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University of New Mexico (UNM School of Law)

The School of Law is the state’s only law school and is located on the University of New Mexico’s North Campus, adjacent to a 9-hole golf course and across the street from the university’s medical school complex. It is in Albuquerque, the state’s largest city that sits at an altitude of 5,000 feet between the Rio Grande and the Sandia Mountains.

About 350 students attend the school, with approximately 119 enrolled in the first-year class. By design, the school has remained this size in order to provide students more hands-on learning and individual attention from professors. First-year course sizes range from nine students in the practicum course to 13 in LRRW to 60 students in Comparative History and Legal Perspectives.

The mission of the Law School is consistent with the long-range plans of the University, recently formalized in a document entitled "UNM 2000". As a part of the University, the general mission of the Law School is to transmit and to increase the store of human knowledge. As a professional school, the Law School's role is to provide academic and professional instruction to those who wish a legal education.

The context in which the University of New Mexico Law School operates helps to define these goals. Since the Law School is highly subsidized by the state, the taxpayers of New Mexico are entitled to a law school that sees its role as providing a high quality legal education primarily to the citizens of the state, and which devotes significant research resources to improving the justice system of the state. This commitment includes education in Indian Law because nineteen pueblos and four reservation tribes operate government within the territorial boundaries of New Mexico.

The nature of the State of New Mexico influences the Law School's mission statement. The state's population is ethnically and racially diverse. For many in the state, including some in its larger metropolitan areas, English is a second language. Spanish, Native American, and, more recently, Black and Asian cultures play a significant role in the lives of many of the state's citizens. This ethnic and racial diversity has been deliberately taken into account in student admissions policies, curricular design, and is reflected in the significant number of students, faculty, and staff who are functionally bilingual and bicultural.

Close to Mexico, but far from any other United States law school, the Law School's geographical setting must also play a part in its mission. Albuquerque has been described affectionately as "The City at the End of the World" because it is the city in this country that literally is further than any other city from another large metropolitan area. Thus, the Law School has no nearby competitor. The potential for innovation is one advantage of not looking up the road to see what a neighboring school is doing, but there is the danger that isolation may interfere with our ability to be in the forefront of legal education, or, even worse, of becoming complacent and parochial.

Awareness of both these opportunities and dangers helps to focus this Law School's mission. For rather than narrowing the Law School's responsibilities, emphasis on serving New Mexico imposes obligations on the school that may be beyond those of other law schools. It is essential that graduates of our school receive training that is at least equal to the training provided at the prestigious "national" law schools. This means that the faculty and course of studies must be in the main stream of legal education; that new developments both in pedagogy and in the substance of the law cannot be neglected, if for no other reason than our graduates will be practicing with graduates of other schools. Of perhaps greater significance, our graduates will be expected to play a major role in the development of the legal system of this state, and if they have not been trained on the cutting edge of the law, the system will suffer.

Additional obligations flow from our mission. Few of our graduates will have the post-graduation training offered by many firms in larger cities. We must provide an education that better prepares students for the practice of law, a task that is far from mundane. Thus, our skills courses, including our clinic, become of greater importance. However, over-emphasis on teaching skills that are relevant only today must be avoided. The core of a good legal education still revolves around theory and conceptualization.

We believe, however, that there is no conflict between a theoretical academic, legal education and one that involves a significant component of skills training. Although clinical education, and to a significant extent all skills training, is taught in a different setting, good skills training is grounded upon theory. In essence, skills courses attempt to achieve the same objectives as traditional classroom course offering: training in analysis, synthesis, and policy.

To fulfill its mission, the law school must have a bipartite research focus. Present practical problems of the state's justice system must be addressed. The law school should, and does, play a significant role in helping the New Mexico government improve its legislative, executive and judicial responsibilities. Again, this cannot be done in a vacuum, for knowledge of developments in other states and at the federal level is essential if local improvement is to be made. Nor are the problems to be addressed narrow in scope. Most of the state's problems are national problems, and solutions are suggested daily in other states and on the federal level. Of primary long range importance to this state, for example, is the allocation of its water resources, preservation of its environment, medical care for its residents, improvement of its criminal and civil justice systems, protection of civil rights, the development of better solutions to family and juvenile problems, ethnic/racial/gender relations, and international trade focusing on Mexico here, but providing lessons for world trade in the increasingly interdependent global economy.

In one respect, the education of people in a state where the so-called minority populations outnumber the "majority" population, the particularized focus of this Law School promises to provide a national model. Census data tells us that the nation as a whole will be a minority group nation early in the twenty-first century. This is already true here. By the time it becomes a reality elsewhere, this Law School will have acquired vast experience in educating and training lawyers that it can share with legal educators nationally.

Although the law school accepts its distinct obligation to be of assistance to New Mexico, it is essential that the faculty be involved in national and global research and scholarship. The soul of any university department demands that attention be given to fundamental philosophical issues. The life of a law school depends upon careful consideration of current jurisprudential questions. Moreover, when faculty members engage in research and law reform activities on national issues, students are afforded opportunities to place their understanding of apparently regional problems in a national, even international context. Using regional problems as a lens through which to examine larger questions and at the same time exposing them to those larger questions is a way of developing generic, analytic skills.

Finally, the law school has a responsibility of offering to its students the opportunity of acquiring a world-wide perspective through courses in international and comparative law, and of conducting research in these subjects. Trade among the North American countries will be of increasing importance to the state and our graduates over the years. Of special importance to the state, the university and the law school is our relations with Mexico and other Latin American countries. Economic development, resource, and environmental problems at this border are potentially repeated at every national border. Again, what we teach and learn here may provide some guidance for the solution of more global problems.

UNM Law School encourages interdisciplinary perspectives. While most of our classes require substantial legal knowledge, some are open to students who have a sophisticated understanding of the substantive class subject.

Despite the cautionary admonitions listed below, many graduate students have done very well in Law School classes, enriching themselves and other students.

The faculty members at the law school are its most important assets. They have been educated at the nation's most distinguished law schools and have practiced and taught throughout the country, bringing to UNM a healthy diversity of backgrounds, professional interests, and outlooks on legal education.
In addition to their academic responsibilities, our law professors serve the public and the profession as bar commissioners, consultants and advisers to leading law firms and legislative and judicial committees. They also participate in national and state legal organizations.

The UNM law faculty are known for their commitment to teaching and the special value they place on accessibility and responsibilities to students. They value contacts with students outside class and do not limit these to set office hours. They work together to devise and test new courses and methods of instruction, undertake ancillary teaching responsibilities, and coach students in legal writing, taking examinations, moot courts, trial practice, and other competitions. The law school's 10-1 student to faculty ratio facilitates frequent interaction.

The school of law is the only school in the state and has a close relationship with the bench and bar. This relationship is reflected in the list of distinguished practicing attorneys who serve as adjunct faculty. The adjuncts enrich the curriculum by offering courses in a number of legal specialties and enhance students' communication with the bench and bar.

Perhaps as important as what is being taught is the environment in which it is presented. The University of New Mexico School of Law is a place where ideas can be shared and discussed in an open and encouraging environment.

The variety of backgrounds and interests brought by the student body encourages the development of these ideas providing a rich source of perspectives and analysis.

School name:University of New MexicoUNM School of Law
Address:1117 Stanford NE MSC11 6070 . 1 University of New Mexico
Zip & city:NM 87131-0001 New Mexico

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