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Message from Admissions

When I first returned to the Law School to work as an administrator (having graduated in 1992 and then practicing law for seven years), I was for two years the judicial clerkship advisor in the Office of Career Planning. When I transitioned to Admissions in 2001, my time in practice and my advising experience informed my new work: Long before the economic contraction of 2008 brought the issue to the forefront, it was already very clear to me that people choose law school because they are intent on pursuing a particular sort of career. When I was asked to supervise the Office of Career Planning in 2010, that conviction was only strengthened.

 



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If you’re wading through a 3-foot stack of glossy mailings from law schools all over the country, you may be finding it difficult to decipher how all of the touted resources translate into practical advantages for you and the career you envision. Here are just a few Michigan Law resources that are rare among law schools, and even rarer to find aggregated, along with my take on why you should care:
  • For almost two decades, Michigan’s Legal Practice Program has been molding small classes of 25 or fewer 1Ls into excellent legal researchers and writers. Full-time faculty with many years of experience as practitioners, rather than fellow students or recent graduates, will meet with you one-on-one over the course of your first year to give meaningful, repeated, consistent feedback on your work. As a result, employers regularly report that Michigan students reliably deliver high-quality research and drafting in their first summer jobs, performing as well as or better than 2Ls and recent grads from other schools. Want specialized expertise? Michigan offers upper-level writing courses in transactional drafting, negotiation, appellate practice, bankruptcy, dispute resolution, and securities regulation; most schools offer no upper-level writing instruction at all.
  • In our 17 different clinical programs and our brand-new Transactional Lab, you can perform both litigation and transactional work for real clients in beginning in your 2L year. In all but a handful of other states, only 3L students can represent clients in court, while 2Ls are relegated to supporting research roles. Our early start allows students time to try out more than one practice area, or to develop expertise by in an advanced clinic working on increasingly complex cases. Apart from that, it means that whatever term you participate in a clinic, you will be stretching yourself and growing as a professional.
  • A recent survey by New York Law Journal reported that 70% of legal employers wanted law schools to focus more on transnational studies and offer study-abroad opportunities. Michigan was the first top law school to require that all students study transnational law (with a correspondingly high number of advanced international law classes), and our opportunities to study and work abroad are unsurpassed. Michigan students can spend a semester doing high-level work at one of about 20 UN agencies and international NGOs in Geneva; studying at Waseda University Law School in Tokyo; providing on-the-ground legal services assistance in South Africa; or researching European Union legal issues at the European University Institute in Florence. And that’s just scratching the surface of some of the most popular offerings.
  • In the same survey, every single responding employer said they’d like law grads to have a better understanding of the practice of law as a business. Michigan offers an abundance of courses to help you do just that: whether learning how to read financial statements in Accounting for Lawyers or exploring the foundations of running a business in Business Basics for Lawyers, Business Economics for Lawyers, Management and  Organizations for Lawyers, Marketing for Lawyers, or Operations for Lawyers, you will be far better informed than most of your peers at other schools. And if you want more, just walk across the street to the world-famous Ross School of Business, and consider a completely different array of possibilities!
  • Which leads nicely to this point: Michigan Law is unusually interdisciplinary among top law schools. Now, interdisciplinarity is sometimes derided as highly impractical, purely theoretical training, but that’s wildly misguided. Law doesn’t arise in a vacuum: Learning how to approach legal problems through the lens of diverse intellectual and professional perspectives is key to success as an advocate and counselor. Whether it’s the large number of law professors holding joint appointments in other schools or departments, or the number who have graduate degrees in other fields, or the ease with which our students can count up to 12 credits of coursework at any of the University’s other excellent graduate programs toward their JD, or the number who participate in one of our 14 established dual degree programs (or simply create their own), we demonstrate at every turn our recognition of the academic foundations necessary for producing the most sophisticated problem-solving lawyers in the country.

Our commitment to training the best possible lawyers is matched by our commitment to providing them with the widest variety of legal practice opportunities, in both geographic and substantive terms. Michigan Law grads have, for decades, gone to an average of more than 30 states a year. No more than four other law schools are so truly national in scope, and it means that no matter what market you want to be able to consider, you will find Michigan Law alumni who have already paved the way. This geographic reach also means that about 500 of the largest legal employers (typically law firms) from every major market (whether on a coast or in between) find their way to Ann Arbor during our Early Interview Week in August—with an array of others finding their way here throughout the remainder of the academic year. Likewise, Michigan Law students succeed in exceptional manner in their pursuit of judicial clerkships: In 2013 alone, more than 100 Michigan Law grads began a clerkship, covering virtually every federal circuit and even spanning the globe. For those who plan to work in the public interest, enrolling at this great public institution means becoming part of a vaunted tradition. Whether with the government or a nonprofit, our graduates are everywhere, consistently demonstrating one of the largest percentages among top schools of graduates pursuing public service.  Finally, if you’re planning a career in academia, you will be in exceptional company: Our Michigan Aspiring Academics Camp and Student Research Roundtable are just two resources that keep as Michigan Law among the top-five feeders for legal academia.

There are endless reasons to choose Michigan for your legal studies—our brilliant, diverse, accessible, and world-renowned faculty; our famously collegial students; our stunning architecture (newly expanded and newly renovated); our quintessential college-town setting;—but all of that means little if we can’t get you where you want to go. Contrary to conventional wisdom about what you can expect at the nation’s top law schools, Michigan offers practical, discipline-specific instruction and real-world experience in addition to a rigorous theoretical education. Whatever your plans for the future, I am confident that Michigan Law can help you achieve them. I’m delighted that you’re taking a close look.

Sarah C. Zearfoss
Senior Assistant Dean
The University of Michigan Law School 

 
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