Elon University was founded in 1889 in rural North Carolina on land donated by farmers and mill owners. The main university–located outside of Burlington, N.C.–opened its law school in 2006 in the nearby city of Greensboro, the third-largest city in North Carolina. The Elon University School of Law (Elon Law) was dedicated by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in its downtown location–a renovated historic library. In 2011, the law school received full accreditation from the American Bar Association. Over the next several years, Elon Law built a new model for legal education that combines practical training that is integrated with career planning. Today, the school is highly regarded for its skill-based approach to training lawyers.
Elon University’s Juris Doctor program is innovative in its integration of practical learning into the traditional academic curriculum. The first-year curriculum reflects this innovation as does Elon Law’s use of a trimester system as opposed to a traditional calendar. Students study the five traditional academic subjects: civil procedure, criminal law, contracts, property, and torts. However, students also take seven skill-based courses that cover introductory and foundational skills such as research, writing, professionalism, communication, and methodology. The academic course in criminal law is complemented by a lab course in criminal law where students begin to put their academic lessons into the practice of law. In their first year, students also complete a course in either business or evidence.
All students are required to complete additional courses in constitutional law, professional responsibility, and a course covering topics that appear on the bar exam. The keystone of the Elon Law’s innovative curriculum is a residency-in-practice program where students spend a trimester in residency in a legal office. Students work alongside practicing attorneys in a variety of capacities. This program not only builds their skill set but allows student to make professional connections and provide in-depth exposure to law in practice.
Elon Law has developed four unique programs intended to enhance the education experience of its student and better prepare them to transition into their professional life. These programs are available to all Elon Law students and combine both curricular and co-curricular programs. Programs include a litigation skills, a legal method & communication, emergency legal services, and leadership. Each program is guided by professors with tremendous experience in the field who work closely with program participants to help maximize their results.
Elon Law also offers students a Business Fellows that provides scholarships and additional experiential learning opportunities to help develop leading business attorneys.
Elon Law students may also combine their J.D. with another professional degree as part of a dual degree program. Students have the option to also earn an M.B.A. from Elon’s business school or a Master of Environmental Law & Policy from the Vermont Law school–one of the nation’s premier environmental law schools. Dual degrees provide students with additional academic training to help prepare them to succeed in the increasingly interdisciplinary practice of law.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, over 90% of all Elon Law graduates were employed within 10 months of graduation. Most employed graduates found careers that either required a law license (73%) or prefer a Juris Doctor degree (20%). The law school’s emphasis on preparing lawyers to be practice-ready is noted by the career choices as nearly one-third of all employed graduates chose small law firms as their first career choice. Almost a quarter of graduates found careers in the business sector while a substantial percentage (21%) opted for work in government offices or the public interest sector. Over 60% of graduates remained in North Carolina to begin their professional careers.
The Office of Career & Student Development (OCSD) at Elon Law works with students throughout their career journey. This process starts in the first year as students engage with potential employers in career panels as well as attend the many professional development programs presented by the OCSD. In their second year, student meet with a career counselor to begin to plan their professional careers. Second-year students apply for summer internships and work with the OCSD staff to hone their resume, cover letters, and interview skills. In their final year, students begin their transition to their professional careers as they prepare to take the bar exam and finalize their job options.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Experiential Learning is the heart of the Elon Law curriculum. The law school is the first to require residencies for all students. The residential requirements place students in working legal offices of all practice areas as students put their skills to practice. The residency takes an entire trimester.
In addition to the residency program, all Elon Law students have the opportunity to represent clients directly through the school’s clinical program. The clinics provide five different practice areas where students advocate for clients while under the supervision of practicing attorneys.
During their first-year, all students also take a lab based course that applies their academic lessons into real-world legal situations. This hands-on approach puts the theory of law into practice.
Elon Law also offers students a range of co-curricular programs to help build their practical skills. The school selects certain exceptional students to work on group legal projects that benefit the public interest. These are large-scale, important projects that involve complex questions of law. Students may also join one of the school active mock trial or moot court teams.
At Elon University, all students are supported by development opportunities that aim to build students health and wellness while allowing them to develop relationships that will last well beyond their academic years. The OCSD supports students through a range of services including emergency services, counseling, and health services. The school’s student organization program features dozens of groups that bring students together to celebrate their many voices and diverse backgrounds. Elon Law also has established a deep commitment to serving the local community that welcomed it in 2006.
In Greensboro, N.C., Elon Law sits in the heart of the city’s revitalized downtown. Greensboro’s history is a story of the civil rights movement. Around the corner from the law schools is the site of the first black sit-in–a Woolworth’s that now houses the National Civil Rights Museum. Throughout the downtown community is Greensboro thriving micro-brewery scene with dozens of breweries in walking distance of the law school. The city’s minor league baseball team–the Greensboro Grasshoppers–plays in walking distance of the law school. Housing is affordable and abundant throughout the city. Greensboro is also an hour’s drive from North Carolina’s two largest cities–Raleigh and Charlotte. At Elon Law, students experience the best of North Carolina.