Although the Western New England University School of Law (WNE Law) began as part of Northeastern University, it became one of the anchors to building the present-day Western New England University in 1951. Eight years later, the law school moved to its present campus. Nearly two decades later, the school developed its Juris Doctor curriculum. After a generous donation from S. Prestley Blake, the founder of the Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, in 2007, the law school renovated the building by adding additional space and revamping classrooms to reflect the school’s emphasis on smaller class sizes. The school’s alumni include politicians and judges through the New England areas as well as a former commissioner of the NBA, Larry O’Brien, and the former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Tim Murray.
WNE Law’s Juris Doctor requires 88 hours of coursework that may be completed in a full-time or part-time program. The first-year curriculum for full-time students includes the six core courses of American Legal education: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. The substantive courses are combined with courses that introduce students to the study of the law and the legal profession generally. Students also complete a two-semester course covering basic lawyering skills. Part-time students complete the same program with the flexibility to move core courses to their second year.
During the following semesters, students must complete substantive courses in business organizations, income tax, professional responsibility, and evidence. In their final semester, students complete an advanced course in legal analytics. Over half of students require 88 course hours are elective in nature. All students must complete an upper-level writing assignment as well as six hours of experiential learning and 20 hours of pro bono work.
In choosing their electives, students at WNE Law may opt to concentrate in one of five curricular concentrations offered by the law school. These programs offer a menu of core courses and experiential opportunities. After completion of the program, students do receive a certificate that indicates their expertise in the subject matter. Concentrations include criminal law, gender & sexuality law, international law, public interest law, and transactional practice.
In addition to their Juris Doctor program, WNE Law offers several additional graduate programs designed for both lawyers and non-lawyers. For students who have already earned their J.D., the law school offers a unique Master of Law in Elder Law and Estate Planning. The program is taught through live, online modules making it one of the most flexible LL.M programs in the country. These courses are generally taken in the evening. Students complete 24 credit hours in as little as two semesters.
Non-lawyers may take the same curriculum as the LL.M in WNE Law’s Master of Science program. The M.S. program does not require a Juris Doctor degree for admittance but prepares professionals whose careers would benefit from an understanding of the fundamentals of elder law and estate planning. The program requires 24 hours of coursework which can be completed in one year in a full-time program or two years in a part-time program.
WNE Law also offers a more general Master of Science in Law degree program that allows students to focus on one of five concentrations. The program also requires 24 hours of coursework. Unlike the M.S. in Elder Law, this program is a residential program taught on the campus of WNE Law.
Law students at WNE Law may also opt to earn a second professional degree as part of the school’s joint degree program. The dual degree program pairs the WNE Juris Doctor degree with professional degrees from other graduate programs at Western New England University as well as other schools in the region. Each degree program requires admittance to both programs independently. Three of the dual degree programs–an MBA, M.S. in Accounting, and the M.S. in Organizational Leadership–are taught in conjunction with the university’s business school. Dual degree options also include degrees in engineering, regional planning, social work, and sports leadership and coaching.
Career and Career Placement
Based on the most recent outcome data, over 85% of all graduates of WNE Law are employed within 10 months of graduation. Of those employed, 76% found long-term, full-time careers. However, almost 87% of careers either required a law license or preferred a Juris Doctor career. Nearly a quarter of employed graduates opted for careers in small law firms. Another quarter of graduates chose positions in government offices or the public interest sector. Over 10% of graduates were able to secure judicial clerkships in the state or local court system while 13% of graduates opted for careers in the business sector. Most graduates either remained in Massachusetts or chose careers in nearby Connecticut.
The Office of Career Services (OCS) at WNE Law provides a range of services for all students starting with building a job search strategy through individual counseling. In these sessions, the OCS staff works with students to hone their professional documents, suggest experiential plans, and sharpen students’ focus as they devise a career plan. After a plan has been created, students participate in mock interviews, networking programs with alumni and local attorneys, and attend relevant programming throughout the academic year. The OCS also offers students professional business cards at a reduced cost.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
WNE Law places tremendous emphasis on teaching students to apply their classroom lessons to the real world of practicing law. This experiential learning happens through the school’s seven clinical and practicum options as well as over 50 external field placement options. The clinical and practicum program places students on the frontline in courtroom situations as they work with indigent and underserved citizens in the region. Students can work in both criminal defense and prosecution as well as family law, human rights, immigration, veterans law, real estate, small business law, and general civil practice. In these experiences, students work with real clients on a host of legal issues as they prepare for their professional careers.
WNE Law’s externship program places students in working legal offices in the regional area. While these placements include traditional settings such as nonprofit organizations or government agencies, students may also work in private law firms or corporate legal offices as they learn through immersion in a working legal environment. Students may also opt for externship in judicial chambers where students research memos and judicial opinions for local and state judges.
WNE Law’s Juris Doctor degree requires residential coursework. However, the law school offers both a Master of Law and Master of Science in Elder Law that may be completed online.
The small student body at WNE Law is active and close-knit. Along with its academic program, the law school sponsors a host of co-curricular activities that allow students to build lasting relationships as well as enhance their quality of life. The Office of Student Affairs organizes dozens of students organizations as well as programming to help students incorporate health and wellness into their academic lives. The university offers all law students access to the medical services as well as a living center that provides exercise and fitness equipment. WNE Law students may also live in the school’s own apartment complex within walking distance of the law school campus.
WNE Law is located in the town Of Springfield, just 90 minutes west of Boston. The town is minutes away from Connecticut and has a thriving and quaint downtown along the banks of the Connecticut river. Western Massachusetts is remarkably rural while Springfield is a haven of culture and city life. The city is home to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the birthplace of legendary Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. While at WNE Law, students also enjoy easy access to Boston or New York City.