The University of Tulsa College of Law (Tulsa Law) was born out of a need for attorneys during the oil boom of 1923. The law school had a humble beginning as local attorneys educated students in evening classes held at a local high school. For its first 20 years, the law school operated independently until becoming part of the University of Tulsa in 1943. As part of the university, the school’s student body and faculty both grew. The law school also continued as a leader in the area of energy law particularly related to oil and gas law. Tulsa Law is now the home to the National Energy Law and Policy Institute and publishes an influential journal on the practice area. Since opening, Tulsa law has graduated a number of prominent attorneys and politicians including one governor of Oklahoma and four state Supreme Court Justices.
The Juris Doctor degree at Tulsa Law requires 88 hours of coursework for completion over half of which are required courses. The first-year curriculum combines the core courses of American legal education–civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts–with practical courses that build students foundation in legal research and writing. First-year students also participate in a unique “Dean’s seminar” whose subject matter changes from year to year but introduces students to critical issues in the law and legal practice. In their second year, students continue building their practical skills with an additional semester of legal research and writing. All students take a course covering strategies for the bar exam and their future practices. Substantively, students are required to take a course in evidence, professional responsibility, the second semester of constitutional law, and a seminar course.
The final three semesters at Tulsa Law are largely comprised of elective courses. Students are free to choose their courses to fit their academic and professional goals. Many students opt to concentrate on courses covering energy and natural resources, a practice area where Tulsa Law has notable expertise. For students who complete a number of core courses in the subject, Tulsa Law offers a Sustainable Energy & Resources Law Certificate that certifies a student’s mastery of the subject matter.
For students who have earned their Juris Doctor (or its foreign equivalent), Tulsa Law offers a Master of Law (LL.M) program focused on sustainable energy and natural resources. The program consists of 24 hours of coursework of which 9 hours are required. The required courses cover the fundamentals of the subject matter while still leaving students flexibility for electives. Generally, the LL.M is completed within one year of residential coursework. Students may also apply for advanced standing if certain courses were covered during the J.D. degree. Juris Doctor students at Tulsa Law may enroll in a joint program that combines the J.D. with the LL.M program.
For non-attorneys whose professional careers intersect with natural resources and energy law, Tulsa offers an online Master of Jurisprudence in Energy Law (M.J.E.L.). The program requires 24 hours of coursework of which 9 hours are required. Students also complete a thesis on an area of interest.
Juris Doctor candidates at Tulsa Law may create their own dual enrollment program with other graduate programs at the school. This allows students to share credits between the two programs (generally 8 to 10 credit hours). Students work with both graduate programs to design their own dual degree program.
Undergraduates students at Tulsa Law also have the option of entering into an accelerated program that allows them to complete both their undergraduate degree and their law degree in six years. Students spend their final year of undergraduate studies by taking the traditional first-year curriculum at the law school.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent graduation data, over 94% of all graduates of Tulsa Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Most graduates–almost 90%–are employed in careers either requiring a law license or preferring a Juris Doctor degree. For those employed, small law firms of 1 to 25 attorneys accounted for over 50% of all career choices. Over 15% of employed graduates also opted for careers in the business sector while another 15% chose public service careers in either government offices or the public interest sector. Almost 85% of graduates opted to begin their careers in either Oklahoma or Texas–the two states with notable energy law opportunities.
With a staff of three professionals that serve the small student body, the Tulsa Law Office of Professional Development (OPD) offers students a broad range of career services that have resulted in the school’s outstanding success rate in placing graduates in legal careers. In their first year, all students are required to attend a professional development workshops that begins the process of building students plan for their professional development. The OPD provides individual counseling as students approach each step of their careers from summer internships to their first interviews and finally to managing their job offers. The OPD also maintains a dedicated job database for students and sends out weekly emails to the student body that identifies new job opportunities.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
From its inception, Tulsa Law has striven to produce “practice-ready” attorneys. Today, students learn the practical skills to be successful attorneys through skill-based coursework as well as participation in the clinical or externship program. The clinical program combines rigorous coursework with direct representation of clients through the school’s eight in-house legal clinics. The clinics cover a wide base of practice areas that familiarize students with a number of practice areas including the fundamentals or running their own solo practice. During clinics, students are meticulously supervised by practicing attorneys who offer feedback and guidance as students master these critical practical skills.
The school’s externship programs allow students to gain many of the same benefits of the clinical program while working in an external legal office either in the Tulsa area or out of state. In their externships, students are embedded in a working legal office and hone their practice skills and develop their professional network. In their final semesters, students have the opportunity for externships around the country.
Tulsa Law supports its student body both in the classroom and in outside of it. To ensure all students succeed, the law school provides an academic support program as well as bar exam support. The latter has allowed Tulsa graduates to have some of the highest bar passage rates in the country. Tulsa Law also provides a host of student organizations as well as a pro bono program that allows students to connect and serve the surrounding Tulsa community. Tulsa Law students also enjoy access to several on-campus housing options that allow students easy, walking access to the law school. The university’s main dining facility is also a short walk from the law school.
The city of Tulsa is located where the Great Plains meet the Ozark mountains. The area’s rich oil reserves made the city the “oil capital” of Oklahoma and a booming city that is now home to over 400,000 residents. Tulsa is unique. The law school is located just outside of the downtown area which sits on the bank of the Arkansas river. The downtown is vibrant and full of music, art museums, and restaurants that serve the unique, eclectic cuisine of the region. Oklahoma City is short drive away offering students the opportunity to enjoy professional sporting events and one of the Midwest’s largest cities.