TALLAHASSEE – Florida State University College of Law opened its doors to its first class in 1966. Today, it’s considered the top law school in Florida and the 32nd best in the nation.
Dean Erin O’Connor has high hopes for the next 50 years. She spoke with the Florida Record about the plans for celebrating the 50th anniversary of the law school and where the college goes next.
“We’re kicking off the celebration with 50 days of trivia about the college on our social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” she said. “At orientation, we’ve invited alumni from 1969, 1970 and 1971 to a dinner to share. Starting in the fall, we’re offering more features in our newsletter about graduates. Homecoming will be a big deal for us this year. We want to emphasize the strengths and attributes of the law school.”
This month, about 600 students will be attending the College of Law, 160 if which are new students to the program. According to O’Connor, this is the strongest incoming class based on median LSAT scores. Even though most law schools are seeing reduced applications, FSU’s attendance is actually rising.
O’Connor just came to FSU this summer.
“Since I’m brand new, I want to draw in the constituents to discuss the goals of the college. It’s an incredibly strong institution. I’m not seeing my role as an agent of change, but I would like to increase the inclusivity in the community. I want to make sure we put out practice-ready students.”
One of the strengths of the law school is its job placement rate, but graduates also excel on the Florida Bar Examination with a passage rate of about 80 percent, 13 percent higher than the overall passing rate for first-time test takers. O’Connor said that the alumni network is also very strong. Currently, there are more alumni to mentor students than actual students.
The social media campaign is also focusing on high profile graduates, such as Mary L. Pankowski, former assistant state attorney who made a difference in the juvenile justice system. One Facebook post identified Shannon Bream as a 1996 grad who covers the U.S. Supreme Court on Fox News and is an anchor for America’s News Headquarters. The first alum who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida was Justice Ricky Polston, who earned his J.D. in 1987.
FSU College of Law has many different academic programs beyond the Juris Doctor. Students have the opportunity to specialize in business, environmental or international law. After graduation, a J.D. can earn a certificate in one of the specialty areas. International students come to FSU to earn an LL.M. in American law. Non-law college graduates who need to know more about the legalities in a particular industry have the opportunity to earn a Juris Master degree.
“We have 10 students in the Juris Master program this year,” O’Connor said.
Universities.com named FSU the ninth most-beautiful campus in the United States. The college is within walking distance of the capital, which allows students to have access to real-world experience and provides networking opportunities. According to O’Connor, all of the attributes of the college make it one of the best places in the nation to get a law degree.