The S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah (Utah Law) began as an informal series of law lectures towards the end of the 19th century. By 1907, the law school became an official department at the university and quickly became a force in the education of lawyers west of the Rocky Mountains. The school was later named for alumnus S.J. Quinney who graduated in 1919, practiced law in Salt Lake City until he was 90, and was a pioneer of the ski business in the region. Since its foundation, Utah Law has remained just outside the heart of Salt Lake City at the base of Mount Aire. In its over 100 year history, Utah Law has educated a number of leaders in the Utah judiciary and political scene including former governor Herbert Maw.
Utah Law first-year curriculum includes an introductory course, a two-semester course in legal methods and research, and one semester of the six core courses of the U.S. legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contract, criminal law, property, and torts. Students are required to take a second semester of constitutional law in the second year as well as a class in the legal profession prior to graduation. All other classes are electives.
Beyond the first-year curriculum and two additional required courses, students at Utah Law must complete a number of writing assignments–one substantial paper and three smaller, “portfolio” papers. Students must satisfy the school’s requirement for six hours of experiential education and complete at least one seminar course. Utah Law does provide nine separate “maps” that guide students in their course selections as they prepare for certain careers. These maps also provide suggestions for student organizations, competitions, and clinical work that can bolster students career preparations. Utah Law offers a certificate in their renowned environmental program which certifies as students mastery of coursework in the field.
Utah Law houses one of the top environmental law programs in the country. Each year, they admit a select group of students into a Master of Laws (LL.M) program with a concentration in environmental and natural resource law. The program is the only of its kind in the country. Lawyers from around the world join the LL.M degree program Utah Law which requires a year of residential coursework. International students must take a small number of introductory courses intended to provide a framework for the American legal system.
For Juris Doctor candidates, Utah Law also provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary education in its six joint degree programs. After admission to both programs, joint degree candidates switch between programs for their first two years before sharing credits between the two programs. In general, this allows students to complete both graduate programs in four years since credits are shared between programs. Joint degrees include combing a law degree with an M.B.A. from Utah’s business school or a Master in City Planning in conjunction with the college of architecture.
For non-attorneys, Utah Law also offers a flexible Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) program that is taught on alternative weekends as the program is geared toward working professionals whose careers intersect with the legal system. The program takes one year to complete.
Career and Career Placement
Almost 99% of the most recent graduating classes of Utah Law were employed within 10 months of graduation. Most graduates (92%) were employed in positions that either required a law license or preferred a Juris Doctor degree. Nearly a quarter of graduates joined a small law firm to begin their legal careers. Nearly 15% of graduates chose career paths in the business sector, government, or in judicial clerkships in the local court system. Graduates of Utah Law overwhelmingly stayed in the state of Utah to being their careers with a small percentage moving to neighboring Colorado or Nevada.
With a professional staff of four counselors and one of the smallest student bodies in the country, the Utah Law Career Development Office (CDO) offers students a remarkable amount of one-on-one attention and a host of resources as they chart their career paths. The CDO hosts workshops throughout the year to help build resumes and practice interview skills. The four professional counselors also provide individual coaching sessions for every student.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Like all ABA accredited law schools, Utah requires students to complete six hours of experiential learning. To achieve this requirements, students can choose between legal clinics, externships, or simulation courses.
The school’s clinical program offers two law practices–the innocence clinic and the justice lab clinic–both of which offer students the opportunity to work on real cases under the supervision of practicing faculty members. In the innocence clinic, students spend a year working on cases where convicted criminals have substantial claims of wrongful conviction. The justice lab presents two, unique legal issues involving social justice each semester which students help to solve.
At Utah Law, an externship places a student in a law office in the surrounding legal community and pairs that placement with coursework that compliments the students practical work. This pairing provides students with a unique opportunity to immediately apply their academic lessons to the real world.
Utah Law also teaches several simulations each semester which provides students the opportunity to work through real-world legal issues in the classroom. Simulations encourage collaboration and often require interdisciplinary skills to solve complex, modern legal problems.
With its small student body and iconic setting at the base of some of the country’s best ski mountains, Utah Law is as unique a setting for studying law as anywhere in the country. In 2015, the law school moved into a new, state-of-the-art, LEED certified building which provides students with a range of student spaces and technology. The new law school building also has a breathtaking rooftop terrace that affords panoramic views of downtown and the mountains to the East. Despite its small student body, Utah Law offers students a broad array of student organizations including one of the most active and competitive moot court teams in the country.
In Salt Lake City, law students find affordable housing in a city that is full of life. Salt Lake City in the winter is a ski paradise with public transportation that can take students to top of most of the local mountains. Throughout the year, downtown Salt Lake is renowned for its cuisine, breweries, and coffee shops. The surrounding region is also famed for its natural forest and the famed Great Salt Lake. From professional sports to live entertainment, Salt Lake City is one of America’s most unique cities.