Thurgood Marshall School of Law
The founding of Texas Southern University and its law school resulted from a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1946. Thurgood Marshall, then the chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, successfully argued a case for Heman M. Sweatt, who was refused admission to a state law school because he was black. The state legislature, in 1947, established the Texas State University for Negroes (later renamed Texas Southern University). In 1976, the law school moved to its current location and was named in honor of Thurgood Marshall, the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Admissions & tuition
In 2009, matriculating students had a median LSAT score of 146 and a median GPA of 2.98. The university admitted 34.1 percent of its 2,003 applicants. Of the 684 admitted, 219 enrolled. Marshall Law students say the admissions process was fairly easy compared to most other schools to which they applied.
Since Marshall Law is a public university, tuition depends on a student's residency. For Texas residents, tuition costs a bit over $13,200 annually, whereas the cost for nonresidents is just under $17,000. While these costs are reasonable, nonresident applicants should know it is quite difficult to gain Texas residency by the second year. In 2009, the law school provided grant aid to about 43 percent of its full-time students, with a median amount of $3000. Marshall Law graduates in 2009 had a very low average amount of law school-related debt, $20,429. The law school does not offer its students a loan repayment assistance program.
Marshall Law's typical lecture size for first-year students is 45, small for a Tier 4 school. With 43 total teaching faculty members, the student-to-faculty ratio is a respectable 13 to 1. First-year students all take the same courses, including property, torts, contracts, criminal law, legal writing, civil procedure and lawyering. Current students say the course load is arduous with a harsh grading curve, and 16 percent of Marshall students withdraw before their second year.
The school is one of the nation's most diverse, with enrollment numbers running as high as 50 percent for African-Americans and 24 percent for Hispanics. Non-minorities are welcome at this historically black school, but are sparse.
Quality of life
Students say crime is a problem in Houston's Third Ward, where the law school is located. Statistics back up this claim, showing that Houston has a crime rate slightly above the national average. Students say renovations of facilities and buildings have been underfunded, which has prolonged construction projects around campus. Some students even said they were without desks for a long time after the campus flooded in 2001.
The cost of living in the Third Ward is lower than other parts of the city and state, and housing is available for students of all income levels both on and off campus. Houston offers numerous bars, clubs, restaurants and shops for Marshall Law students, which adds to the quality of life for the average student.
Employment prospects & bar passage
In 2008, 83 percent of Marshall Law students were known to be employed within nine months of graduation. Of those, 64 percent were working in Texas.
Graduates who worked in the private sector earned a median salary of $55,000. Those in the public sector earned a median of $55,000. The latter number is impressive for a Tier 4 school, though it does not necessarily hold for students who wish to work outside of Texas. Students say top firms only recruit from the top-ranked students in the class. They believe that, despite the decent nine-month employment rate, getting a job in Texas is difficult, and say that gaining employment outside of Texas is even harder because of the school's lack of national prestige. Students say in order to market yourself efficiently, you must stand out from other law students either by working on a law review, having top grades, getting articles published, or some combination of the three.
Most recently, graduates passed the Texas bar exam at an average rate of 59.6 percent, nearly 25 percentage points lower than the state average. This metric placed Marshall Law last of nine ABA-accredited law schools in the state. Prospective students should take heed, as nearly half could need to take the bar a second time (or more).
The city's crime rates, the law school's questionable employment prospects and undeniably dismal bar passage rates should all cause concern for prospective students. There are, however, potential benefits for students considering Marshall Law. It is extremely diverse, the average debt is commendably low and the starting salaries are impressively high for a Tier 4 school. For a Texas resident who wants an education that will help jumpstart a well-paying career in Texas, Marshall School of Law can be a good choice.
U.S. News & World Report ranking: Tier 4
LSAT Median: 146
GPA Median: 2.98
Application Deadline: April 1
Application fee: $55
Entering class size: 219
Yearly Tuition: Resident, $13,235; Non-Resident, $16,985
Bar passage rate in Texas: 59.6%
Percent of graduates employed 9 months after graduation: 83%
Median private sector salary: $55,000 (Class of 2008, 42% reporting)