March 27, 2024

South Sound Hybrid Hub broadens access to legal education, careers and services

A new partnership between the University of Washington Tacoma and Seattle University School of Law will help increase access to legal education and careers, and legal services, for residents of the South Sound region.

The South Sound Hybrid Hub will provide in-person and virtual programming, counseling, networking, employment and experiential learning opportunities for UW Tacoma undergraduates and students in Seattle U Law’s innovative Flex JD hybrid-online degree program.

 “UW Tacoma and Seattle University School of Law share a goal of bridging the equity divide and making law school an attainable goal for first generation and underrepresented students,” UW Tacoma Chancellor Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange said. “Seattle U Law is unique in the state for being able to offer this hybrid model of legal education that serves place-bound students so well.”

Building on a strong pathway

The South Sound Hybrid Hub is the latest headway made by UW Tacoma to make legal education more accessible.

The university’s Legal Pathways program was a significant first step after more than a dozen years of community-based advocacy for increased access to legal education for South Sound residents. Legal Pathways began as an initiative at UW Tacoma in the 2028-19 academic year and became a full program a year later. The state-funded program helps students prepare for law school, connect with the local legal community, pursue career opportunities and more. Legal Pathways prioritizes supporting first-generation students, students of color and other students underrepresented in the legal field to expand the law school pipeline and increase access to law and law-related careers.

Here are some of the program’s impressive accomplishments under the leadership of Patricia Sully, Director of Legal Pathways:

  • Prior to the program’s inception, only 2-3 UW Tacoma students applied to law school each year. Now, 30-50 apply annually.
  • UW Tacoma graduates are in law schools across the country, including Yale Law School, William and Mary Law School, University of Houston Law Center, Emory School of Law, University of Oregon Law and George Mason Law School.
  • A recent UW Tacoma graduate was named editor-in-chief of the University of Washington School of Law, Law Review.
  • When Legal Pathways was launched, the average LSAT score for a UW Tacoma student/alumni was 139; it is now 152 and on par with the national average.
  • UW Tacoma is currently admitting its fourth cohort of Legal Pathways Fellows and has provided more than 300 students with pre-law advising, LSAT prep, and personal statement review.

Years in the making

Ten years ago, local leaders led by attorney Valarie Zeeck of Gordan Thomas Honeywell Law and EDB CEO Bruce Kendall began working with UW Tacoma to bring legal education back to the South Sound. Former State Senator Steve O’Ban led the successful effort in Olympia to provide seed funding. UW Tacoma Chancellor Sheila Edwards Lange and Dr. Ali Modarres, UW Tacoma Assistant Chancellor for Community Partnerships, worked to guide the Legal Pathways program, strengthen the university’s relationships with the South Sound legal community and help spearhead the collaboration with Seattle U Law along with Legal Pathways Director Patricia Sully.

“Through Legal Pathways we have been able to get students familiar with and demystify the law school process,” Modarres said. “With this next phase, they can get a legal education without giving up their jobs and time with family. It also means more legal support and services in the community and growth for South Sound law firms.”

“The partnership between UW Tacoma and Seattle U Law is a game changer for aspiring students as well as the businesses, cultural institutions and governments that are the backbone of the South Sound economy,” Kendall said. “Access to a first-class legal education is a fundamental element of any thriving community and together we have made that dream a reality.”

You can learn more about the South Sound Hybrid hub, and what local leaders and members of the legal business community are saying about the collaboration, on the UW Tacoma website.


Stay Informed

Interested in learning more about building a business in Pierce County? Our team of economic development professionals are here to help. Sign up for our e-newsletter to stay informed.