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According to Notre Dame's 2018 ABA-required disclosures, 86% of the Class of 2019 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment ten months after graduation. 41.5% of the Class of 2019 accepted positions at Large Firms, while 11.9% accepted Federal Clerkships, and 17.6% of the Class of 2019 Graduates accepted public service positions.
The school enrolls about 600 students and in addition to the J.D. degree it also offers dual JD-MBA and several a dual J.D. and Masters combined degrees (including JD/MS, JD/MA, JD/M.Eng.). It also offers the only American Bar Association-approved, year-long, study-abroad program, which is based in London.
Notre Dame Law School opened in February 1869. It was the second Catholic law school opened in the United States, and the oldest in continuous operation. The first was the law school of Saint Louis University, which opened in 1843 but closed soon after in 1847 (it was then re-opened in 1908). Despite its humble beginning, right from the start, the Law School required law students to have completed previous education in a thorough course in the liberal arts. This was uncommon at the time when Law School applicants only had to be 18. The first faculty consisted of only four professors, with the most prominent being Lucius Tong and Timothy Howard. The first class graduated in 1871 and consisted of three students.
The reading room of the Kresge Law Library, in Biolchini Hall
"Colonel" Hoynes era
The Arch connecting Eck (left) and Biolchini (right) Halls
One of the most important names in the history of the school was "Colonel" William J. Hoynes. He was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1847 and emigrated with his parents at age seven. He fought for the Union Army during the American Civil War. After the war, he was a student at Notre Dame from 1867 to 1872, and later went to Brunswick, New Jersey where he was editor of the Daily Times. Hoynes later attended the University of Michigan Law School where he obtained his LL.B. In 1882, Rev. Walsh, then the president of the University, invited Hoynes to take control of the Law School, which was in demise. Hoynes accepted Rev. Walsh's offer in 1883, and taught classes in the Main Administration Building and in Sorin Hall where a large room permitted him to set up a "Moot Court". The course of study was extended from two to three years. Hoynes was assisted in various subjects by John Ewing and Lucius Hubbard of South Bend. Under his tenure, enrollment in the law school began to rise immediately.
The university restored the old building of the Institute of Technology after it was damaged by fire in 1916, and renamed it Hoynes Hall in honor of Dean William Hoynes. It was given to the exclusive use of the law students who moved there from Sorin Hall. After the Law School moved to its own building, Hoynes Hall housed the Architecture Department until 1963 and the Psychology Department until 1974, and then was renamed Crowley Hall and became the house of the Music Department since 1976. In 1925 John Whitman was appointed by Dean Thomas Konop as the first Law School librarian, and the collection grew to 7,000 volumes. In 1921 Maxine Evelyn Ryer became the first woman to study law at Notre Dame and the first woman to practice law in St. Joseph County, Indiana. In 1944, statues by Eugene Kormendi were added to the building as part of a campus beautification project.
On October 7, 1930, the Law School was transferred to the new building located on Notre Dame Avenue. The beautiful Gothic building, which still stands today, has a large reading room. The second librarian, Lora Lashbrook, and the third, Marie Lawrence, grew the library's collection to 20,000 volumes by 1952, and 55,000 volumes by 1960. The increase of both the library collection and student population reduced the available space. Regardless, this was balanced by the expansion of the law school funded by a donation from S. S. Kresge, the namesake of the Kresge Law Library. Under the guidance of Dean Lawless the school started one of the nation's first programs allowing law students to study abroad, with a year-long program in London to study the roots of common law. In 1986 a further expansion added the East Reading Room and created the reference librarian offices. In 1990 alumnus John F. Sandner donated funding for the acquisition of the entire 120,000 volume collection of the Chicago Bar Association Library.
In 1970, Graciela Olivarez became the first woman and Latina to graduate from Notre Dame Law School. The next class to graduate women would be 1973.
New resources for scholarship
In 2004, the Kresge Law Library became one of the few academic law libraries to own more than 600,000 volumes. This was accomplished mainly under the tenure of the fifth law librarian, Roger Jacobs, who also served as head librarian of the Library of the United States Supreme Court. Between 2007 and 2008, a new building, the Eck Hall of Law, was constructed to provide the Law School with an additional 85,000 square feet of classroom and office space. In 2010 Robert Biolchini, alumnus and entrepreneur from Tulsa, Oklahoma, funded the renovation of the Kresge Law Library, located in the renamed Biolchini Hall of Law. The renovated Biolchini Hall is 106,500 square feet, has two 50-seat classrooms, a seminar room, 29 group study rooms, and holds 300,000 book volumes and more than 300,000 volumes in microfilm. The total cost of renovations and expansions was approximately 58 million dollars.
