UMKC School of Law
Styling itself as "the urban law school with a small liberal arts feel," this campus of the University of Missouri is located just south of downtown Kansas City. An affordable program, the school boasts several famous alumni - mostly notably Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States.
Admissions & tuition
For those applying to start in the summer or fall of 2014, 310 out of 566 applicants were accepted, yielding an acceptance rate of nearly 55%. Of those 310 accepted, 149 opted to enroll, giving the school a matriculation rate of approximately 48%. The LSAT scores of the entering students ranged from a 25th percentile of 150 to a 75th of 154; the GPA range for the same quartiles was 2.96-3.54. The average age of the entering students was 26, about 21% of the students identified themselves as members of diverse racial or ethnic groups, and about 40% were women.
Since UMKC is a public school, tuition rates vary according to a student's residency status. For Missouri residents, 2014-2015 tuition was $18,320; for out-of-state residents, the cost is $34,832, but the school offers a large number of scholarships to out-of-state applicants that enable them to pay the lower in-state tuition rate. The relatively low cost is one of the greatest benefits UMKC has to offer.
As is the case with most law schools, the first year course load is predetermined: Contracts I & II, Property I & II, Torts, Criminal Law, Civil Procedure I, Constitutional Law, and two semesters of legal writing and researching. Students who do the "summer start" and begin law school in May rather than August have an opportunity to take additional courses, including upper-level elective courses, during their first year. The grading curve for first-year courses requires the average grade in each course to be between a 2.6 and a 2.9. For upper-level required courses, the curve allows for the average grade to be between 2.7 and 3.0, and for upper-level elective couress, the curve is 2.8 to 3.1. Some courses, such as seminars, are not subject to the grade curve requirements. The rate of attribution is typically very low, with only a few students failing to make the rquired grades, deciding to withdraw, or transferring each year.
One thing that does distinguish the UMKC from its peers is the relatively low student-to-faculty ratio of 11 to 1. Dedicated students report that it is quite easy to develop a close relationship with a professor; especially since UMKC offers highly qualified second-and-third year students the opportunity to work as paid research assistants. In addition to the flagship journal, The UMKC Law Review, students are also encouraged to submit articles to the Urban Lawyer and Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Quality of life
Though sometimes thought of by big-city inhabitants as being "in the middle of nowhere," Kansas City is actually the second-largest metropolitan area in Missouri, trailing only that of St. Louis. The city is home to shopping centers, museums, and two major-league sports teams; all things considered, Kansas City is one of the most culturally vibrant and fun cities of the Great Plain States. Luckily for UMKC students, the law school is located only a few miles south of downtown. Students also enjoy the benefit of a very low cost-of-living, which is only 80% the national average. UMKC truly is, in this respect at least, the best of both worlds - cheap housing without sacrificing entertainment or interest.
UMKC has one of the best employment rates of any school in the third tier: 86.9% of graduates are employed within nine months of graduation. The majority of graduates stayed to work in the region, including various parts of Missouri, Kansas, and neighboring states. On the July 2014 Missouri bar exam, 89.1% of the school's first-time takers passed. The school has a highly acclaimed and successful bar prep program. For example, for the July 2014 exam, 96.1% of participants in the program passed the Missouri bar exam.
Though jobs are plentiful, salaries are relatively meager. Even in the private sector, the median salary of UMKC alumni was only $62,500 annually. The only truly "biglaw" market relatively nearby - Chicago - is nearly impossible to enter, owing to intense competition from higher ranked schools all over the nation. That said, almost three-quarters of graduates found jobs in the private sector, with the majority working at small-to-midsized Missouri law firms.
As with most Tier 3 schools, potential applicants should be aware that a degree from UMKC is hardly a "sure thing" as far as post-graduate job prospects are concerned. However, there are certainly upsides. Tuition is cheap, especially for Missouri residents, and almost all graduates quickly find employment. For an applicant willing to stay in Missouri (where only Washington University outranks UMKC), and practice at a smaller law firm, UMKC can be a good use of both time and money. But one interested in working in another state or outside the private sector would probably be best-served elsewhere.
University of Missouri-Kansas City
School of Law
5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
Ranking: Tier 3
2014 Median GPA: 3.21
2014 Median LSAT: 152
Number of 1Ls: 146 (FT) 3 (PT)
2014-2015 Full-Time Tuition: $18,320 (In-State), $34,832 (Out-of-State)
% Employed 9 Months after Graduation: 86.9% (Class of 2013)
Median Private Sector Salary: $62,500 (Class of 2008, 66% reporting)