Founded at the very end of the 19th century and named for one of America’s most influential Supreme Court justices, the John Marshall Law School (John Marshall Law) has been educating attorneys in Chicago for over 120 years. In 2019, the previously independent law school became part of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) making it the only public law school in Chicago. As part of UIC, John Marshall Law is one of 16 academic colleges in the city’s largest university. The University, in general, and law school specifically are recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse in the country. The school’s many alumni reflect this diversity. Alumnus Charles E. Freeman was the first African-American to sit on the Illinois Supreme Court. Wanda Stopa was the first female to serve as an assistant U.S. District Attorney while Edith Sampson was the first African-American delegate to the United Nations.
To earn a Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law, all students must complete 90 hours of coursework through either a full-time or part-time, evening program. Both programs require the same core academic requirements that require 30 hours of prescribed courses to complete the “first-year” curriculum (which takes part-time students three semesters). The first semesters of study include the six traditional academic courses of American legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Alongside these foundational courses, all students take four semesters of John Marshall Law’s innovative “lawyering skills” course that provides students with a comprehensive preparation of all skills necessary to succeed in their professional careers.
In their subsequent semesters (the second year for full-time students), all John Marshall students are required to complete five additional substantive courses including the second semesters of civil procedure and constitutional law, evidence, professional responsibility, and a course on trial advocacy. All students must complete 3-5 hours in a clinic or externship prior to graduation as well as roughly 35 hours of elective credits.
All John Marshall Law students have the option of earning an additional concentration in one of four practice areas. These concentrations help students prepare for certain areas of the law as well provide them with a competitive advantage in the job market. Concentrations include intellectual property, international human rights, sustainability, and trial advocacy and dispute resolution. Each concentrations requires specific foundational and specialized courses in the subject matter while also suggesting practical experiences to prepare students for careers in these areas.
In addition to their Juris Doctor program, John Marshall Law also offers one of the most complete Master of Laws (LL.M) programs in the country. The LL.M program requires students to complete 30 hours of advanced coursework in one of seven practice areas. While the degree may be completed in as little as one year, the LL.M program is flexible so that students can take additional semesters if necessary. Each LL.M specialties has its own required and elective course options. John Marshall Law offers LL.M in the areas of employee benefits, estate planning, intellectual property law, international business and trade law, privacy and technology law, real estate law, and tax law. The program in employee benefits is the only such program in the country. All the LL.M programs prepare students to practice in highly specialized, complex areas of the law.
Non-attorneys may earn a Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.) degree in the same seven specialty areas as offered in the LL.M program. M.J. students also complete 30 hours of coursework. Most courses are taught in the afternoons or evening as well as some weekend courses. The course times are intended to accommodate working professionals whose goal is to compliment their work credentials with a degree that covers the legal and regulatory structure that governs their profession.
Finally, John Marshall Law allows all of its J.D. candidates to also earn an LL.M as part of a joint degree program. The combined program requires students to complete 80 hours of credit towards their J.D. degree and 30 hours to the LL.M program. Combined, students complete 110 hours thereby saving 10 hours of coursework if they pursued the degree separately.
Career and Career Placement
Based on recent employment outcome data, over 80% of all graduates of John Marshall Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Over 90% of employed graduates find careers that either requires them to be licensed or advantage the Juris Doctor degree in hiring. An additional 9% of graduates accept other professional positions. Most careers (over 90%) are full-time, long term careers. Over a third of all graduates begin their professional careers in small or solo law firms (1 to 25 attorneys). A much smaller percentage (14%) opt for careers in mid or large-sized firms. Careers in the business sector were one of the most common career choices for graduates (23%). Other popular choices include careers in government offices (17%) or the public interest sector (6%). Most graduates–over 90%–remain in the Chicago area to begin their professional careers.
The Career Services Office (CSO) at John Marshall Law offers all students and alumni a range of services to help develop their professional lives throughout their careers. The CSO offers students counseling services as well as a wide range of programs and events including roundtable discussions that feature lawyers and practice area leaders, workshops to build interview and networking skills, and an alumni mentoring program. The CSO has a dedicated program for both public and private sector careers as well as unique resources that allow students to explore the versatility of earning a law degree. The CSO also maintains a professional clothes closet that provides students in need of professional clothing for interviews or their professional careers.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
To ensure that all students graduate ready to practice law, John Marshall Law requires all students to complete four semesters of skill-based learning as part of their normal curriculum. Beyond this course, all students are required to complete an additional three credit hours either through participation in a legal clinic or an externship. On the clinical front, John Marshall Law offers all students the opportunity to work in one of seven legal clinics that serve the underrepresented citizens of Chicago. Students work with real clients on a wide range of legal issues from trademark issues to fair housing to criminal and civil litigation. Students are observed by faculty experts who offer critical feedback as students learn to advocate for their clients.
The externship program at John Marshall Law provides students with an additional opportunity to gain practical experience while working with practicing attorneys in external legal offices. Students perform a wide range of legal work in various office placements. Many of these externships also dovetail with John Marshall Law’s concentration areas such as employee benefits externships. As an additional benefit, students begin to build their professional connections in their externship.
The UIC John Marshall Law school is considered one of the most diverse in the country. To help encourage this asset, the law school maintains a dedicated office to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The goal of the office to foster a community deeply committed to respect for all viewpoints and a deep commitment to increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity in the law school and the legal community at large. John Marshall Law also provides all students academic and bar exam support at critical points in their law school progress. The goal is to ensure that all students succeed in the academic demands of the program. Students also enjoy a range of wellness services including counseling, health care, a food pantry, and even a serenity room where students gather to practice yoga, meditate, and pray together.
The John Marshall Law school is in the heart of Chicago’s business and legal community–commonly called the “Loop.” The campus places students in the midst of one of America’s busiest and most dynamic cities. Chicago’s famed waterfront and lakefront beaches are a short walk from the campus. Students can live almost anywhere in the Chicagoland area and commute easily through Chicago’s robust public transportation system. With easy access to all Chicago offers, John Marshall Law offers students a chance to live in America’s 2nd City and deepen their connection to the city.