As the first law school west of the Mississippi River, the St. Louis University School of Law (SLU Law) has been a pioneer in legal education since opening its doors in 1843. It was one of the first law schools to admit both African-American and female students. In fact, the first women admitted to the law school in the early 20th century were also the first admitted to the entire university. In 2013, the law school moved from its home on the main campus to a downtown facility in the midst of the state and local court system. The school’s alumni include Missouri’s current attorney general as well as the former governor Joseph P. Teasdale.
SLU Law offers both a full-time and a part-time track for the completion of the Juris Doctor program. Both tracks prescribe the first 31 hours of coursework. For full-time students, this is the first year of study; for part-time students, it takes 3 or 4 semesters to complete these required courses. Fundamentally, students take six core courses of substantive law: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also take a two-semester course that introduces them to the fundamentals of studying the law as well as a two-semester course that covers the fundamentals of legal research and writing.
Upper-level students are only required to take a course in the legal profession, a seminar course (which includes a writing component), a course covering legal perspectives, and complete six hours of experiential education. All other courses are elective. SLU Law does offer students four separate concentrations that allow students to add significant depth to their studies in a particular practice area. These concentrations are employment law, health law, intellectual property, and international law.
For all upper-class students, SLU Law emphasizes the importance of course planning for all students. Students in their second year are given registration priority for a number of courses that the school deems as foundational to building a solid legal education. These foundational courses ensure that students are prepared to succeed in the increasingly complex and regulatory nature of the legal profession.
Along with its Juris Doctor Degree, SLU Law offers two additional graduate programs. For students who have already earned their J.D., SLU Law offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) program concentrated in health law. SLU Law houses a dedicated center for the study of health law that has offered the masters program for over 20 years. Students complete 24 hours of coursework in the field of health law as well as produce a thesis paper on an area of academic interest.
For students who earned their initial law degree at an international law school, SLU Law offers an LL.M concentrated in American legal studies. The program also requires 24 hours of coursework with the option of also completing a written thesis. The program not only covers the core substance of American law but also provides an overview of legal writing, research, and practice skills. The LL.M program does allow students to sit for a bar exam in certain jurisdictions.
Foreign-lawyers also have the option of pursuing a two-year Juris Doctor program that credits students 30 hours for their initial law degree. The two-year program mirrors the first year of the traditional Juris Doctor program. During the second year, students complete several required courses as well as pursue areas of interest or focus on a particular practice area.
Juris Doctor students also have the option to pursue a dual-degree program combining their law degree with one of ten other professional degrees. All dual-degree programs require admission into both programs separately. Students generally take 4-5 years to complete both programs but are able to share course credits between both programs. Joint Degree options including pairing the J.D. with a Masters in Health Administration or Health Policy.
Career and Career Placement
Over 90% of all graduates of SLU Law are employed in careers either requiring a law license or preferring a Juris Doctor degree within 10 months of graduation. Over 60% of all graduates pursue careers in traditional law firm settings with smaller firms (2-10 attorneys) being the most common choice for graduates. Careers in government or the public interest sector accounted for 20% of all graduates’ career choice while careers in the business sector accounted for 15%. The states of Missouri and Illinois accounted for 80% of all graduates first career locations.
The SLU Law Office of Career Services (OCS) staffs four professionals–including three former attorneys–who provide a range of career counseling services to the student body. Aside from maintaining a database of job opportunities for all SLU students and alumni, the OCS provides extensive resources to students to help prepare for interviews as well as prepare resumes and cover letters. The OCS also organizes social and networking events to help students build their professional connections.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
At SLU law, students learn the practical skills of lawyering through participation in the schools legal clinics, field placements, and a variety of simulation courses. The school’s legal clinic create a functioning law firm run by practicing faculty members and students at SLU Law. In clinic, students represent clients across a range of legal issues including criminal defense, civil advocacy, and community development issues. The clinics allow students to work alongside faculty experts who guide students at they first learn to navigate the real world of law.
SLU Law’s field placement program allows students to spend a semester embedded in a legal office. In field placements, students work alongside practicing lawyers as they develop not only their practical skills but a deeper understanding of the ethical and professional duties of lawyers.
Simulation courses at SLU Law allow students to learn practical skills in the classroom as professors simulate a real-world, complex legal problem. By providing a classroom format to address and work through these complex issues, students master advanced negotiation and transaction skills without the risk presented in a live, courtroom setting.
With over 30 student-run organizations and three student run journals, SLU Law’s campus is full of life both inside and outside of the classroom. The student organizations reflect the school’s Jesuit heritage by emphasizing individual beliefs, social action, and rigorous intellectual curiosity. SLU Law also maintains a dedicated office for diversity and inclusion that seeks to increase the school’s representation for minorities and other traditionally underrepresented students.
The SLU Law campus is located in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Missouri just seven blocks away from the famed arch of the city. The Mississippi river is minutes away from campus as are a range of unique restaurants that have made St. Louis a culinary hot spot. Students study surrounded by law firms and the state’s largest legal community. Students also have quick access to the incredible wilderness that surrounds the city including the Mark Twain National Forest. While Saint Louis offers professional sport and a tremendous arts scene, it is also only a few hours from most of the midwest’s major cities including Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Chicago.