Willamette University College of Law
The information on this page was provided by the law school.
Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs
Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.
The College of Law produces the best problem solvers, community leaders, legal dealmakers, and changemakers in the most innovative region of the country. We have had several years of remarkable growth in academic achievement as our bar passage rates and employment outcomes reflect. We also consistently have one of the highest graduate employment rates among Oregon law schools, and are among the best on the entire West Coast.
We are a dynamic force within our university’s vision of an “Only at Willamette” education and have worked to develop one of the most forward-thinking and creative legal education programs in the country. Our student-centric approach manifests in the robust experiential learning opportunities we provide alongside curricular strengths in public service, business law, advocacy, international law, and health law.
The JD Program
At Willamette University College of Law, we believe that academic growth and experiential learning form a critical foundation for students' career success.
Explore our Signature Strengths in Business Law, Public Service, Advocacy, International Law, and Health Law.
The Externship Program immerses Willamette University College of Law students in the fast-paced work of the practicing lawyer.
Students are partnered with attorneys working in various legal settings in the wider community. They participate in legal work in many different contexts under the constraints of real-life practice. Attorneys who supervise students in the Externship Program receive support and mentoring from the externship director.
Externs have a wide range of opportunities from which to choose and can seek placements that fit their particular skills, background and career interests. Willamette students have enjoyed externships with local, national, and international hosts in a variety of legal settings, such as with in-house counsel of national and regional companies, state and federal representatives and senators, state and federal agencies, prosecutors' offices, public defenders' offices, nonprofit legal services, and private law firms. Students participate in transactional work, litigation, administrative advocacy and alternative dispute resolution as well as legislative drafting and advocacy.
When the Oregon Legislature convenes, many Willamette law students plunge into externship placements at the Capitol. Willamette students work with legislators, the governor’s office, the Judiciary Committee and the Legislative Counsel on a variety of legislative and law improvement measures.
Clinical Law Program
During the first two years of law school, students learn to “think like a lawyer.” The Clinical Law Program teaches them to “be a lawyer.”
The Clinical Law Program provides students with hands-on, professional experience in actual law practice. With close supervision by full-time faculty, students enrolled in a law clinic learn to become practice-ready lawyers through the provision of legal services to clients in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
As student attorneys in the Clinical Law Program, second- and third-year law students apply the doctrinal knowledge mastered in their fundamental coursework to the actual practice of law. Through this work, student attorneys are exposed to a wide variety of transferable lawyering skills, including client interviewing, development of legal strategy, pre-trial and trial litigation skills, document drafting, negotiation, and practice before administrative bodies. They may work closely with a client to prepare important legal documents that are tailored to that client’s specific needs and goals, appear on a client’s behalf in a courtroom or administrative hearing, or collaborate with community partners on organizing and legislative efforts or movement lawyering.
The Clinical Law Program currently comprises two clinic offerings: Trusts and Estates and Community and Environmental Justice. In keeping with the long tradition of legal clinics as “living models of justice,” both clinics seek to provide legal representation to clients who would otherwise have a difficult time paying legal fees. The Clinical Law Program is committed to filling this important role within the larger landscape of legal services providers in Oregon.
Clinical Law Program students are taught and expected to demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in all areas of legal practice, from mastery of substantive legal issues and procedures to unwavering professionalism and service to the greater community. The Clinical Law Program faculty also strives to instill an appreciation for the importance of reflection and balance in the practice of law, and the unique ability of lawyers to promote justice and equity in their communities.
Centers of Excellence
The Centers of Excellence emphasize Willamette's areas of particular expertise. Center faculty and resources generate research, explore ideas, host speakers and symposia, and build understanding of issues.
Center for Religion, Law and Democracy
The Willamette University Center for Religion, Law and Democracy draws on Willamette’s historic and ongoing strengths as a church-affiliated college committed to academic excellence and public service. It takes an interdisciplinary approach devoted to the exploration of the role of religion in law and in public life.
The center takes full advantage of Willamette’s location adjacent to the Oregon State Capitol. Students and faculty from the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Law teach, write and engage in these issues on a continuing basis.
Center for Constitutional Government
The Willamette Center for Constitutional Government is endowed by a generous contribution from Willamette law graduate Kenneth D. Peterson Jr. JD'80 and the Peterson Family Foundation. Established in 2002, the Center was created to promote the impartial study and understanding of federal-state and government-citizen relations in the United States. In carrying out this purpose, the Center's work falls into four functional areas. The Center administers a curricular program (see Certificate in Law and Government), conducts symposia and conferences, and sponsors programs of training and orientation for public and elected officials.
Willamette's six specialty certificate programs emphasize the unique and comprehensive training that participants complete in these areas.
