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Justice in Paradise at University of Miami's School of Law

By David Boegaard

The decision to attend law school is rightly fraught with stress. Applicants often neglect to consider factors outside ranking; students who attend a school that's a bad fit or in the wrong location, often find themselves unhappy and lacking in a strong professional network that can help establish a successful legal career. The University of Miami School of Law (Miami Law) is the premier school in a young and booming city. With innovative clinics and a forward-looking mentality, Miami Law stands out as a future leader in legal education for Florida and beyond.

The University of Miami School of Law was founded in 1926, graduating its first class three years later. Today, Miami Law is the premier law school in South Florida, and one of only three in Miami-Dade County.

Three factors heavily influence a law school's quality and fit: the attributes of students the school attracts, the distinction of the faculty, and the location of the school. Miami Law is distinguished in each of these areas.

Miami Law receives far more candidates than it has spots each year, and applies high standards to the selection process. "Miami Law looks for applicants who have done well academically and earned strong LSAT scores," says Therese Lambert, Director of Student Recruitment for Miami Law. But the school also seeks to attract people who have proven themselves in the world and know what they want from their legal education, adds Lambert. "We want individuals who have been engaged in activities outside of their own small corner of well-being, who are not myopic in their vision of the world, and who say 'Let's GO' when presented with a challenge."

The law school's selection process encourages a kind of student who is dedicated, sophisticated, and acutely pragmatic, often a make or break the experience for students.

"Law school is not for spectators," says Lambert. "Applicants who show that they are proactive in grabbing opportunities to develop intellectually, professionally, and personally are the ones we love to see."

Many of the successful applicants to Miami Law have been out of school for some time, testing themselves in the world and learning skills. Hopefully their experiences have led them to an increased focus on concrete goals they would like to accomplish with their law degree. "While prospective students don't need to know precisely how they plan to use the JD degree," says Lambert, "they do need to have the skills, motivation, and discipline to meet the challenges of law school and practice."

Having a variety of backgrounds and interests leads to a rich and diverse student body. "The multidimensional aspects of the student body are what drive the classroom discussion, the range of student organizations, guest speakers, and community outreach," says Lambert.

The student body has a profound effect on the student experience, but it's equaled by the location. Just six miles south of Miami itself, Miami Law students develop a network of alumni practitioners during law school. And Miami is a great place to be located -- a place exploding with growth and excitement. "We are a school on the move in a city on the move, and our students are learning within the context of this exciting period," says Lambert. And Miami Law is working hard to take advantage of the many opportunities that the city offers.

Ultimately, a big part of any law student's experience will be the classroom experience. Fortunately, says Lambert, Miami Law is working hard to build programs that create a law school with a dynamism and strength that will match the city. One of their fundamental approaches is by making sure that students get hands-on experience through clinics, internships, and externships, as well as access to many interdisciplinary programs and joint degree programs throughout the University of Miami. "Miami Law's innovative and interdisciplinary programs are extensive and taught by our own excellent faculty as well as visiting professors from across the globe," says Lambert.

The most recent years have been hard on the legal market, but now appears to be a good time to apply to law schools, with employer demand increasing and enrollments at their lowest level in decades. A law degree from a good institution is a valuable resource, notes Lambert. "Having a law degree puts you in an elite 0.4% of the population, and clearly is advantageous in almost every setting from law firm practice to entrepreneurial ventures, legislation, corporate work, public service and extensive non-traditional practices."

While legal education trains people to be lawyers, the skills are widely applicable. A person with legal training will have a better shot at a variety of jobs, and the education gives such a breadth of knowledge and understanding of institutional structures that it is the degree of choice for people striving to excel in a broad range of professions.

Miami Law provides a excellent education in the fundamentals and practice of law. With the city as the backdrop and the testing-ground, students engage in innovative courses from renowned faculty. Miami is a city with the future in its sights, and Miami Law is the perfect preparation for bright, focused young people seeking to make their mark in this booming city. Of course, it doesn't hurt that students can enjoy the beach or nightlife, or even just by going outside and basking in the warm sun.

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