1:22 PMThe University of Michigan Law School - TLS wiki
Michigan Law is situated on one of the most attractive campuses in the country and located in the vibrant college town of Ann Arbor. This perennial top-10 law school continues to attract applicants of the highest caliber each year, including students from across the country and around the world who are looking for a top-notch legal education in a collaborative environment. While being quick to point out that law school is a lot of work, students often rave about their experiences at Michigan.
The school does not have one primary legal market that it feeds; it has a national reputation among both employers. Unfortunately, its employment scores have taken a hit in the past few years relative to its peers-at 82.5%. Michigan's Law School Transparency employment score is almost 12 percentage points lower than those of competitors Virginia and Penn.
The application fee is $75. Merit-based fee waivers are disbursed via the LSAC's Candidate Referral Service (largely based on LSAT score and GPA), and a limited number of need-based fee waivers may be obtained by emailing the office .
Current students hold almost a reverence for the admissions office, a sentiment perhaps best exemplified by their eagerness to encourage prospective students to attend. "Student involvement in admissions here is ridiculous. Everyone wants to do tours. They have to turn people away," a 1L said. More than a few students claimed that while a school of around 1,100 will invariably have its schmucks, they're confident that Michigan has a much smaller percentage of such classmates than other top schools because of the comprehensive application review process.
Dean of Admissions Sarah Zearfoss said in an exclusive interview with TLS that the public nature of Michigan Law's admissions process ensures that the staff takes a holistic approach. Zearfoss mentioned the landmark 2003 Grutter'v. Bollinger case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan Law's admissions policy of considering race as one of many factors, and regular Freedom of Information Act requests as "countervailing pressures" against inconsistent admissions policies or simply trying to raise its medians while placing little weight on an applicant's other qualities.
"Even when we took race into account as a factor in admissions-which we no longer do [in accordance with the 2006 state constitutional amendment that banned race-, gender- and nationality-based affirmative action in Michigan]-but even when we did, we said that it is not the only thing-it wasn't only race that mattered along with LSAT and GPA. There are many other things that matter," she said.
In terms of graduate studies, one's GPA isn't a real factor in admissions, since it's difficult to compare grades across different graduate programs. "It's more the fact of your having done the graduate work; that's what's important," Dean Zearfoss said.
As admissions are rolling, applicants are encouraged to "apply as early as you can submit a good, careful application," Dean Zearfoss said. "For Michigan, I would consider anyone who submits prior to mid-December as being early' in the process. In contrast, people who submit in late January and beyond are submitting at the tail end, when we have made about 75% of our decisions, and seats are becoming more scarce."
Michigan offers a binding Early Decision option for those who are sure that Michigan is their first choice. ED applicants must have their applications complete by Nov. 15 and must be ready to start school in the summer term, in late May. With law school applications tanking. however, students would be wise to maximize their opportunities for merit scholarships by avoiding binding ED programs.
Dean Zearfoss encourages applicants to write one or two of the optional essays, as "sometimes people blow it on the personal statement, and that extra essay really gives me an important piece of information." Students widely recommend writing the "Why Michigan" essay, as admissions offices are interested in students who seem committed to the school. Dean Zearfoss said that students could "absolutely" write that essay on nonacademic factors, like geographical reasons or having family members nearby. She also discouraged regurgitating information from the website, saying that applicants should instead truly consider what draws them to Michigan. "It's just not worth it to write one if it's pro forma (as we say in the law). You shouldn't do it."
Like most other schools, Michigan will report an applicant's highest LSAT score, but still look at all of them. Dean Zearfoss said each applicant's situation dictates which scores are weighted more heavily for admissions:
Let's say we see a 150, a 151, and then a 170. In that situation, I would want to hear some explanation for why the person thinks there was that distinction, but assuming there was some sensible story-I don't really have any presupposition about what that story should be, I just want to hear what the story is. Assuming there's some sensible explanation there, I would not hesitate to put more weight on the 170. Let's say the pattern was a 165, a 167, and a 169. You can't really go up usually too much on the LSAT-in general, the people who take it multiple times score within two or three points. So you would expect someone who took it twice to go up two or three points, just from more familiarity with the test, all other things being equal. So taking it two more times and going up two more points, I would put more weight in that instance on the mean score: the 167. I would think that would actually be the one that's more predictive.
