First 3+3 Graduate Moves on to Law School

Participant in academic joint venture receives her business degree

Mariel Spencer, who earned a bachelor’s degree in general business in May, is the first UM student to receive her undergraduate degree while completing the coursework of a first-year law student in the Accelerated Law Program. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Mariel Spencer, of Seattle, Washington, recently made history when she completed her bachelor’s degree in general business at the University of Mississippi. What made her degree unique is that it included coursework in torts, civil procedure, legal research and writing, and constitutional law.

Spencer is the first Ole Miss student to receive her undergraduate degree while completing the rigorous coursework of a first-year law student in the Accelerated Law Program, often referred to as “3+3.” Three additional students will join her next year: two from legal studies and one from journalism.

“Our 3+3 program is designed to allow ambitious students an opportunity to complete their educational goals faster, allowing them to save money and enter the workforce sooner,” said Susan Duncan, dean of the UM School of Law.

“We are delighted that Mariel has found success in this program, and we look forward to our continued partnership with the School of Business (Administration) in extending this opportunity to more students.”

The opportunity this program affords Spencer and other students with the ultimate goal of practicing law is an academic paring spearheaded by the law school in tandem with other schools on the Oxford campus. Spencer learned about the program when touring the university.

“I knew I wanted to be a lawyer in the fifth grade,” Spencer said. “That was when I realized what lawyers do and how much of an impact lawyers have on communities.

“I thought that having a background in business would be helpful in life, and it interested me.”

The School of Law has partnered with five other schools to offer an accelerated program that allows students early admission to the university’s law school. The partnerships are in the areas of business, engineering, legal studies, journalism and liberal arts.

“I came into law school most interested in the air, space and remote sensing concentration and currently am pursuing those areas,” Spencer said. “I am on the Journal of Space Law and the vice president of the Air and Space Law Society.

“I will be taking a lot of classes for the concentration in the fall. After law school, I hope to work in the field of air and space law. I am particularly interested in drones and privacy rights.”

The program was approved in 2013, and the first official recruiting took place in 2014, targeting high school students. While law school admission at Ole Miss is variable, students need a 3.5 GPA and a 155 LSAT score for consideration in the “3+3” program.

Full-time study for an undergraduate degree generally takes four to five years, and a law degree takes three years. Through this program, students are admitted into a fast-tracked bachelor’s and law degree program, trimming a year off the time typically needed to earn both degrees.

Their fourth year of undergraduate study is the student’s “1L” year of law school.

“I believe business and law together are a powerful combination, and we are excited to have our first graduate from this joint program,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “Learning both business and legal principles allows the graduates of this program to be valuable resources to their employers and create economic growth in Mississippi, the region and the world.

“We look forward to the future of this program and believe the benefits are going to pay dividends for generations to come.”

Other institutions that offer a “3+3” program include Fordham, Drexel and Willamette universities and the University of Pennsylvania.