The Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College (Lewis & Clark Law) traces its history to the late 19th century when the law school was part of the University of Oregon. When the university moved to nearby Eugene in 1915, the law school remained in Portland and became known as the Northwestern School of Law. Later, the law school became part of Lewis & Clark College and remains one of the most important law schools in the Pacific Northwest region. The law schools environmental program is widely considered one of the best in the country. Over its history, the Lewis & Clark Law has produced two governors of Oregon as well as five members of the Oregon Supreme Court including Betty Roberts, the first female member to sit on the Oregon Supreme Court bench.
The first year of study at Lewis & Clark Law is entirely prescribed. The curriculum is intended to ground students in both the core academic areas of the study of law but also in the basic practical skills needed to be a successful lawyer. Students study the six core courses of legal education in the U.S.: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, torts, and property. On the practical side, students begin their academic careers with a two-week intensive course in legal methods. Students also take two semesters in “lawyering” which covers the skills required for all attorneys to be successful. Finally, first-year students take a course in “foundations” which covers the legal and professional responsibility of lawyers.
Prior to graduation, upper-class students must complete a second course in constitutional law, a course covering professional ethics, two writing requirements, six credits of experiential education, and six highly specialized credits. Highly specialized credits include advanced classes and clinical programs that require an advanced understanding of certain legal practice areas.
Other than the requirements mentioned above, students are free to design their own academic programs or follow one of the law school’s seven concentrations. Lewis & Clark Law’s concentration in environmental law is considered one of the best in the country. The law school also offers unique concentrations in sustainability law and animal law both of which are considered among the top such programs in the country.
Lewis & Clark Law offers several Masters programs for both lawyers and non-layers. For graduates who have already completed their Juris Doctor degree, Lewis & Clark law offers two Master of Laws (LL.M) programs both of which focus on some of the school’s highly regarded academic tracks. The most popular LL.M is centered on environmental law. This one-year program requires 24 hours of credit. Graduates of this LL.M are highly sought out for their skills in energy and natural resource law. The program is available for both residential learning as well as online. Lewis & Clark also offers an LL.M concentration in animal rights law. The program also takes 24 hours for completion but is available only in residential coursework.
For non-lawyers, Lewis & Clark offers a Master of Studies (M.S.L.) in Environmental Law. While the program does not allow a graduate to practice law, it does ground professionals in the central concepts of environmental law which are increasingly woven into other fields and careers.
Juris Doctor students also have the option to pursue two degrees concurrently while they study law at Lewis & Clark. Students may combine their J.D. with a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the Lewis & Clark business school. Additionally, students may pursue their J.D. and a Master of Laws in Environmental law at the same time. In both joint programs, students complete their first year of law school in the traditional path before working concurrently on both degrees until the programs are completed.
Career and Career Placement
Over 86% of graduates of Lewis & Clark Law are employed within 10 months of graduation in careers that require a law license or prefer a law degree. These two most common career choices were work in small law firms (24%) and public interest positions (18%). Students also notably accepted positions in government offices, the business sector, or accepted judicial clerkships (all three comprising 10% of career choices). Over 86% of graduates remained in the Pacific Northwest for their first careers.
The Careers Services staff at Lewis & Clark Law includes five counselors most of whom are former attorneys. The Career Services offices assists students in their job search with a wide array of services and programs. Aside from traditional one-on-one counseling, the office provides interview prep programs, alumni networking events, and even breakfast events attended by local judges. The law school hosts three in-house job fairs each year as well as fall and spring on-campus interview.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Students at Lewis & Clark law can satisfy the requirement for six hours of experiential learning through a variety of practical, skill-based programs. The school offers eight different legal clinics that allow students to practice law under the supervision of faculty supervisors. Some of the legal clinics are unique to Lewis & Clark such as the animal law clinic or the clinical programs focused on the environment. The law school also hosts the unique Western Resouces Legal Center that allows students to gain practical skills in natural resource management.
Lewis & Clark also offers students the opportunity to spend a semester in an externship in a local government office. Since the school is rooted in environmental law, these externships provide an incomparable work experience as students spend the entire semester practicing in a government office.
Lewis & Clark also offers practicums, simulations, moot court, and skill-based courses. The goal of all experiential learning is to create “practice-ready” attorneys in whatever career path they choose.
The campus of Lewis & Clark Law is one of the most idyllic in the country. The law school is surrounded by dark, green forest as the building abuts Tryon Creek State Park. Just off the campus property are 14 miles of hiking, biking and running trails. Across the street from the campus is the famed River View Natural Area which offers majestic views of Portland’s Williamette River. For a law school committed to the environment and preserving natural resources, the campus reflects this mission throughout.
The student body of Lewis & Clark is one of the most progressive in the country. The hosts of student-run organization reflects the school’s commitment to using the law as force for change.
Life around the campus is vibrant in the renowned art, culinary, and recreational city of Portland. With access to the ocean, mountains, and countless rivers, Portland is a city of playfulness. The downtown bustles with ethnic and local eateries. Housing is affordable in numerous area thanks to Portland’s robust public transportation network include miles of connected bike paths and greenways.