"You should certainly be doing something every summer," Dean Zearfoss said. She continued:
If you have to earn money, that's fine-you should just be earning money. But it is also impressive if you can combine what you need to do, in terms of earning money, with some effort to explore your interest in the law. So maybe you could volunteer two hours a week at the American Civil Liberties Union answering phones, or at legal services in whatever town you're in, or any one of a jillion nonprofit legal organizations. Or you could try to get an internship for a few weeks so you could still earn money for the bulk of the summer. That would be, I think, a smart and impressive thing to do.
Michigan awards scholarships of various sizes, with an applicant's LSAT score and GPA being the greatest determinants. The median grant amount in was $15,000. Dean Zearfoss said that "we also pay attention to what the schools that we compete with give out, and we allow people who don't make our initial criteria to let us know about those offers and sometimes we try to compete with those."
For the cream of the crop, Michigan awards a very select number of Darrow Scholarships. which can be up to full tuition along with a living stipend. In determining who receives them, Zearfoss said, "LSAT and GPA certainly play a role, but it's something much more than that. It's such a small handful of people. They have to be very bright, but there is neither a floor nor a ceiling for the LSAT and GPA on that-it's really more what will this person bring that is completely different and special."
Michigan formerly had a controversial program called Wolverine Scholars, which allowed University of Michigan undergraduates with 3.8 GPA or above to apply to Michigan Law without an LSAT score. The program quietly disappeared in after a scandal broke involving a similar program at the University of Illinois.
As professor Gil Seinfeld said, "Any profile that was written about the University of Michigan Law School that didn't emphasize its cultural uniqueness would be missing the point on some level, because it's such a palpable part of the experience of so many people here, in so many different ways." A plurality of administrators, faculty, and students insist that a-if not the -major draw of Michigan is the laid-back nature of the law school community.
One student said a reason he came to Michigan over other, more prestigious schools is because it had "more culture to it" and didn't seem so "fake and manufactured."
"This culture grew up some number of years ago and it perpetuates itself," Seinfeld said. "When new students and faculty enter, they seem to absorb it and-since it agrees with so many of us-continue it."
Michigan's total enrollment of about 1,100 students makes it the fifth largest of the top 20 schools in the Above the Law ranking. as of the - school year. Unlike peer public schools in which the class is heavily composed of in-state residents (UVA hits about 40%, while Texas can't legally matriculate more than 35% nonresident students), only about 20% of Michigan Law students hail from the state.
Even if they don't transform into Michigan football diehards (although "most students go to at least a few games"), law students still say they feel a strong link to Michigan, sometimes even more so than to their undergraduate institutions.
Evan Caminker, the former dean of the law school who was replaced in by Mark West, conjectured that much of the famed culture of Michigan Law might stem from its locale. He said:
Schools that are in big cities inevitably have a lot of the energy sort of dissipated or sucked out of them. A lot of faculty in big city law schools have other places to be at all times-they may be Of Counsel to law firms or other organizations, they have reasons not to be in the law school, and there are commuting issues that make it easier not to be in the law school except right around the time that they're teaching. The same is actually true for students-a lot of students at big city law schools have reasons not to be at the law school. Law schools in big cities don't necessarily reflect a lot of energy.
The energy and intensity here is actually incredible, and the community here is incredible. One of the hallmarks of Michigan Law-what makes it distinct from other law schools-is a very community-oriented, collaborative student body that enjoys each other, that enjoys working with the faculty. Part of it is that this is really the perfect-sized town in which to be educated. There's a lot going on, so you can have a lot of fun, but the law school is still a focal point for people's activities.
There are lots of things that help create this very communal, collegial environment, and being in Ann Arbor is one of them.
