As we embark on our new school year, we take stock of the excellent year we just finished. Just a few of these highlights are included below. Please click the links in red for more information.
- Moving Up in the Rankings. Denver Law climbed to #69 in U.S. News’ law school rankings, up from #77 last year and #80 the year before. Five of our specialty programs were nationally ranked: Clinical Programs, Environmental, Tax, Legal Writing, and Trial Advocacy. And our part time program was ranked #13. While it is important to keep rankings such as this in perspective, our consistent upward movement suggests that people are noticing all of the great work that we are doing in implementing our strategic plan.
- Most Innovative Law Schools. We were featured by the National Jurist as one of the 20 most innovative law schools in the country. Additionally, we were one of three schools noted by U.S. News & World Report in a feature article on the importance of experiential learning opportunities in choosing a law school.
- Strong Bar Passage. Our July 2011 pass rate for first time takers was 90%, and our combined July 2011/Feb. 2012 pass rate was 88%. This was a record 3.2% above the state average. This is represents a tremendous improvement from just five years ago, when our combined pass rate was 68%, and 7.4% below the state average. Our bar passage initiatives are working.
- Excellent Employment Outcomes. Despite the avalanche of grim press reports regarding job prospects for recent graduates, 96.6% of the Class of 2011 were employed nine months after graduation, up 6.1% from the 90.5% employment rate for the Class of 2010. Moreover, nearly 97% of these jobs were professional jobs (JD required, JD preferred, or other professional jobs). These results reflect hard work by our recent graduates and several exciting new initiatives from our newly reconfigured Office of Career Opportunities and Development, including our new job-matching program.
Not only were our employment results exceptional, they were certifiably accurate and highly transparent. We subjected our data to an audit, staking out a national leadership position. And we received a grade of “A” from the National Jurist for the transparency of our employment data. In this survey, more than 50% of the nation’s law schools received grades of “D” or “F.”
- Intellectual Life. It was another great year for events and conferences at Denver Law: the current state of medical marijuana regulation; state and municipal regulation of oil and gas development; and the law and policy issues arising from the Arab Spring. More than a dozen visiting speakers from other law schools, government, and public interest groups presented papers: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from U.C. Irvine; Dean Bryant G. Garth from Southwestern Law School; civil rights lawyer Morris Dees; Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris; and our fourth annual Faculty Scholar-in-Residence, Professor Jane H. Aiken from Georgetown.
- New Faculty. We continue our 5-year plan to add 10 new tenure-track faculty members with two excellent new hires last year, including Professors Nancy Leong and Justin Pidot. Denver law also hosted outstanding visiting faculty such as Professor Stephen Daniels, from the American Bar Association, who taught a groundbreaking course in empirical methods.
- Reduced Class Size – Again. This year we targeted and achieved an entering class size of 290 – a 3% reduction from last year and a 24% reduction from four years ago, when our class size was 380. Our 2011 Student/Faculty ratio was 11.7, and with the latest class size reduction it will fall even further. This improves our ability to provide the finest education to our students.
- New Curriculum. We opened our new transactional law clinic, the Community Economic Development Clinic, and have instituted our new Semester-in-Practice program, in which students immerse themselves full time for an entire term with leading mentor-practitioners. These initiatives bring us closer to our strategic plan goal of an optional, all-experiential third year, producing graduates who are truly practice-ready.
Additionally, we have opened our new International Business Transactions LLM Program, a highly interdisciplinary graduate program for practicing lawyers who want to build specialization in this increasingly critical area of law.
- Student Quality Remains Strong. In a year in which applications were down nation-wide and a large number of schools saw a decrease in the quality of their incoming classes, our applications and the quality of our student body has held steady – a significant achievement. Our impressive new class has a median undergraduate GPA of 3.46 and a median LSAT of 159 (the same as last year). Our diversity has also held steady. This is a testament to the value provided by a Denver Law education.
- Diversity Initiatives Grow. Our $1.5 million in Yegge Scholarships has strengthened our diversity. And our pipeline projects—including our partnership with the Denver Urban Debate League and our low-cost LSAT prep program—are laying a strong foundation for improving diversity in our profession. Denver Law’s pipeline efforts were featured in an article in the Iowa Law Review.
- Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers. This important initiative, designed to support innovative law teaching in order to produce better, more practice-ready lawyers, is gaining momentum. We now have 24 schools in our consortium, which include virtually all of the nation’s leaders in experiential education, along with a growing collection of innovative courses featured on our resource-rich website. Bill Sullivan, the lead author of the Carnegie Report, directs this joint venture between Denver Law and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, placing us squarely at the forefront of this game-changing movement in legal education.
- Presidential Debate. The University of Denver is hosting the first of the three 2012 presidential debates on Wednesday, Oct. 3, in Magness Arena. Join us on campus for DebateFest: live music, activities, local vendors and more—followed by a live, outdoor telecast of the debate.
We look forward to another exciting year.
Martin J. Katz
Dean and Professor of Law