The St. Mary’s University School of Law (St. Mary’s Law) traces its history back to 1927 when the San Antonio Bar Association established a law school to educate lawyers in the county courthouse. In 1934, the law school became part of St. Mary’s University and relocated to a downtown campus building. The law school saw significant growth after World War II as San Antonio welcomed home a number of veterans to the city’s military bases. In the late sixties, the law school moved from downtown to the main campus of the University. Today, St. Mary’s Law enrolls over 750 students and offers multiple degree programs. In its over 90 year history, St. Mary’s Law has played an important role in the southwest Texas legal community. The law school has produced a number of notable judges including Rose Spector, the first woman elected to the Texas Supreme Court.
The Juris Doctor program at St. Mary’s Law requires 90 hours of coursework which may be completed either through a full-time day program or a part-time evening program. Both programs have the same academic requirements. The first-year program combines the core academic courses–civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts–with a two-semester course that covers legal analysis and professionalism.
After completion of the first-year program (which takes additional semesters for part-time students), St. Mary’s Law also requires all J.D. students to complete a course in professional responsibility, complete a writing seminar that includes a significant writing project, and complete at least six hours of experiential learning. Students who fail to meet a minimum grade point average must also complete additional required courses that cover subjects most commonly found on all bar examinations. This requirement ensures students preparedness to pass the bar and practice law. St. Mary’s Law also requires all students to complete 30 hours of pro bono service.
St. Mary’s Law has also developed a program to certify the academic achievements of students who demonstrate a commitment to certain practice areas. These concentrations include criminal law, trial advocacy, and conflict resolution. Each concentration requires a formal application plus a required slate of courses and experiential exercises. Students also complete a thesis related to the practice area.
St. Mary’s Law offers two additional graduate programs, one for attorneys and another for non-attorneys. For students who have completed their J.D. (or its foreign equivalent), St. Mary’s Law offers a Master of Law (LL.M) program in three areas of concentrations: American legal studies, international law, and international criminal law. The first concentration is targeted at law students who earned their law degree outside the U.S. and wish to practice in the states or expand their knowledge of the American legal systems. The other two programs introduce students to the increasingly global practice of law. Each program requires nine months of residential coursework.
For non-attorneys whose careers overlap significantly with legal issues, St. Mary’s Law offers a Master of Jurisprudence (M.Jur) program that includes over 11 concentrations of which most are available as online programs. The M.Jur requires 30 hours of coursework that grounds students in an understanding of the legal system as well as in a specific, highly complicated area of the law. As non-lawyers increasingly engage in legal issues, the M.Jur provides professionals with additional skills to succeed in their careers.
In lieu of formal degree, St. Mary’s Law also offers three online certification programs in the areas of compliance, health care, and legal studies. These programs provide professionals with fundamental training in these areas of the law.
For J.D. candidates, the law school also offers a joint degree program where students may earn an additional professional degree in conjunction with their law degree. The program works by sharing credit hour between both programs thereby reducing the time (and cost) of earning both degrees. Joint Degrees include pairing the J.D. with an M.B.A., a Master of Arts in international relations or theology, or a Master of Public Administration.
Careers and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcomes, over 85% of all graduates of St. Mary’s Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. For those employed, over 91% find careers that either requires a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Over 92% find long-term, full-time careers. Nearly half of graduates opt for work in small law firms under 25 attorneys with most choosing very small law firms with less than 10 attorneys. In total, law firms of all sizes accounted for 60% of graduates’ first career choices. Substantial portions of students also opted for careers in government or the business sector (both at 15%). Smaller percentages of students chose the public interest sector or judicial clerkships. Almost 92% of all graduates opted to remain in Texas to begin their professional careers.
The Office of Career Services (OCS) strives to help students find meaningful careers that reflect their passions, strengths, and professional goals. The OCS relies on year-round programming to teach students the necessary skills to take ownership of their career path. Students learn to build professional relationships, hone resume and interview skills, build a professional online presence, and to network. The OCS hosts job fairs and administers an on-campus recruitment program during both the fall and spring semester.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
In order for students to learn practical skills, St. Mary’s Law offers students a number of experiential courses that range from clinical experience or external field placements to rigorous classroom work to help students start their own practice. St. Mary’s Law, as part of their center for social justice, offers students four different clinical programs where students represent clients from the community on a variety of legal topics. For students who wish to practice in other areas, St. Mary’s Law offers a broad range of externships that place students in working legal offices in the region. These externships allow students to build practical skills while also building their professional network. The school’s many course offerings for practical skills demonstrate the law school’s commitment to preparing students to practice law. These courses are built around skill-based learning.
St. Mary’s Law also offers a wide range of special programs, both curricular and co-curricular, where students can further build professional skills. The law school hosts an active mock trial and moot court program; students can spend a semester in a judicial internship; or, students can help defend military personnel as part of the school’s Warrior Defense program.
While St. Mary’s J.D. program requires residential coursework, the law school offers a range of online learning programs as part of its other graduate and certificate programs.
At its heart, St. Mary’s Law is a Catholic Law School. The school’s campus ministry office plays a vital role in the life of the campus. The campus ministry not only provides inter-faith services but infuses the school with a mission of social justice and outreach. St. Mary’s Law plays host to a Red Mass for the legal community, sponsors pro bono work, and strives to enrich the spiritual and ethical life of every student. St. Mary’s Law hosts a number of student organizations that reflect the school’s deep commitment to the surrounding community. Students have access to health and wellness facilities as well as a number of dining options on campus.
San Antonio is one of Texas’ most vibrant cities. Its rich history and culture make it a unique place to live and obscure that it is the 7th largest city in the United States. The city feels much smaller. The campus is located in the Northwest corner of the metropolitan area which offers student abundant housing and amenities with easy access to downtown. Downtown, the San Antonio River flows through the town as it plays home to the city’s amazing riverwalk. Near to campus, students enjoy unique good and entertainment including world famous Bar-B-Q and Texmex offerings. San Antonio offers students a unique and affordable setting for the law school experience.