Professor Seinfeld referenced mini-seminars. in which a small group of students meets for class at a professor's house, as an example of how the law school's setting adds to its dynamic. "This sort of thing isn't possible if you have faculty that's really scattered, whereas a very large fragment of our faculty lives within about a three-minute drive from the law school, and many people live within walking distance. That's one way in which we're just able to create a real sense of community and leverage the proximity of the faculty."
An oft-heard refrain from current students to prospective ones is to "come here for the people." The two adjectives most frequently used by students interviewed for this profile to describe their classmates were "smart" and "down-to-earth." "I was expecting to meet a lot of immature students, but I met a lot of people who are just very, very humble and cool people and mature, who I would like to keep knowing outside of law school when I graduate," a rising 2L said.
Though Michigan cannot legally employ affirmative action in its admissions after a state ban passed, Michigan is still composed of a heterogeneous student body. diversified by geography, race, educational background, and experiences.
"When Michigan talks about diversity, they're really serious about it," a rising 3L said. "I've really noticed the diversity at Michigan, and it's been fantastic. I've had great conversations with people across the ideological spectrum and the economic spectrum."
Typical law school stereotypes seem to dissolve at Michigan, and without a single social group or academic persuasion sticking out amongst the student body, it becomes harder to typecast (as opposed to some law schools, which can have reputations for being particularly studious, business-minded, or fratty). "You see all stripes and kinds," one student said. "I'd find it hard to imagine a type of student who couldn't succeed here. I guess if you were a jerk. Well actually, we have a few jerks here, too, so maybe that's not true."
Students said that as often happens with other law schools, the social circles can have a "high-school-ish tinge" to them. Since the law school is so much smaller than most undergraduate colleges, "groups easily form, and they're more salient." Though the cliques aren't exclusive or catty, students said, gossip travels faster, and "people tend to know each other's business."
Michigan Law has several policies and practices in place in order to curb the inherent competition that comes with a classwide curve. The school does not publish class rank until graduation, and GPAs aren't public knowledge, either. Scholarships are not revoked if a certain GPA isn't attained, and students aren't selected for Michigan Law Review strictly based on grades.
One student seemed to speak for the rest of his classmates when he said, "People here work really hard, but it's a difference between working really hard and pushing it in someone's face."
A student who transferred to Michigan from a top-50 public law school said: "It's more competitive at Michigan. The professors are better. It is a more rigorous academic environment. The reasons that I transferred to Michigan were those. People stay way later at the library at night, and they're all prepared, which is awesome."
When asked in what sense the school was more competitive, he said that students at his old school would often just do what was needed to be done and then go off to party, whereas people at Michigan were more studious and focused on doing their work and doing well.
Despite the economic downturn's creating a more uncertain job market, one student said, he hasn't felt an increase in competition to score top grades. "I think that there's a competition among law students, period. I think Michigan probably does a better job than most in trying to deal with that. The fact that we don't publish your GPA and don't publish your class ranking makes the law school a lot better than peer institutions where that information is available. I think that a lot of the competition among students, whatever there is, kind of peters out by the time you're a second-year or third-year student."
Another student said, "People are overachieving and work really hard and care about doing well, but not at the expense of others or anything." Classmates frequently share notes and outlines, and 1L study groups are common.
Dean Caminker weighed in, saying:
I think it also matters that people don't really view themselves as in competition with every one of their classmates for a set of jobs down the street, because you know that you and your classmates are going to be looking for a wide variety of different kinds of jobs in different places-you don't always feel that everybody in your study group is going to be applying for exactly the same job at exactly the same set of five different New York or D.C. or San Francisco law firms in two years. There are all sorts of ways in which our students look out for or take care of each other.
Incoming law students are often warned of infamous "gunners," and Michigan is not immune from them. Most students said they had at most one or two "over-eager" students in their 90-person sections. "We had one," a student said, "but I never considered her to be cutthroat, in the sense that I never felt she was out to get anyone else. She just participated left and right."
A rising 2L said:
To some degree, we'll police ourselves. Here, people don't feel like they don't need to jump on top of other people to do well. There will be some people who raise their hands all the time, and someone just says, like, "Dude, that's ridiculous." If people acted ridiculous or overly competitive we kind of worked it out amongst ourselves, where the person will eventually get it that "Wow, maybe I should chill out."
