College of Law
Melanie Jacobs, Acting DEAN
The College of Law’s history dates to 1891 when the Detroit College of Law was established to serve residents of Detroit. Before the Law College’s founding, the only way a Detroit resident could become a member of the bar without leaving the city to study was by “reading” law in local attorneys’ offices. The Law College’s founders were a group of such “readers”—law clerks and students in southeastern Michigan. As a result, during the first two years of the school’s history, its directors were themselves students—a unique situation.
The first class of 69 graduates included a future circuit court judge and a future ambassador. A woman in the first class and an African American in the second exemplified the Law College’s commitment to offering all sectors of the population an opportunity for a quality legal education.
In 1995, the Law College affiliated with Michigan State University, thereby providing students with access to a wealth of resources and opportunities while preserving the school’s student-centric culture. Over the years, the affiliation relationship grew progressively closer, until MSU and MSU Law leadership committed to full in October 2018. As of August 17, 2020, MSU College of Law was fully integrated into the university, and exists as a constituent college of MSU.
Michigan State University College of Law has preserved the historic DCL values of access and opportunity, work ethic, and immersion in the profession, while embracing the opportunities that come from being part of a Big Ten university.
The mission of the Michigan State University College of Law is to provide a rigorous educational program, preparing a diverse community of students to become leaders in private legal practice, business and industry, government service, and legal education. The Law College draws upon a century of service, an association with a major research institution, a commitment to broad educational access, scholarly excellence, and service to society.
The Law College teaches core legal skills, supplemented with academic concentrations, specialized programs, and scholarly research. The college stresses ethics, good lawyering, professionalism, and service. Consistent with these values, it instructs students in the arts of client representation and trial advocacy, and the tenets of legal principles, private rights, and public policy.
The Law College strives continuously to strengthen academic quality in all of its programs and activities. The college is committed to offering opportunities for professional growth, innovation, research, and scholarship to its faculty. The faculty embraces its mandate to provide excellence in instruction with significant contributions to legal research, public service, and community outreach. The staff contributes service, support, and creativity.
The Law College aspires to preserve its educational heritage while seeking sound innovation through a flexible and creative program of academic growth, development, and opportunity. The College fosters an environment of trust, collegiality, and inclusion for faculty, students, and staff.
The Michigan State University College of Law legal education program leading to a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree is designed to offer integrated learning, combining theory with practice. The Law College wants its graduates to be ready to practice law in real-world settings. This goal is accomplished in and out of the classroom. The classroom provides skill-based learning — especially writing and advocacy skills — and legal theory. Out of the classroom, experiential learning opportunities such as internships, externships, and clinical experiences provide opportunities to apply classroom lessons.
A distinction of an Michigan State University Law education is the substantive collaboration with other disciplines and programs at Michigan State University. College areas of focus and certificate programs allow students to build expertise in a specific area of law, and include opportunities to take graduate-level courses throughout MSU. This interdisciplinary approach to legal education results in a greater understanding of how law is practiced in society and how it affects other disciplines. For those who wish to take Integrated learning a step further, dual-degree programs allow students to earn both a law degree and another graduate degree in four years. Of particular note is the dual-degree program with the University of Ottawa School of Law, which enables students to earn the U.S. and Canadian J.D. in four years. This program provides a deeper understanding of international law and practice in cross-border situations.
Michigan State University Law offers other degree opportunities: The Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree is designed for students who have earned their J.D., LL.B. or comparable law degree. The Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.) degree is designed for individuals who do not have a law degree, such as doctoral students in other disciplines, policymakers, government officials, business executives, intellectual property agents, journalists, media professionals, scientists and computer programmers. The Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.) degree in Legal Doctrine and Analysis is designed for students who have met the admission criteria for the J.D. degree and have successfully completed the first-year required J.D. curriculum.