Founded as the Detroit Law School in 1912 as the first private law school in Michigan, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law (Detroit Mercy Law) was formed when the school merged with Mercy College in 1990. Detroit Mercy Law is one of the many law schools founded by the Jesuit order whose mission is as much to serve the community as it is to educate lawyers. In over a century of educating lawyers, the school has remained in the same location–in the heart of downtown Detroit. Although the school’s exterior maintains its historic Renaissance-style, the interior has been modernized to meet the demands of the increasingly technological study and practice of law. Detroit Mercy Law counts three Michigan Supreme Court justices among its alumni as well as eight Federal judges.
Detroit Mercy Law’s Juris Doctor program requires 90 hours of residential coursework for graduation. The curriculum strives to integrate theory with practice as well as stress the role the law plays in improving the lives of the community. In their first year, students build an academic foundation centered on five of the traditional core courses of American legal education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. In their first semester, students begin to practice the skills of legal research and communication; in their second semester, students practice applying legal theory to real-world situations.
In their upper-level semesters, students at Detroit Mercy Law are required to complete three additional academic courses: constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility. All students complete a second semester focused on applying legal theory as well as several additional experiential electives including at least one clinical course, a law firm program, and a global distribution course. The course in global distribution recognizes Detroit’s status as an important international city located just a half-mile from Canada. Global Distribution courses ground students in a variety of international law concepts. All students must satisfy the requirement to complete an upper-level writing project.
Although the remainder of the curriculum is elective in nature, students may opt to pursue a concentration in either family law or immigration law. These concentrations function like an undergraduate major by suggesting additional core courses that ensure a student is prepared to practice in these areas. Aside from formal concentrations, Detroit Mercy Law also recommends a slate of classes that help students prepare to pass the bar exam and build a broad foundation for their professional careers.
Detroit Mercy Law offers its Juris Doctor students several additional programs to complement the traditional J.D. curriculum. In conjunction with the University of Windsor Faculty of Law, students at Detroit Mercy Law may earn a dual U.S. and Canadian law degree. The program–the only of its kind in the United States–prepares students to practice in both countries as they work to understand two different legal systems. The Canadian town of Windsor is located across the Detroit River just a few miles from the Detroit Mercy campus. The dual program requires 104 credit hours with 44 of those credits being earned in Canada. Students follow a rigorous curriculum that focuses heavily on the differences between U.S. and Canadian Law.
J.D. candidates at Detroit Mercy Law may also pair their law degree with an M.B.A. from the business school as part of a joint degree program. The integration of legal and business allows students to expand their career options as well as save time completing both degrees. Students complete the first-year curriculum of the J.D. program before pursuing an integrated study program to complete both programs.
Detroit Mercy Law is also one of three law schools that helped create the Intellectual Property Law Institute (ILPI) in 1987. The institute offers outstanding instruction in the practice area that is available to all Detroit Mercy law students. All courses at the ILPI are credited to their degree program At Detroit Mercy Law.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcomes, almost 84% of all graduates of Detroit Mercy Law find long-term, full-time employment within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, 97% find careers that either require a law license (83%) or prefers a Juris Doctor degree (14%). The most popular career choice for all graduates was traditional law firm work (70% of employed graduates). However, Detroit Mercy Law opted to work in law firms of all sizes. Small law firms of 1 to 10 attorneys was the most common choice (29%) followed by large law firms of 500+ attorneys and mid-sized firms of 11 to 25 attorneys (both totaling 10% of employed graduates). Other popular career choices for graduates included government offices and the public interest sector (also 10%) as well as careers in the business sector (just under 10% of employed graduates). Less than half of the graduates remained in Michigan to begin their professional careers.
The Career Services Office (CSO) as Detroit Mercy Law works with both students and alumni to prepare students to succeed in their professional careers. The CSO is an open office that encourages students to drop in for informal chats over coffee or to schedule a formal one-on-one counseling session. The CSO helps students build their professional resumes and to hone their interview skills. Throughout the year, the CSO brings employers and students together for a variety of programming including networking events, lunch with a lawyer program, and initiatives to promote diversity in the profession. The law school is also located in the heart of Detroit’s legal center allowing students to access a range of summer internships and networking events off-campus.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
With one of the oldest clinical programs in the country, Detroit Mercy law has been a leader in experiential education for over 50 years. The law school’s clinical program, founded in 1965, has achieved national recognition and serves a vital role in providing representation to the city’s indigent residents involved in a number of legal situations. With over a dozen practice areas, students are able to work in almost any field of law as they work with real clients while under the supervision of practicing experts. All students are required to complete at least one clinical program which also contains a classroom portion where students learn from feedback as they master the practice of law.
All Detroit Mercy law students are also required to take one law firm program course that simulates the first year of practice in any law firm. These skill-based courses prepare students to be practice-ready after graduation as they master complex (and sometimes mundane) legal tasks associated with law firm work of all practice areas.
Students may also participate in the law school’s externship program. In an externship, students work in a local government, non-profit, or judicial office from a select list of opportunities. Externships not only provide students with practical skills but also help build their professional networks.
Detroit Mercy Law requires residential coursework for all its degree programs.
The campus of Detroit Mercy has a notably international and socially active character. The school builds long-term relationships between students that extend beyond the classroom through a wide array of co-curricular activities. Students can receive professional counseling, join their classmates on an intramural sports team, or take advantage of the university’s fitness facilities. Detroit Mercy Law offers all students additional programs to help ensure their academic success as well as their success on the bar exam. The law school supports over two-dozen student-run organizations. As a Catholic School, the law school also maintains several spaces for interfaith religious reflection.
Just three blocks from Detroit River–the natural border between Canada and the United States–Detroit Mercy Law is an international university. In downtown Detroit, law students experience a remarkable city known as much for its professional sports as its vibrant nightlife, music, and stunning city parks. Housing is available throughout the metropolitan area. The immediate neighborhood around the law school is also one of the city’s most active with restaurants and shops surrounding the Renaissance Center. At Detroit Mercy Law, students enjoy a one-of-a-kind city while learning to practice law.