Founded in 1903 by a prominent Topeka lawyer, the Washburn University School of Law (Washburn Law) was one of the first fully accredited law schools by the American Bar Association. After its founding, the law school moved to several locations until moving to the main campus in 1918. That location, however, was destroyed along with much of the campus by devastating tornadoes in 1966. The law quickly rebuilt and reopened their new building three years later. The school’s new facility included expanded library space and a courtroom. Today, the law school has earned a reputation for its outstanding value and for being one of the top small law schools in the country. Washburn Law has produced five chief justices of the Kansas Supreme Court. Longtime U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bob Dole is also an alumnus of Washburn Law.
At Washburn Law, Juris Doctor students may begin their studies either in the traditional fall term or in a unique program that starts in the spring session. Both programs require the same first-year coursework. In the fall term, first-year students take three core academic courses: criminal law, property, and torts. During the spring semester, students take three more additional courses: civil procedure, contracts, and constitutional law. All students take a course covering the fundamental skills of legal analysis, research, and writing during both semesters. The first year completes 29 of the law school’s required 90 hours for graduation.
In their final two years, students are required to complete additional coursework in the subjects of professional responsibility, constitutional law, secured transactions, criminal procedure, evidence, and a course that covers perspectives on the law. All students complete both an advanced writing requirement as well as an oral presentation. Washburn Law requires all students to complete six hours of skill-based courses. Washburn Law–a leader in practical education–offers over 40 skill-based courses every year.
All other courses at Washburn Law are elective although most students pursue a slate of courses driven towards a specific practice area or towards earning one of the law school’s 10 dedicated certificates. The certification program prescribes both coursework and skill-based learning to formalize a student’s education. The certification also bolsters students’ professional resumes.
For many years, Washburn Law has recognized the importance of allowing students to study international and comparative law. The law school opened a designated center for the study of international law in 2013. The center works to increase students’ understanding and engagement with international through a variety of programs and offerings.
Along with its Juris Doctor program, Washburn Law offers two additional graduate degrees. The Master of Laws (LL.M) in Global Legal Studies is designed for students who graduated from an international law school and who desire to expand their understanding of the U.S. legal system. Foreign students also have the option of focusing on several specializations. The program does qualify students to sit for some bar exams including the New York State Bar Exam. Washburn Law also offers its non-native English students to attend their intensive “legal English” program that is focused on improving international students’ fluency in the legal language they will encounter in law school.
For non-attorneys, Washburn Law also offers a Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) program that exposes professionals to the fundamentals of the legal system. This program provides essential background for careers that often intersect with or touch upon legal issues. All M.S.L. students complete 30 hours of coursework including foundational studies in the civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. The course requirements for the M.S.L. program may be complete in 1 to 4 years.
Washburn Law offers students three joint degree programs that pair their Juris Doctor degree with another professional degree: a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Social Work, or a Master of Criminal Justice. By pursuing a joint degree, students are able to complete both programs in less time by sharing course work between programs. Additionally, students learn to approach their legal studies from various angles–reflecting the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of modern legal issues.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent employment outcomes over 90% of all graduates of Washburn Law were employed in long term, full-time careers within 10 months of graduation. A small percentage of students pursued additional education meaning less than 8% of all graduates were still pursuing careers after 10 months from graduation. The overwhelming majority of employed graduates (92.4%) found careers that required a law license. The remainder found work in professional positions most of which still preferred a Juris Doctor degree. Law firms accounted for over half of employed graduates first career choice. Almost a quarter of graduates opted for work in a government office while 12% pursued careers in the business sector. Another 5% of graduates secured judicial clerkships while 6% of graduates opted for work in the public interest sector. Over 90% of graduates chose to begin their careers in either Kansas or Missouri.
The Washburn Law Professional Development Office (PDO) provides a range of services for both students and alumni. For students, the primary function of the PDO is to assist students in assessing their career goals and providing students with opportunity to understand the depth and variety of careers available to Washburn Law graduates. Of note, the PDO works closely with all students to manage their student debt in order to provide graduates with more opportunities due to the value that the law school offers. The PDO maintains a job bank for students that they can access while in school or as alumni. The PDO continues to work with alumni throughout their careers by providing support during career changes, suggesting alternative career paths, and notifying alumni of career opportunities that meet their skills and interests.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Recognizing that employers now demand “practice-ready” law graduates, Washburn Law has expanded its experiential learning programs to ensure that all graduates have the skills to succeed in their professional careers. Washburn Law offers 6clinical programs that cover a broad array of practice areas. In clinics, students begin working with actual clients as they master the fundamental skills of representation and advocacy. Clinics are also paired with a classroom component that allows students to receive feedback from faculty while learning.
Students can also gain practical experience by working in external legal offices. This experience places students in a wider variety of legal environments than the clinical program, offering students the opportunity to work in government, corporate, or public interest settings. Students are overseen in their externships by practicing attorneys. This experience not only teaches students practical skills but also helps develop their professional networks.
Washburn Law also offers a nationally regard trial advocacy that emanates from their dedicated center for excellence in the field. The center offers several programs that build students fundamental skills in advocacy, arbitration, and mediation.
Washburn Law is a campus full of diversity and co-curricular activities. The students body celebrates its many diverse backgrounds and viewpoints in over 30 student-run organizations. Support for students extends beyond their academic careers as the law school offers all students counseling services for students and their families, access to on-campus health care, and short term loans for students who need financial assistance. The larger university offers law students access to its state-of-the-art student recreation and wellness center as well as dining facilities.
Students at Washburn Law also enjoy life in one of the Midwest’s most underrated cities. Topeka offers an exceptional quality of life at a fraction of the cost of larger cities. The law school maintains student rankings for housing options and recommends off-campus locations that offer convenient, affordable housing. Topeka, Kansas is located on the banks of the Kansas river and is renowned for its many parks, its regional zoo, and its famous barbecue–a slight variant on Kansas City’s version.