Founded in 1933, the Roger Williams University School of Law (RW Law) is the only law school in the state of Rhode Island. The school was the first graduate program started by the University and quickly became accredited by the American Bar Association. The law school now admits approximately 120 students each fall while still maintaining a student to faculty ratio of 13 to 1. Located in Bristol, Rhode Island, the law school is located on a peninsula that juts into Mount Hope Bay. The law school is also one of the most affordable private schools in the Northeastern United States. As the only law school in the state, RW Law also has a close relationship with the state’s legal community. For example, Rhode Island’s Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin, is an alumnus.
The first-year curriculum at RW Law includes five of the traditional core courses of American Legal Education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. These foundational courses are coupled with a two-semester course that covers the legal practice. In their second year, students continue this practical course with a third semester that teaches more practical skills. Students build on their foundational subjects of constitutional law, criminal procedure, evidence, and professional responsibility. Prior to graduation, students must fulfill a number of additional requirements. Students must choose four of seven courses from a slate of subjects that frequently appear on the bar exam. In preparation for the bar exam, students also take two practice exams–one at the end of their first year and the other at the end of their second. All students are required to complete an upper-level writing assignment, experiential learning programs, and a pro bono assignment.
In their second and third years, students choose roughly 36 hours of elective courses as they prepare for their professional careers. To help students plan, RW Law offers over a dozen curricular tracks that help students plan academic careers. Each track suggests courses and experiential learning opportunities that help students master a particular practice area. Along with standard tracks such as family law, criminal law, and real estate law, RW Law also offers unique programs in maritime and marine environmental law. The school’s unique location in the heart of a maritime environment offers students an opportunity to understand how these complex sets of law play out in real-world situations. The school is also home to the Marine Affairs Institute, an important partnership with the Rhode Island Sea Grant and the home of its legal program.
In addition to its Juris Doctor program, RW Law also offers a Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) program intended for non-legal professionals whose careers overlap significantly with the legal structure. Students are grounded in the fundamental structures of the American legal system through an introduction to the study of law plus four courses of the traditional American legal education. M.S.L. students then pursue electives that hone their particular area of interest. The elective paths follow the same track as the J.D. curricular offerings allowing M.S.L. students to gain a complete understanding of the practice area.
RW Law also offers a wide range of joint degree programs that pair the Juris Doctor degree with another professional degree. In a joint degree, students must be admitted to both programs separately but then pursue both degrees concurrently. Most of the joint degree programs pair the J.D. with another professional degree from Roger Williams University although one joint degree offering is Master of Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. Other options including combining the law degree with master programs in cybersecurity, criminal justice, or historic preservation. Since students study both programs concurrently, they are able to share credits between both programs. This allows students to complete the programs in less time than pursuing them separately.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, over 76% of all graduates of RW Law find employment within 10 months of graduation with almost 90% finding long-term, full-time careers. Of those employed, 96% are employed in careers that either requires a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Over a third of all employed graduates find careers in small law firms of 1 to 10 attorneys. Another substantial percentage of students (25%) secure judicial clerkships in the state courts, reiterating the importance of the law school to the local legal community. Almost 10% of students opt for careers in the business sector while another 10% choose careers in government or the public interest sector. Just under half of all students remain in Rhode Island to begin their professional careers.
The Office of Career Development (OCD) offers programs to both prepare students for their career search as well as engage in a variety of recruitment programs. To prepare students, the OCD hosts mock interviews, works with students to create their professional resumes, and introduce students to various career search resources. The OCD helps employers recruit students through career fairs, on-campus interviews, and resume collections.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
RW Law guarantees every student the opportunity to work in one experiential clinic in order to prepare them for the practice of law. Most students are able to complete more than one clinical program or an external field placement. The clinical options including work in various practice areas such as criminal defense, immigration, or veterans law. In each clinic, students work with actual clients under the supervision of practicing faculty members. Students literally learn by practicing law.
RW Law students also gain clinic-like experiences through a variety of external legal clinics where students work alongside public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and corporate counsel. RW Law has a dedicated program to place students in corporate counsel offices for students who wish to practice in this field. Similarly, RW Law has a dedicated program to help students find pro bono opportunities where they can gain further experience while working with low-income clients with a host of legal issues.
At this time, all RW Law’s degree programs require residential coursework.
RW Law is a campus full of amenities. Located across from the university’s stellar recreational facility that houses every conceivable activity from a gym to squash courts to kayaks for students who wish to kayak the nearby bay. The law school building has its own bistro for students as well as a nearby student commons that serve every type of food imaginable. RW Law has an active Moot Court board that sends competitive teams across the country for various competitions.
RW Law sits in the midst of one Rhode Island’s most iconic locations–deep in the middle of Mount Hope Bay. A short distance from the state capital of Providence, RW Law offers students a chance to live in seaside town that seems like a different era. Bristol is a quaint fishing village that offers a variety of housing options for students. In the alternative, students can like 30 minutes away in Providence or its suburbs. The town of Bristol is full of unique restaurants, seafood, and charming shops. When students long for big city lights, Boston is a short drive or train ride away.