The first graduating class of the University of Notre Dame Law School (Notre Dame Law) was a mere three students in 1871. Today, the Law School admits over 200 students into each first-year class and is one of the most competitive law schools in the country. Set in the heart of the Notre Dame campus in northern Indiana, the law school is housed in two separate buildings that reflect the classic gothic architecture of the University. The campus is located outside of the town of South Bend and a short distance of the city of Chicago. The school is well known for its unique programs in patent law and, more recently, for securing clerkships for its graduate with the federal judiciary.
The Juris Doctor degree at Notre Dame Law requires 90 hours of coursework of which 31 are completed in the first year. The first-year curriculum includes six of the traditional first-year courses: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, and Torts. In their first semester, students take a class in legal research and a class in legal writing. In their second semester, students continue their practice of legal writing and are allowed to take one elective course.
In their second and third years, students must complete the remainder of their required hours (59 total credits) which must include a class in legal ethics, a course in jurisprudence, a senior level writing assignment, and at least six hours of experiential education. Students are encouraged to take classes that prepare for the practice of law by exposing them to a range of skill-based classes as well as classes that present a range of ideas. The school emphasizes a curriculum that mixes advanced foundational courses (such as business or administrative law) with a variety of perspective courses that emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of the practice of law.
Notre Dame Law offers a Master of Law (LL.M) program that generally takes two full semesters to complete. For graduates of American law schools, LL.M students may design their own masters curriculum or enter into the LL.M in International Human Rights program.
Internationally educated law graduates may earn an LL.M from Notre Dame Law either in Indiana or in a satellite program in London. For these students, Notre Dame Law offers two curriculum tracks: the first based on an introduction to the American legal system and the second focused on legal research and writing. The Law School also offers a unique interdisciplinary track on International Human Rights that is taught in conjunction with the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Notre Dame Law also admits a small number of students into their Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) program which is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in legal academia. The first two years of the J.S.D. program are spent in residency while the final part of the program–generally 2 to 3 more years–is spent in writing a dissertation.
Finally, Notre Dame Law has four designed dual degree programs that allow students to pursue their law degree while also pursuing a master’s degree in business, English, engineering, or global affairs. These programs can either be completed in 3 or 4 years and require admission to both programs. With departmental approval, law students are able to design their own joint degrees.
Career and Career Placement
The most recent data for graduates of Notre Dame Law shows an employment rate of almost 95% for all graduates of the class of 2018. Of those who found employment within 10 months, over 87% found jobs requiring bar passage and another 6% accepting positions that favored a Juris Doctor degree. The most common career path was a position in a large law firm (28%) while a significant number of graduates pursued careers in government or public interest positions (18.5%). Almost 12% of the graduating class of 2018 accepted judicial clerkships. Illinois and New York were the common jurisdictions for career placement.
The Career Development Office at Notre Dame Law maintains a staff of six counselors most of whom were former practicing attorneys with a breadth of knowledge of the legal field. The CDO hosts regular programs for students during the lunchtime hour with food provided to help them prepare and plan for their future careers. Notre Dame Law also maintains an extensive alumni network which it leverages for its students.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
In order to satisfy the requirement for experiential learning, Notre Dame law offers a wide variety of experiences for its law students including a renowned clinical program, externships, and skill-based courses. The clinical program houses five separate law clinics that serve the citizens of South Bend, Indiana who cannot afford other representation. Students are able to gain practical experience while being closely supervised by faculty experts. Externships allow students to gain practical skills while working in an external office for a semester (or more). Finally, Notre Dame Law offers four skill-based courses that provide practical education on the most common skills needed in the practice of law.
In addition to the above, the law school also offers additional practical experience through their immersion and Galilee programs. These programs allow students to engage with the law in unique ways in foreign countries or, for example, with inmates at a local penitentiary.
Notre Dame Law students enjoy an experience that both celebrates the University’s Catholic heritage while embracing a diverse set of students. As a Catholic school, the law school is driven towards the mission of improving the world. The school also has a wide array of student organizations that touch on both the civic and the social aspects of the school. Students also attend Fighting Irish sporting events and are fully immersed in the Notre Dame culture.
South Bend, Indiana is a classic college town with easy access to the city of Chicago and the charm of a small, midwestern town. The downtown area is full of renovated buildings offering a number of housing options while the university also offers graduate student housing a short distance from campus. The sandy shores of nearby Lake Michigan are a popular recreational destination for students while the surrounding area has any number of activities from experiencing the arts to visiting local museums that showcase Chocolate or Studebakers.