The Florida International University Law School (FIU Law) was born from a desire to start a public law school in southern Florida (the nearby University of Miami School of Law is private). The campaign to start the law school began in the mid-1980s and continued for almost 15 years until governor Jeb Bush finally helped create the school in 2000. Just six years later, the school received full accreditation from the American Bar Association. Since its founding, the law school has risen quickly into the top 100 schools in the country. Today, FIU Law is the only public law school in southern Florida. It has been recognized for its part-time, evening law program as well as its exceptional value especially for Florida residents.
FIU Law offers a full-time Juris Doctor program and an evening, part-time program. Both programs require the same “Foundation” curriculum although the part-time program takes longer than one year to complete. The foundation program is grounded in the six core classes of legal education in the United States: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. First-year students also take two semesters studying practical legal skills and ethics as well as an introductory course in comparative and international law.
Upper-level students are required to take a number of additional courses. Students must take a course in professional responsibility, a third semester of legal skills and ethics, an upper-level course covering comparative and international law, and a graduate seminar (that contains a major writing assignment for completion). Like all ABA accredited law schools, students must also complete the requirement for experiential learning credits. FIU Law also requires all graduates to perform at least 30 hours of community service.
FIU Law also offers certification programs in intellectual property and environmental law. The certification program indicate a student’s mastery of both coursework and skill-based lessons in the practice area.
FIU Law–true to its name–offers international law students the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree with the successful completion of 24 credits of coursework. Completion of the LL.M program–usually done in two semesters–opens up a range of opportunities for international students. Students can sit for the bar exam in certain jurisdictions, can transfer into a Juris Doctor program, or–in some instances–qualify for extended employment in the United States.
For non-lawyers, FIU Law also has a Juris Masters program concentrated in two heavily regulated areas: banking and healthcare compliance. The program requires 30 hours of coursework that typically is completed in one year of residential coursework. The J.M. program prepares professionals to understand and navigate increasingly complex and litigious fields of banking and health care.
Juris Doctor candidates also have the opportunity to combine their J.D. with one of nine other professional degree programs from the university. Students have the option of combining their J.D., for example, with Masters of Business Administration (the M.B.A. degree) or a Master of Environmental Studies. All joint degrees require separate admission into both programs. Students work on their degrees concurrently allowing them to share credits between both programs. This not only reduces the time to complete both programs but allows students to gain valuable insight into the interplay between various professional careers.
Career and Career Placement
Despite its short history, FIU has had tremendous success in career placement. Based on the most recent graduating classes, over 90% of all graduates of FIU Law are employed in careers either requiring a law license or that prefer a Juris Doctor degree within 10 months of graduation. FIU Law’s affordability also offers students a broad range of career options with small law firms (1-50 attorneys) accounting for almost 45% of all graduate’s first career choice. FIU Law graduates also notably chose government roles (25% of all graduates). Almost all graduates remained in the state of Florida to begin their law practice. FIU Law graduates also have a higher than average bar passage rate for the state.
The Abraham S. Ovadia ’09 Career Planning and Placement Office at FIU Law (CP&P) believes that career planning should begin immediately when students begin their academic careers. All students are introduced to career planning in their first-year course on legal skills and values. The staff of four professionals builds on the curricular work by providing students with opportunities to network, practice interview skills, revise their resumes, and participate in the school’s on-campus interview program. The CP&P also maintains an impressive selection of career resources that help students master social media and professional etiquette.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Students at FIU Law practice experiential learning and build real-world legal skills through the school’s clinical program, externships, and a unique semester-in-practice program. FIU Law houses five in-house legal clinics that offer students the opportunity to work with real clients on a range of legal issues from the community law clinic to working with death row inmates. All clinics require a minimum amount of coursework (usually 45 hours) and sometimes require prerequisite courses.
The externship program offers students three practice areas that couple coursework with field placements to allow students to transfer their classroom knowledge into practical skills. Externships are available in conjunction with civil practice, criminal practice, and judicial practice.
FIU Law’s unique semester-in-practice program immerses students in their final year of law school into an actual law office. Students work side by side with practicing attorney to understand the real world of the legal practice, to learn career skills, and to better plan their legal careers.
FIU Law requires residential coursework for their degree programs.
True to its name, Florida International University Law school is diverse and eclectic–welcoming students from around the world to its cosmopolitan campus. The law school is housed in a $34 million dollar building designed by renowned architect Robert Stern. The law school building is across the street from the university’s extensive recreation building allowing students quick access to its many wellness programs and facilities. A large parking deck adjacent to the law school allows students easy parking. Students enjoy a range of student organizations as well as two student-run journals.
FIU University is located in the University Park neighborhood of Miami, Florida, a short drive to West of downtown Miami and Miami beach. In West Miami, students enjoy more affordable housing as well as easy access to campus. The main campus is surrounded by apartments and condominium options. Miami is renowned for its culture and culinary season, offering an eclectic and international selection of food.