The Year in Review

As we embark on the new school year, we look back at another tremendous year at the Sturm College of Law. Highlights include:

  • Increased national recognition,
  • Continued improvements in bar passage and job placement,
  • Innovative new programming,
  • Faculty playing key roles in national debates, and
  • A new strategic plan.

Continue reading to learn more about our latest accomplishments at Denver Law.

Rising In The Rankings

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law continues to climb in U.S. News & World Report rankings

We continue our climb in the U.S. News law school rankings. This year, we were ranked #67 in the country. This is up one spot from last year, 13 spots in five years, 21 spots in seven years, and 28 spots in ten years. Such sustained improvement is quite rare, and is a reflection of the fact that we are on a strong upward trajectory.

Six of our specialty programs were also highly ranked:

  • Our Lawyering Process legal writing program was ranked #7 (up one spot from last year, and up 12 spots in five years);
  • Our Clinical Program was ranked #14 (the same as last year, and up 11 spots in five years);
  • Our Advocacy Program was ranked #19;
  • Our Environmental Program was ranked #22;
  • Our Tax Program was ranked #24; and
  • Our Part Time Program was ranked #10 (up two spots from last year, and eight spots in five years).

Our Peer Assessment score increased this year. On that measure, we were ranked #53, up 5 spots from last year, and 21 spots from seven years ago. This score, which reflects our reputation among other law schools, is one of the hardest scores to move. Our success in pushing this score reflects the hard work of our nationally-respected faculty scholars, as well as our strong leadership in the experiential learning movement. Read more.

Iain Davis (l), assistant dean of admissions, and Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco, associate director of admissions, accepted the Diversity Matters award at the LSAC conference.

Iain Davis (l), assistant dean of admissions, and Yvonne Cherena-Pacheco, associate director of admissions, accepted the Diversity Matters award at the LSAC conference.

Additional Rankings and Recognitions

  • Best Schools for Practical Training We were ranked #10 in the country among the best schools for practical training by the National Jurist. Read more.
  • Best Law School Buildings Our beautiful Ricketson Law Building was named as one of the best in the nation by preLaw and the National Jurist. Read more.
  • Diversity Matters The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) presented the 2015 First Place Diversity Matters Award to Denver Law. The award recognizes Denver Law’s pipeline efforts and outreach to diverse high school and undergraduate students interested in law school and the legal profession. Last year, Denver Law won the 2014 Second Place Diversity Matters Award. Read more.
  • Influence in Legal Education Although I would have omitted this particular ranking, our Communications team insisted that I include the fact that Denver Law’s dean was named among the Most Influential People in Legal Education for the second straight year, coming in at #4 this year. Read more.

Faculty Impact and Recognition

  • SCOTUS Cites Four of our faculty members were cited by the U.S. Supreme Court this term. Two of these citations were in the blockbuster same-sex marriage case of Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • A Death Sentence Commuted An empirical study by two of our faculty members was cited in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s commutation of a death sentence.
  • Scholarly Productivity Doubled Our faculty’s scholarly productivity has nearly doubled in the last five years.
  • National Awards
    • Visiting Assistant Professor of Law César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández received the prestigious Derrick Bell Award. Read more. Scholarship and Intellectual Life Flipbook
    • Professor Eli Wald was recognized as one of the most cited Professional Responsibility/Legal Profession scholars in the nation. Read more.
  • New Chairs Appointed
    • Professor Rachel Arnow-Richman was appointed as the new Chauncey Wilson Memorial Professor.
    • Professor K.K. DuVivier was appointed as the new Hughes Ruud Professor.
  • Intellectual Life Visit us online to learn more about Denver Law faculty scholarship, distinguished visitors as well as a wide range of conferences and programs.

Innovative New Programming

This year in our JD program, we introduced several new programs and initiatives.

  • A new Summer Start Option, which allows students to get a jump start on their legal studies with an integrated Torts and Legal Writing course. This option also makes it easier for students to graduate in December of their third year, allowing them to take the February bar exam. Learn more.
  • A new certificate in Intellectual Property Law. Learn more.
  • A new Marijuana Law & Policy course, the first of its kind in the nation. Learn more.

