Founded in 1984, the St. Thomas University School of Law (STU Law) is one of the most diverse law schools in the country. Since its founding, STU Law has been a pioneer in increasing diversity in legal education. Its former dean, Alfredo Garcia, is the first Cuban-born dean of any law school in the United States. STU Law leads the nation in educating Hispanic students. The law school also embraces the mission of its Catholic heritage by serving the poor and working to increase the understanding of human dignity. Over its history, the law school has graduated a number of future councilman of the Town of Miami Lakes.
The Juris Doctor degree at STU Law may be earned through a full-time program (12 or more hours per semester) or through a flexible schedule (at least 9 hours per semester). Both tracks require students to complete 90 hours of coursework including a first-year curriculum that is completely prescribed. In their first semesters, students study all six courses of the traditional American legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. In addition to these substantive courses, students study the practical skills of legal analysis, research, and writing as well as a general course covering basic legal skills.
In their upper-level semesters, students must also complete substantive courses covering business associations, evidence, and professional responsibility. Students complete practical courses covering appellate advocacy, bar preparation, advanced legal writing, and three additional skill-based courses. STU Law also has a menu of additional courses that cover common subjects that appear on the Florida Bar exam. All students must complete four courses from this menu. Additionally, all STU Law students must complete an intensive writing assignment as well as 50 hours of pro bono service.
In choosing their electives, students may also opt to follow one of STU Law’s ten certificate programs. Each program suggests core courses for a specific practice area plus experiential learning requirements that ensure that students learn how to transfer the classroom knowledge into practice. Certifications generally require 12 credit hours for completion although students can study additional subjects related to the practice area.
In addition to its Juris Doctor degree, STU Law offers two additional graduate degrees focused on the area of Intercultural Human Rights. The law school offers both a Master of Laws (LL.M) and a Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) in the subject area. This unique program reflects the Catholic values of the school and seeks to train lawyers to become human rights advocates. The programs also work closely with STU Law’s Human Trafficking Academy which seeks to train lawyers on how to stop and prevent human trafficking. The LL.M degree is earned through one year of residential coursework comprised of 12 courses covering the subject matter. Students who graduate with honors from the LL.M program are granted acceptance to the S.J.D. program, a thesis-based doctoral degree that strives to educate human rights scholars.
STU Law also offers five joint degree programs that allow Juris Doctor candidates to pair their law degree with another professional degree from the university. Joint degree options including pairing the J.D. with an Master of Science or an M.B.A. in Sports Administration, an M.B.A. in International Business or Accounting, a Master of Science in Counseling, or a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. All joint degrees require separate admission to both programs. Once enrolled, however, students study both subjects concurrently. The two programs share credits which allows students to complete both degrees in less time than pursuing them separately. Joint degree earners also have a distinct edge in the job market.
Undergraduate students at three local schools may also enroll in STU Law’s “3+3” program that allows them to earn both their undergraduate and law degrees in a total of six years. By beginning their law school program at the fourth year of their undergraduate degree, students complete the program in less time. This approach allows student to enter the job market sooner.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, over 76% of all graduates of STU Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, almost 94% find long-term, full-time careers. Most students are also employed in careers that either requires a law license (77% of employed graduates) or prefer a Juris Doctor degree (10%). The popular career choice for all graduates was small or solo law firms (40%) while law firms of any size accounted for 57% of all graduates’ first career choice. Over 15% of graduates pursue careers in the business sector while nearly a quarter of employed graduates opt for careers in either government offices or the public interest sector. STU Law graduates largely remain in the state of Florida to begin their professional careers.
The Office of Career Development (OCD) at STU Law works with students and alumni to create a career plan and then achieve their career goals. At the heart of this process is individual counseling sessions where students and alumni can work on professional documents, interview skills, and strategize about career goals. The OCD hosts formal mock interviews every year for students prior to the on-campus interview program that brings employers to STU Law to interview potential employees. The OCD also programs less formal lunch and learn sessions where students are exposed to various careers and job skills. The OCD also administers a program specifically for students who wish to open their own small law firm.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
At STU Law, students are able to gain experience through the school clinical program that includes both their in-house clinics as well as their externship program. Both programs afford students the opportunity to work under the supervision of clinical faculty who are experts in their field. The clinical program provides hand-on legal training as students learn how to advocate for their clients. The in-house clinical options include a focus on immigration or tax law. The externship program allows students to work in external field offices in a wide range of practice area. STU Law also offers internships in local judicial chambers or the United Nations.
Students also learn in the classroom through multiple semesters of courses that teach students the fundamental skills of practicing law.
At this time, STU Law does not offer a distance education program for its degrees.
Located in Southern Florida, students at STU Law enjoy a socially aware and active campus in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities in America. The law school supports a wide range of student organizations and activities. Students share their common passion for various social justice issues as well as their diverse background. The school’s diversity is one of its strengths. The campus is designed to provide students with space to study but also socialize. Its prominent breezeway is the site of informal conversations and programs throughout the year.
Located in Miami Gardens, STU Law is minutes away from the famous beaches of Southern Florida as well as downtown Miami. The school is surrounded by affordable housing and walkable restaurants. To the west, the state’s stunning national park system provides unique recreational opportunities. Miami Gardens offers all the excitement and energy of Miami at a more affordable costs.