North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

UND Law receives a B+ grade for practical training

The National Jurist’s Pre-Law magazine announces their list of ‘Best Schools for Practical Training’

The issue highlights the 66 law schools that excel when it comes to clinics, externships, and other educational offerings that help students learn how to lawyer.

By Julia Brunette for the National Jurist Pre-Law

You may have heard the phrase “Learn by doing.” Aristotle highlighted this idea when he said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”It’s a theory that speaks to the lovers of hands-on learning and posits that students must interact with their environment to learn best. For many law schools, this theory becomes reality through clinics, externships and simulation courses — or what is commonly known as practical training.

In 2002, Quaime Lee graduated from Northeastern University School of Law, where he experienced one of the oldest forms of practical training at a law school, Northeastern Law’s Cooperative Legal Education Program. It’s an experience that helped him and other alumni succeed in their careers. Lee is now an assistant dean at Northeastern Law, where he works in the school’s Center for Co-op and Career Development.

“We really count it as a badge of distinction that we’ve been able to maintain this innovative program for all of these years and graduate an incredible group of students,” Lee said. “The governor of Massachusetts is a Northeastern grad. The United States attorney for Massachusetts is a Northeastern grad. The public defender for Massachusetts is a Northeastern grad. I’m a grad myself, and the common thing in all of our DNA is every one of us did the co-op program and we are all the better for it.”

Since its founding in 1898, Northeastern Law has valued practical training and seen it as a necessity for law school success. Through the required co-op program, students complete approximately 1,500 hours of legal work during their three years in the full-time J.D. program. With such an emphasis on practical training, Northeastern Law earned the top spot in this year’s list of Best Law Schools for Practical Training.

To determine our ranking, we look at the number of students involved in pro- grams such as clinics, externships, simulation courses, moot court and other specialty offerings and projects. From projects that assisted those deal- ing with the war in Ukraine to clinics that help bring justice to innocent people facing jail time, schools are pushing their efforts further than ever. This resulted in our honor roll growing from 60 to 68 law schools.

After having been ranked No. 1 last year, University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis came in second this year. Baylor University School of Law in Waco, Texas, followed in third place. While many of the same schools top our list from year to year, Ohio Northern University – Claude W. Pettit College of Law made the list for the first time this year, coming in at No. 17. It improved in all categories, but especially in clinics, where it reported 128 clinic placements out of an overall enrollment of 163. That equates to 79% of students participating in clinics.

In our ranking, we give the largest weight — 32% — to clinics. We ask schools for the number of students who completed a clinic in the prior year. If a student was enrolled in two semesters, that counts as two. We give extra credit to schools such as Ohio Northern that guarantee or require clinic work.

For clinics, Ohio Northern ranked only behind Yale Law School, Cornell Law School and The University of Chicago Law School, three schools with large endowments that allow them to invest in the resources needed for expensive clinics. Clinics are expensive because they need to be staffed with faculty. But the close working relationship with faculty also makes them a preferred practical training option. Other schools with large clinic programs include Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis; and University of California, Irvine School of Law.

We weight externships next. They account for 25% of the ranking. We ask schools how many students completed an externship in the prior year. Again, if a student had two externships, that counts as two. Northeastern, with its co-op program, and University of St. Thomas School of Law – Minneapolis dominate this category. Other law schools with strong externship or field placement programs include Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, University of Denver Sturm College of Law and University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks.

Simulation courses account for 20% of the ranking. We ask for the total enrollment in such courses. If schools did not provide data, we relied on ABA data, which shows the number of open positions in simulation courses. In such cases, we estimated the number of students who likely took a simulation course. Baylor University is the top school for simulation courses, with each student taking four per year. It is followed by Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Moot court and pro bono hours account for 10% of our ranking. If a school required pro bono hours, it got extra credit. Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa; Baylor University; and University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law lead for moot court participation. Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Phoenix leads for pro bono participation, followed by UC Irvine and Northeastern University.

Finally, 10% of the ranking is used for additional and unique practical training offerings. In addition to Ohio Northern, three more schools joined our honor roll for the first time. Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in Lansing; Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas; and New York Law School each earned a B+ this year.

Other schools that are new to the top 20 include Elon University, which improved its externship ratio and simulation ratio; University of Georgia School of Law in Athens; Loyola Chicago; and Drake University.

Law schools that rejoined the list include Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, Syracuse University College of Law in New York and University of Idaho College of Law in Moscow.