How GCU helps grads make a case for law school
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Jacob Frankson wasn’t quite sure what to do with his history studies.
Then he had a class at Grand Canyon University with Kevin Walling, Chair of Justice Studies, Government and History. Everything came together.
“I took his Philosophy of Law class, and it that was great; it really got me interested in law,” he said. “You go through history and the foundations of law, and that suited me because I’m actually a history major, so that really brought me more into law.”
That was only the start. Walling and GCU helped lay the groundwork that propelled him to success toward admittance to George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School and a $26,000 annual scholarship.
He’s one of a crop of GCU students to win highly competitive scholarships to law schools across the country in the past year.
“The proof of the validity of the pre-law program is in the continued successes of the students,” Walling said. “We have an outstanding program that offers students a glimpse of the work of attorneys and the fields in which attorneys can work in, so students can be motivated with clear goals.”
Many GCU students who go on to law school graduate with a Government with an Emphasis on Legal Studies degree, which Walling said he designed to provide students with a sample of major topics that students cover in law school.
And the Pre-Law Society, a student club, welcomes numerous guest speakers in the legal profession and helps students prepare for the Law School Admittance Test, a rigorous exam that helps law schools determine their likelihood of success.
Frankson said Walling also recommended additional tutoring help for the LSAT, and he put a solid four months of study into it.
The best word to describe the process, Frankson said, is “determination.”
“You have to have your mind set. With LSAT, some days I’d have a bad practice test and I asked myself, ‘Should I give up?’ But a lot of it is pushing forward through the process.”
He will start classes in August and begin to study toward a law degree and his purpose of helping people.
“I come from a military family and I volunteered at the Disabled American Veterans a lot, and they do free legal clinics for veterans. That got me interested in how I could help veterans with a legal degree,” he said.
GCU also provides numerous opportunities for mentoring with faculty, discussion panels and speakers who are in the field and connecting students with internships.
Rebekah Zufelt, who recently won a $15,000 annual scholarship to Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, also learned to overcome her fears.
The GCU graduate in legal studies always knew she wanted to be a lawyer – her mom often said she was her two little sisters’ attorney. “I was more of the hard-headed one of the group,” she said.
But she had a fear of public speaking.
Zufelt joined the mock trial team at GCU and it helped her overcome it.
“I just knew I didn’t have a choice. I knew I was going to have to get over it. Having the encouragement of Walling and other students who saw I had potential, I ended up spending a lot of time with it,” Zufelt said. “They helped me to learn to navigate it and get better at public speaking and presenting myself professionally in court.”
GCU’s connections with the Maricopa County Superior Court helped her land administrative jobs there while she studied for her LSAT test.
“I saw how the system doesn’t work for little kids,” said the Idaho native. “I’d never been to a place like Phoenix with a big homeless population, where mental illness is a big thing and a lot of people are growing up in poverty. The kids’ parents were not in a good position to take care of them. It’s a sad situation for them, and a lot of kids slip through the cracks.
“That changed my mind of what kind of law I wanted to pursue. Through family law, I can help decide custody disputes and placement of children. Doing that instead of criminal law will not just put people in jail after the fact but help prevent people from being there.”
GCU graduate Christina Boyle also earned her chops at the Maricopa County Superior Court in various roles before landing a scholarship to Denver Law School, where she began study nine months ago.
GCU helped hone her interest in criminal justice after taking courses that previewed the different aspects of the legal profession, from contract law and torts to studying big cases that set legal precedent.
She took a year off after her 2019 graduation to study for the LSAT and work in court administration.
“I think being from GCU helped me get that position,” she said, mentioning several GCU graduates who worked at the court. “Them being there and having a good work ethic, they knew they were getting good quality people from GCU.”
She also discovered that she wanted to work in criminal law.
“They trained us in almost every part of the criminal court system – drug court, mental health court, probation violation court,” she said. “Interacting with lawyers there gave me a leg up in understanding the criminal law issues. Being in the courtroom and being able to participate in the criminal trials was really exciting and confirmed my position that I really want to go to court.”
Law school may be the hardest thing she has ever done, she said, but GCU helped her discover it’s exactly what she wants to do.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.