LSU Law: Far More Than A Common Law School

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the LSU Law Center and to provide you with information on our outstanding program of legal education.

The LSU Law Center owes its distinction among the nation’s great law schools to the special character of Louisiana’s legal system. Dating from the state’s admission into the United States in 1812, this system traces not only to Anglo-American sources in the Common Law but to the Civil Law, a blend of Roman, Spanish, and French legal traditions. Louisiana law, therefore, is global because the Civil Law underpins the legal institutions of Continental nations and their former colonies throughout the world. It is national because federal constitutional and statutory laws are the governing components of the nation’s 50 states. And, it is statewide insofar as the laws of Louisiana are an appropriate object of study for the state’s leading public law school.

Effective in Fall 2002, the LSU Law Center became the sole United States law school and only one of two schools in the Western Hemisphere to offer a course of study leading to the simultaneous conferring of two degrees: the J.D. (Juris Doctor), which is the normal first degree in American law schools, and the G.D.C.L. (Graduate Diploma in Civil Law or the Graduate Diploma in Comparative Law), each of which recognizes the training LSU Law students receive in both the Common and the Civil Law.

This joint degree program reflects the mixed civil and common law tradition of which the Law Center is the unique curator, and the preparation of LSU Law students for practice or service in the global, national, and state arenas. LSU Law equips its students for outstanding practice opportunities in the nation’s other 49 states and constitutes them legal citizens of the globe. Here in Louisiana, the Law Center’s program repeatedly achieves for its students Louisiana’s highest bar passage rate.

Students at LSU Law are trained rigorously in the same common law and federal law subjects that are taught at other leading American law schools. In addition, our students receive the unique perspective of the civil law tradition as it functions here in Louisiana and elsewhere in the world.Thus, the training we offer is not, as it is sometimes misinterpreted, training in a unique legal “gumbo” that can be consumed and applied only in Louisiana. It is rather, demanding American legal training plus in depth training in the civil law.Thus, we like to say that we are “far more than a common law school”.

Law Center Faculty
The national and global dimensions of the LSU Law educational program are paralleled by an outstanding faculty who take pride in excellent classroom teaching and personal interaction with students outside the classroom.We take pride in providing legal education that is demanding yet personal.We urge prospective students to contact present students and recent graduates to confirm this critical hallmark of our program.

Since LSU Law’s founding more than a century ago, our faculty have been leaders in Louisiana law teaching, scholarship, and law reform through their efforts in the classroom, their authorship of the most authoritative Louisiana legal treatises and articles, and their direction of the Louisiana Law Institute, the Louisiana Judicial College, and the LSU Center of Civil Law Studies. National legal developments have likewise been pursued with distinction by professors coming from the nation’s leading law schools, judicial clerkships, law firms, and government posts. Global law, defined as a combination of Civil, Comparative and International Law, has been the province not only of professors expert in Louisiana’s Civil Law system, but of others who have come to the Law Center after achieving international distinction through professional practice and at their home universities in countries as varied as France, Greece, Italy, and Argentina.

Student Life at LSU Law
Located on the beautiful main LSU campus in the state capital of Baton Rouge, LSU Law offers students a unique opportunity to live in a manageable but thriving metropolitan area that also is one of the great university towns in the nation. At the same time, the unique culture and attractions of New Orleans are barely more than an hour away.There is an active program of social activities designed to take full advantage of the LSU ambiance and to build strong relationships among students who hail from 26 states and 8 foreign countries. LSU Law is strongly committed to building a diverse student body in which students are valued and respected without regard to race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. Students of color comprised 15.6 % and 17.7 %, respectively, of the entering classes of 2008 and 2009.

Extensive renovations to the Law Center’s buildings were completed in 2004 at a cost of more than $14 million.The building now features inviting open spaces and state of the art technology, classrooms, and student activity facilities.We have just opened a beautiful, newly renovated space for our growing and thriving clinical legal education program.The new space includes student work rooms, clinical faculty offices, client interview rooms, and conference rooms.

The Law Center prides itself on an accessible faculty that is deeply involved in student life and supportive of student organizations. The multiple resources of one of America’s great research universities are close at hand and readily available for students seeking the advantages of interdisciplinary study, including joint programs in business administration, public administration, and mass communications.

Recent Changes at LSU Law
Working closely with the student leadership of the Class of 2010, the LSU Law faculty adopted several important changes to our program during the 2009-10 academic year.These changes were designed to enhance the competitiveness of our students in an increasingly competitive national legal employment market.The changes provide considerable additional flexibility to our students in planning their studies and their summer activities.Among the key changes were these:

The LSU Law grading system, a 4.0 system that had been pegged approximately .4 below other law school 4.0 systems, was recalibrated so as to provide students at LSU Law with grades comparable to those awarded by other law schools for comparable levels of achievement.

The longstanding requirement of mandatory attendance during a seventh semester—i.e., required summer school attendance— was eliminated.We still offer our outstanding summer program in Lyon, France for the many students who choose it, as well as summer school courses in Baton Rouge to the extent of student demand.

Upperclass course requirements were relaxed to permit Louisiana students to focus more intently on Louisiana-based courses and to allow nonresident students to concentrate on international and comparative courses that are not directly rooted in Louisiana law.

Law School Costs and Law Student Debt: A Realistic Assessment
The tuition costs advantage that state university law schools have traditionally enjoyed over their private university peers has become even more dramatic over the last decade. Many of the latter have pushed their total three-year tuition and fee costs into the $100,000 to $135,000 range.These high costs can leave law students with skyrocketing law school loan burdens.

These national trends are fully in evidence in Louisiana where three-year in-state tuition differentials dividing LSU Law from its private law school peers are similarly dramatic. In-state LSU Law students may save some $50,000 to $90,000 in tuition and fees over three years. LSU Law’s lower costs enable its students to avoid or minimize the difficult problems that high student debt creates for students whose private law school costs are dramatically greater and whose student debt often exceeds $100,000. At this writing, in June 2010, state budget reductions make future tuition increases virtually inevitable and substantial tuition increases likely.

Nevertheless, we believe strongly in maximizing the access of a wide range of students to LSU Law. Even in these challenging times, we will do all we can to remain keenly competitive with our public law school peers and to provide an extraordinary value relative to our private law school peers while maintaining the proven quality of an LSU Law education.

If you are interested in applying to the Law Center, please contact the Admissions Office to obtain future information about visiting the campus. Our friendly and experienced admissions staff can provide you with additional information and would be delighted to welcome you to the Law Center.

Jack Weiss
Jack M. Weiss