Founded by the state legislature in 1972, the Southern Illinois University School of Law (SIU Law) is located on the main campus of the university in Carbondale, Illinois. The law school’s mission goes beyond educating lawyers and strives to create community leaders who serve the Southern Illinois region. To achieve this goal, SIU offers one of the most affordable degree programs in the country. In return, SIU Law expects its graduates to share its deep commitment to the ethical practice of law and community service. For example, the school’s clinical programs provide free legal services to senior citizens in 13 Southern Illinois counties. The school has produced a number of dedicated civil servants including multiple state senators, district judges, and U.S. Congressman.
The Juris Doctor degree at SIU Law requires 90 credit hours and is designed to be complete in a traditional, full-time program. Students who utilize summer sessions to complete their required courses may graduate a semester early. The first-year program requires 11 courses (32 credit hours) that combine traditional core courses–civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts–with additional substantive and skill-based courses. Students complete a two-semester study on legal professionalism, a course covering the legislative and administrative process, and a two-semester course introducing them to the fundamental skills of practicing law.
The second-year curriculum requires students to complete an additional course in civil procedure as well as a course in constitutional law, evidence, and the legal profession. During their third year, students satisfy the requirement to complete a substantial writing project either through participation on a moot court team, writing on the school’s law journal, or taking a senior writing seminar. All students must take four courses from a “menu” of courses that prepare students to pass the bar exam and practice law. Students must also complete six hours of credit from a selection of experiential learning options which include both clinical and classroom options. Any student who fails to meet a minimum GPA is also required to take a bar intensive course to help ensure their success on the bar exam. True to its commitment to public service, all graduates are also required to complete 35 hours of pro bono work.
In choosing the remainder of their curriculum, SIU Law offers 10 different areas of study to help prepare students for their professional careers. Each area of study suggest core and specialty courses that ensure students are academically prepared for their legal practice. In six areas of the law, SIU Law offers a more advanced “specialization” program that allows students to earn a certification in the practice area. This certification acknowledges a student’s mastery of the practice area and establishes them as an upcoming expert in the field.
At SIU Law, all Juris Doctor candidates have the option of earning a second professional degree as part of the school’s joint degree program. After completion of their first-year program and meeting stringent GPA requirements, law students may enroll in the joint degree program. The program includes eight other professional degrees offered by Southern Illinois University including an M.B.A., a Master of Science in Education, and a Doctor of Medicine degree. The value in a joint degree lies in the additional preparation and insight law students gain from understanding the law’s overlap with another discipline. Joint Degrees also saves students time (and money) as certain courses count towards completion of both programs. The program also gives graduates a competitive edge in the job market.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment data, over 70% of all graduates of SIU Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, almost 97% are employed in full-time, long term careers. Virtually every employed graduate (98%) is employed in a career that either requires a law license or prefers a Juris Doctor degree. In terms of career choices, over 70% of all employed graduates choose work in a traditional law firm setting with nearly 50% opting for small law firms of 1-10 attorneys. As previously mentioned, SIU Law’s commitment to public service is reflected in the nearly quarter of graduates who move into government offices after graduation. Almost half of all graduates remain in Illinois to begin their professional careers with neighboring Missouri also becoming home to many graduates.
The Career Services at SIU Law is the bridge connecting students to employers through a variety of programs. The Career Services engages in substantial employee outreach to help bring potential on campus to interview SIU students. In preparation for these interviews, all students may participate in interview preparation and job development workshops. All students have access to individual counseling as well as an online job database.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
At SIU Law, students learn to practice law in a number of hands-on, skill-based programs including the school’s clinical program, field placements, and practical skill-based courses. In many ways, the clinical program at SIU Law reflects the heart and mission of the law school. By providing free legal services to 13 Southern Illinois counties, the law school fulfills its mission to not only train ethical lawyers but to provide public service to the community. In the clinical program, students work directly with real clients as they receive supervision and feedback from practicing faculty members. Student-clinicians work in the fields of elderly law, domestic violence, and juvenile justice.
SIU Law also offers numerous field experiences that have garnered national recognition. In these field placements, students spend a semester working in legal offices across the region that range from public interest law offices to judicial chambers to Illinois project to defend the wrongfully convicted. In field placements, students work alongside practicing attorneys, many of whom are leaders in their practice areas. All students are guaranteed an opportunity for a field or clinical placement.
Each semester, SIU Law also offers skill-based courses that cover a range of practical skills such as estate planning, client interviewing, and advanced litigation techniques. These course are still rooted in the practical skills necessary to practice law but offer the security and safety of the classroom environment as students learn to master complex skills.
At this time, SIU Law’s Juris Doctor program requires residential coursework.
SIU Law prides itself for being a tight-knit, holistic law school that strives to connect with students in and out of the classroom. Like most law schools, SIU Law provides a range of services for students to ensure the mental, emotional, and physical health. However, what is unique about SIU Law, is the extension of these services to family members. SIU Law recognizes that students often have additional responsibilities outside of their academic loads and offers child care assistance and counseling services for family members. SIU Law students participate in the many school organizations that give voice to the school’s diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Around the main campus, students have access to the university’s modern student center, a student recreation center, and access to a unique outdoor recreation center that borders the stunning Shawnee National Forest.
SIU Law is located just outside of Cardondale, Illinois. The city is conveniently located less than two hours from St. Louis and just over three hours from Nashville, Tennessee. The city combines the flavors of the south and the midwest into a unique and affordable lifestyle. The city is surrounded by national forests and offers students the opportunity to explore Southern Illinois’ many state parks and recreational lands. Downtown Carbondale is a vibrant but small city with impressive entertainment and dining options.