The University of Wisconsin Law School is located on historic Bascom Hill in the heart of the beautiful UW–Madison campus. It boasts a renowned faculty, an extensive curriculum and a dynamic student body. As part of a world-class university located in the state’s capital, the Law School also offers an unparalleled wealth of experiences beyond its walls.
An extensive curriculum places emphasis on the dynamics of the law—how the law relates to social change and to society as a whole—while at the same time stressing skill development. In addition to nationally recognized programs in several substantive areas, the Law School also has one of the largest clinical programs in the country. UW Law School offers many dual degree programs , concentrations and certificate programs.
With a focus on skills-based learning, our students graduate practice-ready and prepared for success. Most UW Law School students are pursuing a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree, while many others are earning an LL.M. (Master of Laws) or the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science).
The UW Law School's nationally recognized faculty and staff work together to provide an outstanding learning environment for our students. Our faculty and staff come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring varying experiences, views and approaches to the Law School. They are inspired by the UW’s distinctive law-in-action approach, and they are committed to helping students develop into confident, successful lawyers.
|Director of admissions||Rebecca Scheller|
|Application deadline||April 1|
|Approximate number of applications||1406|
Standard Student Expense Budget for Academic Year 2016-2017:
|Books & Supplies||2,450.00||2,450.00|
Students have a legitimate interest in knowing how their own academic performance stacks up against the work of others, either to better enable them to compete for jobs, or to better assess the effectiveness of their study strategies, or perhaps to help make decisions about their curriculum. Law school rules generally prohibit computing and releasing class rank, based on a belief that the ranking process can exaggerate the significance of relatively small variations in student grades. Instead, we provide tables relating grade averages to approximate position in the class, and a statement explaining the table. In 2003 we changed the way in which we compile these tables in order to deal with two problems.
The problems were, first, that we could not perform the necessary calculations until all of the grades had been submitted and processed; in fact this meant that sometimes the tables were not available as soon as students needed them to complete job applications. We are, compared to many other law schools, on a "late" academic calendar; our students receive their fall semester grades comparatively later in January than their counterparts at other law schools that begin classes in August and finish finals in early or mid-December. This problem was exacerbated when one or more faculty, often due to a health problem or family emergency, failed to get all the grades turned in by the deadline.
Second, and equally problematic, the tables were not designed to address the situation in which a student was proceeding through law school at a faster, or slower, pace than most students. At first thought, it seems that each person’s “class” is unambiguous; in fact, not so. Does your “class” consist of the people who started law school with you? Or who will finish law school with you? Enough variation exists in the speed with which students accumulate credits to make the determination of the make-up of “a class” an uncertain process. We concluded that the comparison which is most relevant consists of comparing a student’s performance with the performance of others who, recently, have been at the same relative point in completing their law school studies. The tables which we calculate are based on that conclusion.
A review of the distribution of cumulative GPAs over time revealed that the distribution of student grade averages was very consistent over time. The break point for the top 25%, for example, was very much the same from one year to the next to the next. We realized that we could take advantage of this stability to provide a table of the grade averages of students over the last three years, and that this would be an accurate representation of a student’s comparative position in his or her class, and that this could be done so that it would always be available for use by students. Therefore, we adopted a system of publishing tables which are cumulative summaries of the average grades for the previous three academic years. These tables are re-calculated twice a year, in early July and early February. They are available on the Law School website at: http://www.law.wisc.edu/career/new_grading_system.html#class_standing.
We also created a short description of how to interpret the tables which can (and probably should) be shared with potential employers. Although the tables don’t contain data drawn from the most recent semester until they are recalculated, we believe that this doesn’t significantly erode their validity, and any disadvantage is outweighed by the benefits of the new system. The numbers in the tables have been rounded to two decimal places, using conventional rounding rules (e.g., 3.2489 becomes 3.25, whereas 3.24499 becomes 3.24).
The Law School, though it does not provide individual class rank information (see above), does provide individual GPAs. GPAs may be confirmed by checking the unofficial transcript posted in Symplicity or, if you have computed your own GPA, you can contact the Law School Registrar to see if your computation of your GPA matches that of the Law School.
The grade tables are issued in 5% increments (except for the top 10%, which is provided in 1% increments; this is done to make our students more competitive for judicial clerkships). Even if your GPA falls, numerically, in between the GPAs that are the cutoffs for two different percentiles (for example, if the top 30% GPA is 3.30, and the top 35% GPA is 3.25, and your GPA is a 3.28), you should not split the difference and claim to be in the "top 32.5%" of the class. In that situation, however, you could state your class standing as an estimate or an approximation, using language such as "Approximately top one-third.”
