Aspiring barristers at Piedmont now have an exciting opportunity to save money and a year of study. A new partnership with Mercer University’s School of Law provides a fast track to law school.

The Mercer partnership will admit Piedmont students to the Mercer School of Law “3+3” program, in which students enter law school after their junior year, having completed 90 credit hours toward a degree in English, sociology, criminal justice or political science. After earning a law degree from Mercer, they will transfer the remaining 30 hours back to Piedmont to receive their bachelor’s degree.

“It’s a huge savings for the student,” Piedmont Dean of Arts and Sciences Steve Nimmo said. “That’s one less year of tuition, room and board that they have to pay, but a great opportunity to go to a very reputable law school and graduate in one year less than their counterparts. Any way you can start working sooner is a way to save yourself quite a bit of money.”

The new pre-law program is similar to an engineering partnership that Piedmont has with Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State, in which students can study physics or engineering here for three years and, if they have a minimum 3.0 GPA, transfer and complete two more years, graduating with degrees from both schools. Two former Piedmont students graduated from Kennesaw State in December.

“Piedmont is the first school Mercer has partnered with,” Mellichamp said. In fact, he presented the idea to dean and professor of law at Mercer Cathy Cox himself.

“We didn’t actually pick Piedmont – you picked us!” Cox said. “I have known Dr. James Mellichamp for many years, and he contacted me in the fall and asked whether Mercer Law would be interested in partnering with Piedmont for the 3+3 program. We had offered this opportunity to our own Mercer undergraduate students for many years, but this gave us the opportunity to think about expanding it, and we felt like Piedmont would be a great first step.”

The new program will be marketed this fall, but interested students are already planning for law school.

“This program is open to current as well as future, incoming students at Piedmont College,” pre-law adviser and Department of Social Sciences Chair Dr. Tony Frye said. “We have a quality pre-law program, with Piedmont College students going on to graduate from law schools ranging from Mercer, University of Georgia, Pepperdine, and Emory.  The quality of our students is what makes us appealing to any law school.”

Students will need to complete their majors’ and general education requirements as well as pre-law courses including business law, criminal law and procedure, and constitutional law. They must earn a 3.5 GPA and an LSAT score at or above the median score earned by Mercer’s entering class the previous year. And they will have to complete at least 90 hours by the end of their third year at Piedmont.

“It’s going to have to be a student that’s very focused,” Dean Nimmo said. “They’ll have very busy sophomore and junior years. It can be done, but they’re going to have to plan very carefully.”

In addition to the GPA and LSAT requirements, law students must also meet Mercer’s character and fitness requirements, which parallel those required to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia.

“The Supreme Court and the Board of Bar Examiners view ‘character’ as exemplified by honesty and trustworthiness, while ‘fitness’ includes diligence, reliability, and good judgment,” Dean Cox said. “There are a variety of things that can represent these traits – or the lack thereof. But we evaluate these characteristics upon a student’s admission into law school, knowing that a lack of ‘character and fitness’ could be a roadblock to the student’s ultimate admission into the Bar after graduation.”

Cox said Piedmont students are welcome to come and visit the historic Walter F. George School of Law building in Macon and sit in on a class.

“Piedmont students will find the same close-knit and supportive student body and faculty relationships at Mercer Law School that they’ve enjoyed at Piedmont, making the transition into a professional school that much easier.”