By Karen Guin
Rafael Casallas is on a fast track to a career in law and today marks a big step along the track.
It’s the first day of law school for the 19-year-old legal studies senior, who is attending Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law through a 3+3 Accelerated Law Program established by UCF and Barry Law.
Casallas is the first student in the program, which will enable him to complete a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years rather than the traditional seven, saving a year of time and tuition expenses.
“This program works perfectly for me,” said Casallas, who earned an associate degree from Valencia College while completing his diploma at Lake Nona High School.
In addition to reducing his time in college, the program is enabling Casallas to begin law school now because Barry offers a spring start date for new students. In fact, Barry is one of just a few accredited law programs to offer this option.
Casallas also was attracted to Barry’s close proximity to UCF and his family, who moved from Colombia to Central Florida when he was seven.
Establishing an accelerated law program was a top goal for Professor James Beckman when he served as inaugural chair of the Department of Legal Studies from 2011 to 2016.
“The fact that Barry Law is in Orlando made it a perfect partner for a 3+3 program,” said Beckman. “Students who have obligations tying them to Orlando or who cannot afford to leave Orlando can achieve both degrees here and a year earlier than normal.”
As a legal studies major, Casallas already has been exposed to the topics he’ll encounter in his first year of law school.
“Our curriculum includes legal research, legal writing, property, civil practice, criminal law, torts, constitutional law and contracts,” said Rupert Neish, professional advisor for the legal studies program. “Law school admission reps say our students tend to be well-prepared for their first year of law school.”
Casallas said he has “loved the legal studies major” and would recommend it to anyone. “The professors really help you out,” he said. “Everyone wants to help you succeed.”
Alisa Smith, chair of the Department of Legal Studies since July 2016, said the accelerated law program “is a great opportunity for motivated students.”
“The best candidates for the program are students who have thought about law school for years,” she said. “They’ll have an advantage working with the legal studies program early in their college career and in successfully completing the intensive 3+3 experience.”
To be considered for the accelerated law program, UCF students must declare a legal studies major, apply to the accelerated program in their freshman or sophomore year, and attend college full time. Students in the accelerated program must meet the eligibility and admission requirements at Barry Law to gain admission.
Casallas said he feels ready for law school thanks to his education at UCF and his use of daily exercise to relieve stress. “If you have a healthy body, you have a healthy mind,” he said.
Barry Law student Clyde Lemon approved. “Keep that mentality. You’re going to need it,” he said. As a third-year student, Lemon knows the law school well. “We call ourselves the Barry Law Family,” he said. “We’re always willing to help each other out. We’re all going through the same thing.”
Casallas recently attended Admit Day for incoming students at Barry Law. “It was amazing. I met a lot of interesting students and everyone was so excited,” he said. “That kind of energy is contagious.”
“We are very excited to have Rafael as our first student in the 3 + 3 program,” said Barry Law Dean Leticia Diaz. “We’re enthusiastically looking forward to this first admission paving the way for more UCF students in the legal studies program to follow suit and join us here at Barry Law.”
Diaz said she thinks the 3+3 program is an excellent way for students at UCF to seamlessly transition to Barry Law and get an early start on their path to a legal career. “Fortunately, we have amazing faculty and a dedicated staff to help guide students through the process,” she added.
Ten years from now, Casallas hopes to look back and celebrate his decision to attend law school. In the interim, he looks forward to earning his bachelor’s and law degrees and to launching a successful career.
In addition to the 3+3 Accelerated Law Program at Barry, two other accelerated law programs are now available to UCF students. For information about UCF’s program with Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in New York (Long Island), contact email@example.com . For information about UCF’s program with Florida State University of Law, open to all majors, contact the UCF Office of Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising at firstname.lastname@example.org .
(Photo by Abi Bell)