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The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

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Founded in 1962 and ABA-accredited since 1965, the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law is named after the president of the university at the time of the law school's inception. It is the only law school in Memphis. With 420 students and only 24 full-time faculty members, it is a fairly small school. Originally located on the large University of Memphis campus in a largely residential area in the center of the city, the law school has recently moved to the downtown area, which is at the western edge of the city, overlooking the Mississippi River. The school now occupies a newly renovated, historical building that has served as a court house, a customs house, and a post office. This location places the school in Memphis's legal, business, and governmental center. Classes in the new facility began in January 2010.

Admissions & tuition

950 people applied for 2009 entry into the J.D. program, of whom 32% (300) were accepted. Of those accepted, 144 ultimately chose to attend, giving the school an impressive yield rate of nearly 50%. The 25th and 75th percentiles for the GPAs of the 2009 full time entering class were 3.17 and 3.68, respectively; the 25th and 75th percentile LSAT scores were 153 and 158, respectively. The class had a median GPA of 3.43 and a median LSAT of 156. This makes Memphis slightly more competitive than many similarly-ranked programs.

The University of Memphis is a public school, so it offers different tuition rates to Tennessee residents and out-of-state students. For the 2009-2010 academic year, in-state tuition was $13,710, while out-of-state tuition was $35,582. With the addition of room and board (estimated at only $8,731), books, and other personal expenses, total cost of attendance was $28,542 for in-state students and $50,414 for out-of-state students. Owing to Memphis's location in the southwest corner of Tennessee, the school offers a "border county" tuition waiver that allows students from certain counties in Arkansas and Mississippi to pay the in-state tuition rate.

Memphis has a small part-time program. It is limited to 10% of each entering class, and applicants must submit a statement explaining why they are unable to study in the full-time program. The part-time program takes four and half years to complete, and tuition is determined by credit.

Academics & curriculum

The curriculum at Memphis is even more regimented than those at most other law schools. As is standard, first-year students' schedules are predetermined. In the fall, 1Ls take four credits of Contracts, three credits each of Civil Procedure, Property, and Torts, and two credits of Legal Method, a class similar to the legal writing classes at many other schools. In the spring, they continue with two credits of Legal Method and three credits each of Civil Procedure, Property, and Torts, while their Contracts class drops to two credits and they pick up three credits of Criminal Law. However, while in many other schools upper-level students have few required courses and can fill their schedules with electives, a 2L at Memphis has almost as inflexible a schedule as a 1L. During the fall semester, 2Ls take four credits each of Constitutional Law and Income Tax, three credits each of Business Organization and Decedent's Estates, and an elective or electives. In the spring, they take three credits each of Criminal Procedure and Secured Transactions, four credits of Evidence, and electives. The third year schedule is open. Upper-level students must also complete a writing requirement, which can be fulfilled through seminars or participation in a journal, and a skills requirement, fulfilled through clinics, externships, or certain courses. 90 credits are required for graduation. Compared with many similarly ranked schools, the Humphreys School of Law has a very low 1L attrition rate (4.9% for the class entering in 2008), which indicates that the school's administration has a genuine commitment to ensuring its students' academic success.

The school offers clinics in child and family litigation, civil litigation, and elder law. Two dual-degree programs are offered: a J.D./M.B.A. and a J.D./M.A. in Political Science. For a limited number of students, externships are available - but only with government agencies.

For students who are not currently qualified for admission but who show potential for successful study of law, Memphis offers the Tennessee Institute for Pre-Law (TIP). The TIP website states that it is open to Tennessee and border county residents "from diverse backgrounds and circumstances" and bills itself as an initiative to increase diversity in the classroom. The application asks whether the applicant is a graduate of a historically minority-oriented undergraduate institution, a foreign-born resident or a first-generation American, the first in his/her family to attend college, disabled, or economically disadvantaged. If accepted, the applicant will attend classes over the summer, free of charge and with a $1,000-$2,000 stipend. Successful completion of these classes guarantees the student a place in that fall's entering class.

Employment prospects & bar passage

Most Memphis students sit the Tennessee bar. For those students sitting the July 2009 administration, 90.7% of Memphis graduates passed, compared with the state's average of 81.5%.

For the class graduating in 2008, the School of Law reports that 95% of "known graduates seeking employment" were able to find employment. This figure reflects an impressive 98% response rate to the employment survey. Of these 95%, 69% went into private practice, 9% into business and industry, 9% into government work, 5% into clerkships, 4% into public interest, and 4% into L.L.M. programs or other academic programs. The average starting salary was $59,281. It is important to note that, for students who paid the in-state tuition rate and chose to remain in the South, $59,281 is not the crushingly low salary that it might be for students graduating from more expensive schools in areas of the country with higher costs of living.

Although the employment statistics do not indicate what percentage of students choose to stay in the area after graduation, on-campus interviewing in the 2007-2008 academic year included 25 firms, none of which were from New York, D.C., or California. This indicates that employment opportunities may be largely regional.

Quality of life

1-bedroom apartments in downtown Memphis within 1 mile of the law school start at $399 per month, and for students who prefer to live further away from campus and drive in, these low prices continue as you move away from downtown and towards the main university campus. The city's attractions include many museums and festivals, as well as the Memphis Zoo, which widely considered to be one of the best zoos in the United States and is one of very few to house giant pandas. Memphis's rich musical history is reflected in its many music-oriented entertainment options. The climate, characterized by hot summers and mild winters, may also be an attraction to some students.


The Humphreys School of Law may lack the prestige that some students seek in a law school (the viewbook claims at one point that J.D. stands for "jurist doctor"), but its in-state tuition is extraordinarily cheap and its location arguably desirable. For the student who could obtain some extra information from the career services office, such as response rate to the employment survey and geographical location of those successfully employed, and who was satisfied with what s/he learned, the Humphreys School of Law could be a very affordable and enjoyable way to obtain a legal education.

Contact information

University of Memphis - Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
1 N Front St, Memphis, TN 38103-2189
Phone: (901) 678-2421
E-mail: lawadmissions@memphis.edu

Quick reference

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
Tuition: ~$14,000 (Tennessee and border county residents), ~$36,000 (non-residents)
Bar Passage Rate: 90.7% (TN)
% Employed 9 months after graduation: 95%
Median Starting Salary: $59,281 (Class of 2008, 42% reporting)
Number of 1Ls: 136 (FT), 7 (PT)
Median GPA: 3.43 (FT), 3.44 (PT)
Median LSAT: 156 (FT), 154 (PT)