As we embark on our new school year, we take stock of the excellent year we just finished. A few of these highlights are listed below.
U.S. News & World Report
Denver Law continues to perform well in U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, being ranked at #68 in the nation. Our specialty programs were also highly ranked.
- Our Lawyering Process legal writing program was ranked #8 (up from #12 last year, #16 the year before, and #19 three years ago).
- Our Clinical Program was ranked #14 (up from #15 last year).
- Our Part Time Program was ranked #12.
- Our Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program was ranked #14 (up from #17 last year).
Denver Law has made enormous strides over the last few years. Although our current overall ranking represents a slight drop from last year’s #64 spot, it nevertheless represents a 20-place increase from where we were as recently as 2008 (#88), and a 27-place increase from where we were in 2005 (#95). It is extremely rare for schools to make sustained jumps in the rankings, as we have done. To be consistently ranked so much higher than we were just a few years ago is an extraordinary achievement.
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.
Denver Law among Top Schools to Foster Super Lawyers
In Colorado, Denver Law produces 29 percent of Super Lawyers; the University of Colorado, 20 percent; Harvard, 3 percent; Georgetown, Stanford, Michigan, Virginia and Texas each produce 2 percent; and Yale and NYU each produce 1 percent.
Denver Law’s dean also received favorable rankings this year. Dean Katz was ranked #8 in the National Jurist list of Most Influential People in Legal Education. Read More.
Leading the Way in Experiential Education
Experiential Advantage™ Curriculum
Denver Law inaugurated its new Experiential Advantage Curriculum, which allows students to elect to take 30 credits—a full year of their legal education—in experiential learning opportunities. These opportunities include our nationally ranked Clinic and Externship programs, as well as a growing number of high-quality simulation courses. In all of these opportunities, our students get to stand in the shoes of a lawyer while they are still in law school, with supervision and feedback from professors and practitioners. Students who take advantage of this curriculum will graduate with the equivalent of a full year’s worth of practice experience, and be ready to hit the ground running. Employers are giving this curriculum rave reviews. Read more.
Live Client Guarantee™
In an ongoing commitment to create job-ready lawyers, Denver Law announced its Live Client Guarantee, which provides every Denver Law student with dynamic, hands-on client interactions outside of the classroom via clinics and externships. The Sturm College of Law is one of only 14 law schools in the country that offers this option. By exposing students to complex real-life situations, our graduates will develop the competencies necessary to enter the workforce with career-focused academic experiences and marketable skills that prepare them to thrive in their early careers. With five in-house clinics and close to 500 externship offerings per academic year, students have numerous opportunities to take advantage of the Live Client Guarantee. Read more.
New Hybrid Externships
Two new externships which offer valuable practical experience for Denver Law students include DU’s Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families, where students serve on an interdisciplinary team to provide services to families in need of legal dispute resolution; and the Hybrid Immigration Project, where law students work as legal advocates for immigrant populations across the state. Additionally Denver Law’s new Semester in Practice externship permits students to spend a full semester with an employer and a faculty supervisor in an engaging and educational practice setting.
Denver Law’s Clinical Programs Receive 2013 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award
Denver Law has received the Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award for the school’s significant pro bono services offered through its five legal clinics, especially the settlement obtained for residents of polluted Denver neighborhoods through the Environmental Law Clinic. Read more.
Bridges to Practice
Our new Legal Residency Program (in partnership with CU) completed its pilot year to excellent reviews. This program, modeled after medical residencies, provides graduates with 12-18 months of paid, on the job training with individually tailored learning plans at Denver-area law firms and legal departments. Both employers and residents have been enthusiastic, and have called for continuation and expansion of this innovative program.
We also launched new bridge-to-practice programs this year in partnership with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the Denver City Attorney’s Office. And our many existing bridge-to-practice programs, including our Judicial Fellows and Solo Incubator programs, continue to thrive and to help our graduates gain valuable paid experience, putting them on the path to better jobs sooner.
On the July 2013 bar exam, Denver Law’s pass rate for first-time takers was 87%. This was 3 percentage points above the state average of 84%. This marks the fifth consecutive July exam on which our first-time takers (1) passed at a rate of 85% or higher, and (2) exceeded the state average pass rate.
Our combined July 2013/February 2014 pass rate was 86%. This combined rate provides a rough measure of the performance of the Class of 2013. This rate was four percentage points above the state average of 82%, marking the fifth consecutive year that DU has beat the state average on this measure.
Our bar passage initiatives are working.
Excellent Employment Outcomes
We are pleased to report that 94.1% of the members of Denver Law’s JD Class of 2013 who sought employment were employed in professional positions as of February 15, 2014 (the “reporting date”). Our 94.1% Professional Employment Rate compares favorably to the national rate of 85.7%, as well as Denver Law’s 2012 rate of 90.5%
In 2013, 84.0% of our graduates landed Bar Required or JD Advantage jobs, compared to 77.9% in 2012, an increase of 6.1%. And 64.6% of our 2013 graduates obtained full time, long term Bar Required or JD Advantage jobs by the reporting date. This represents an increase of 5.3% over the 59.3% rate for the class of 2012. These figures reflect a steady upward trend for new Denver Law graduates in a job market that continues to recover from the Great Recession.
