Nestled within the Rocky Mountains in the beautiful town of Missoula, the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law (Montana Law) is the first and only law school in the state. Established in the early part of the 20th century, Montana Law is notable for its small student body–less than 90 students are admitted each fall–and high bar-passage rate (over 95% of students passing on their first attempt). For residents of Montana, the law school is also considered one of the best values in the country with tuition and living costs that are well below the national average. The law school has produced three governors of the state as well as 10 Montana Supreme Court justices.
Montana Law academic program is a notable mixture of traditional academic courses and practical, skill-based learning. During their first year, students take six foundational courses: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal, property, and torts. Students take two semesters of lawyering skills, one focused on analysis and the other on research. Students also take a course in the fundamentals of legal writing. This first year of study not only provides students with an academic foundation to build on in their final two years but also equips them with skills for future experiential learning.
Upper-class students are required to take several additional substantive courses including professional responsibility, business transactions, and evidence. The business transaction class is experiential in nature as students undergo a simulated business transaction. Students also take a pre-trial litigation practicum during their second year. In their final year, all Montana Law students are required to take two semesters of clinical training. Participation in the clinical program is the capstone of the entire academic process as students apply their classroom and skill work into representation of real clients.
Montana Law offers students the opportunity to concentrate their legal studies in either natural resource law or Indigenous American law. Both concentrations also provide an option for a certification that demonstrates to employers a master of the fundamental subject matter and skills required for these practice areas.
Juris Doctor candidates may also earn another professional degree concurrently to compliment their legal studies. The joint degree program requires admission to both programs independently. Once admitted, however, students study concurrently in order to share some academic credits between both programs as well as gain additional insights from the interdisciplinary study of two professional subjects. Joint degrees include pairing the J.D. with the following degrees: Master of Public Administration, Master of Business Administration, Master of Environmental Studies, or Master of Social Work.
Montana Law students also have unique opportunities each summer to expand their academic perspectives. Students have the opportunity to study abroad in one of two Chinese cities in the school’s study abroad program.
Non-law students also have the unique opportunity to participate in the school’s summer Indian and Indigenous Law program. The short, intense program brings lawyers onto the campus to study from experts in the field while enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the region.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment statistics, over 80% of all Montana Law graduates are employed in careers either requiring a law license or preferring a Juris Doctor degree within 10 months of graduation. The two most popular career paths were work in a small law firm (27% of graduates) and state or local judicial clerkships (24%). Over 10% of graduates secured federal clerkships and almost 20% of graduates opted for careers in the public sector. Almost all students who found work did so in the state of Montana.
Montana Law’s Career Development Office offers students a selection of career resources. The office also administers the on-campus interview program each fall which provides students opportunities to interview with potential employers on the law school’s campus. The CDO maintains a dedicated job database for all students and alumni. Students may also receive individual counseling as they plan their careers.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
As previously discussed, Montana Law is a leader in experiential learning. From the very first semesters, practical skills are emphasized and taught alongside the academic lessons of the law. In their first year, students take multiple classroom, skill-based courses to provide them with a foundation in a variety of legal tasks. During their second year, students continue with at least two skill-based courses that build on the first year’s lessons.
The third-year is the culmination of the experiential learning process when students participate in the school’s clinical program. Most students opt to satisfy the clinical requirement by participation in one of the school’s four in-house legal clinics. In these clinics, students work with the local community to provide a range of legal services across four separate practice areas. Students are supervised by faculty experts.
Students also have the option to participate in an external field placement either through Montana Law’s offerings or through an independent field placement. External field placements offer a similar experience as the in-house clinic but with a broader array of practice areas available. Montana Law has over 25 field placement options ranging from work in a District Attorney’s office to working with the ACLU in Montana.
Set on the main campus of the University of Montana, students at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law enjoy a modern campus that was renovated in 2008. The building offers students a range of study space and interview rooms as well as sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. The law school is also located just across the street from the University’s main health center as well as a short walk to the school’s large concession and student recreation area.
Set on the Western edge of Montana in the Northern Rockies, Missoula is one of the country’s most beautiful cities. With a population of under 70,000 total people, the University plays a central role in the town’s life. Missoula is the cultural center of the state and hosts a number of music and art festivals throughout the year. The real beauty of Missoula, however, is the immediate access to some of the most pristine natural resources in the country. Tle Lewis Fork River runs through town. The town is surrounded by National Forests and an extensive bike trail systems carries students quickly into the wilderness.