How SU law school’s online master’s program is opening doors

School is out at many universities, but there are plenty of students who are still tackling those challenges into the summer.

“I came to law school to be able to represent clients in education matters,” said Mercedees Rees, a recent graduate of Syracuse University’s College of Law. “Specifically, children with disabilities in K through 12 education.

She is one of the newest recipients of a Juris Doctor degree, the master’s you need to practice law and while a bachelor’s from Canisius and this next step are a long road to walk, the journey is not quite over.

“I mean, with law school, you hit the ground running and with COVID and all of the activities in law school itself, you kind of just kept running,” she said. “Adding the ‘ESQ’ after my name, that’s the end of it, and I can start helping people. It’s the real end goal.”

The end goal has a different path for everyone looking to practice law. For Mercedees, it was the JDR or “resident” route on campus. She’s going over a bit of bar prep with one of her JDI, or “interactive” counterparts.

“We’re also a different general demographic,” said JDI alumna Kayla Piggeon.

JDI has allowed working parents, military families and a range of people with limiting disabilities the opportunity to continue their education. The first of its kind program graduated its first cohort this May. While the pandemic threw the entire class of 2022 for a loop.

“I definitely understand what you’re saying with like meeting study groups online and you know, talking to everybody online, working from home, just figuring it out like from where you are but also connecting on a more broader level,” said Rees.

Those who were learning remotely like Kayla could really focus in.

“So it really was in a way we got that sort of engulfed experience in that there was always someone available to bounce stuff off of,” said Pidgeon. “We would jump into class and sometimes I would forget I was online.”

Mercedees loves that the last couple of years have really made universities and organizations readjust into what they’re doing, especially in terms of accessibility

“Seeing people finally realizing that they can reach more demographics if they just kind of rethink what they’re doing has been truly amazing,” she said.

So whether these future lawyers spent the last couple of years in the classroom or a living room with a convincing zoom background..

“I mean, I really feel like I did everything that I would have done, had I been on campus minus a couple of free burritos, or dinosaur BBQ,” said Pidgeon.

“Gotta say the free burritos, that’s a big part of the student experience,” Rees responded.

There’s been plenty of adversity that continues into preparation for the bar.

“I’m a generally stressed person with seeing those people. Like studying and I can’t imagine adding any more stress to what we’re doing right now,” said Rees. “So the program is going to lead me the right way hopefully, and I’m going to remember everything and the test is the bar is going to happen.”

There are more JD programs developing from New York to across the nation. This graduating class is now also helping to develop more online-friendly programs when it comes to preparing for the bar.

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