As the oldest independent law school in the country, the Albany Law School at Union University (Albany Law) has a storied history that includes graduates that later became U.S. Supreme Court Justices and one President of the United States. Founded in 1851 to be close to the state capital of New York, Albany Law reshaped legal education and the practice of law. Albany Law graduated the first woman admitted to the New York State Bar in 1885. The school’s close connection to the New York State Court of Appeals has also created a vast law library that contains records of the court’s oral arguments that date back over 150 years. Albany’s Law alumni include U.S. President William McKinley and current governor Andrew Cuomo as well as media stars such as news anchor Megan Fox.
Albany Law requires 87 hours of coursework for completion of its Juris Doctor program of which 33 are completed in the first-year curriculum. In their first semester, students take four substantive courses: civil procedure, contracts, property, and torts. In the second semester, students take additional substantive courses: the second semester of contracts and property plus the first semester of constitutional law and criminal law. During both semesters, students take a skill-based course that covers the foundations of the practice of law.
After their first year, all law students take a diagnostic test that determines their additional required courses. All students are required to complete a second semester of constitutional law as well as a semester course in evidence. Students who place in the bottom quarter of the class are required to take additional courses from a pool of ten core courses.
All students are also required to complete a course in professional responsibility, one elective focused on administrative law, one elective covering international law as well as complete six hours of experiential learning including one clinical course. Students may also opt to follow one of the school’s six “pathways” that suggest coursework and skill-based programs to prepare students for particular practice areas.
Albany Law offers several additional graduate programs that may be obtained in residence or in an online format. Residential graduate programs include the Master of Laws (LL.M) program that is focused on one of several concentrations. All LL.M students spend one year at Albany Law focused on either compliance law, international law, intellectual property law, or their own curriculum of advanced studies. Students who earned their law degree outside the United States have the option to pursue an LL.M in U.S. legal studies that prepares them to sit for the bar exam and practice in the States.
Non-attorneys may also receive a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) degree from Albany Law in either the compliance program or a program focused on government affairs. The M.L.S. degree requires 30 hours of coursework designed for professionals whose careers intersect with the law. For professional who do not want to earn their Masters degree in compliance, Albany Law also offers a certification program that covers the fundamentals of the subject matter.
Albany law also offers an LL.M, M.L.S., or certification in three subject areas that may be completed through an online program cyber security, financial compliance, and healthcare compliance. These programs allow professional with careers to obtain a graduate degree or certification through Albany Law’s stellar online programs.
Juris Doctor candidates have the option of earning a combined degree through Albany Law’s dual degree program. Students pair their J.D. with another professional degree from one of nine other graduate programs. This approach allows students to complete both degrees in four years as well as benefit from the broader perspective of studying two programs at once.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent graduation statistics, just under 90% of all graduates of Albany Law are employed in careers requiring a law license or preferring a Juris Doctor degree within 10 months of graduation. Over 50% of employed graduates opted for careers in private practice with smaller law firms being the most popular choice for students. Almost 25% of graduates opted for government positions in the nearby New York State legal complex. Just under 10% of employed graduates secured judicial clerkships while smaller percentages of students joined the business sector or pursued a public interest sector career. Almost all graduates remained in New York to begin their professional careers.
The Career and Professional Development Center (CPD) at Albany Law works individually with every student from their very first semesters at the school. The CPD offers students self-assessment programming that helps students identify career paths that will fit their personality and goals. This self-assessment also steers students into the school’s “career pathways” that suggest academic and professional skills that help students achieve their goals. Albany Law also offers a mentor program that pairs students with practicing attorneys.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Albany Law has been a pioneer in “hands-on” learning for over 150 years. All students learn the fundamental principles of lawyering through a two-semester class during their first year. The course catalog is all full of courses that problem-based or simulation-based curricula. Both approaches allow students to develop real-world skills while learning in a classroom setting.
Outside of coursework, Albany Law’s Clinic and Justice program affords students the opportunity to work with real clients while being closely supervised by faculty experts. The school houses five in-house legal clinics that allow students to focus on various practice skills as they prepare for their professional lives. Typically, over 200 students work in the clinical program each year and all students are required to complete at least one clinical course.
In addition to the clinical program, students at Albany Law may also opt for a field placement in over 100 legal offices around the Albany region. Students spend approximately 10 hours per week working alongside practicing attorneys in all practice areas of the law. Field placements also help students build their professional network and experience the daily life of various legal careers.
Albany Law provides a holistic approach to the law school education and makes numerous accomodations to ensure the mental, emotional, and physical health of its students. The law school campus includes a meditation room for students to practice their many faiths. The school also provides accomodations for nursing mothers. The school’s student body is diverse and active through the many student organizations. Albany Law students also have a long history of pro bono work, serving the local community through a variety of efforts. The law school celebrates its diversity through dedicated diversity job fairs and programming.
Set at the foot of the Catskills mountains, Albany Law students enjoy a historic 54-acre campus that is lined with cobblestone streets. The city of Albany–the state capital of New York–offers a quaint setting that is full of modern life. The city is full of charming shops, museums, and cafes. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is one of the most renowned venues in the country playing host to concerts, operas, and live performances. Albany also offers students an international feel as the city is almost as close to Montreal as it is to New York City. A short drive brings students to either city.