As the only law school in the state, the University of New Mexico School of Law (UNM Law) has served a vital role in the education of lawyers in the region especially for the Latino community. Founded in 1947, the school began with only four professors and 53 students almost all who were veterans of World War II. The school quickly expanded although it has continued to maintain an excellent teacher to student ratio (currently 1 to 10). Today, the school has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation with over half the class identifying as a minority. Since its foundation, UNM Law has produced a number of federal judges, five state Supreme Court justices, and Thomas Mabry, the governor of New Mexico.
The Juris Doctor program at UNM Law may be completed either through a full-time program or a flexible path designed for students with additional responsibilities outside of their academic studies. Either path requires students to complete UNM Law’s unique and innovative first-year curriculum. In their first semester, students take three core courses: contracts, criminal law, and torts. To further their understanding of these subjects, students also take a “lab” course that provides skill-based learning to put their academic lessons into practice. Students also take a semester course exploring the foundations of legal arguments. In their second semester, students take three additional core courses: civil procedure, property, and constitutional law. Students receive an additional semester of instruction on the foundation of legal arguments as well as an introduction to legal research. First-year students also have the option to take one elective during their spring semester.
Only a limited number of students are eligible for the flexible program. These students complete three to four classes per semester (approximately 10 hours) until completing their degree program. They are required to take the same courses until they complete the first-year program.
All J.D. candidates must complete four additional required classes: constitutional rights, legal research, ethics, and a legal clinic. All students must also complete a major writing requirement prior to graduation. The rest of students’ coursework is elective in nature. UNM Law does offer two formal certificate programs in the practice areas of Indian Law or Natural Resouces Law. These certificates require a rigorous curriculum to ensure that students are prepared to practice in these areas.
UNM Law offers a number of additional degree programs and options of both J.D. candidates and non-lawyers. Students in the J.D. program have the option of combining their legal studies with an additional professional program as part of a dual degree. By pursuing a dual degree, students can share 12 credit hours between the two programs which allow students to complete both programs in less time. Dual degree options include a joint J.D. and M.B.A. program with the business school; a joint J.D. and Master of Public Administration; a joint J.D. and Master of Accounting.; and, a joint J.D. and Master of Arts in Latin American Studies. Aside from the time and cost savings, dual degrees also provide students with an interdisciplinary approach to their legal studies and bolster their professional resumes.
For non-attorneys, UNM Law also offers a Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) that provides a compact overview of the legal system for professionals whose careers often intersect with legal issues. The program requires 30 hours of coursework that is generally completed in a year of study. The program is also notably flexible an introduction to the legal system as a required course. Otherwise, students choose their own curriculum or focus on one of two pre-designed concentrations: Indian Law or Natural Resources and Environmental Law–both areas where UNM Law has notable expertise.
UNM Law also offers is J.D. students a broad array of exchange programs including the opportunity to study for a semester in Washington, D.C. or abroad in Madrid, Spain. These exchange programs introduce students to the increasingly diverse and international nature of the legal profession.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent graduation statistics, over 76% of all graduates of UNM Law were employed within 10 months of graduation in long term employment. Of those employed, over 71% were employed in careers that required a law license with an additional 2% in careers that preferred a Juris Doctor degree. Traditional law firm work accounted for 40% of graduates first career choice followed by careers in government offices or the public interest sector (36%). A notable percentage of students (over 12%) secured judicial clerkships. Smaller numbers of graduates opted for career in the business sector (6%).
UNM Law has developed a national reputation as a leader in professional development. The UNM Law Career Services Office (CSO) is built on individual guidance while educating students with the skills and resources to help them develop their own career strategy. The CSO offers students self-assessment programs that help them match their career goals to their strengths and interests. The CSO also facilitates mock interviews and a number of networking events to help students prepare for the transition to their professional lives.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
UNM Law is a pioneer in the field of experiential learning. The law school was the first in the country to require all students to complete a mandatory clinical class. The legal clinics teach students to work with real clients in different practice areas. Students work alongside practicing attorneys as they master the fundamental skills of practicing law. UNM Law clinic includes traditional practice areas such as family law while also offering unique clinics in Southwest Indian Law and an Economic Justice clinic.
Experiential learning at UNM Law also begins in the classroom. During their first semester, students began transferring their academic lessons into practice in their legal lab course. This method continues in several course offerings where students study criminal law, appellate law, or domestic violence law in both the classroom and in field experience.
Although UNM Law requires residential coursework for its degree programs, they do accept a limited number of students into their flexible program each year.
Students at UNM Law consistently rate the school highly for the quality of student life. The law school offers students a diverse and supportive environment where academic support is mixed generously with wellness programs and opportunities for students to build relationships outside the classroom. UNM Law has a dedicated program for academic success and support that offers students a host of resources and programs to ensure their success in the classroom. All students have access to student healthcare services including counseling services, mental health services, and a full-service pharmacy. The law school also supports over 24 student organizations that reflect the many backgrounds and viewpoints of the student body.
Located in the picturesque city of Albuquerque, UNM Law students enjoy a city that enjoys over 300 days of sunshine each year. Despite being over a mile above sea level, Albuquerque still boasts over half a million residents. The downtown area is the cultural and political center of the state featuring a mixture of art, shopping, and the economic center of the state. Housing is abundant throughout the city as our numerous recreational opportunities in nearby national forest lands. Surrounded by mountains and full of unique history, UNM Law school offers students an exceptional quality of life both on and off-campus.