Like any elite law school, Michigan has a first-rate roster of faculty. Most students said professors were great, with the caveat that "some are more entertaining than others."
"I like all of them," a rising 2L said. "Some of them are really cool and down-to-earth, and some are really arrogant, but what do you expect? They're all the most brilliant persons in their field. They've written books and all that stuff. Academics, by their nature, are going to be somewhat pretentious."
Professor Gil Seinfeld, a popular professor among students, said: "The faculty here is committed to the student body as teachers, and committed to the student body professionally-to help them find the best spot professionally-and committed to them as people, to make sure they're having a positive experience in a way that I would be surprised if many institutions could match. I think it's a defining quality of the law school."
A student who transferred here from a top-50 public school said there was a palpable difference in quality of the professors between the two institutions. "Michigan has, on the whole, a much stronger rock star slate. They're a little less accessible, but I think that's to be expected. I think they're still accessible. If you want to talk to Catharine McKinnon or [others] who are just absolute powerhouses in their fields, you can just walk into their offices."
When asked in what ways Michigan's faculty is less accessible, he said: "There's definitely less office hours and they're less interested in sticking around and talking after class. At my old school they were always hanging out after class and talking-maybe they're busier here."
Nearly every student said that during their 1L year students are usually faces in the crowd, as the majority of classes will have about 90 people. "The distance is already there because of the number of students," a 2L said. Students did say that professors try very hard to learn each 1L's name; one professor uses the official student pictures to memorize every person's name before class starts.
A student who just finished his first year said 1Ls should make the effort in establishing relationships with professors, otherwise it won't happen. "They're not opposed to becoming closer with students-in fact, they encourage it. During office hours they're very helpful; they like to have lunch if you offer it to them. They'll try to arrange things. But it's nowhere near the level of collaboration I had when I was an undergraduate, and that's just the way it's going to be when you have so many students and until you're a 2L or 3L."
Another student added: "It was actually difficult for me coming from a really small liberal arts college where I did know all of my professors on a first-name basis and saw them on campus all the time. I don't have that kind of relationship with most of my professors here. But there are some where if you make the effort, and go to their office hours, yeah, you get to know them."
Students maintain the same section of students for all their first-year doctrinal classes: civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, property, and torts. 1Ls take Legal Practice both semesters, and second-semester 1Ls may choose to take an elective (making it three doctrinal classes plus Legal Practice first semester, and 3 doctrinal classes plus Legal Practice plus possible elective second semester).
Class dynamics vary widely by professor. Some are strictly lecture, some are entirely discussion-based, and there's everything in between. Some professors use PowerPoint in class, yet some don't even use e-mail. A transfer student said the classes are generally bigger at Michigan (but noted that "in the biggest class I took, which was at least 100 people, [the professor] knew everybody's name"). Some of the more popular classes, such as Jurisdiction, can be 130 students, whereas others are 15 students.
Up to 12 credit hours from another Michigan graduate program can count toward your J.D. They are mandatory pass/fail, though, which could raise the eyebrows of some interviewers.
There is only one specifically required class outside the core 1L courses-Transnational Law. which can be taken any time, and has mixed reviews from students. "The Trans Nat requirement sucks," one student said, while others said it's no big deal. The school also has a broader professional responsibility requirement and a writing requirement .
Several students mentioned that the school is open to adjusting its curriculum to meet student needs. "If you can organize other students, if you think there should be a class on X, they've done it. Like, here's 50 people who will sign up for this course if you teach Advanced Patent Law, would you please do that, and they're pretty good at roping professors into doing that," a student said.
A Michigan Law class of roughly 350 students is split up into sixteen sections of about 22, four of which start in late May (the "summer starters," discussed below). Those small sections are usually clumped together in groups of 4, effectively making four sections of about 90 students. Depending on the year and professors, the six 1L doctrinal classes can be groups of either two sections or four sections, with a four-section clumping (the 90-student class) being more common. Both semesters of Legal Practice involve just one small section.