Faculty hiring momentum
In recent years, the expanding Notre Dame Law faculty has attracted several accomplished scholars from other top law schools. In 2009, University of Virginia Law School Professor Stephen Smith left a tenured position to join the Notre Dame Law faculty. In 2012, Professor Barry Cushman, the James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of History at the University of Virginia, joined the NDLS faculty. In 2017, it was announced that private law theorist Paul Miller from McGill University would join the Notre Dame faculty. Samuel Bray, a remedies theorist previously teaching at UCLA law, joined the faculty in 2018. During the same period, long-time Notre Dame professors have been invited for visiting faculty positions at Harvard, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago law schools.
Expanded urban presence in DC and Chicago
In 2013, new space was secured for the Notre Dame Law in Chicago program, which allows ND Law students to pursue their studies from an urban campus in downtown Chicago ("in the Loop"). In 2015, in partnership with Kirkland & Ellis, the law school debuted its Notre Dame Law in DC program, which allows students to spend a semester studying in Washington, DC.
Admission to Notre Dame Law School is highly selective. For the class entering in the fall of 2020, the median LSAT score was 167 and the median undergraduate GPA was 3.75.
Notre Dame Law School is ranked 22nd among the nation's "Top 100 Law Schools" by U.S. News & World Report and 16th by Above The Law in their annual Top 50 Law School Rankings. The law School is a top 10 runner up for Elite Litigation boutique hiring.
The Law School grants the professional Juris Doctor, Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees. The Master of Laws program can be pursued either at the main campus in South Bend or at the Law School's London Law Centre in the United Kingdom. The law school also offers a Master of Science in Patent Law, Certificate in Patent Prosecution, and LL.M. in International Human Rights Law.
Job and clerkship placement
In the class of 2019, 167 out of 193 graduates (86%) secured full-time, long-term employment requiring passage of the bar exam within ten months of graduation. The top 3 most popular destinations for graduates in the class of 2018 were Illinois (21.7%), New York (10.6%), and California (9.5%). Furthermore, 41.5% of graduates in the class of 2019 found employment in large law firms (100+ attorneys) and 11.9% pursued federal clerkships. Notre Dame has been recognized as a feeder school for federal clerks and in recent years has placed a higher percentage of its graduates as federal clerks than other top law schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Columbia Law School.
The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Notre Dame Law School for the 2020-2021 academic year is $84,230.
Former main entrance to Notre Dame Law School; the new Eck Hall of Law opened in 2009.
Notre Dame Law School is located in the heart of Notre Dame's campus and it housed in the Eck and Biochini Halls, two buildings connected by a suspended walkway.
Biolchini Hall was designed by architect Charles Donagh Maginnis in 1930 and serves as a prominent example of collegiate Gothic architecture. It was renovated in 2010 thanks to a gift from Robert Biolchini and renamed to its current name. The Kresge Law Library is located in Biochini Hall, while most of the classrooms are in Eck Hall. Funding for the law library was provided by businessman S.S. Kresge, the founder of what is now Sears Holding Corporation. In 2004, the Kresge Law Library became one of the few academic law libraries to own more than 600,000 volumes. This was accomplished mainly under the tenure of the fifth law librarian, Roger Jacobs, who also served as head librarian of the Library of the United States Supreme Court.
Eck Hall was built in 2010. The $57-million building was connected to the original building through a suspended walkway that hosts a common area. Eck's 85,500 square feet of space include classrooms, faculty offices, and administrative space. The building also hosts a 205-seat moot courtroom, the Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom, in addition to four lecture halls, five seminar rooms, three skills training rooms, student services and activities center, and a chapel. The building was named in honor of school graduate, benefactor, and advisor Frank E. Eck.
The Law School also hosts a legal aid clinic in South Bend.
Despite having smaller graduating classes than most of America's top law schools, Notre Dame's alumni roster includes a range of distinguished jurists, advocates, politicians, and business leaders.