Laying down the Law: new certificate offers practical legal training

Written by: 
Trenton McCullough ~ Multimedia Journalist

Prospective attorneys have BYU-Hawaii’s new Legal Studies Certificate to gain practical experience in law and legal writing. The Legal Studies Certificate is available for students from all majors and is applicable to students from all regions of the world, said Michael Murdock, Political Science Department chair at BYUH.

“I think it is a very promising opportunity and will help in my journey to go to law school and to provide better services in society. As Pres. David O. McKay said as the purpose of this school, ‘From this school will go forth men and women who will establish peace internationally.’ I believe this certificate is inspired and it is a contribution to the fulfillment of ... McKay’s words,” said Kilapoe Sheppard, a senior in political science from Samoa.

While BYUH has a mandate to address concerns in Asia, which has a focus in business and the Pacific, Murdock said that puts more emphasis on government. “The Legal Studies Certificate equips students with the skills to break into right after graduation entry level government jobs or any organization that has a legal department,” said Murdock. BYUH is the only university in the Pacific that offers this certificate, said Murdock.

The need for this certificate was assessed last year when a school survey of 106 Pacific Island students revealed 97 percent wanted the program and found it beneficial.

Jennifer Kajiyama, professor of Political Science and advisor to the Pre-Law Society, said, “This certificate will teach students to think and research like an attorney.” With this certificate BYUH students will have a competitive edge in the field of law, not just as attorneys, but as legal assistants and paralegals, said Kajiyama.

Historical trends provided by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. in its 2006 Compensation & Benefits Study Report show that over a 13-year period through 2006, gross salaries for paralegals climbed 61 percent.

Not only does the certificate give BYUH students training for legal work, but also according to Murdock, “This certificate opens doors for internships.” He continued, “The Legal Studies Certificate is the crown jewel of our department and pushes to equip students with something more practical.”

The Legal Studies Certificate has already helped some students get job interviews and internships. Jerica Naeole, a senior in Political Science from Hawaii, said, “The Legal Studies Certificate prepared me for my internship with Judge Bode Uale at the Family Court in Kapolei. Although still an undergraduate, I was able to do an internship with a judge competing with other law students for that position.”

The certificate requires 15-credit hours and one of the required classes for the certificate is offered Winter 2015. Contact Murdock or Kajiyama for more information.