Certificate in Health Law
The Certificate in Health Law provides students with a rigorous and comprehensive study of the statutes, rules, and regulations affecting the healthcare industry, both state and federal. Focus of the Program will be on regulatory issues governing the daily structure and operation of the healthcare industry, as well as administrative law, medical malpractice, bioethics and biomedical law, health care employment matters, and criminal law and procedure.
Certificate in International and Comparative Law
The complexity of transnational business and the growing significance of international organizations underscore the need for lawyers to be well versed in international and comparative law. Willamette's Certificate Program in International and Comparative Law was designed to prepare students to meet the challenges of legal careers in an increasingly global profession.
The Certificate Program in International and Comparative Law provides students with a rigorous and comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals of international law and dispute resolution, comparative law, and private international law. Students also are given an opportunity to study specialty subjects ranging from international business transactions, admiralty law and comparative constitutional law to immigration law. The Certificate Committee recommends that students select international business transactions to round out their program. Skills training is provided through editorial work on the school's international law journal and international law moot court competition. Off-campus study programs in China, Ecuador and Germany offer invaluable experiences abroad. The certificate program is further enhanced by access to courses in the Atkinson Graduate School of Management in such subjects as international management and foreign investment.
Law and Business
The Certificate in Law and Business leads to a special understanding of the relationship between the law and the objectives of business clients, providing an important advantage in providing business clients with sound and effective legal advice.
Program requirements include four core business classes, a distributional requirement providing insight into the range of legal issues relevant to business clients, an in-depth research and writing experience on a business law topic, and a capstone experience developing the ability to identify and integrate all project-relevant legal issues and to effectively communicate with a business client.
Certificate in Law and Government
The Certificate Program in Law and Government provides students with a significant educational experience in the field of public law. Through personalized and rigorous training, students develop an understanding of the legal structure, function, and operations of national, state, and local governments. The program benefits from its connection to the law school’s Center for Constitutional Government, which provides programming and faculty expertise.
Certificate in Sustainable Environmental, Energy and Resource Law
Students interested in careers in sustainable, environmental, energy and natural resources law have the opportunity to enroll in a focused program of study and earn a specialized certificate along with their Doctor of Jurisprudence degree.
The Certificate Program in Sustainable Environmental, Energy & Resources Law (SEER) places special emphasis on the role of the lawyer in formulating environmental and natural resources law and policy to sustain and protect our global resources. The program’s full course of study was designed to be both comprehensive and intensive. Students enrolled in the SEER Certificate Program will receive a solid foundation in all areas of the law but also have the academic flexibility to specialize in specific areas related to sustainability and the environment.
A sense of community is the experience all students share at Willamette Law.
Our small size, Salem's welcoming environment, and the Northwest's accepting culture allow students to feel at home, make friends and build connections.
At the Law School
From the moment you're admitted to Willamette University College of Law, we help you connect with your future classmates and mentors. Each incoming class has a Facebook page where law students are invited to share questions, ask for ideas, and find roommates.
Also, the College of Law is home to more than twenty student organizations ranging from the Willamette University Public Interest Law Project, the American Constitution Society, and the Women's Law Caucus, to the Multicultural Law Students Association, Moot Court Board and Joint Degree Association. We also offer many opportunities for law students to become involved in campus and community activities through charity events, legal education programs and pro bono projects.
Research and study is a major component of life in law school and at Willamette there are ample locations for students to find quiet yet pleasant surroundings. The law library features plenty of windows, study carrels and comfortable chairs. Rick's Cafe, on the first floor of the law school, can be at times a lively place to socialize, or a quiet place to read. And when the weather is nice, many students choose to sit beside the Mill Stream that winds through campus.
Beyond the law school, law students have access to all the facilities of Willamette University. This includes Sparks Recreation Center, an outstanding athletics facility that houses a swimming pool, handball and racquetball courts, a weight room, gymnasiums, and shower and locker facilities, and the Hatfield Library, as well as multiple campus dining facilities, the University Center, the Willamette Store, and an on-campus bistro. Students are also welcome to enjoy the University's Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the third-largest art museum in Oregon, and Smith Auditorium, which hosts regular performances of the Oregon Symphony. The Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center offers state-of-the-art acoustics for small performances of jazz, choral and chamber music, and recitals.
Also, law students often participate in the University's wide range of intramural sports, cultural offerings, student organization activities, special events and lectures.
