The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law (UMKC Law) began as an independent law school known as the Kansas City School of Law. That law school was founded in 1895 for the purpose of giving poor residents an opportunity to study law. The school began with 65 students most who also held full-time jobs. The independent law school continued operating in this fashion until 1938 when it became the law school for Kansas City University which later became part of the University of Missouri. Today, UMKC Law has built a strong reputation for its trial advocacy program as well as its exceptional value. UMKC is also one of the few law schools in the country to have educated both a U.S. President and Supreme Court Justice–Harry Truman and Charles Evans Whittaker.
UMKC Law requires all students to complete 91 credit hours of coursework either in a full or part-time program. Most of those hours (80 of the 91) must be completed in residential coursework. The first-year curriculum includes 30 hours of residential coursework including the six core courses of American legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Students also take two semesters studying the fundamental skills of lawyering. Part-time students complete the same program over the course of two years; three of the required courses must be taken in the first year.
Outside of the first-year curriculum, students must also take courses covering the second semester of civil procedure, criminal procedure, business organizations, federal taxation, evidence, and professional responsibility. UMKC requires all students to take at least one course focused on the philosophy of law or jurisprudence as well as a course covering professional skills. All students must satisfy the general requirement to complete at least six hours of experiential education credits as well as satisfy the school’s research and writing requirement.
For non-required courses, students at UMKC Law have the option to focus on one of several “emphasis” areas. Students who complete the required courses for an area of emphasis are better prepared to practice in that area and this accomplishment is noted on their transcript and professional resumes. The emphasis areas include areas where UMKC Law has built a solid reputation and has notable expertise including intellectual property, advocacy, urban land use and environmental law, business law, and child/family law.
Along with its Juris Doctor degree, UMKC Law also offers two additional graduate degrees. The law school offers a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree focused either on taxation or a general study of the law. The LL.M in taxation requires a total of 24 hours of coursework of which 18 hours are required from a pool of tax-related courses. Students may take at least two electives that can range from additional tax courses to studies in estate planning to the creation of trusts. The general LL.M also requires 24 hours of coursework with only one required course–a seminar that covers jurisprudence. Students must also complete a dissertation in conjunction with their academic advisor. The rest of a student’s LL.M courses are elective in nature. Students choose their electives based on their personal academic and professional goals. International students may also pursue this program and have the option to transfer into the Juris Doctor program without taking the LSAT exam.
Law students at UMKC Law may also leverage the school unique partnership with numerous international schools around the world to create a study abroad program. These programs range across Asia, Europe, and South America. Students generally spend a semester studying abroad either in one of UMKC Law pre-designed programs or in a program that they design themselves.
Career and Career Placement
UMKC Law has had excellent employment outcomes in recent years. Based on the most recent graduating class, over 94% of all graduates are employed within 10 months of graduation in long-term, full-time careers. Of those employed, almost all (97%) found careers that either required a law license or preferred a Juris Doctor degree. Less than half of students opted for traditional law firm work with the majority (24% of all employed graduates) opting for small law firms. UMKC Law also had remarkable success securing judicial clerkships placing 17% of employed graduates into these coveted positions. Careers in government offices and the public interest sectors also accounted for a substantial number of graduates. Over 87% of graduates of UMKC Law began their professional careers in either Missouri or Kansas.
The UMKC Law Career Center provides students and alumni with a complete range of career-related services from individualized career planning sessions to networking events. First-year students are introduced to the Career Center during an orientation session that occurs in October of their first semester. Students are introduced to the Career Center’s online portal that allows them to schedule counseling sessions, search the job database, and utilize a number of online resources. The Career Center also puts an emphasis on career networking as most students secure their first job through self-initiated networking.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
UMKC Law requires all students to complete at least six hours of residential coursework. This requirement can be satisfied through either coursework or practical experience either through clinical work or an external field placement. The coursework is notably skill-based focusing on collaborative team projects that work together to solve challenging legal problems in issues ranging from entrepreneurial development to collaboration on technological innovation.
UMKC Law’s clinical program and field placements allow students to move from the classroom to real legal situations where they work with real clients while under the supervision of faculty experts. The clinics function as separate law firms in a variety of practice areas including intellectual property, child and family services, tax, and wrongful conviction. Field placements place students in external legal offices including judicial and government offices. In these field placements, students generally spend a semester working alongside working lawyers and judges. Both the clinical program and field placements allow students to not only build their practical skills but also to begin developing their professional networks and their understanding of professional responsibility.
UMKC Law has developed a robust student service program to help provide every student the opportunity to succeed while in law school. These services include access to personal counseling, academic guidance, and a range of health and wellness programs. Students may also work with the student services to develop individualized plans for exam administrations. The law school also supports a wide array of student organizations that capture and celebrate the diverse background and viewpoints of the student body. Additionally, UMKC Law supports a notably active pro bono and public interest organization.
The UMKC Law school campus is located on the main campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the city’s South Plaza neighborhood. Law students enjoy close proximity to university-wide services and facilities along with Kansas City’s many amenities. The metropolis of Kansas City spans two states and offers students one of the most unique living experiences of any law school in the U.S. Kansas City is full of museums, professional sports, and world-famous barbecue. Housing for law students is available in the many neighborhoods surrounding the law school.