The National Jurist PreLaw magazine has announced this year’s “Best Schools for Practical Training” for 2017 and UMKC School of Law has made the list for the second year in a row. UMKC Law was also listed in the Top 15 Schools for Technology Law Offerings.

This year, on the list for “Best Schools for Practical Training” the UMKC School of Law is listed under the Honor Roll for B+ Schools. The rankings are based upon experimental learning opportunities which includes clinics, externships, simulation courses and inter-school competitions. 

UMKC Law has continually made strides to improve the experiential learning for students. These opportunities better prepare students to hit the ground running upon graduation. By providing practical training opportunities, UMKC Law allows students to experience the rewards of helping others, especially those with limited means, and show them that they will have impact as future attorneys.

Students do more than argue in front of moot court: they handle real cases, real clients. They are led to competitions by professors like S. Rafe Foreman and Michaelle Tobin; they file, research, build cases, and negotiate. With UMKC’s close relationship with the bench and bar in the area, students also have numerous field placement opportunities, and about half of all students take advantage of these opportunities. Field placement courses place students in live law offices and judicial chambers, working side-by-side with mentor attorneys, practicing law. On the academic side, students in field placement courses (called interns or externs), participate in tutorials or seminar to explore the nature of practice, professional judgment, and related issues.

UMKC Law also has on-campus clinics for a hands-on, applied learning experience: the Appellate Practice Clinic, the Child and Family Services Clinic, the Guardian ad Litem Clinic, the Entrepreneurial Legal Services Clinic, the Kansas City Tax Clinic, and the Midwest Innocence Project.

In the past few years, UMKC has developed courses and opportunities that expose students to the intersection of law and technology. The School of Law went so far as to declare 2016 as The Year of Technology, introducing an emphasis on training the lawyers of tomorrow, which led to the Top 15 ranking in the list of law schools that offer technology law programs.  Prelaw graded the law schools based on the breadth of the curricular offerings. The score was weighted as follows: 30% for a concentration, 24% for a clinic, 12% for a center, 12% for an externship, 9% for a journal, 8% for a student group, and 5% for a certificate. An A represents a score of 90% or higher, an A- is 78% to 89%, and a B+ is 72 % to 77%

The Year of Technology focused on provides high-quality hardware and software, integrating law and technology in innovative courses, creating strong interdisciplinary and inter-institutional partnerships, and introducing students to the myriad of opportunities for lawyers with strong technical skills.

UMKC School of Law offers technology courses such as the Law, Technology and Public Policy course. This studio course involves the creation of interdisciplinary teams of MIT graduate students with UMKC Law and graduate students to assist the cities of Kansas City, MO and Boston, MA, in redesigning their city permit processes. This special project will focus on two permit processes and examine the associated business processes as well as the municipal ordinances surrounding those permits. A focus on real estate or development permits are priority. UMKC law students learn important insights into the value of effective use of technology in improving law and law-related processes, access to law, the shaping of public policies and lawyering though hands-on “hacking” of problems/challenges.

In 2016, UMKC Law also participated in and hosted many innovative events to encourage collaboration among city officials, entrepreneurs, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and other legal experts. The school participated in a Kauffman Foundation Workshop and hosted its third Prototype Jam to assist start-ups and entrepreneurs using design thinking. The School also hosted Hack KC, the local version of the National Day of Civic Hacking in June 2016, which brought together students, developers, government employees, developers, community members, and designers to showcase and refine civic applications and tools. Proving that our students are on the cutting-edge and learning new ways of thinking about law and technology, a group of four students also won the first Thompson Reuters Product Design Challenge in November 2016.

Although the Year of Technology came to a close at the end of 2016, the efforts to improve and develop the law, technology, and entrepreneurship program continue to grow. This includes the Legal Technology Laboratory (LTL), an emerging initiative that connects legal technology and legal education communities to establish a new form of prototyping and development capability for new and innovative legal technologies.

Being recognized by The National Jurist Prelaw magazine demonstrates that UMKC Law has the ability to best prepare their students not only to become sufficient in legal knowledge and develop real, practical skills but also to be competent in adapting cutting-edge technologies to thrive in the 21st century.