Sections help the school feel smaller ("You get to know who everyone is in your section," one student said. "Small section you'll get to know really well."), but if one doesn't branch out via groups and social events, students can find themselves interacting with the same 90 people all year.
Students say that "overall, most classes are pretty easy to get into." "I think the number of classes that are hard to get into is not that many," another student said. Students warn that some classes are offered only occasionally, so if a particular one looks interesting, take it at the first chance, because it might not be offered again.
Michigan employs a system in which each student gets two "priorities" which they can use for any two classes in their law school career in order to increase their likelihood of enrollment. If a student doesn't get in, her priority is not spent. Students say that though it isn't a guarantee, you'll most likely get in with a priority. "I haven't really heard of people not getting a class with a priority," a student said.
There are also "prof pick" classes, in which professors get a list of students who want in the class. Some require a statement of interest, and generally those students who express a special interest in the class are more likely to be chosen by the professor.
Students may take an elective their second 1L semester, and all recommend taking a lighter class like a seminar or one that requires a paper instead of a final exam. "You have to be a little bit practical, because it will feel like you have everything you had in the fall, plus you have an extra class on top of it," a student said.
About half the professors at Michigan have banned laptops from the classroom, and the practice is becoming increasingly prevalent. "A colleague of mine put it this way: I would sooner allow a troupe of circus performers into my classroom than allow laptop use," professor Seinfeld said.
A student who uses his laptop when it's not banned said, "I don't mind [when they are banned]. I find that it makes classroom more engaging-it definitely keeps me more engaged. Where laptops have been banned, it has been effective."
A particularly neat section of Michigan's curriculum is mini-seminars. one-credit pass/fail classes of about ten or so students, which are held at the professor's house. The subjects are colorful (a couple from last year were "The Greatest Legal Movies" and "Theater and the Moral Foundations of the Law") and class is held in the evenings over dinner or appetizers.
Professor Seinfeld said the students he has the closest relationships with are often those who take his mini-seminars. Last year, he taught one on Law and Pop Lit. "The setting is very informal. My kids tend to be running around, sometimes in their diapers, and that's part of the point, is that you're letting students into your home and just hanging out."
Most all 1L classes at Michigan feature some variation of cold-calling. Though professors try not to skewer people, it certainly happens. A student who transferred from another school said that unlike at his first institution, where students would be asked to simply recite facts, Michigan professors ask more of the students, making a thorough reading of the material a necessity (depending on one's threshold for embarrassment). "At Michigan, Socratic is more actually testing the bounds of what you know and how you can apply what you've read."
After the first year, most professors abandon the standard model of cold-calling, but still expect and reward participation. "As you go on, I would say the Socratic turns into more of an incentivized speaking method, like if you opt in to participate X amount of times, you get 10 points on your final, or something, but if you don't opt in you won't get called on," a student explained.
All first year classes (not counting Legal Practice, which is largely pass/fail, although a very small number of students can get honors or a C) are subject to the curve. along with upper-level classes that have 40 or more students.
The mean GPA target is a 3.19, which a bit lower than most peer schools that still use a traditional grading scale (Cornell's max mean is a 3.35 and Duke's median is a 3.3). A lower mean GPA doesn't affect OCI, since interviewers get schoolwide grade averages.
Professor Seinfeld said it was a fair system: "I've never had a situation where I felt like I want to give this student a better grade but I can't because I'm not allowed to. Your mean average has to be between two poles. You can be at the very harsh end [3.13] or the forgiving end [3.25]."
One-fourth of the entering class starts in May, effectively stretching their 1L year into three semesters, and usually graduating a semester early. The summer start program tends to be quite popular with those who do it. "I really enjoyed the summer start. Ann Arbor is so great in the summer," one student said.
The summer start provides a sort of easing into law school. Students take only legal practice plus two doctrinal classes during their summer semester as opposed to three, allowing students more time to get acquainted with being a law student. Another advantage (or possibly disadvantage) of the summer start is that when applying for 1L summer jobs, students will have an extra semester of grades to show employers.