We also introduced three new graduate programs this year:

  • Master of Laws (LLM) in American Law Practice, which emphasizes our strength in experiential learning. Learn more.
  • Master of Laws (LLM) in Clinical Teaching, which provides an educational overlay and a formal degree to accompany our highly-regarded clinical fellowships.
  • Master of Legal Studies (MLS), for people in the business, government, and non-profit sectors who seek legal education to further their careers but do not wish to obtain a JD. Learn more.
  • We also created a new dual degree in Healthcare Leadership. Learn more.

Fundraising Successes

As the result of our ASCEND Campaign, in which we raised $45.5 Million, we have created 71 new scholarships, which more than doubled the number of endowed scholarships that had been established at Denver Law. 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.

This year, we have inaugurated three new named professorships at Denver Law:

  • Prof. Sam Kamin became the inaugural Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy, the first such professorship in the nation. Read more.
  • Prof. David Thomson was appointed as the inaugural John C. Dwan Professor in Online Learning. Learn more.
  • Prof. Justin Marceau was appointed to the inaugural Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) Professorship. Learn more.

The Sturm Scholarship Challenge We just received $4 Million to match new gifts for endowed scholarships. This gift provides matching funds above and beyond those available from the University’s Momentum Challenge program. As a result of this Challenge, we anticipate adding $10.5 Million in new endowed scholarships at Denver Law. Read more.

Bar Pass

It was another record-setting year for bar passage at Denver Law.

  • Our February 2015 first-time takers passed at a rate of 91%, 20 percentage points above the state average of 70%. This was the first time in modern memory that Denver Law beat the national schools (roughly, the Top 10 schools in U.S. News), which had a pass rate of 83%.1
  • Our July 2014 first-time bar takers passed at a rate of 84%, 6 percentage points above the state average of 78%.
  • Our combined February 2015/July 2014 pass rate was 85%, 8 percentage points above the state average of 77%. This was the highest pass rate in the state.

This is a new high-water mark for our performance relative to the state average (the statistic U.S. News uses to measure bar success). It also marks the 6th consecutive year our first-time takers beat the state average. Not long ago, our first time pass rates were at just 69%, seven percentage points below the state average.

  DU State  
Bar Dates Pass Rate Pass Rate Difference
July 14/Feb 15 85% 77% 8%
July 13/Feb 14 86% 83% 3%
July 12/Feb 13 90% 83% 7%
July 11/Feb 12 88% 85% 3%
July 10/Feb 11 87% 86% 1%
July 09/Feb 10 88% 88% 0%
July 08/Feb 09 82% 84% -2%
July 07/Feb 08 78% 79% -1%
July 06/Feb 07 68% 75% -7%
July 05/Feb 06 69% 76% -7%

These results are the product of hard work by our graduates, of whom we are incredibly proud. They are also the result of the tremendous efforts of our faculty, alumni, trustees, and University administration, who worked together to develop and implement a strong, data-driven bar pass initiative. We are seeing the results.

Employment Outcomes

We are pleased to report that 91.7% of the members of Denver Law’s JD Class of 2014 who sought employment were employed in professional positions as of the ABA reporting date of March 15, 2015.2 This compares favorably to the national professional rate of 88%.

In the class of 2014, 85.6% of our graduates landed Bar-Required or JD Advantage jobs (up from 84.3% for the class of 2013), which exceeds the national percentage, 78.6%.

Focusing more narrowly on the employment rate that U.S. News publishes (the percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term, Bar-Required or JD Advantage jobs), we continue to see steady improvement. This year, 65.3% of our graduates landed these jobs.

We have seen significant improvement in both of these employment measures over the last five years:

Denver Law JD Employment Outcomes3 20104 2011 2012 2013 2014
% of all Denver Law Grads in Bar-Required and JD Advantage Jobs 69.3% 79.8% 77.9% 84.3% 85.6%
U.S. News Rate – % of all Denver Law Grads in full time, long term Bar-Required and JD Advantage Jobs 48.0% 56.8% 59.3% 64.8% 65.3%

Click here for detailed employment statistics for the Classes of 2011 through 2014.

