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U. of Denver Law School Trains Grads for 'More-for-Less' Market

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 19, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

University of Denver's Law School will be getting a new dean this July, Mr. Bruce P. Smith. Mr. Smith will be moving to Sturm from U. of Illinois where he served a dean from 2009 to 2016 and has much private sector business experience as a lawyer for the NFL.

On the top of Smith's to-do list will be to push the school's current project to get new grads ready for the current "more-for-less" legal market.

Belt Tightening -- in Schools and in Firms

Smith has observed massive changes in the legal industry that have affected everyone, especially recent graduates. Many of these feel unprepared to deal with the new legal landscape. It does not help that law school dogma has generally sworn allegiance to the "we don't change for anything" oath. If schools have changed anything recently, it's generally in terms of being flexible with admissions standards.

But grads also face changes that make things harder on the private front. Smith calls this the "more-for-less" market. Law firms are trimming down the number of openings for summer associates and demand that students be more prepared for whatever job they land despite the increasing challenges at school and thinning wallets.

Other Non-J.D. Programs

Smith thinks that U. of Denver's law school is well positioned to meet the need of the new market. One strategy is to offer legal educations that do not necessary terminate in a J.D. In fact, the school has had non-J.D. offerings on the menu since the 1970s. Enrollment in such programs has actually seen somewhat of a spike in recent years.

But traditional J.D. students can also look forward to full support from the new dean for additional programs that will teach students practical skills needed for a legal market that is increasingly looking less lawyer-like and more legal hybrid. Firms have complained for many years that new grads are woefully underprepared for handling basic tasks such as filing, intake, and other requisite procedure duties. Hopefully, the new dean will address these issues, too.

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