Drake University Law School

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The Drake University College of Law (Drake Law) was one of two law schools founded by Iowa Supreme Court Justice Chester Cole both of which were the first two law schools founded west of the Mississippi River. After Cole’s first law school moved to Iowa City to become part of Iowa University, Cole partnered with another justice, George G. Wright, to create a new law school in the state’s capital of Des Moines. The college of law became part of Drake University in 1881. Today, Drake Law is noteworthy for its annual Dwight D. Opperman Lecture series that brings together some of the best constitutional scholars in the country every year for the annual event. Drake Law’s close proximity has also kept the law school closely connected to the legislative and judicial centers of the state. Its alumni include two governors of the state and multiple Iowa Supreme Court Justices.


The Juris Doctor program at Drake Law requires over 40 hours of required courses most of which are completed in the first year of study. The first-year curriculum includes the six core courses of American legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. In their first year, students also take two-semester courses focused on legal research and legal writing. Students are also exposed to the practice of law through a second-semester practicum on trial law skills. After their first year, students are further required to complete additional courses in constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility. All students must satisfy the school’s requirements for experiential education and an upper-level writing course.

For upper-class students, Drake Law offers over 20 areas of specialization that concentrate course work for certain practice areas. Additionally, Drake Law offers 10 certification programs that demonstrate a student’s mastery of a particular subject area.

For working professionals, Drake Law also offers a part-time program called the “Career Opportunity Program.” The program offers tremendous flexibility for working professionals. Students generally take 2-3 classes per semester until completing the required 90 hours of coursework. Students can take up to seven years to complete the Juris Doctor program.

Additional Programs

For students who have already earned their Juris Doctor (or the foreign equivalent), Drake Law also offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) program focused either on risk management and compliance or an individualized study plan. The LL.M offers law school graduates the opportunity to demonstrate further mastery of a subject matter and increase the career opportunities. For international students, the LL.M degree allows students to sit for the bar exam in some jurisdictions as well as offer an opportunity to expand their English language fluency.

For non-lawyers, Drake Law also offers a Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.) degree in either risk management and compliance or an individualized study plan. The M.J. program is targeted at professionals whose careers overlap with the law and desire a firm understanding of how the legal system functions. Students complete 24 hours of coursework in either a full-time or part-time schedule.

Undergraduate students at Drake University also have the opportunity to participate in the school’s “3+3” program that allows exceptional students to combine their undergraduate degree with a law degree. Students spend their final year of undergraduate studies in their first year of law school. This approach allows them to complete both programs in six years.

Drake Law also offers students the opportunity to enroll in one of eight different joint degree programs that combine the Juris Doctor degree with a professional degree from another college at Drake University. In the joint degree program, students spend a year focused on their law degree followed by a year focused on their joint degree. After the first two years, students spend the rest of their time working both programs concurrently. This approach allows them to share coursework between both programs thereby reducing the total amount of time to complete two degrees. Joint degree options including combining the J.D. with an M.B.A from the business school, a Master of Social Work, or a Master of Public Health.

Career and Career Placement

Within 10 months of graduation, over 88% of all graduates of Drake Law are–on average–employed in careers that either requires a law license or prefer a law degree. Smaller portions of students pursued non-legal professions after graduation bringing the total employed percentage of graduates over 94%. Drake Law graduates most often pursued work in small law firms (31% of employed graduates). In total, just under 50% of all employed graduates chose law firm work. Other common career choices included work in the business sector (15%), government positions (12%), and judicial clerkships (14%). Over 75% of all employed graduates began their careers in either Iowa or neighboring Missouri.

The staff of the Drake Law Career Development Office (CDO) focuses on providing students professional, individualized counseling while also equipping students to manage their careers for the rest of their professional lives. To achieve this goal, the CDO offers a wide range of services beyond traditional one-on-one counseling. Students may participate in mentoring programs, mock interview sessions, a range of networking events, as well as the annual on-campus interview program that brings employers to the law school.

Experiential Learning/Distance Education

Drake Law is committed to putting legal education into practice through a host of experiential learning opportunities. These skill-based lessons begin in the first year of study where students are introduced to trial law skills in their first-year practicum. Drake Law’s faculty are all former practicing attorneys who bring their wealth of experience into the classroom. Additionally, Drake Law operates a law firm as part of its legal clinic. In the clinic, students have the opportunity to practice in over six different practice areas while being supervised by faculty experts. In the clinic, students meet and represent real clients in a range of legal situations. Due to its proximity to the state capital, Drake Law students also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of unique internships with the state government and court system. Drake Law students have argued before the state Supreme Court as well as tried jury cases while still law students.

While Drake Law’s Juris Doctor degree requires residential coursework, the school does offer its Master of Jurisprudence through an online program.

Student Life

Drake Law has long been a pioneer of promoting diversity in both legal education and the legal profession. A former student, Charles Preston Howard, founded the National Bar Association after African-Americans were denied admission into the American Bar Association. The school celebrates its diversity with programming, scholarship opportunities, and student organizations that celebrate the student body’s many diverse backgrounds. Law students enjoy a small, tight-knit community at the law school. Housing is available in walking distance from the law school.

The law school is located in the heart of the capital of Iowa. Des Moines is one of the cultural centers of the Midwest and offers students a wide range of cultural and recreational opportunities. The city is also consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States for its high quality of life and low cost of living. Students enjoy the city’s rich park system, the vibrant arts community, and one of the best culinary scenes in the region. Des Moines also offers close proximity to the greater Chicago area.

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?