We continue to offer Denver Law Jobs: By the Numbers™, a unique online calculator that allows users to calculate our employment rate using one of the major employment rate formulas, or to calculate our employment rate using a self-designed formula. That way, users can evaluate our employment outcomes based on what is important to them.

Class Size and Vital Statistics

We just welcomed our newest class to Denver Law. Although national admission and enrollment statistics continue to be down, our class quality indicators are up:

  • Median LSAT 157 – up from 156 last year
  • Median UGPA 3.43 – up from 3.40 last year
  • Diversity 21% – on par with our rate of 21% last year, but with better representation among subgroups, and up from 16% the prior year
  • Class Size 253 – we have hit our class size targets every year for the last seven years

Over the last two years, we have reduced our target class size by 17% (from 300 to 250). And over the last seven years, we have reduced our target class size by 34% (from 380 to 250). These smaller class sizes allow for greater class quality and smaller student/faculty ratios.

Our new, smaller class sizes have been made possible by expense cuts of 23% over the last two years. This makes our new, smaller class size sustainable for the long haul.

Strategic Plan

We have completed and adopted a new 2015 Strategic Plan for the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. The 2015 Plan builds upon the strengths of our 2009 Plan and positions us to achieve even greater heights over the next 3-5 years. Strategic Plan Flipbook

The 2015 Plan focuses on three goals, and eight initiatives designed to achieve those goals:

  • Goal One: Creating Practice-Ready and Professionally Empowered Graduates
    • The Modern Learning Initiative Problem-based experiential learning and curriculum that combines doctrine, skills, and professional identity development
    • The Specialization Initiative – Part A Opportunities for students to specialize and earn certificates to demonstrate their expertise
    • The Interdisciplinary Initiative Training in complex, interdisciplinary problem-solving in partnership with other DU schools
    • The Career Development Initiative Helping students navigate curriculum and career through coordinated, embedded advising and customized career maps
  • Goal Two: Connecting with our Legal Community
    • The Partnership in Education Initiative Working with community partners to create practice-ready graduates
    • The Value to Community Initiative Making Denver Law an indispensable part of our legal community by providing excellent legal talent, thought leadership, and service, as well as legal education for those at all stages of their careers
  • Goal Three: Producing High-Impact Scholarship
    • The Productivity Initiative Expanding scholarly production and engagement through mentoring and thoughtful incentive structures
    • The Impact Initiative Producing work that makes a difference and changes the world for the better
    • The Specialization Initiative – Part B Supporting scholarly impact through clusters of faculty in important specialty areas and Centers of Excellence

Our 2015 Plan also recommits to excellence in:

  • Diversity and Inclusiveness;
  • Preparing Students for Globalized Practice;
  • High-Quality Legal Education for non-JD Students; and
  • Bar Passage.

And as with our 2009 Plan, our 2015 Plan has the deep support of our faculty, which is essential to implement the Plan. Our faculty approved the Plan by a vote of 42 to 5, a margin of almost 90%.

This fall we will develop an implementation plan—with goals, timetables, specific assignments, and metrics—to ensure that our 2015 Plan becomes reality.

You can read an Executive Summary of our 2015 Plan, or the full 2015 Plan on our website. You also can see our accomplishments under our 2009 Plan.


1: This number differs from the 89% figure we reported last spring as the result of data errors by the state bar in identifying first-time versus repeat takers.

2: The Professional Rate includes all Bar Required, JD Advantage and Other Professional jobs and divides that by the total number of graduates who were seeking work. It omits nonprofessional positions. And, consistent with U.S. Department of Labor methodology, it also excludes graduates who were not known to be in the labor market. We count Bar Required, JD Advantage and Other Professional jobs because we believe they are generally good employment outcomes. Similarly, we include part-time and temporary positions because they are often stepping stones to full-time, long-term jobs.

3: For the classes of 2010 through 2013, these figures reflect our graduates’ employment status as of February 15 of the year following graduation. Beginning with the class of 2014, the ABA changed the reporting date to March 15 of the year following graduation.

4: Due to different reporting standards when we reported on the class of 2010, these figures are estimates based on available data from that class.