Juris Master Degree
On Friday, May 12th, 2013, Dean Lucy S. McGough excited the Appalachian School of Law's faculty and staff with an e-mail announcing that the American Bar Association granted acquiescence to ASL's proposed Juris Master degree program. Beginning with the class of 2014, ASL will confer the degree of Juris Master upon all candidates for the Juris Doctor program successfully completing their third semester of law school in good academic standing. Dean McGough first proposed the idea during a meeting of the school's Special Projects committee in Fall of 2012, noting that this enhancement of the school's legal studies program would bring the legal profession into closer alignment with traditional academic doctoral programs. "The Juris Master degree adds value to the learning experience at ASL." said Dean McGough, "A J.D. marks the successful completion of advanced legal training, while the J.M. provides both students and prospective employers with an affirmation of the quality of students' efforts in their fundamental legal coursework. It also provides students an added level of confidence in their own capabilities during their three year program of study, serving as a more immediate benchmark of academic success than the J.D."
The inauguration of the Juris Master degree places ASL in the forefront of a trend in American legal education. Awarding ASL students the Juris Master's degree provides them recognition for mastering basic legal skills, and is in keeping with ASL's leadership role in the legal education community, where the school has earned well-deserved national repute for its commitment to legal education access, community service, and student externships. The student body is universally pleased with the addition of the J.M. degree to the academic program. Not only does it recognize their achievement, but it also provides a valuable degree to law students that determine, due to changes in life circumstances, that completing the J.D. is not apropos at the time. Attaining this degree ensures that the students receive something of value that will increase their career marketability. Kenyatta Thorpe (J.D. Candidate, 2014) agrees: "When Dean McGough announced the new program, my classmates and I were excited to be in the charter class for ASL's J.M. degree. I thought, 'that's pretty cool - we're getting two degrees where students at most law schools only get one.'" Asked what influence she thought the J.M. program would have on the school, Thorpe responded, "well, it's a good way to put ASL ahead of most other law schools, and I think that the potential to earn the J.M. by maintaining good academic standing will encourage people to work harder and focus more on academic success. Plus," remarked Thorpe, "in this job market, it will be helpful to add an additional degree to our resumes."
Students qualifying for the Appalachian School of Law's Juris Master degree will receive their J.M. diplomas during a ceremony in the law school's beautiful Appellate Courtroom in January after their third full semester.