SAN MARCOS, CA (August 15, 2023) —An expanded program to encourage high school and college students interested in pursuing a degree in law is now being offered at Palomar College.

Through the Community College Pathways to Law School Initiative, high school students can take free college courses that will lead to an associate of arts degree in Law, Public Policy and Society. The degree is transferable to four-year colleges, and students in the Cal LAW program who complete their bachelor’s degree will have their application fees for law school waived. They will also receive preferential applications at some law schools participating in the program.

Palomar College began offering the Law, Public Policy, and Society major in 2019, but is expanding the program as the result of a $99,000 grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

A key goal of the initiative is to encourage greater diversity in the state’s legal profession. A survey by the State Bar of California found that the state’s attorney population is 66% white, compared to a state population that is 39% white.

Justin Smiley, Dean of the Arts, Media and Business Administration division at Palomar College and a co-lead of the project, said the grant helps provides access to college and law school for many students who might not have considered pursuing a higher education.

“It really clarifies the path in a way that allows them to see the future and see what might be possible,” he said.

Students at San Marcos, Mission Hills and Twin Oaks high schools are taking Law, Public Policy, and Society degree program classes. As part of the Palomar College dual enrollment program, high school students do not pay tuition and through the Pathways to Law School grant, Palomar is able to cover the costs of course related textbooks.

By taking these classes, students will gain an understanding of the path toward a career as an attorney, said Lakshmi Paranthaman, an Assistant Professor of legal studies and real estate and faculty lead for the Pathways to Law School initiative at Palomar College.

Paranthaman said events are being planned to help engage students about the legal profession.  Events include a panel with a diverse group of lawyers and judges and an admissions seminar with the University of California at Irvine law school.

“A lot of students learn about careers from their parents. They may not be familiar with the steps you need to take while you are in college,” she said. “It’s good to learn in advance what a career in law requires.”