UNL College of Law Among Nation’s Best Values 12/6/18 12/11/18 10:21:44 AM
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UNL College of Law Dean Richard Moberly talks to law students March 8, 2017. The Law School was recently named the nation’s best value by National Jurist Magazine. (Courtesy Craig Chandler/University Communications)
UNL College of Law Among Nation’s Best Values
Value is one of the chief values of the Nebraska College of Law.
The law school housed at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln was ranked the nation’s No. 1 best value by National Jurist Magazine in recent years, and it ranked third from the lowest in terms of student debt in a 2018 review by U.S. News and World Report.
But for Richard Moberly, the college’s dean, value isn’t just about dollars and cents. It’s about the sense soon-to-be-attorneys have that they’re prepared to enter the legal profession.
“We think it is no longer enough for a law school to teach students to think like a lawyer,” Moberly said. “We’re trying to get our students opportunities where they can learn practical and professional skills that they will need from the moment they graduate.”
A focus on soft skills, leadership and relationship building help young attorneys with client development. The new Build Your Character program helps students obtain the professional skills lawyers need, and Moberly said it’s already beginning to earn recognition.
“We have the potential to have much higher viability both regionally and nationally,” Moberly said.
Moberly said his focus on the finances of a legal education connect to the college’s land grant mission. He said he hopes that by offering an affordable education, more students will be able to take jobs in the public sector and nonprofits, as well as those in rural communities, that don’t pay as well.
Another key is for students to not have their career languish after law school. Moberly said about 90 percent of students in the past five years have passed their bar exams, and most students have a job within 10 months of graduation – both above-average outcomes when compared nationally.
For third-year law student Chris Page, that combination of cost and quality helped him decide to pack up his bags and move from Ohio to Nebraska. He said he wanted to follow his partner to graduate school, and the opportunity Nebraska afforded to him – even as an out-of-state student – allowed them to stay together.
“It’s not like I was sacrificing a good education to come out here,” Page said. “I wanted to go to a good school, but I wanted to make sure that we could afford it. Nebraska was in that sweet spot.”
Nebraska continues to invest in its programs, including opening a new 16,000-square-foot clinic building two years ago to house several opportunities for law students to gain real-world experience.
Two of the newest clinics focus on entrepreneurship and children’s justice, Moberly said. An immigration
clinic has grown fourfold, too. The $5.2 million building was privately funded and offers a state-of-the-art space for students to meet with, and work on, representing clients.
“They’re run like law firms,” Moberly said.
Gatluak Ramdiet, another third-year law student, has gained important experience in the criminal clinic, where he takes the lead on several cases in conjunction with the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office.
“You get to take the lead on everything that happens,” Ramdiet said. “You’re handling the case from the very beginning to its resolution.”
Ramdiet moved to Omaha in 2006 as a refugee from South Sudan. He spent three months this summer as a legal intern and researcher at the United Nations, helping the international organization that had run the refugee camp he lived in prior to relocating to the United States. He said he never would have had such an experience without the support and encouragement of his professors.
“I worked with some of the greatest international lawyers, and it was a surreal experience,” Ramdiet said. “A huge part of it was the classes that I took – that prepared me for exactly what the UN is looking for in an applicant.”
Moberly said other areas of emphasis for the college are its Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program, which partners with U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base. The program has given Nebraska national recognition as one of four universities in the world that are working to draft the definitive manual on the law surrounding military use of space.
The telecommunications side of the program has hosted conferences and workshops examining the rural divide for telecom and digital connectivity, Moberly said. That has brought national experts to the state to learn what’s happening on the ground in rural America.
Efforts are also underway in the past two years to expand the college’s footprint at the intersection of law and business.
Many people with law degrees end up in the business world in C-suite roles and as entrepreneurs, so Moberly said he wants to make that connection more explicit for students, including by offering an undergraduate minor on the law through the College of Business.
Fellowships also offer law students a chance to work a summer split between in a general counsel’s office and in a business role for area companies.
“We’re going to actually be one of the premiere places in the country for people who want to go into business, but understand that most businesses operate in a regulated environment and having the legal background and the legal training you get at a law school will be supremely important for them in their business career,” Moberly said.
Alumni have been extremely generous to the Nebraska College of Law over the years, Moberly said. He said graduates understand the importance of passing on the investment in law students.
For alumni of the college, Moberly said the college has changed since the ’70s and ’80s. Physically, the building is very different with an addition for legal writing and student services. The college has been renovated with an auditorium, new classrooms and new library spaces.
“What alumni tell me is that they remember professors,” Moberly said. “We’ve had this amazing group of professors who were here for 30 or 40 years. In the last five years or so, they have started to retire.”
Moberly said his hope is that the new generation of professors will stay for decades, too, building the same deep rapport with not only their current students but the greater legal community in Nebraska.
That community extends beyond Omaha and Lincoln, too.
Melani Hagge, a third-year law school student from Ord, plans to return to her central Nebraska hometown after graduation to practice at Stowell, Geweke & Piskorski PC LLO, which was founded by her grandfather in 1974.
Hagge said the college has helped her foster the skills needed to become a legal professional. As president of Greater Nebraska Connections, she’s helping build networks for law students preparing to practice outside of Omaha and Lincoln. She said it’s helped to have so many opportunities to network with current attorneys, including those operating out of the state’s metropolitan centers. “I have found those experiences very valuable,” Hagge said.
In Their Words
Melani Hagge: “I went on a couple of tours at the law school. I just noticed the culture there (at Nebraska) was different from other law schools in terms of the camaraderie between the students. … You’re all part of a team working toward this goal of graduation and becoming an attorney. … I also noted how they talked about their professors. They talked a lot about the approachability of their professors and that they would really bring the material in the class down to earth. … There is an element in each class that I have had where it is practice-oriented.”
Gatluak Ramdiet: “Just being forced out of my home in South Sudan and watching government and soldiers coming into villages and burning villages down. Just watching those people walk away without them being held accountable for anything or knowing that they’re not going to be prosecuted. Nobody will ever even know who they are. That just kind of gets you. … That is basically how I got interested in the justice system. ... Coming here opened me up to more opportunities to get involved. … I love the law, and I’m very passionate about its just enforcement.”
Chris Page: “I was asked to join the college’s national moot court team. There are six of us, all third-years. … After four weeks of intense practice and after doing the other competitions, I’ll be a lot more comfortable in the courtroom going forward once I start being a real lawyer. … With moot court, the one thing I love is trial, which is a bit more predictable I think, but (in) moot court you’re being asked questions by the judges that can be whatever they want to ask. You have to be prepared to answer that, understand the law and give an answer on the fly.”
Watch a video on the College of Law’s affordability: https://mediahub. unl.edu/media/7035