The University at Buffalo School of Law (UB Law) is the only law school in the state of New York that is part of the state’s State University system (SUNY). The law school, founded in the latter part of the 19th century, serves a vital role in the training of lawyers in the northern part of the state. Unlike the metropolitan population centered around New York City, upstate New York is more rural with Buffalo being the population and cultural center. UB Law’s alumni have served the upstate New York courts in a variety of roles including several appellate court justices. Additionally, many alumni have practiced law or served in the courts of nearby western Pennsylvania.
The Juris Doctor program at UB Law strives to blend traditional academic training with skill-based courses in order to prepare “practice-ready” lawyers. The first-year curriculum reflects this priority as it contains the core educational courses of most American law schools–civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts–along with an innovative course in Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research (commonly known as LAWR). The LAWR class lasts three semesters and grounds students in the fundamental skills of practicing law. Students also complete a semester study of legal ethics during their first year.
During their final two years at UB Law, students choose from the school’s extensive course catalog in order to meet their academic goals. All students are required to complete a major writing project as well as satisfy the requirement for experiential education. Students may also opt to follow one of UB Law’s designated concentrations. These concentrations suggest coursework and experiential programs in seven different practice areas ensuring that students are prepared to practice law in these areas. UB Law also offers two curricular areas–environmental law and finance law–where the school has notable expertise and a wealth of educational options for students.
For students who have already earned their law degree from an international institution, UB Law also offers a J.D. with advanced standing. This program can be completed in two years and allows international students to sit for the New York Bar exam. Students take the traditional first-year curriculum but are not required to complete as many electives which allows them to complete the program in two years.
Along with its J.D. program, UB Law offers several additional program targeted at various students. For students who have completed their Juris Doctor (or its foreign equivalent), UB Law offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) program that allows for specialization in several areas. LL.M candidates may follow one of three designated programs: environmental law, cross-border law, or criminal law. Additionally, students may design their own program to meet their academic and professional goals. In all LL.M programs, the degree requires 24 hours of residential coursework as well as complimentary experiential work.
Juris Doctor candidates at UB Law may also pair their law degree with another professional degree to take an interdisciplinary approach to the legal practice. Students may enroll in one of eight different dual degree programs. Not only do students benefit from the cross-disciplinary approach, some courses may be counted for both programs, thereby reducing the total time to earn two degrees. Dual-degree graduates also have broader options in their professional careers.
Undergraduates students at the University of Buffalo may also participate in the school’s “3+3” program that allows students to earn both their undergraduate and law degrees in six years. Students spend the final year of their undergraduate studies in their first year of law school. UB Law has recently opened up this opportunity to students at several colleges and universities in the regional area. University of Buffalo undergraduates may also pursue a minor in law at the law school as part of their Bachelors degree.
Career and Career Placement
Based on recent employment outcomes, over 85% of all graduates of UB law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, 99% find careers that either requires a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. The majority of students (over 68%) opted for traditional law firm work with a quarter of graduates opting for work in small law firms of 1-10 attorneys. Law firms ranging from 11 to 100 attorneys accounted for another quarter of graduates while large law firms were less popular. Another 17% of students opted for careers in government offices or the public interest sector. Almost all graduates (94%) remain in New York to begin their careers reiterating the school’s importance to the upstate New York legal community.
The Career Service Office (CSO) at UB Law offers students a full range of services to help them achieve their professional goals. The CSO organizes both on and off-campus interviews that attract the region’s top law firms. Prior to the interview process, all students participate in individual counseling services to define their career goals. Students also have access to the school’s robust mentor program that pairs students with alumni mentors to help prepare them for the transition to their professional careers. Throughout the academic year, UB Law programs panel discussions that bring various practitioners to the school to discuss career opportunities.
Experiential Education/Distance Learning
UB Law is committed to providing its graduates with numerous opportunities to build practical skills to be successful attorneys. The primary means for learning these skills is through the school’s innovative clinical program. In legal clinics, students work with real clients on a range of traditional and novel legal issues. The clinic’s cutting-edge practice areas often focus on emerging legal issues. For example, in 2020, the school established a legal clinic to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. UB Law clinics have addressed border issues and have responded to emergencies in territories such as Puerto Rico.
Students drawn to the public interest sector have the opportunity to participate in UB Law’s externship program which places students in judicial and non-profit legal offices in the upstate New York region. Students work alongside practicing attorneys–observing and participating in the practice of law. Students also begin building their professional networks as they interact with the larger legal community.
All students also have a range of skill-based courses that also build their practicals skills. These practicums are four credit hour courses and focus on complex areas of the law such as healthcare or veterans rights.
UB Law also provides a number of co-curricular opportunities for students to build their practical skills. The school fields competitive moot court teams, publishes three student-run legal journal, and supports a wide range of pro bono efforts throughout the year.
With almost 20 student organizations, three journals, and an active moot court program, students at UB Law are engaged in a campus that thrives on being connected and active. The student body is governed by student-elected officials that oversee funding and organization of almost all student activities. This body helps solidify the school’s notably diverse population which is celebrated in many of the student organizations. UB Law offers its student a range of on-campus and off-campus housing as well as numerous physical and mental health services.
The UB Law school campus is located in the northeast corner of the greater Buffalo area with easy access to downtown Buffalo. The city is one of the region’s most important and is home to professional sports team, a vibrant arts scene, and one of the most unique culinary cities in the U.S. The law school is also minutes away from Niagara Falls and the Canadian border filling the region with a notable international feel. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, Buffalo’s notoriously cold winters are matched by spectacular weather the rest of the year.