schools in the country to offer a ‘Spring Start,’ we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of interest. We piloted this concept with our LLM program a couple of years ago with great success and decided to try it with JD students,” said Co-Dean Michael Scharf. “Despite limited marketing beginning in August, we had a large number of applications and enrolled 15 students with exceptional credentials.”
Consistent with the national reach of the law school, the students who started their JD studies this semester are a geographically diverse group, hailing from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Canada. They come to law school with varied occupational backgrounds including a real estate developer, a paralegal, a licensed therapist and a medical student.
“This may have been a particularly good year to begin to offer a Spring Start option, with many students deferring their fall start because of concerns about the coronavirus. With few options for work or travel, they were eager to dive back into their studies this spring,” said Co-Dean Jessica Berg. “Going forward, a ‘Spring Start’ option will attract students who graduate college in December or people with jobs who are eager to start law school midyear.”
Although the program is just beginning, the work and creativity put in behind the scenes have led to a smooth transition.
“We’ve created a customized academic experience for these students, beginning with a week of orientation focusing on study skills and providing personalized acclimation into law school life,” said Scharf. “In addition, the law school's Student Bar Association is reaching out to our new students to make sure they get to know the rest of the student body, whether they are here in Cleveland or studying remotely from out of town.”