Since the summer starters are the only students taking classes at the time, "the class tends to be much more closely knit," a student said. Another agreed, saying that "The summer start class is usually closer," with the warning that it was "harder for us to make connections with the fall starters." The summer starters are sometimes referred to as a cult by other students.
She continued: "We were always done with class by noon. We had an IM softball team [and] were able to just go out to restaurants and bars and stuff. It was really laid-back. It was kind of like baby steps into law school. We already knew how the game worked. I think summer starters tend to get involved in the law school a lot more, in terms of student organizations. We get involved earlier. We feel like we can better manage our time."
Though it has its advantages, three semesters of law school in a row can be hard to handle ("That third semester in a row is the craziest burnout you will ever feel," a student said) and summer starters can miss out on some classes that are offered only in the winter semester, since they only have two of those semesters instead of three.
It goes without saying that the studying habits and intensity of Michigan students vary across the board. One student (who emphasized that he is "not the normal student") did about 15-16 hours of law work a day, including classes, during his 1L year. Another said he studied about five hours a day.
"If you want to coast, you can coast," the first student said, who added that he actually studied more in undergrad than in law school.
"When I was a prospective student, someone told me this, and I've actually found it to be pretty true: If you stay on top of your work during the week, you generally have your weekends to you," another student said. "If I know early enough ahead that I can plan around having a social life, it's definitely doable. I probably have more of a social life now than I did in undergrad."
Michigan offers a free tutoring service of upperclassmen who did exceptionally well in 1L classes. While many students endorse the program, they warn that it's hard to come by one-on-one sessions. "I found that the questions my classmates were asking weren't useful to me. I wouldn't blame it on the tutor-it's hard to cater to different needs when you have 3-4 students in the group," a student said. Some students sign up for tutors with their existing study groups in order to ask agreed-upon questions, which they say works well.
Upperclassmen are almost always willing to give their old outlines, and while some 1Ls just use those and don't bother making their own, others say that outlining is their learning process and make fresh ones for each class. Some students don't make outlines at all.
Some tips and methods from top students:
- "I made my outlines early and made it a point to start practice exams as soon as I could. And then I started refining my outlines based on what my practice exams told me. I wanted to get to the point where I didn't look at outlines during finals unless I absolutely had to."
- "I spent some time looking at old exams, looking at law review articles that professors had written. A few things like that can be good because when you get down to the end, everyone is going to have sort of the same concept of the law. The trick is being able to go a little bit beyond what the professor says in class."
- "I had a small study group that started very early on. I wound up studying with them every week through the first semester. That worked pretty well for me because I felt obligated to do the stuff we said we were going to do every week."
- "My 1L year I definitely briefed all my cases on a laptop and then underlined in the book. After my 1L I stopped doing the case briefing and then I'd just underline and write in the margins of the book. I didn't use commercial supplements-I think that was probably a mistake. My strongest piece of advice is: Don't listen to professors when they say not to use supplements."
Professor Seinfeld said students should "work together to make sure they understand materials. Different study groups have different vibes. It should be a collaborative experience."
He also said professors at Michigan encourage students to come to them for help. "I find it just mystifying that students walk into exams knowing that there are things that they don't understand," he said. "It is my job to teach the students the material. Much of that is done through class; some of it is done through office hours, some of it is done by e-mail. I plead with students who know they don't understand things to ask me to explain it to them. It's very frustrating to discover that you might've helped a particular student understand the material better, if only they had asked for guidance."
Students recommended using supplements in order to understand broader concepts, and said that most other students use them to at least some extent. In general, casebooks pose questions but don't provide answers, so commercial supplements can help a student verify that his thinking is on track. Most students added that it's a bad idea to forgo the casebook completely. One student who got top grades his 1L year said he didn't use supplements at all, but that that was "probably a mistake."
