Northwestern Law was originally founded as the Union College of Law and unaffiliated with a university. It joined Northwestern in 1881. Today, the school has a broad reputation for academic quality, focusing on practical skills like trial advocacy and legal writing for which Northwestern was ranked No. 3 and No. 8, respectively, by U.S. News & World Report's
2009 assessments. Northwestern Law is also known for its selection criteria for admission; the school emphasizes work experience, and 95 percent of its 2008 incoming class has at least one year in the workplace. This results in an older than average student population, which the school says makes a more collegial atmosphere. Another element of Northwestern's admissions process that is unique among law schools is its interview. The school interviews most of its candidates, a policy that also contributes to the school's unique atmosphere.
In addition to the standard first-year classes, Northwestern requires 1Ls to participate in the Lawyer as Problem Solver program, which includes seminars emphasizing negotiating skills. Northwestern Law collaborates with the Kellogg School of Management to offer the popular JD/MBA program, completed in three years. In 2009, the school introduced a new accelerated JD program, allowing students to earn their degree in two years, rather than the usual three.
Students in Vault's surveys are quick to praise the school's career center and alumni network, which work to net graduates top spots in private law firms as well as the public sector--in 2006 alone, the school sent three graduates to judicial clerkships at the Supreme Court. Northwestern's Chicago location can't be beat for access to nightlife, but, as in all major cities, the cost of living is fairly high.