Despite being one of the newest law schools in the country, the Georgia State College of Law (GSU Law) has quickly established itself as top regional law school offering in-state students one of the best educational values in the country. The law school was formally established in 1981 with its first graduating class of seven students matriculating in 1984. Today, the law school admits just over 200 new students each fall. The law school is noteworthy for its health law program–one of the top programs in the country–and its part-time/evening law school program which serves professionals in the Atlanta area. GSU Law’s connections to its hometown of Atlanta run throughout its history. The current mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, graduated from the law school in 1996.
Full-time first-year students at GSU Law complete 30 credit hours, 14 in their first semester and 16 in their second. The curriculum is grounded on an introduction to the five core courses of American jurisprudence: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. These core courses are complemented by a two-semester course in the foundation of the practice of law and a course in legal research. Part-time students complete the same course load in four semesters with the option to take electives during the summer sessions.
Second-year students at GSU Law are required to take courses in constitutional law, evidence, professional responsibility, and advocacy. All other courses during the second and third years are elective. Part-time students complete the same requirements in four semesters plus optional summer session courses.
Upper-class students may follow one of seven certification paths which certify that a student is prepared to practice a particular type of law. GSU Law’s health law certification is considered one of the best in the nation.
Like all American Bar Association accredited law schools, students at GSU Law must also complete an upper-level writing assignment and satisfy the requirement for six hours of experiential education.
GSU Law also offers two Master of Laws (LL.M) tracks for students who have already earned their Juris Doctor (or equivalent degree from an international law school). For international students, GSU Law offers an LL.M that qualifies international students to sit for the bar exam in Georgia. Students spend one year studying the major facets of the American legal system. For U.S. educated law school graduates, the law school offers LL.M programs in six different concentrations. All concentrations require a year of residential coursework as students focus on a particular practice area to become subject matter experts. LL.M students can also pursue two concentrations with only an additional 10 hours of coursework.
GSU Law’s renowned health law programs also offers a Master of Jurisprudence to professionals who need a solid understanding of how the law interacts with the health care system. The program is completed online in two part-time years of study.
Juris Doctor candidates also have the option of pursuing a dual degree. The College of Law and eight other professional schools at Georgia State University participate in the dual degree program which allows students to share credit hours between programs in order to complete both in less time. Dual-degree programs including pairing the J.D. with an M.B.A. from the business school or with a Master of Public Health degree. In the increasingly complex legal world, dual degrees distinguish students in their respective fields.
Career and Career Placement
The most recent employment statistics indicate that 91% of graduates of GSU Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. The overwhelming majority of those that found work (86%) were employed in careers that required either a law license or preferred a law school graduate. Small law firms of 1-10 attorneys, careers in the business sector, and government offices were the three most popular career choices. Almost 10% of the class chose careers in the public sector or opted for judicial clerkships in the federal or state courts. The state of Georgia was, by far, the most popular choice for graduates to begin their careers.
At GSU Law, the Center for Professional Development & Career Strategies treats each student as having a “personal brand” that must be developed over their academic career in order to attract the right employers. During their first year, students begin building their brand with the help of the Center’s staff. Students work on resumes and cover letters, meet one-on-one with counselors to develop a career strategy, and take a career development course. In later years, students attend school-sponsored career fairs, networking events, and panel discussions as they engage in the hiring process. The Career Center administers a large number of programs including on-site job fairs and interviews.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
The Georgia State University College of Law is a leader in experiential learning placing an emphasis on translating academic lessons into practical skills. All students are required to complete six hours of experiential learning. Most complete more than that.
Experiential learning is available through the law school’s legal clinics, the externship program, and simulation courses. The school’s clinical program includes three internal legal clinics and three off-site clinics. Participation in a clinic requires an application process. In clinic, students learn the foundation of client representation and advocacy that will serve them throughout their careers.
The externship program functions much like the clinical program as students spend a semester (or more) working in a government office in the greater Atlanta area. Participation requires a minimum grade point average and certain prerequisite courses. The program allows students to apply their classroom lessons in an actual legal office while gaining invaluable insight into the daily life of practicing attorneys.
In simulation courses, students apply their core coursework to real-world problems as they collaborate with their classmates to solve the problem. Simulations are a perfect method for the application of legal principles since faculty experts guide the simulations which are often tied back to academic studies.
With more than two dozen student-run organizations, an active moot court team, and a committed pro bono program, GSU Law’s campus is active. The pro bono program, for example, offers students an alternate spring break program where students spend their spring break working in a pro bono program around the state of Georgia. The student-run Georgia State Law Review is an award-winning law journal edited and published by students. Students engage with one another in small classes that provide plenty of interaction with professors as students master the study of law.
The GSU Law Campus is located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. Students live and play in one of the South’s most dynamic cities. The surrounding community offers an endless supply of dining, sports, and entertainment. Atlanta’s history is steeped in the Civil Rights movement with museums throughout the region. Recently, Atlanta has also become a hotbed for the film industry adding another layer of energy to the already bustling city. The urban area is remarkably affordable and welcoming.