University of Wisconsin Law School students receive letter grades for most law school courses. The grading scale ranges from A+ to F. For purposes of calculating student grade point averages, letter grades are converted to numerical equivalents according to the following conversion table:
A+ equals 4.3; A equals 4.0; A- equals 3.7; B+ equals 3.3; B equals 3.0; B- equals 2.7; C+ equals 2.3; C equals 2.0; C- equals 1.7; D+ equals 1.3; D equals 1.0; D- equals 0.7; and F equals 0.
Grades that are not classified as LAW will not factor into the law GPA. This includes cross-listed classes with ELPA and Business. Exchange program credits will not factor into law GPA except the Giessen summer program.
Law School courses are typically graded on a letter-graded scale from F to A+. Expressed numerically, this is a 4.3 scale (rather than the more-common 4.0 scale) with the relative values of the letters being as follows:
|Order of the Coif||The Order of the Coif is an honorary group selected from those graduating law students with the highest grade points. It is limited to no more than ten percent of the class but is not necessarily the ten percent with the highest overall grade point averages. To be considered, one must have 68 “graded credits.” For the purpose of Coif eligibility, a “graded credit” is one for which a letter grade has been earned. However, graded credits do not include clinical courses or courses taken on a pass/fail basis. For a full explanation of the eligibility for Order of the Coif, see Appendix D of the Law School Rules. (Note: grades earned in any semester following the semester in which the degree requirements are met are not counted for Order of the Coif eligibility purposes). Students who have re-taken a course should review the Law School Rules (Rule 6.09) for the impact on eligibility for honors.|
|Dean’s Honor List||Pursuant to Law School Rule 8.05, a student is eligible for the Dean’s Honor List (typically referred to as “Dean’s List”) if the following three requirements are satisfied:
|Dean's Academic Achievement Award||Graduating students who have a cumulative GPA of 3.35 at the end of their penultimate semester receive the Dean's Academic Achievement Award which allows those graduates to wear an honors stole at the commencement ceremony. Students with incompletes ("I") for a grade on their law school record will not be eligible for the Dean's Academic Achievement Award until the incomplete is cleared from their record. Receiving the Dean's Academic Achievement Award is not to be confused with graduating 'with honors' (see above).|
|summa cum laude||A GPA of 3.85 or better qualifies a student for summa cum laude honors.|
|magna cum laude||A GPA of 3.65 or better qualifies a graduate for magna cum laude honors|
|cum laude||A cumulative GPA of 3.35 or better on reported 4.3-scale letter-grades qualifies a student at graduation for cum laude honors|
|Name of Award||Awarded for/to|
|ABA/BNA Health Law Award||N/A|
|ABA/BNA Intellectual Property Law Award||N/A|
|ABA/BNA Labor Law Award||N/A|
|Abe Sigman Award||Scholarship and Service to Law School|
|Abner Brody Award||Constitutional Law and Community Service|
|American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Scholarship||Family Law|
|American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ Leonard Loeb Scholarship Award||Family Law and Community Service|
|American Bankruptcy Institute Award||Credit Law|
|Andre M. Saltoun Award||Wisconsin student on Wisconsin Law Review|
|Association of Women Lawyers’ Virginia Pomeroy Scholarship||Scholarship and Service|
|Barbara Crabb Award||Honesty, Fairness and Equality under Law|
|Bernard Berk Award||Service to Economically Disadvantaged|
|Bruce Beilfuss Award||Service to Law School|
|Catherine Manning Award||Outstanding Contributions to LAIP|
|Daniel H. Grady Award||Graduating 3L with highest GPA at 5th semester|
|Dean’s Academic Achievement Award||Graduating students with GPAs of 85.5 or better at the end of Fall 2005|
|Distinguished Service to Legal Defense Program Don A. Olson Award||Outstanding Student from Wisconsin|
|Frederick C. Suhr Award||Wisconsin Student in Top 25% of Class|
|George Laikin Award||Best Wisconsin Law Review Article ‘ general topic|
|Gordon D. Baldwin Scholarship||Criminal Law|
|Gwynette E. Smalley Law Review Award||In-coming Editor-in-Chief and Outstanding Board Member|
|Joseph Davies Award||Outstanding 2L on Wisconsin Law Review|
|Julie Strasser Award||Service to Needy by 1 or 2L|
|Katherine Held Award||Oustanding Contribution to Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal|
|Leon Feingold Award||Commitment to Community and Legal Profession|
|Mary Kelly Quackenbush Award||Best Student Article in Wisconsin International Law Journal|
|Mathy’s Memorial Appellate Advocacy Award||Best Oralists|
|Mathy’s Memorial Appellate Advocacy Award||Service to Moot Court|
|Melvin Friedman Award||Outstanding Contributions to Innocence Project|
|National Association of Women Lawyers Award||Scholarship and Community Service|
|Philip Owens Award||Outstanding Wisconsin Student|
|Ray & Ethel Brown Award||Character and Community Service by 2L|
|Ruth B. Doyle Award||Service to Law School & Community|
|Salmon W. Dalberg Award||Outstanding Student in Graduating Class|
|State Bar of Wisconsin Environmental Law Essay Award||Best Essay|
|Unemployment Law Award||news more information at a later date|
|Vicki & Brent Orrico Award||Leadership by 2L|
|William T. Page Award||Best Student Article in Wisconsin Law Review ‘specific topic|
|Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Award||Highest Grade in Professional Responsibilities|
|Wisconsin Public Interest Foundation’s Jackie Macaulay Award||Community Service|
The Wisconsin Law Review is a student-run journal of legal analysis and commentary that is used by professors, judges, practitioners, and others researching contemporary legal topics. It includes professional and student articles, with content spanning local, state, national, and international topics. In addition to publishing the journal, the Wisconsin Law Review sponsors an annual symposium at which leading scholars debate a significant issue in contemporary law. Students earn membership through a writing competition at the end of their first year.
The Wisconsin International Law Journal was established in 1982, and is written by both professionals in the field and by law students. The journal offers articles of scholarly and practical interest in various areas of international law. Student members of the journal edit articles of interest in various areas of international law and draft articles for submission and possible publication. Each spring, the student members coordinate a conference on recent topics of interest in international law.
The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society is a student-edited journal with a national scope. The Journal, which was established in 1985, publishes contributions from faculty, students, and practitioners on a wide-range of legal topics. Its focus is on scholarship that examines the intersection of law and gender with issues of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society is open to all students.
The Gargoyle is the alumni magazine of the University of Wisconsin Law School. It takes its name from the stone figure that once stood atop the earlier Law Building and now stands in the atrium of the Law School. The magazine is published twice a year in paper form, funded by alumni donations. It is also available online, where a digital archive provides access to issues going back to Volume 1, published in 1969.
Moot Court is a mock appellate advocacy experience that helps law students develop the following skills to practice law:
UW Law School is committed to practical experience as a part of legal education. UW Law was one of the first law schools to initiate a clinical program, and since then, it has strengthened and increased the number of clinical opportunities it provides. Clinicals provide hands-on lawyering experiences with real people—clients, victims, witnesses, family members, lawyers, and judges—and give you a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a lawyer. Under the direct supervision of clinical professors or supervising attorneys, students meet with clients, perform factual investigations, research legal issues, prepare client letters, draft legal documents, and write briefs.
The law school offers numerous clinical programs, including:
Starting Salaries (2015 Graduates Employed Full-Time)
|Private sector (25th-75th percentile)||$55,000 - $120,000|
|Median in the private sector||$75,000|
|Median in public service||$49,429|
|Graduates known to be employed at graduation||48.9%|
|Graduates known to be employed ten months after graduation||78.1%|
|Graduates Employed In||Percentage|
|Business and Industry||16.2%|
|Public Interest Organizations||8.1%|
Our experiential learning and skills training programs include a large number of externship opportunities: field placements outside the Law School, where students receive academic credit, but not compensation, for their work. Many of these externships are clinical course offerings, supervised by clinical or adjunct faculty members. Others are student-initiated externships in the legal departments of government or nonprofit agencies or in-house legal departments at corporations. To participate, students must have completed their first year of law school.
A student's eligibility to participate in any Law School internship or externship program is contingent on the student's being in good standing, both academically and with respect to disciplinary matters. A student's placement in an internship or externship program may be denied or revoked if the Law School determines that a student's conduct or academic performance makes that placement inappropriate for any reason.
Labor Law Externship
The Labor Law Externship allows students to spend 16 hours a week working under the supervision of attorneys of the National Labor Relations Board in Milwaukee, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Milwaukee, or the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in Madison. Placements are also made at the U.S. Department of Labor in Chicago, the Employment Section of the Madison City Attorney's Office, the State Personnel Commission, the Milwaukee School Board, and the Elder Law Center in its new Pension Rights Project. Very occasionally placements are made in the U.S. Attorney's Office, if someone is working on a major employment law issue (novel interpretation of the American with Disabilities Act, criminal prosecution under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, etc.). The school cannot reimburse students for the cost of transportation to and from externships located in Milwaukee or Chicago. A minimum of eight hours is spent on site at the agency, and the other eight might be spent in the field, in court, at the agency or, more often, in the UW Library here in Madison.
