Founded in 1962, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law (Memphis Law) traces its roots to three different law schools that served the city as far back as 1909. All three schools eventually merged to form the current law school which is part of the University of Memphis. In 2010, the law school moved from its original location on the main campus to a 160,000 square foot facility in downtown Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi River. The new facility houses an important law library for the regional legal community as well as a mock courtroom which has hosted sessions of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Memphis Law’s alumni have gone on to a number of prominent positions in the state including Tennessee Supreme Court and Federal Appeals Court justices, one Mayor of Memphis, and a number of state representatives.
The Juris Doctor program at Memphis Law requires 90 hours of residential coursework for completion. The first-year curriculum includes five of the traditional foundational courses of American legal education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. All foundational courses with the exception of criminal law are taught in both semesters. In their first two semesters, students are introduced to legal methods for analysis, research, and writing. By the end of the second year, all students must complete courses in constitutional law and evidence. Prior to graduation, all students must complete a course in professional responsibility as well as two courses from a selection of statutory courses and two courses from a selection of practice foundation courses.
Memphis Law’s J.D. program may also be completed using a part-time program that requires a minimum of eight hours per semester (but no more than 11). Part-time students have the same requirements as full-time students although they are completed over additional semesters. Aside from the course requirements noted above, all students at Memphis Law must complete an advanced level writing assignment as well as six hours of experiential learning.
Memphis Law offers four certification program that prescribe foundational courses in certain practice areas to ensure students are prepared to for careers in these areas of the law. Students may earn a certification in advocacy, business law, health law, or tax law. The certification programs require a mixture of both traditional coursework and experiential programs. Students must also maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. in their certification courses.
Memphis Law allows its Juris Doctor candidates to earn an additional degree through a joint degree program. Through a concurrent study program, law students may also earn an M.B.A., an M.A. in political science, or a Master of Public Health degree. A joint degree program allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the intersection of law with other professional disciplines. Typically, after students complete the first-year curriculum, the spend the remainder of the curriculum taking courses from both programs, some of which count towards both degrees. This approach reduces the total time required to complete both degrees.
Undergraduate students at the University of Memphis may also participate in the school’s “3+3” programs. This program allows exceptional undergraduate students to spend their last year of undergraduate studies at the law school, allowing them to complete both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in a total of six years. The 3+3 Progam is also available to undergraduates at Austin Peay University through a partnership with the law school.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, just under 84% of all graduates of Memphis Law are employed in long-term, full-time careers within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, 95% found careers that either required a law license (80%) or had a preference for a Juris Doctor degree (15%). Over 60% of employed graduates opted for work in law firms with small law firms of 1 to 10 attorneys accounting for almost 40% of students’ first career choice. Memphis Law had tremendous success securing judicial clerkships for its graduate with over 12% of students accepting positions in the federal or state courts. Smaller percentages of students opted for careers in business (11%), government offices (5%), and public interest offices (4%). In total, 85% of all graduates remained in the state of Tennessee to begin their professional careers.
The Memphis Law Career Services Office (CSO) offers students a range of services as they progress through their academic careers and prepare to transition into their professional careers. Each year, students are encouraged to schedule at least one individual counseling session with one of the CSO’s professional advisors in order to build their career strategy. Throughout the year, the CSO presents a range of career programs including networking events, professional skill-based sessions, and opportunities to hear from practicing attorneys about their careers. The CSO also maintains a database of job postings as well as a dedicated resource center.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Memphis Law offers two primary programs for students to build the necessary practical skills to succeed as attorneys–the school’s legal clinic and externship program. In the legal clinics, students assume the primary responsibility for live legal cases while working under the direct supervision of practicing faculty members. The clinics offer five different practice areas ranging from traditional fields such as mediation and housing to a unique clinic focused on neighborhood preservation issues. In clinic, students practice law. All clinical students attend weekly seminars to discuss the progress of cases and learn from their fellow clinician and their faculty advisors.
The law school’s externship program places students in external legal offices where they work alongside practicing attorneys while earning academic credit. In their externships, students engage in a variety of essential legal skills ranging from judicial research and brief writing to case management in a public defender’s office. Externship students also attend faculty-led seminars to adapt and learn from their experience in a practice setting.
At this time, Memphis Law requires residential coursework for all its programs.
Memphis Law offers its students an impressive array of student services including counseling and psychiatric services, wellness programs, access to the university’s fitness centers, short term loans, and private rooms of nursing mothers. The school strives to be accomodating to all students while fostering an environment of inclusion and support. The law school’s many student organizations showcase the student body’s diversity and their many viewpoints.
The campus of Memphis Law overlooks the Mississippi River and Memphis’ famous Mud Island River Park. The downtown location places students in the heart of one of America’s most historic towns. Memphis is full of music, barbecue, and museums that celebrate the city’s long civil rights history. Housing is available throughout the city’s many neighborhoods at a range of prices. Surrounding the city is extensive National Forest land and outdoor recreation opportunities. Throughout the year, students enjoy the many festivals that bring art, music, and sporting events to the city.