The University of South Dakota School of Law
Academics & Programs: Despite being the only law school in the entire state, the School of Law and The University of South Dakota attract students from across the region, with nearly half of all those enrolled coming from out of state. Many students find their education “perfect for practice in rural America,” and others go on to larger urban practices, yet the cost of tuition is “fairly inexpensive.” “Having gone to a NY private school for undergrad and paying the private NY school price, when I got my first bill from USD I thought maybe they had left something major off,” says one student.
The “mostly excellent” professors provide students with practical applications for the workplace and “focus on the real world more than just understanding case law and the bar exam materials.” There are very few professors who “don’t care about actually teaching you in class, they just get through the material,” but for the most part, “all of the professors really care about your education at USD and are willing to meet outside of class to discuss exams or just to chat.” This “diverse, nonjudgmental, reputable, and highly knowledgeable” faculty aptly maintains “a youthful and inexperienced cognizant approach when proffering to that particular audience,” and “more than make up for any of the limitations with resources.”
There are no formal law specialization options at USD; students say that “specialization” here means taking a few “mostly overview courses” in Native American or environmental law, for which “there is no indication on your degree that you specialized in a particular field.” The administration helps by “supplanting our academic needs with a broad range of extern and internships, and facilitate our transition from layman to lawyer.”
However, this same administration can often be unresponsive and “disorganized,” but hopefully the arrival of a new dean will help set it right. As a smaller school, “it’s hard NOT to get to know your professors.” The professor that teaches criminal procedure and evidence trains police officers and “is one of the best teachers I have ever had,” according to one student. The civil procedure and insurance law professor is “nationally renowned in the area of ERISA,” and the Native American Law professor is on the Rosebud Supreme Court. “Not only that, but you can watch him read poetry on YouTube.”
Understandably, the school has an excellent relationship with the state bar association, the Circuit Court, and the State Supreme Court, which convenes here every year. Unfortunately, Career Services and on-campus recruitment does not fare as well in the students’ opinions. There is “a constant anxiety over getting jobs” according to one student. Luckily, “there is a strong alumni” group that is willing to help students out when and where they can. “I think the school does the best with what it has,” says a 2L transfer student.
Campus Life/Facilities: Vermillion, though small, has “a lot of cultural and entertainment opportunities—you just have to look.” The law school itself has plenty of opportunities to socialize, students “just have to be open to them.” Having Sioux Falls and Sioux City so close “makes it an ideal environment for law school,” as “there are few distractions within the city but plenty of distractions within 45 minutes when you need one.”
With such a small student body, everyone does know everyone, which “can be annoying during stressful times of the year, but by graduation time, I have a feeling we will all love each other like a family.” “During my first semester there was a death in my family and the whole law-school staff, professors, and students were very supportive. Accommodations and help was readily available from everyone,” says one student. There is still competition among the students, but “it is a fair competition that is to be expected in coming to law school not cutthroat and downright mean.”
Facilities are universally disliked. They are “outdated but functional” because of certain particular drawbacks in some of the buildings. There “are no windows in two of the four classrooms,” and the walls are “gray cinderblock, [so] when you sit in class, it feels like you’re sitting in a prison.” The library is transitioning towards “offering more services and relying more on electronic research for non-South Dakota State codes,” but the computer lab is “small and ancient.” Students do like that they each have their own carrel in which they can study in between classes. One student explains that “[you’re] able to trust leaving your stuff there when [you’re] not studying.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.