Formed by the merger of two independent law schools in 1946, the Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (CM Law) traces its history back to the first part-time law school in Ohio–the Cleveland School of Law. That law school merged with the city’s other part-time law school, the John Marshall College of Law. The resulting law school operated most independently until it became a part of Cleveland State University in 1969. CM Law was the first to admit women to law school in the state and one of the first to admit African-American students. The law school has a long history of placing minority and women graduates in important political and legal positions. For example, the first African-American mayor of a large city, Carl Stokes, is an alumnus. Other alumni include Tim Russert, the late host of Meet the Press, and the current mayor of Cleveland, Frank Jackson.
CM Law now offers both a full-time, part-time, and accelerated degree program. Students may complete the J.D. program in as few as two years or as many as six. All students, regardless of which program path they follow, must complete 90 hours of coursework with a maximum of 18 hours per semester and a minimum of 10 hours. The first-year required curriculum includes core courses in civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also take a practice-based course focused on the skills of legal research and writing as well as the regulatory system. All students are required to take three substantive courses: constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility. All students required to complete an upper-level writing assignment, a course covering legal perspectives, and satisfy the requirement for experiential learning.
The required curriculum is generally completed in the first two years regardless of whether a student is full or part-time. The remaining coursework is elective in nature as students transition to their professional careers. Students can also bolster their professional resumes by following one of CM’s law six concentration programs that blend academic and skill-based coursework to prepare students for certain practice areas. CM Law houses special centers for the study of cybersecurity law and health law. The centers provide expert faculty and leading practices in these emerging practice areas.
CM Law offers two additional graduate degrees–the Master of Laws (LL.M) for students who have earned their Juris Doctor (or its foreign equivalent) and a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S). for students from other professional backgrounds. The LL.M is available to both domestic and international students. Students with their J.D. pursue the LL.M to develop additional expertise in a particular practice area. CM Law’s centers on cybersecurity, health law, and outer space law offer students three growing areas of the law to master. International students focus on building their understanding of the American legal system. Both tracks require 24 hours for completion although students may take up to 30 hours in the program.
The M.L.S. program is designed for non-attorneys who need a fundamental understanding of the law for their profession. Students may choose to focus on a general understanding of the legal system or concentrate on CM’s excellent program on cybersecurity and data privacy. The M.L.S. program requires 30 credit hours for completion.
Juris Doctor candidates may also pursue a dual degree program that pairs their J.D. with another professional program such an M.B.A. or a Master of Urban Planning degree. In the dual degree program, students complete their first-year law school curriculum. The second-year is spent entirely on their other degree program. The remaining two years of law school are spent sharing coursework. This approach allows both programs to be completed in four years. In the professional market, dual degree graduates offer a unique approach to the practice of law.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent graduation statistics, over 93% of graduates of CM Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Almost 88% of graduates are employed in careers that either requires a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Almost 30% of graduates pursued careers in small law firms with less than 10 attorneys. Over 18% of graduates chose careers in the business sector while another 18% accepted positions in government offices or in the public interest sector. A little under 50% of graduates opt for work in larger law firms (of various sizes). Almost 95% of all graduates remained in Ohio to begin their professional careers.
All students and alumni at CM Law are connected to the Office of Career Planning (OCP) through an online portal that allows them to schedule counseling sessions, peruse job openings, utilize the OCP’s library of resources, and sign up for OCP sponsored career events. The OCP sponsors numerous events throughout the interview that include mock interview programs as well as networking events that allow students to build their professional connections. The OCP manages the school’s fall and spring interview programs. The fall on-campus interview is generally for large firms while the spring interview programs focus on smaller and mid-sized law firms. The OCP also works closely with the law school’s alumni association who offer current students a range of support services including scholarships and networking opportunities.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
CM Law students gain practical skills through “engagement” experiences in the school’s legal clinics and externship program. CM Law houses four, regular legal clinics–an appellate clinic, a civil litigation clinic, a community law clinic, and a transactional clinic. The law school also offers pop-up legal clinics that allow students to work in a short-term clinic in various practice areas. All clinical experiences offer students the opportunity to work with real clients under the supervision of practicing attorneys. In their final year of law school, students may also represent clients in court.
The externship program students work in a legal office while being supervised by a local attorney or judge. The program embeds students in the daily practice of law, offering them a unique perspective on their future professional career while also building critical skills. Generally, externships last a semester.
CM Law also offers a number of practical, skill-based simulation courses that mimic real-world, complex legal issues in a classroom setting. Students spend a semester working on the problem while they build critical skills.
CM Law is part of a larger university in the midst of a transformative period. Over the past decade, Cleveland State University has been revitalized along with the city itself. Students at CM Law enjoy an active campus with over 30 student organizations and multiple student-run academic journals. The school’s mentoring program is one of the only such programs in the country. Students enjoy a small student body and a faculty that works closely with students.
The CM Law campus is located in Cleveland’s bustling new midtown area that has recent growth in housing and entertainment. The larger city offers students a wide range of activities from professional sporting events to the rock and roll hall of fame. Lake Erie provides a stunning waterfront that plays hosts to several festivals each year. Cleveland is also one of the more affordable large cities in America. CM Law students enjoy all the amenities of a large city without the costs.