The Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TMSL) is named after the Supreme Court Justice who became the first African-American to sit on the court’s highest bench. In 1946, however, he was a lawyer who represented Heman Sweatt, a law student who was denied entry into the University of Texas Law School due to his race. In order to prevent integration, the state of Texas founded a law school to teach African-Americans. The university changed its name to Texas Southern five years later. Today, TMSL is still considered one of the most diverse law schools in the country. Its graduates have continued to break down racial barriers in the state. Alumni Morris Overstreet was the first African-American elected to a statewide office.
The Juris Doctor program at TMSL requires 90 credit hours of residential coursework of which more than two-thirds are required courses. Students begin their first year of studies with two-semester courses in four of the foundational subjects of legal education: civil procedure, contracts, property, and torts. In their second semester, students also complete a semester study of criminal law. Along with their substantive courses, TMSL introduces students to the fundamental skills of practicing law with a yearlong course covering the lawyering process. In their second year, students complete additional required courses in constitutional law, criminal procedure, and evidence as well as four-hour course covering trial practice that complete most of their requirements for experiential learning. In their final year, students complete courses covering consumer rights and commercial law. If students do not maintain a high enough GPA through the first year, TMSL requires additional second-year courses to ensure students are prepared to take the bar exam.
The required program at TMSL still allows students to choose 20-24 hours of elective courses from the school’s extensive catalog. One elective must satisfy the requirement for at least two additional experimental education credits. Students also choose either a seminar course or independent study in order to satisfy the school’s advanced writing requirement.
TMSL also offers students who have already earned their law degree a Master of Law (LL.M) degree program focused on the practice area of immigration and naturalization law. TMSL’s LL.M program is the first of its kind in the country and affords students the opportunity to become subject matter experts in the growing field of immigration law. Students complete between 6 and12 hours of coursework each semester until completing a total of at least 24 hours. The program is available to international law students. Additionally, the Texas Board of Bar Examiners will let foreign attorneys sit for the bar exam who have completed the LL.M program.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent graduating class, over 70% of all students who graduate from TMSL are employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, over 85% find long-term, full-time careers most of which either require a law license or prefers a Juris Doctor Degree. Almost 45% of all employed graduates chose careers either in small (1 to 10 attorneys) or solo law practices. Another 20% of graduates chose larger law firms. Employed graduates frequently chose government careers (13%) as well as careers in the business sector (17%).
The Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) at
Thurgood Marshall School of Law connects with students through individual counseling as well as professional programming. The goal of the OCPD is to build the requisite skill set in each student to succeed in their professional careers. The OCPD hosts career panels featuring local attorneys, recruitment programs including soliciting resumes for local employment opportunities and conducting mock interviews to prepare students for the professional interview. Due to its history, TMSL is also committed to expanding diversity in the legal profession through its programming and alumni base.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
At TMSL, experiential learning is built into the curriculum through all three years of study. Students complete an intensive course in trial simulation during their second year that prepares them to practice law in a number of contexts. Students also complete at least two additional credits either by choosing a skill-based course, a clinical experience, or an externship. TMSL offers several skill-based courses that teach students the fundamentals of specific legal practices. In these courses, students learn in simulated situations on complex legal issues. Students may also opt to work in one of TMSL’s four legal clinics where students work with real clients under the supervision of faculty. The externship program offers a similar experience as the clinical program–real-world legal work–in a broader range of law offices including both legislative and judicials chambers.
At this time, TMSL requires residential coursework for its degree programs.
The Office of Student Affairs at TMSL work closely with students to ensure their success during law school. The school maintains a number of student organizations which celebrate the school’s incredibly diverse student body. The office also facilitate academic and personal counseling for students struggling with their studies or mental wellness. As part of Texas Southern University, law students part of the storied university whose basketball team won the 1966 NCAA basketball championship as told in the movie Glory Road.
Texas Southern Law School is located in Houston’s historic Third Ward, a predominantly African-American neighborhood on the east side of downtown Houston. The school’s location offers law students access to many of Houston’s most famous sights including its world-renowned zoo and Museum of Fine Arts. The city’s downtown bayou is walking distance from the law school campus. The third ward is also home to the University of Houston which helps provide substantial student housing in the neighborhoods adjacent to the law school.