The University of Houston Law Center (Houston Law), previously known as the Bates College of Law, has grown from one class and one professor in 1947 to one of the largest law schools in the country with over 200 students admitted each year from a pool of over 2,000 applicants. Along with a large student body, Houston Law also has one of the largest staffs in the country–totaling over 273 professors and support staff. The law center is nationally recognized for its programs in health law and intellectual property. Since opening its door over 60 years ago, Houston Law has produced a number of state and federal judges including Ruby Kless Sondock, the first female Texas Supreme Court Justice.
Houston Law offers a full-time and part-time curriculum for its Juris Doctor degree. Both tracts complete the same course load (although the part-time tract requires two additional semesters) including instruction in the six core courses of legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also take a course introducing the principles of statutory and regulatory interpretation plus take a two semester skill-based course on lawyering.
Prior to graduation, all Juris Doctor candidates must complete 90 hours of course work including six hours of skill-based coursework, a class in professional responsibility, and an upper-level writing seminar. For upper-class students, Houston Law houses 14 distinct legal centers that comprise faculty experts and resources in various practice areas. The centers offer students the opportunity to concentrate on a particular field and master both the academics and requisite skills to be a successful attorney. As previously mentioned, Houston Law’s intellectual property and health law center are considered top ten programs in the nation.
In addition to its Juris Doctor program, the Houston Law Center also offers a graduate program–the Master of Laws (LL.M)–degree focused on seven different areas. For international students, the LL.M program offers a comprehensive program covering the basics of U.S. Law. International students are required to take two courses in their first semester that introduce them to both American legal principles and the basic skills of legal writing, research, and advocacy. International students may also opt for an LL.M concentrated in one of six subject matters ranging from health law to intellectual property. All LL.M programs require one year of coursework. Two of the programs–the LL.M in tax law and the LL.M in environmental law–both offer online options for completing the program.
Juris Doctor candidates also have the option to combine their J.D. with a graduate degree from seven other professional schools. By enrolling in a dual degree program, students are able to share credits between both programs allowing them to complete both degrees in less time. Admission into both programs is required and students follow a strict schedule for the first two years to complete the initial phase of each degree.
Career and Career Placement
The statistics from the most recent graduating classes show that–on average–90% of graduates of Houston Law are employed in long term, full-time employment within 10 months of graduation. An overwhelming majority of those students (over 95%) are employed in careers that either require a Juris Doctor degree or a law license. The most common career choice (over 50%) was law firm work with small law firms with less than 10 attorneys being the most popular choice followed by large law firms of over 500 attorneys. Over 15% of graduates also opted for careers in the business sector reflecting the school’s commitment to diverse career paths. The state of Texas was overwhelmingly the jurisdiction where students began their professional career.
The Houston Law Career Development Office (CDO) has four full-time advisors who serve the student body and the alumni in all facets of career placement. The CDO works with both students and employers to provide Houston Law graduates with a host of resources as they plan their careers. Services include on-campus interviews, job fairs, mock interviews, and a vast electronic job bank accessible by students and alumni.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Experiential learning at Houston Law begins in the first year of study with a one-year course in “Lawyering Skills and Strategies.” This course provides a foundation for students to build upon as they progress in build their practical skill set. Most students at Houston Law opt to participate in the school’s clinical program. Student practice as “student-attorney” in one of seven law clinics that operate as law firms in various practice areas. Students may also opt to work in mediation training which requires 30 hours of hands-on, practical skill work in dispute resolution.
Along with clinical program, Houston Law’s advocacy teams–both trial and appellate–are nationally competitive and provide students an opportunity to build skills in a competitive setting. Houston Law also houses the Blakey Advocacy Institute which houses a number of opportunities for students to practice advocacy in a variety of competitions and programs.
Although Houston Law’s Juris Doctor program does not have an online component, the law center does offer two Master of Laws programs that can be completed remotely.
Houston Law’s Office of Student Services has a full-time staff of seven professionals which offers students an unprecedented amount of support in all facets of student life during their time at Houston Law. The office administers a number of programs designed to help students balance academics with a healthy lifestyle as they prepare for their professional careers. Aside from the wide array of law student organizations, students also enjoy the modern and expansive main campus which features eateries and health facilities.
Houston, Texas offers a big city atmosphere with professional sports and all the amenities of one of the largest cities in the country. The law school is located just outside the city center with a eclectic mix of restaurants just a short two miles away from campus. Housing is available in walking distance of campus or further away in outer neighborhoods of Houston greater community.