Founded just before the 20th century, the University of Illinois College of Law (Illinois Law) is located on the main campus of the University in Champagne, Illinois. Known for its acclaimed faculty, the law school is one of the top public schools in the country and one of the top schools–public or private–in the midwest region. In its 100 plus year history, the law school has educated one governor of the state of Illinois as well as countless members of the state and the federal judiciary. Illinois Law receives close to 1,500 applications each year and extends offers to less than half of applicants. Each incoming class is approximately 165 students.
Illinois Law begins the three-year educational process with a first-year grounded in six traditional courses studied at most law schools: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. First-year students also receive instruction in legal writing, legal research, the basics of legal advocacy, and an introduction to the fundamentals of the legal practice.
After being grounded in the basics of American jurisprudence, students are largely free to select their own coursework with the only requirements being a course in professional responsibility plus a writing project and experiential education. Illinois Law, however, is noteworthy for three areas of practice: business law, criminal law, and public interest law. Students who focus on these area leverage the school’s diverse and acclaimed faculty experts as well as a host of traditional classroom and experiential courses offered to students.
Beyond the Juris Doctor degree, Illinois Law offers three additional programs for continued education. The Master of Law (LL.M) program at Illinois Law is one of the most rigorous in the country requiring 32 hours of coursework completed in two or three semesters. The LL.M has six concentrations and does satisfy the requirements to sit for the New York State Bar Exam for internationally educated students. Students in the LL.M program must complete a course in professional ethics and a writing seminar. Otherwise, they engage with the Illinois Law community much like students in the Juris Doctor program.
For non-lawyers, Illinois Law offers a one-year Master of the Study of Law (MSL) degree which introduces all students to basic of legal reasoning and the American legal system. Students are required to complete 32 hours of coursework but can attend the program in 1 to 2 years depending on other professional commitments.
Illinois Law’s final graduate program is a Doctor in the Science of Law (SJD) degree which is intended only for students who wish to pursue a career in legal academia. The program begins with a year of residential coursework followed by two or more years writing a dissertation in the student’s area of expertise.
For Juris Doctor students who wish to combine their legal education with other programs, Illinois Law also offers nine different joint degrees that allow students to build an interdisciplinary approach to their legal practice. All joint programs require admission to both program but allow certain courses to count towards both degrees which decreases the time and cost of completing both degrees.
Career and Career Placement
Almost 95% of all graduates of Illinois Law our employed within 10 months of graduation making it one of the top law schools in the country in terms of job placement. Almost all students (99%) accepted positions that preferred a Juris Doctor degree or required bar admission. Graduates chose careers in almost every sector of the legal practice–large law firms (16%). small law firms (14%), government positions (16%), and business roles (12%). While most students remained in Illinois for their first careers, students accepted positions in over 19 other jurisdictions.
The Career Team at Illinois Law approaches the job search through a mixture of networking, marketing, traditional counseling plus an impressive offering of professional events to help students navigate their career choices. Among the many events the Career Team hosts each year are the on-campus interview program, an alumni networking event, and a “First Look” reception where students can socialize with potential employers.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
The University of Illinois College of Law offers students a diverse set of traditional courses, clinics, and externships to allow students to gain practical legal skills. The clinical program at Illinois Law contains a dozen different legal centers where students can represent real clients or work in non-litigation settings such as patent or trademark filings. The law school also offers over 20 skill-based, advocacy courses that students can pair with their clinical experience to further develop their skills in lawyering. Students also can compete on the moot court or mock trial teams both at Illinois Law or across the country.
With over 30 student-run organization and a campus that prides itself on inclusivity, the campus of Illinois Law is welcoming and active. Student organizations run the gambit from professional to social and are open to all students at the school. The law school building sits on the southwest corner of main campus offering students the opportunity to enjoy a robust college campus as well as the excitement of the Fighting Illini.
The town of Champaign offers the excitement of a big city with the affordability of a small town. Champaign has famously affordable housing with average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment of $800 per month. The town is surrounded by outdoor recreational opportunities including Kickapoo State Park. Students also enjoy Champaign’s music and arts programs which often spill out into the streets of the quaint town. Roger Ebert hosts his annual film festival in Champaign. When students hunger for a bigger city, Chicago and Indianapolis are both around two hours away.