An uncommonly determined group of students began a whirlwind legal education on Monday May 12, when Drexel Law welcomed its first Fast Forward class.
Students who complete the Fast Forward program will be eligible to graduate in May 2016 – a full year ahead of students who arrive in August to begin the traditional three-year program.
“I know it’s an ambitious undertaking,” said Rebecca Benoit, who worked as a history teacher in Maplewood, N.J. before moving to Philadelphia to join the program. “I’m ready to get my degree and get back in there.”
Benoit is among 21 students in Fast Forward, one of a handful of programs that offer a JD degree in two years’ time, enabling graduates to sit for the bar exam and begin professional practice a year earlier than most of their peers.
“This is three years of legal education, compressed into two years,” Dean Roger Dennis said. “Fast Forward students will complete the same curriculum as their peers in the three-year program and have identical opportunities to gain hands-on experience in our co-op, clinic and pro bono programs.”
Some students are drawn to the simple idea of completing their studies and hitting the workforce earlier, while others see the JD as a way to broaden a career pathway they had already begun traveling.
This resolute bunch includes:
Orientation for the 21 students featured building tours, meetings with current students and administrators and a headlong dive into classes in Criminal Law, Torts, Contracts and Legal Methods.
- Reb Benoit is most interested in exploring health advocacy and juvenile advocacy. She developed a keen interest in policy and advocacy while completing an internship with U.S. Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey right after completing her bachelor’s degree in history and biology at Lincoln University.
- Chris Hess, who has completed eight years as a U.S. Marine Corps reservist including a year-long tour of Al Asad, Iraq in 2006-07. A graduate of Chestnut Hill College with a strong interest in criminal law, he worked for the last year as a paralegal in the Dangerous Drug Offender Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
- Daniel Mita, a senior project manager for O’Neill Properties, a real estate development firm in King of Prussia, Pa. that specializes in brownfield redevelopment. Observing the interactions between policy and business in real estate development gave the former American Studies major at Georgetown University an affinity for the legal issues at play.
- Tera Lynn Rule, a pharmacy manager from Wilkes Barre, Pa., relishes the prospect of exploring health or intellectual property law. Describing herself as a “workaholic,” the graduate of Wilkes University said she simply can’t imagine leaving the workforce for three whole years.
- Adriana Scotto arrived at Drexel Law days after completing her bachelor’s degree at Elizabethtown College, where she majored in criminal justice and interned at the Youth Intervention Center in Lancaster, Pa. She is used to maintaining a hectic pace, since she was captain of the Women’s Tennis Team at the school for the last year and performed well in national NCAA competition.
- Nawar Shreiba, who emigrated at age 13 from Syria to California shortly before 9/11 up-ended relations between the U.S. and the Arab world, graduated from California State University-Fullerton. Pledging to keep an open mind about future professional pathways, he says his experience as a branch manager with Wells Fargo provided a foundation for business law and gave him a weakness for the intricacies of financial regulations. “I do find banking regulations fun,” Shreiba admitted.