Wisconsin Department of Justice Externship
The Wisconsin Department of Justice Extern Program offers a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience at the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Students will practice civil trial, appellate, and administrative law with some of the most well-respected litigators in Wisconsin, working on issues and cases of statewide importance.
Law Externship Program
In the fall of 2011, the Law School began a new externship initiative, allowing students to apply for a broad range of potential externship opportunities at government agencies, non-profit organizations and corporate legal departments and, if approved for enrollment in the Law Externship program by the Externship Director within the first two weeks of the semester, to receive appropriate academic credit for participation. In order to receive academic credit for an externship, a student must devote a minimum of 45 hours of work for each academic credit, and must submit periodic reports on the externship experience, including a final paper reflecting upon the value of the externship. Students enrolled in the Law Externship course for academic credit may not receive compensation for their work at the externship site, but can be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with the field placement.
Students interested in a field placement for credit are encouraged to meet with Ms. McBride to discuss which organizations might be the best fit for the student's career goals and interests. For-credit externships can be arranged during the spring, summer and fall semesters. In addition, for students with some flexibility, school-year externships outside of Wisconsin can be arranged, and it is possible for a student to earn as many as 12 credits for an externship if the student works virtually full-time at, e.g., a federal agency in D.C. or at one of the agency's regional offices in some other city. An excellent resource for learning about which agencies operate externship programs for law students during the fall and spring semesters is the Government Honors and Internship Handbook, a password-protected online publication that the UW Law School Office of Career and Professional Development subscribes to -- students may obtain the username and password from the OCPD.
Corporate Legal Department Externships
The Law School permits students with an interest in corporate and business law to obtain academic credit (one to seven credits) for work at in-house legal departments. These externships can provide a student with invaluable experience and an opportunity to see first-hand the type of legal work companies keep "in house" and what sort of legal work is typically handled by the company's outside counsel.
Judicial Internship Program
The Judicial Intern Program gives students an opportunity to work with trial and appellate judges and view the judicial process from the perspective of the decision maker. Placements include the Wisconsin Supreme Court; Wisconsin Court of Appeals; Dane County Circuit Courts; and the United States District Court in both Milwaukee and Madison. Students are able to observe the court system from the inside; learn about the work of judges and their law clerks; and evaluate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of lawyers appearing before the courts. The actual work performed may vary from judge to judge but the emphasis is on research and writing.
The Judicial Intern Program takes approximately 25 students during each semester of the academic year and during the summer. It is open to all students who have achieved second year status; thus students are eligible to participate in the summer following their first year. Second- and third-year students have priority and are generally placed.
Students register for a law school course and receive credit for their work, but no pay. The preferred level is at least five credits, though up to seven may be earned. Each credit requires 45 hours of work during the course of the semester. Thus, a five credit placement requires a total of 225 hours of work. Students keep track of the number of hours they work each week and submit it to the person designated by the court in which they work. At the end of the semester the complete time log is signed by the designated person and turned in to the law school by the student and the appropriate number of credits is awarded. Also at the end of the semester, a final report is due that evaluates the student's experience and describes: the nature of the work done; observations about the court system, the work of the judges, and the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of lawyers appearing before the courts; and insights into the substantive law that may have emerged while working in the courts. The judges who participate are committed to seeing that the students have productive experiences and receive feedback on their work. Students typically find their placements to be demanding but very valuable.
Students interested in placements with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin or the U.S. District Court for the W.D. of Wisconsin should keep in mind that those Justices/judges, in order to avoid the potential for conflicts of interest, will only allow students to intern in their chambers if the students have no other legal employment or law school clinical obligations.
A summer internship with a public interest organization is an excellent way to obtain practical skills and training, and to explore an area of law about which you are passionate. Summer public interest interns often develop skills in such areas as: client intake and counseling; legal and trial strategy; oral advocacy and negotiation; legal research and writing; and community organizing/outreach. Further, many public interest organizations prefer to hire attorneys who were former interns at their organization or another organization doing similar work, so summer internships can be invaluable networking opportunities. While the majority of public interest organizations have insufficient funds to pay their summer interns, numerous resources exist to aid students in finding supplemental funding.