We also continue to be at the forefront of both accuracy and transparency with respect to employment reporting. To ensure accuracy and reliability, Denver Law was the first law school to subject its employment data to auditing. And in the interest of promoting transparency in jobs reporting, we launched Denver Law Jobs, an online calculator that allows users to calculate our employment rate using the major formulas that currently exist, or to calculate our employment rate using a self-designed formula. And we partnered with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) to launch a national version of the Law Jobs calculator, which allows users to compare the employment rates of all ABA-approved law schools using different formulas. Giving users control of how they calculate employment rates offers maximum transparency.
Smaller Class Size
For the 2014 entering class, we targeted and achieved an entering class size of 260 – a 10% reduction from last year’s class of 290, and a 32% reduction from five years ago, when our class size was 380. Our 2012 student/faculty ratio was below 10:1. This improves our ability to provide the finest education to our students.
Importantly, each of our class-size reductions has been planned in a way that keeps us fiscally strong, with expense cuts and alternative revenue sources to offset all revenue foregone from the reduced JD class.
Unbundling and Accelerating Legal Education
This fall, we will launch an innovative new program for people who want to get a legal education but do not want to practice law: a Master of Legal Studies program. This one-year program is targeted to those in industry or non-profits who could benefit from legal education, but do not want to spend three years earning a JD. A part-time option is also available.
We will also launch a new 2-year JD program. This accelerated program will allow students to graduate with a full JD in two years, instead of the usual three years. By providing scholarship aid to many of these students, we can save them money, as well as time. Students who receive our Provost Scholarship will receive three years of legal education in two years for the cost of one year’s tuition.
Diversity Initiatives Thrive
Denver Law’s partnership with the Denver Urban Debate League (DUDL) continues to strengthen each year. This year we hosted two three-day tournaments at the law school, and we held a Juniors/Seniors Day, during which DUDL students attended Professor and Modern Learning Chair Roberto Corrada’s contracts class and met with admissions officers from the university’s undergraduate programs, including the Colorado Women’s College.
In partnership with the Society of American Law Teaches (SALT), the law school hosted an all-day Pipeline Conference on March 28, 2014. Approximately one hundred attendees—including undergraduates from eleven colleges and universities in Colorado, admissions officials from four law schools, and attorneys, teachers and mentors from the Denver area—visited the law school. We will repeat the Pipeline Conference in March of 2015, and expand its reach by offering a track for diverse high school students interested in pursuing legal education.
This past summer, we were the site for three local high school pipeline initiatives: the DU Admission Office Pioneer Prep Latino/a Leadership Institute; the Denver East High Speech and Forensics Team Summer Camp; and the Colorado Bar Association’s High School Mock Trial Institute.
Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness Catherine Smith was honored with the Hayward Burns-Shanara Gilbert Award at the Northeast People of Color (NEPOC) Legal Scholarship Conference. The Burns-Gilbert Award recognizes sustained commitment to the advancement of the legal, social, and economic position of people of color in our society.
Vibrant Intellectual Life
Intellectual life and scholarship at Denver Law has continued to expand over the last year, and faculty productivity has made great strides in advancing the law school’s national reputation. Former Associate Dean Alan Chen tracked several measures of scholarly productivity indicating that the work of the faculty has received increasing attention and recognition by peers in legal education. A snapshot of this recognition: Our US News-generated peer assessment rank (out of 199 schools) has jumped 16 places in the past 6 years, and our SSRN download ranking has improved significantly, moving from 66 in 2012 to 38 in 2014.
Denver Law hosted six exciting faculty colloquia events during the last year, including Professor Abraham Cable from Hastings College of Law and Professor Laura Beth Nielsen from the American Bar Foundation and Northwestern University, among others. The law school also welcomed the 6th Annual Faculty Scholar-in-Residence, Richard H. Fallon Jr., the Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School.
View our Intellectual Life publication online to learn more about recent scholarly activities at Denver Law.
A Successful Campaign
We successfully concluded our ASCEND Campaign, raising over $45 million for the law school, thanks to the generosity of more than 5,000 Denver Law alumni and friends. The gifts we received will greatly enhance our students’ educational experience and significantly strengthen Denver Law for the long term.
Support for scholarships was a hallmark of the ASCEND campaign. Donors’ generosity created 71 new scholarships, which more than doubled the number of endowed scholarships that had been established in the law school’s previous 122 years. The amount of donor-funded aid we are now able to offer has increased nearly four times per student since the campaign began. When coupled with the increased institutional scholarships we offer, we are able to cover, on average, 23% of the cost of attendance.
We look forward to another exciting year.
Martin J. Katz
Dean and Professor of Law