Professor Seinfeld on supplements:
I don't have a strong opinion about commercial supplements. I definitely have students who write exams and I can tell when I'm reading them that they're just going through things in the methodical way that comes from a commercial outline, and sometimes I think they suffer for it. They're writing things on their exams that I didn't teach them, or that aren't pertinent to the way I conceptualized the problem, and so I definitely think it can lead you astray in some cases if you're not careful. I also think if you're a very diligent student who's coming to class and reading all the material and, on top of that, you use a commercial outline, so that you know what parts of the commercial outline aren't hitting the material in precisely the way your professor is, there's nothing wrong with using it. Students who use it as a supplement are much better off than students who use it as a replacement for serious engagement with the material as the professor has taught it.
Most students interviewed didn't recommend doing any prep before law school started. A few suggested reading Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams or getting more familiar with basic terms used in torts and contracts. They said while it wouldn't hurt to read cases or hornbooks, it is likely to be a waste of time.
Professor Seinfeld on reading supplements and other law materials before law school:
In terms of incoming law students doing reading over the summer to prepare, I guess my strong instinct is to say that's crazy. If you try and read commercial outlines before you get to law school, you're likely to find that some faculty members' way of teaching and approaching the material will be quite different from what you're going to get out of the commercial outlines, so there's some significant chance that you'll look at a commercial outline and it'll package the material in a certain way and then you'll come into a class and the professor will basically spend a semester saying "Here's how I think about this." Besides being a little early and unnecessary, it runs the risk of being a waste of time.
In response to perennial criticisms that law schools are too theory-based, Michigan has been focusing on increasing practical offerings across the board. Its already robust clinical program has grown in recent years, with additions that include the International Transactions Clinic and the Innocence Clinic.
Students interested in other interdisciplinary pursuits will benefit from the University of Michigan's breadth of opportunities. Known for its top-ranked graduate schools, Michigan offers 14 dual degree programs. along with an ad hoc option to create your own. Students say they hear good things about both the JD/MBA and JD/MPP programs. Even so, be extremely careful before committing an extra year or two of time and tuition money to a dual degree that is more likely to hinder than help you in getting a job as a lawyer.
As far as externships go, 2Ls and 3Ls can earn credits by spending a semester working for a nonprofit or governmental agency of their choosing. Michigan has an extensive list of placement opportunities. including ones in South Africa and Geneva. Students are free to propose their own externship, but in accordance with ABA rules, a Michigan faculty member must do an on-site evaluation, which can be limiting and is an extra hoop to jump through. One student who developed his own externship said, "The proposal process is kind of intense if you do your own thing." It requires finding a faculty sponsor and writing a proposal discussing why you chose that venue and the topic of the mandatory research paper to be graded after completion of the externship.
Michigan has a remarkably diverse set of clinics. and it'd be tough to not find one that suits your interests. "People rave about clinics, and for many students, it's the highlight of their law school career," said a student who participated in the Children's Rights Appellate Practice Clinic. Employers also like to see clinical experience on a resume, and a couple students said that interviewers were very excited to talk about Michigan's clinics. Michigan court rules allow students to argue motions in court and provide direct representation to clients (with supervision of an attorney) after completing their first year of law school.
Though extremely popular, clinics are not exclusive-as one student said, "I don't know anyone that's never gotten a clinic who wanted one. I think anyone that wants to do a clinic will get a clinic at some point in their legal academic career. You might not get it the first time, and you might not get your first choice, but you'll get a clinic."
A student who participated in the Innocence Clinic, which seeks to clear prisoners for which there is new, non-DNA evidence that suggests their innocence, said, "It's definitely been the best experience I've had at law school and sort of life-changing." He had three clients who were all convicted murderers, and he worked with a partner to investigate the new evidence (such as by interviewing witnesses) and argue the case in court.
"Professors are supervisors, but we do all the work," he said. "They check what goes in and out of the office and they help with motions and writing things, but for the most part we do everything. It gets to a point where we know these cases inside and out."
Clinics can last either a semester or a year, and range in the amount of credits they're worth (usually between two and seven credits). Student said the application process is "very simple," as it requires one basic form for all the clinics. Students rank them by preference and include a 100-word response for why they want their first choice.
Michigan's traditionally strong employment numbers have lagged behind those of its peers in recent years, but the school still has a respectable 82.5% employment score for its class of from Law School Transparency. This indicates the number of graduates who obtained full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage nine months after graduation.
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