Located in the city of Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota School of Law (UND Law) has been the only law school in the state for over 120 years. As such, the law school has played a critical role in the state’s legal community. The school’s first dean was also the chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. Recently, the law school completed a major renovation project which increased classroom and student space as well as expanded the law library. In its history, UND Law hass produced four future governors of the state and five justices of the North Dakota Supreme Court as well as numerous state and local representatives.
The Juris Doctor degree at UND Law requires 90 credit hours of coursework of which 31 are completed in the first-year curriculum. The curriculum contains all six of the traditional foundational courses of American legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. All students take a two-semester course covering lawyering skills. In their second semester, students study the foundations of the legal profession. In their upper-level semesters, all students are required to complete the second semester of constitutional law plus courses in evidence and professional responsibility. All other courses are elective except for students who fail to maintain a minimum G.P.A. Those students must complete additional mandatory coursework to ensure they are prepared to pass the bar exam.
Prior to graduation, all students must also complete an intensive writing project that explores an area of law in depth. All students must also complete at least six hours of experiential learning.
In choosing their electives, UND Law offers a broad array of course selections as well as two certificate options–aviation law and Indian Law. The certificate programs specify certain courses and experiential learning options that prepare students to practice in these complex, novel areas of the law. Certifications also require a more stringent G.P.A. on certification courses.
All students at UND Law also benefit from the school’s Academic Success program that offers a host of programs from orientation until graduation that helps students succeed both in school and on the bar exam.
Law students may also combine their legal studies with a professional degree from one of two other graduate programs at the University of North Dakota. UND Law offers this joint degree in conjunction with an M.B.A. or a Master of Public Administration from the Nistler College of Business. Additionally, students may earn a Masters of Public Health from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In the joint degree program, students study for both programs concurrently such that certain credits are shared between programs. This approach not only saves time but also teaches students to approach the law from an interdisciplinary perspective. All joint degree programs are designed to be completed in eight semesters.
Career and Career Placement
Based on recent employment outcome data, over 70% of all graduates are employed within 10 months of graduation. Almost all of those employed find full-time, long-term careers that either require a law license or prefer a Juris Doctor degree. Almost half of all employed graduates choose careers in small law firms with less than 25 attorneys. A substantial number of students secure judicial clerkships in the state court system, reiterating the school’s central role in the local legal community. Almost 20% of students choose careers in either government or the public interest sector. A smaller percentage of students (approximately 5%) enter the business sector. In all, 60% of UND Law graduates remain in North Dakota to begin their professional careers.
The Career Development Office at UND Law provides all students with an online portal where they can connect with potential employers and find available jobs. The CDO also reviews students’ resumes and cover letters as well as helps students prepare for interviews through a mock interview program. All students can utilize the CDO staff for career strategy sessions.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
UND Law is committed to making sure every student graduates “practice-ready” by providing various curricular and co-curricular opportunities for experiential learning. The primary vehicle for hands-on training is through the law school’s externship program that places more than 100 students each semester in regional legal offices. In these supervised settings, students learn a variety of legal skills as they work alongside practicing attorneys in virtually every legal environment. UND Law has a deep connection to the state’s legislative and judicial offices. UND Law students have even argued cases before the State’s Supreme Court.
In simulation based courses, UND Law students can also work in a classroom setting to master complex legal skills such as estate planning, corporate drafting, or tribal codification. The focus on these courses is complex, real-world legal problems. By studying them in a classroom setting, students build practical skills in a safe environment.
UND Law’s moot court and mock trial teams also allow students to learn practical advocacy skills in a competitive environment. Students may also work on the Innocence Project that helps liberate death row inmates who have been wrongfully convicted.
The campus of UND Law is a close-knit environment where students come together to celebrate the school’s unique character and role in North Dakota. The law school also has a steady population of Canadian students who study alongside their American classmates. The school’s many student organizations offer an opportunity for students to build relationships outside the classroom. The law school also offers a host of sporting teams for students including the annual Malpractice Bowl–a traditional co-ed football competition between the law school and the school of medicine.
UND Law students may apply for on-campus housing that includes apartments or choose from the many affordable options in the Grand Forks area. Located on its border with Minnesota, the city of Grand Forks is situated just as the Red and Red Lake rivers fork. The city is an urban oasis in the rural country of North Dakota. With quick access to Winnipeg and Minneapolis, UND Law students also have the opportunity to enjoy big city amenities while enjoying the quaint feel of Grand Forks.