The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (CUA Law) formed from the merger of two separate law schools. The Catholic University of America first started a law school at the end of the 19th century. This school merged with the law school program at Columbus University that was started to help educate veterans after World War I. Aside from its notable affiliation with the Catholic Church, the law school has also been a pioneer in diversity education. CUA Law began admitting African-Americans in the early part of the 20th century and began admitting women soon thereafter. Located in Washington, D.C., the school has notable ties to the federal government. The current commissioner of the S.E.C., Daniel Gallagher, is an alumni. Other alumni include two U.S. Senators and Michael Bidwell, the president of the Arizona Cardinals N.F.L. team.
CUA Law offers both a full-time and evening, part-time program for their Juris Doctor degree. The full-time program can be completed in 3 years while the the part-time program requires an additional year. Both programs require 87 credit hours for completion. The first-year program builds a foundation on the core concepts of the American legal system: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. The courses in civil procedure and contracts are two-semester, six hour courses while the rest are single semester courses. Students also take a skill based courses that covers the fundamentals of legal writing, research, and advocacy.
Prior to graduation, students must complete four additional required courses: the second semester of constitutional law, criminal procedure, evidence, and professional responsibility. Students must also complete six additional courses from a select set of ten “staple” courses. All students must satisfy the requirement for an upper-level writing assignment as well as complete six hours of experiential learning.
CUA Law offers students concentrations in seven different practice areas which ensure that a students studies the fundamental academics for their professional careers. Further, J.D. candidates may earn one of five certificates offered by the law school. The more rigorous certification program demonstrates to employers a student’s master of the subject matter.
CUA Law offers two additional graduate programs–one for lawyers and one for non-lawyers. The Master of Laws (LL.M) program is designed for students who have already earned their Juris Doctor or its foreign equivalent. The LL.M program requires 24 hours of coursework in one of the three specializations (international law, technology law, or securities) or a general LL.M in American law that is designed for foreign-educated attorneys.
CUA Law’s Master of Legal Studies is designed for non-attorneys who work in careers that often intersect with the law. The M.L.S. program requires 30 hours of coursework. Students may also opt for a general study of the legal system or focus on more specific areas such as compliance law or criminal justice. The M.L.S. is generally completed in one year of study.
J,D. candidates at CUA Law may also combine their law degree with a professional degree from one of seven other graduate programs. The joint degree program allows students to share some course credits between both programs thereby reducing the total time to earn both degrees. Joint degrees also stress the interdisciplinary nature of the modern practice of law. Of note is CUA Law unique program combining the J.D. with a Licentiate in Canon Law degree. This combination covers both common law and the canon law that governs the Catholic church.
Career and Career Placement
Over 91% of all graduates of CUA Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. The majority of students–over 87%–are employed in careers that either requires a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Over 35% of graduates chose private law firm work. The school’s proximity to the federal government complex makes government careers another common choice for CUA graduates with nearly 25% of students opting for this career choice. Over 20% of graduates pursue careers in the business sector. CUA Law also sees approximately 10% of graduates earn judicial clerkships each year.
The Columbus School of Law’s Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) works with students from the time they enter CUA Law until the end of their careers. Aside from individual counseling from the staff, The OCPD also maintains a dedicated resource library and an online database that informs students of jobs, internship opportunities, and externships. The OCPD also has a mentor program that pairs students with graduates who can mentor students through their academic careers and into their professional careers.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
The Columbus Community Legal Services at CUA Law offers students the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to practice law while representing real clients. The clinical program has five different practice areas where students serve the local community in a variety of capacities from representing veterans to working with custody disputes. During clinics, students are supervised by practicing faculty members who help students transfer their coursework into practical skills in the real world.
CUA Law also offers students the opportunity for external field placements in offices around the nation’s capital. Students select their own placements subject to school approval. Each office has a site supervisor who provides critical feedback as students practice and master various legal skills.
CUA Law also participates in a 10-week externship with the Securities Exchange Commmission. The program provides students three credit hours as students work on a variety of projects for the S.E.C.
With over 30 student organizations and a dedicated office for student life, CUA Law offers its student body a wide range of services and programs. The student body is notably diverse, a fact reflected in the number of student organizations dedicated to celebrating the school’s many ethnic backgrounds. Since 1965, CUA Law has also sponsored an acclaimed lecture series that invites a distinguished speaker to campus each year. Past speakers have included now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as well as Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston. The lecture series is an indication of the school’s focus on developing well-rounded, active students who appreciate various perspectives on law and work to bring social justice to the community.
Located in the University Heights area of Washington, D.C., CUA Law’s campus is in the Northeast corner of the District. The location offers student easy access to the Maryland state line where housing is often more affordable and abundant. The National Mall, however, is only 4 miles away. Students at CUA Law enjoy the constant activity of the nation’s capital which provides not only countless museums but a thriving art, music, and culinary scene.