Located in the nation’s capital, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) was created by a grassroots campaign to reopen the city’s Antioch School of Law which closed its doors in 1986. UDC Law’s predecessor played a critical role in the District through its mission and clinical programs. After a 10 year campaign, the law school was reopened under the umbrella of the University of the District of Columbia. In 1998, President Bill Clinton renamed the law school for David A. Clarke, a longtime civil rights advocate and leader of the movement to reopen the school. Today, UDC Law’s curriculum is grounded in experiential learning and its clinical program once again plays a critical role in representing the underserved citizens of the District of Columbia.
The Juris Doctor program at UDC Law is grounded in the school’s renowned clinical program. The degree may be earned either through a full or part-time program. Both tracks require the same core courses although part-time students complete the first-year curriculum over four semesters in evening classes. From the first semester, the J.D. program at UDC Law blends core academic work with practical skills. In their first-year curriculum, students take four of the core courses of American legal education: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, and torts. Students complete a two-semester course in the lawyering process, learn how to perform legal research, and complete a first-semester lab course.
In their final semesters, students complete four additional core courses–constitutional law, evidence, professional responsibility, and property. All students are required to complete two clinical programs, a course in the appellate advocacy process, and a course preparing students to take the bar exam. In order to prepare for the bar exam, students also choose three courses from a menu of subjects that most frequently appear on the bar exam.
Most students complete their required courses in the first four semesters for full-time students and six semesters for part-time students. This allow students to focus on their clinical work during their final semesters. Each clinic is a 7-hour course that engages students extensively in the practice of law. UDC’s electives leverage its extensive network of practicing faculty members who teach courses designed to help students succeed in their clinical courses. The clinical program is the heart of UDC’s mission.
UDC offers eight options “pathways” for students to follow if they are interested in a particular practice area. Pathways shape students elective and clinical choices but are not mandatory.
In order to ensure students success in both their classroom work and the bar exam, UDC Law offers all students an Academic Success and Bar Preparation program. The programs provides an array of optional programs to meet students where they are in their academic careers. Students can work one-on-one with the program’s faculty members, start their legal studies in the summer with one course to allow for an adjustment to legal education, or take courses designed to improve students analytic skills. The program supports all students generally while also intervening and assisting students who are struggling. Finally, the program works will all students to prepare them to pass the bar exam.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcome data, over 78% of all graduates of UDC Law were employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those who were employed, over 85% found long-term, full-time careers most of which either required a law license or preferred a Juris Doctor degree. In terms of career choices, UDC Law students notably choose career paths that reflect the school’s mission of public service. Over 40% of all employed graduates opted for careers in the public interest sector or in government offices. Only 21%, for example, opted for careers in traditional law firms. Almost a third of graduates chose careers in the business sector. Most graduates of UDC Law begin their professional careers in either the District of Columbia (41%), Maryland (21%), or Virginia (16%).
The UDC Law Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) goal is to partner with student and alumni to prepare them for success throughout their professional careers. This success starts with academic and bar exam success. The OCPD works closely with employers who share the school’s mission of increasing diversity in the legal profession especially from communities typically underrepresented in the legal community. The small student body at UDC Law allow for personalized attention to every students as the staff works to develop a professional plan for each student. The OCPD also offers an extensive set of resources available to all students and alumni to help in their professional endeavors.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
The clinical program at UDC Law is unique and extensive. Unlike most traditional law schools, all students at UDC Law are required to participate in two 7-credit clinics. UDC Law students graduate with over twice the clinical experience as most law students. The clinical program offers students nine different practice areas where they serve a vital role in providing advocacy to Washington, D.C.’s underrepresented citizens. Students work directly with clients under the supervision of the clinic’s faculty experts. This experience provides UDC Law graduates with a distinct advantage in the professional market as they graduate with a notable advantage in practical experience.
After completing a substantial portion of their academic program, students at UDC Law may also gain practical experience through the school’s externship program which places students in external legal offices for four or eight credit programs. Each externship also includes a classroom component where students share their experience as they learn on the job.
At this time, UDC Law requires residential coursework for all its degree programs.
UDC Law is a school committed to producing public interest attorneys who are committed to the school’s mission. The school provides financial assistance to over 91% of its students while also working to keep tuition as affordable as possible. As a result, UDC Law is one of the most diverse law schools in the country. The law school is also one of the most supportive, offering students unique access to the faculty as well as a range of programs to help students with their academic, personal, and financial lives. The school supports a number of student organizations and countless programs that connect students deeply with the surrounding community.
UDC Law is located in the District of Columbia across the street from one of the city’s stunning parks–Soapstone Valley. Set in the Forest Hills neighborhood, UDC Law is surrounded by foreign embassies and walking distance to selection of unique restaurants and shops. Located off one of the city’s principle thoroughfares, UDC Law is also easily accessible from either Maryland or Virginia making housing options easily available. UDC Law students enjoy a prime location in the nation’s capital with its endless museums, parks, and one-of-a-kind eateries and nightlife.