When Makaela Stevens was just a senior in high school, she received an email advertising the Legal Education Accelerated Degree (LEAD) Program. LEAD offers students the opportunity to fast-track their education undergraduate and law school education. Students who apply and are accepted into the LEAD program can earn a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor in six years instead of seven.
The University of Kansas School of Law partners with universities in the state of Kansas, making the LEAD program available to students at the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.
Stevens is now a second-year law student. She earned her bachelor’s degree from K-State before coming to KU Law as part of the LEAD program.
“The email I received explained that the program was available to me even though I was going to do my undergrad at K-State, and I could still come to KU Law,” Stevens explained. “That was before I was totally sure I wanted to go to law school and I was just tossing the idea around. It sounded like a pretty good deal if decided I did want to pursue law school.”
Stevens went on to apply and was accepted into the program. This provided her with resources and opportunities that she otherwise would not have had throughout her undergraduate career. The program got her more interested and confirmed her decision to study law.
“It got me really involved once I got to K-State and was in the prelaw program. There were events throughout the year such as a mock law class and visits from KU law professors to ask questions. This was really important to me because, at K-State, they do not have a law school, so it was a great way to meet people and learn more,” Stevens said.
For Stevens, there were many benefits, but one of the biggest was the financial aspect. The LEAD program is non-binding, so she could have chosen a different path with no penalty. When she did decide to go through with the program, the benefit of saving money was huge.
“The financial aspect was really great. It saves a whole year of tuition. I was an English major, so it was relatively easy to squeeze all of my credits into my first three years. Not having to pay that extra year was so helpful,” Stevens said.
There were challenges to the LEAD program, but in Steven’s opinion, they were far outweighed by the benefits.
“For me, I had to work through almost a mental complex of being younger. I don’t think that being younger is a challenge. I think my undergrad major prepared me well, as well as the people I talked to and attorneys I worked with before coming to KU Law, but I had to tell myself that I could do it and I was supposed to be here,” Stevens said.
The LEAD program provides an opportunity to get an early introduction to law school. Stevens believes that it is a choice one will not regret. The program helped her make her decision and in the end, she was able to save money on tuition. For those who choose not to go to law school, the program provides enough exposure to ensure the choice is well-informed.
—By Sarah Pickel