Willamette University is situated in the heart of Salem, Oregon's capital. Salem is home to a large, active legal community that readily employs and actively mentors Willamette law students. This historic riverfront city offers all the amenities of a larger city, but has successfully maintained its hometown charm. A welcoming and affordable city, Salem boasts a vibrant downtown, beautiful city parks, an innovative children's museum and popular community theater, great pubs and cafes, fine dining, numerous coffeehouses and microbreweries, and a wide range of small boutiques and department stores.
Salem is surrounded by award-winning vineyards and orchards that support countless wine and food festivals. The city is only a short drive from several beautiful state parks, the Columbia River Gorge national scenic area and the Mount Hood National Forest, which provide world-class wilderness hiking, fishing, camping, skiing and snowboarding. The desert is a little farther east, and Oregon's spectacular beaches are an hour's drive to the west. Metropolitan Portland is just 45 minutes to the north, offering easy access to national sporting events and premier music and art venues.
Sure, it rains in Oregon — but the rain sustains the beautiful lakes, forests and flowers for which the Pacific Northwest is famous. Summers in the Pacific Northwest are usually warm and sunny, fall is mostly clear and beautiful, and spring offers a little of everything. Winter does bring the rain, but an umbrella and light jacket easily fend off the mild precipitation. For more information on Salem and how we can assist you in you move here, please click here.
Oregon is a land of majestic wonders, from the rugged Oregon beaches, the snow-covered Cascade Mountains, the lush greenery and magnificent waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge, to the fertile Willamette Valley. Oregon is for the active of heart, body and soul. It is a runner's mecca, a biker's haven, a kayaker's paradise and a hiker's playground.
Students enjoy tasting world-famous local wines and exploring thriving local wineries throughout Marion County and neighboring counties. The ski slopes of Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor are two to three hours away, while Oregon's beautiful, rugged coast is within an hour's drive. Across the Cascade Range lies the high desert land of eastern Oregon with its large cattle ranches, rich farmland, white-water rivers and outstanding recreational opportunities.
While outdoor adventurers love Oregon, so do city people. Portland, Oregon's largest city and one of the cleanest and most accessible cities in the United States, is less than one hour's drive away. Portland features a host of cultural attractions and live entertainment, including opera, theatre, ballet, symphony and museums.
Career Placement and Bar Passage
The Office of Career Planning & Development is dedicated to advancing our students’ career goals through a diverse array of professional programs designed to facilitate the transition from law student to attorney. We are proud to provide robust support for mentoring relationships with attorneys and judges, connections to attorneys in different practice areas, networking opportunities at professional events, career development seminars and informational panels.
We partner with students to strategize and plan paths for achieving students’ goals through individual counseling and individual development plans. For instance, Career Planning & Development’s Attorney-Mentor Program connects students to attorneys to develop their knowledge of different practice areas and build their professional legal community. Beyond the Attorney-Mentor program, we provide access to a broad range of alumni in specific practice and geographic areas in order to further assist our students with the kind of insider information that often leads to jobs. Although many graduates remain on the west coast to practice law, others commonly begin their careers elsewhere, including in locations like Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and D.C. No matter the location, our graduates leave Willamette Law with the skills necessary to achieve their career goals.
Beyond current students, Career Planning & Development also counsels alumni to help them prepare for the next steps in their careers, including by offering professional training and access to job-hunting skills and employment opportunities. Collectively, whether it's mapping your career with one-on-one help from our advisors, gaining experience through our experiential learning programs, or participating in our Attorney-Mentor Program, students, alumni and employers find the tools for long-term professional success in Willamette Law's Office of Career Planning & Development.
Tuition and Aid
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Willamette University College of Law is proud to offer a strong program of financial aid to its students. Generous merit-based scholarships reward applicants whose accomplishments suggest continuing success in law school. Every student is automatically considered for a scholarship when the application for admission is initially reviewed. A majority of Willamette law students receive merit-based scholarships and all scholarships are renewable with good standing at the end of each year.
Applicants should also complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to March 1 to be considered for federal student loans.
Admission Decisions: Beyond the Numbers
Willamette Law accepts applications beginning September 1 with a final application deadline of August 1. We offer an early decision program with a deadline of December 15. Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as they are ready during the year before they intend to enroll. Willamette enrolls a diverse first-year law class with a wide range of goals, experiences, and cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds, who also show evidence of previous academic success. Applications are reviewed closely, and in their entirety, to ensure an informed and fair decision.
Admitted Applicant Profile
25-75% UGPA Range at Willamette:
2.85 to 3.42
25-75% LSAT Score Range at Willamette:
149 to 155
25-75% UGPA Range at Willamette:
2.85 to 3.42
25-75% LSAT Score Range at Willamette:
149 to 155
25-75% UGPA Range at Willamette:
2.85 to 3.42
25-75% LSAT Score Range at Willamette:
149 to 155