The Hamline University Mitchell Hamline School of Law (MH Law) was formed by the merger of two longtime rival law schools in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Hamline University School of Law was founded in 1972 as the independent Midwestern School of Law before joining the university four years after it was founded. The William Mitchell College of Law operated as an independent law school for almost 60 years before joining Hamline University. The Mitchell College of Law also had a previous history of mergers of other smaller law schools in the Saint Paul area. In total, MH Law traces its history to eight unique law schools in the Saint Paul area representing over 120 years of legal education in the city. Today, the combined law school of MH Law counts over 12,000 graduates as its alumni. Its complicated history now accounts for four U.S. senators, three former governors of Minnesota, 13 justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and countless state legislators.
MH Law offers one of the most flexible degree programs in the nation that includes full-time, part-time (both day and evening), and a hybrid approach that blends traditional residential coursework with online learning. The first, or foundational, year of coursework grounds students in the fundamental subjects of the American legal education: civil dispute resolution, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also take a course focused on advanced legal reasoning. In each of their foundational courses, students also learn a practical component. For example, while students study the concept of contracts, they also learn the skill of transactional analysis. The skill based courses build on one another as students progress through their foundational year.
All students–regardless of which program they follow–must also complete additional courses in constitutional law, professional responsibility, advocacy, and negotiations or transactions and settlements. In addition to their academic requirements, all students must complete a two-semester course in lawyering, courses covering advanced legal reasoning, research and writing, as well as courses in legal methods and practice. The curriculum is notably skill-based as MH Law is geared towards graduating practice-ready attorneys.
MH Law offers a number of areas with notable expertise including the fields of health law, intellectual property, and dispute resolution. MH Law is home to dedicated institutes for all these specializations, allowing students to take advantage of expert faculty and resources. Students may specialize in almost any practice area as they prepare for their professional careers.
MH Law also offers a number of additional programs alongside their Juris Doctor degree. For foreign trained attorneys, MH Law’s Master of Laws (LL.M) degree introduces foreign law graduates to the American legal system through a rigorous year of academic and skill-based learning. Students earn 24 hours of credit while participating in many of the same courses as J.D. students. All LL.M students also complete a master’s thesis in an area of academic interest. The LL.M program allows foreign students to immerse themselves both in the legal education but also the legal culture of MH Law and the broader community. The LL.M also allows students to sit for the bar exam in some jurisdictions.
J.D. candidates at MH Law may also participate in a dual degree program that allows students to earn an additional degree alongside their Juris Doctor. In a dual degree, students earn their J.D. and one of four masters degree: an M.B.A., a Master of Fine Arts in Writing (M.F.A.), a Master in Public Administration (M.P.A.), or a Master in Nonprofit Management (M.N.M). By studying for both degrees concurrently, students save time and money versus pursuing two degrees independently since certain credits are counted towards both programs. Additionally, students learn an interdisciplinary approach to the practice of law–a skill frequently required in the modern, complex practice of law.
In conjunction with several local universities, MH Law’s “3+3” program allows undergraduate students to spend their last year working towards their law degree at MH Law. This program allows students to complete both their undergraduate and graduate studies in six years.
MH Law also is a pioneer in offering non-degree certification programs that are targeted as working professionals whose careers intersect with specialized areas of the law. The programs generally last 12-13 weeks and are taught completely online. The certification programs include areas such as elder law, cybersecurity and privacy law, healthcare administration, and human resources compliance.
Career and Career Placement
Despite having a notably large student body (approximately 300 students graduate each year), 94% of MH Law graduates are employed within 10 months of graduation. Almost 88% of employed graduates find positions requiring a law license or preferring a Juris Doctor degree. Various professional positions account for an additional 11% of career choices. Less than half of graduates (37.5%) opted for careers in law firms with small law firms accounting for the majority of students who pursued law firm work. The single most common career choice for MH Law graduates was work in the business sector (23% of employed graduates). MH Law also had tremendous success placing graduates in judicial clerkships (22% of employed graduates). The majority of MH Law graduates remain in Minnesota to begin their professional careers.
The MH Law Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) strives to help each student design a meaningful career path that achieves their professional goals and then provide every student with ample resources as they realize those goals. The CCPD has tremendous resources for students that starts with a first-year program that includes one-on-one sessions with an academic advisor, resume preparation sessions, professional exploration, and coursework centered on the professional side of practicing law. As students progress in their academic careers, the OCPD helps them refine and effectuate their goals through networking events, interview preparation, and experiential opportunities. The OCPD meets with all students prior to graduation as part of a transition interview as they begin their professional careers. With a massive alumni base and deep connections throughout the region, MH Law students also benefit from the school’s prominent alumni network.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Experiential learning is the cornerstone of the MH Law program. Students learn to practice law through coursework, real world experiences, and co-curricular activities.
In the classroom, students begin to learn to practice law from their very first semester. The first-year curriculum includes a two-semester course on the fundamental skills of legal writing and research. Students also learn their core academic subjects through a skill-based approach. In later semesters, students engage in simulation courses or practice intensives. Both of these courses aim to replicate real-world legal problems as students learn the various skills needed to succeed as attorneys.
Outside the classroom, MH Law offers students the opportunity to participate in their clinical program, an externship, or a residency. The clinical program includes 15 different clinics that function much like small law firms. Students work with real clients in need of representation across a range of legal issues. All students’ work is supervised by faculty experts as students learn how to advocate for their clients. In the externship program, students also work with real clients in external legal offices in the surrounding legal community. The externships are paired with an academic course as students learn to transfer their academic lessons into the practice of law. The residency process functions the same as the externship program except it requires additional time in the field. Generally, students in a residency spend three full days at their residency site over a 14-week period.
MH Law is also a pioneer in distance learning. The law school created the first hybrid Juris Doctor program that combines limited residential coursework with online modules. This blended approach generally takes four years but may be completed in as few as three years. During the first two years of study, students spend two-thirds of their time in residential learning. In their final two years, students have tremendous flexibility to attend in-person classes, live online classes, weekend classes, or completely online modules. This blended approach is designed to open up legal education for working professionals and students with other obligations.
MH Law is one of the largest law schools in the country with a student body near 1,000 students. The campus reflects the long history of legal education in St. Paul with a modern layout that features technology in ever classroom and throughout the campus. The law school campus has its own student center with fireplaces, student study spaces, local art exhibits, and spaces where students socialize. The student body is engaged through the school’s active student organization program as well as a number of annual charitable and pro bono programs.
Surrounding the law school is one of St. Paul’s most desirable neighborhoods. Located minutes from downtown and just a few blocks from the Mississippi River, the law school campus is located within walking distance of coffee shops, restaurants, and plenty of housing options. As part of the twin cities, St. Paul is full of culture, music, and recreation. The twin cities are renowned for their public transportation and bike paths as well as the countless lakes and waterways that surround the city. St. Paul is affordable and alive making MH Law a great place to study, live, and practice law.