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Drake law school named in prelaw top 10 best value list

DRAKE LAW SCHOOL placed in preLaw’s top 10 best value schools. Professor Ellen Yee says this is a reflection of Drake Law’s existing values. PHOTO BY Meghan Holloran | photo editor

PreLaw Magazine’s rankings for the 2023-24 academic year were released in the Fall 2023 issue, and Drake students recognized a name on the Best Value list. Ranking ninth in the nation, Drake became a Best Value private law school. The Best Value ranking examines the graduation rates and costs of all 197 American Bar Association-accredited law schools to determine which have a high bar passage rate and job placement rate without student financial burden. 

Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School, said this ranking reflects alumni success. 

“For me, value is what it’s all about. And so I’m really pleased that the ranking recognizes the value of the Drake Law degree,” Anderson said. “It is indicative, I think, of what you can do with the Drake Law degree.” 

Anderson said the law school has a 95% pass rate for first-time takers of the July 2023 Iowa bar exam, which is one of the highest in the nation. The majority of students take and pass the bar in Iowa, but Drake Law has students who take and pass the bar across the country, according to Anderson. 

He attributes the high passage rate to dedicated faculty and an intentional bar pass program. Students take a specialized course that prepares them for the bar by working with them on the essay writing and multiple-choice sections. 

“We’re very student-focused from the beginning, so we don’t hire professors unless they care about the student’s education,” Anderson said. “It really is pervasive throughout the curriculum that professors are trying to make sure the students are going to be prepared for that exam when they graduate. That is number one: having all the professors focus on making sure students are learning what they need to learn to pass the exam.”

PreLaw Magazine also considers job placement when ranking law schools for Best Value. Drake Law School reports an employment rate of 92% for the Drake Law Class of 2022. Drake alumni take a survey three years after graduation, and they regularly report higher job satisfaction than at other universities, according to Anderson. 

Anderson said Drake Law prioritizes one-on-one attention throughout the career-finding process. He said that Drake Law students highly value the school’s career development office, which sits down with them and talks through where they want to end up and how to get there. 

Drake Law School offers internship opportunities, clinic experience and other out-of-classroom learning experiences that Anderson said employers value. Prior to graduation, some Drake Law students already have experience in a courtroom.

“Being able to show an employer that I’ve already been in the courtroom is huge,” Anderson said. “The practice experience that our students get through our clinics and internships is really instrumental in helping them get good jobs because employers want to see that kind of background and not that you just spent three years sitting in a classroom.” 

Drake Law also hosts a first-year practicum, an experience entirely unique to the law school, every spring semester. Every year since 1998, first-year students have had the opportunity to watch a trial from jury selection to verdict. 

“We get to ask questions to the counselors, and we have the opportunity to ask some questions to the jury members afterward as well, which was really informative,” second-year Maryellen Wooten said. “They do that in order to help you prepare for later classes, so you actually understand what you’re doing because you’ve seen it done before.” 

The law school offers another hands-on experience: competition teams. Drake Law has several mock trial teams, several moot trial teams and several skill teams, including an arbitration team, a client counseling team and a negotiations team. All of these have historically performed very well, according to Wooten.

“It’s stuff like that which really brings in the financial value because you gain a lot of networking,” Wooten said. “You gain a lot of hands-on experience while in school, not just in your summer months or when you work.” 

Wooten chose to come to Drake for law school from Tennessee because of the small class sizes, unique opportunities and professors. Drake Law School employees are experts in their fields and they are always willing to help, according to Wooten.

“All the professors at Drake have practiced law actually too,” Wooten said. “That’s important.” 

Wooten said she also considered scholarships when choosing Drake Law. During this academic year, 85% of Drake Law students received some type of financial aid. 

“I’ve not heard people complain about the scholarships they’ve been getting, so that’s good as well,” Wooten said. 

Students can receive both merit-based and need-based scholarships. Kara Blanchard, assistant dean of Admission and Financial Aid, said that scholarships are funded by Drake Law School and their extensive alumni network. 

Blanchard said many alumni invest in endowments – scholarships that can be accessed continuously. She also said that Drake Law’s alumni board has been creating and maintaining great relationships with alumni, and she believes that support will grow in the future. 

“We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of support from alumni and other donors who have supported scholarship opportunities that benefit our students,” Blanchard said. “People who graduate from Drake Law School have a really strong affinity for the law school and are very supportive because they had great experiences here.”

Dean Anderson said that one of his main goals is to reduce the debt load of students, so he has worked to lower costs and increase financial aid. He reports that the average debt load of Drake Law students has decreased even as inflation increased. 

“I’m very proud that we’ve been able to make law school more affordable for so many students,” Anderson said. “If a student starts out with a high debt load, it can really limit their career choices and can make the first years of practice very challenging.”

Anderson said that the ranking will increase awareness of Drake and objectively showcase the value of a Drake Law degree. 

If we say we’re a good value, they may not believe us,” Anderson said. “But if it’s in a ranking, then we can point to the ranking as an objective indicator of our value.” 

Professor Ellen Yee returns to Drake Law’s mission statement when talking about the ranking. She said that the ranking takes into account the tangible successes of , but there are many things that can not be quantified, such as the sense of community and culture here at Drake. 

According to Yee, Drake Law School strives to create an overall great student experience and foster different types of growth in the student body in terms of their professional identity and understanding of what professional responsibility looks like.

I think those rankings are the outcome of values that we’ve had and we have those values no matter what. It’s a reflection of them, not a driver of them,” Yee said.

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