Named for the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice who help found the school, the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law (Louisville Law) is one of the oldest continuously operating law schools in the country. From its inception in the mid 19th century, Louisville Law has evidenced a strong preference for practical education over the academic preferences that emerged in the early 20th century. Many of the school’s most influential professors remained as practicing attorneys and Louisville Law was a pioneer in part-time legal education for its students. Due to the influence of Justice Brandeis–a native of Louisville–the law school is also home to a large law collection including Brandeis’ own collection of books and personal papers. In its long history, Louisville Law has produced a number of distinguished judges and politicians including two governors of the state and Gerald Neal, the first African-American elected to the Kentucky Senate. Former ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer is also an alumnus.
The Juris Doctor program at Louisville Law may be completed either in a full-time program or a part-time path. Both courses require 90 hours of residential coursework of which one third are completed in the “first-year” curriculum. During their first-year (which may take 3 to 4 semesters for part-time students), Louisville Law students study five of the core courses of the traditional American legal education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. These core courses are coupled with a two-semester skill-based course that introduces students to fundamental skills of practicing law including legal research, writing, and analysis. In their second year, students complete two semesters in constitutional law as well as the second semester of civil procedure.
Prior to graduation, all students must also complete courses in professional responsibility, business associations, and legal perspectives as well as 18 additional hours of core courses. Core courses include subjects most often tested on any state bar exam as well as subjects that ensure that students graduate with a general foundation in the American legal system. For all other academic courses, students choose electives from Louisville Law’s extensive course offerings. Students must also complete at least six hours in experiential learning, complete an upper-level writing assignment, and satisfy the school’s requirement for 30 hours of public service.
Juris Doctor students at Louisville Law have the option to pursue a joint degree in conjunction with their legal education. As the legal profession becomes more interdisciplinary, joint degrees prepare students to utilize a diverse background to solve the complex legal problems of the modern practice of law. Louisville Law school has partnered with eight other professional schools to offer students the opportunity to earn two professional degrees in less time (and cost) than pursuing them separately. Law students share credit hours with the dual degree program. In general, most law students complete their first-year program prior to beginning their other degree. Joint degree options include common programs such as pairing the J.D. with an M.B.A. from the business school or M.S. in Social work to more unique programs such as the joint program with the school of Divinity.
Career and Career Placement
Based on data from the most recent graduating classes, over 90% of all graduates of Louisville Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Most employed graduates–over 96%–secure positions that either require a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Half of students opted for traditional law firm work with small firm work (1 to 10 attorneys) being the most popular option (27%) followed by work in large law firms of over 500 attorneys (13%). Another 13% of graduates opted for careers in the business sector while almost 30% chose careers in either a government office or in the public interest sector. Almost 85% of all graduates remain in the state of Kentucky to begin their professional careers.
Louisville Law’s Office of Professional Development (OPD) offers students a focused and individualized approach to charting their career paths. The OPD strives to develop long-term relationships with students that stretch well beyond their academic and early careers. The OPD identifies students’ professional strengths and works to help each student identify a wide range of employment opportunities. The OPD is in charge of administering multiple on-campus recruiting programs and maintains a robust library and online database of career resources. As noted by their employment outcomes and the school’s public service requirement, the OPD also places special emphasis on building students’ commitment to the public interest sector.
Louisville Law has long emphasized the practical learning necessary to succeed as an attorney. Today, students learn these skills through participation in one of the school’s three legal clinics or through an externship. The legal clinics offer students the opportunity to represent clients in court proceedings as students work with domestic abuse survivors. Students represent these survivors in a variety of legal proceedings including housing cases, divorce proceedings, and protective order hearings. Students may also opt to work in a unique clinical partnership with the School of Business that focuses on entrepreneurship and start-up law. Students work with clients to incorporate and develop their legal business plan. Finally, Louisville Law opened a mediation clinic in 2017 that pairs students with certified mediators to work in a variety of settings. Students must complete a rigorous set of prerequisite courses before working in the mediation clinic. The mediation clinic serves a vital role as the only free mediation clinic in Louisville.
Through the externship program, Louisville Law students have additional opportunities to work under the supervision of practicing attorneys in a variety of legal offices in the regional area. Externships allow students to gain practical experience while embedded in the daily practice of working legal office.
Outside of the classroom, Louisville Law offers students three student-run legal journals, dozen of student organizations, and a student body with a deep commitment to public service. As part of the University of Louisville, law students also enjoy a stellar set of campus-wide resources including access to numerous recreational and exercise facilities, physical and mental health facilities, and tickets to Louisville’s athletic competitions.
Housing in Louisville is abundant and affordable. The law school campus rests just south of the vibrant downtown area in one of the most desirable of Louisville’s many neighborhoods. Louisville is known as the “city of parks” and Greenspaces flow throughout the city. The Ohio River provides the northern border to the city while Jefferson Memorial Forest lies to the south. Louisville is a unique city with the feel of a small town but the amenities of a larger city. Louisville consistently ranks as one of the top places to live in America.