You cannot ask too many people about South Dakota without someone mentioning Mount Rushmore and Sturgis. However, the state is about a lot more than stone effigies and tributes to motorcycles. South Dakota is a prairie state where the American Buffalo once ruled. It is also home to the Black Hills and the fabled Badlands. There are still remnants of its western past in places like the historic Deadwood, a well-preserved town of the old west. Today, you will find monuments to corn at the Corn Palace, and a new monument to Crazy Horse. While there may be lots to see and do in South Dakota, if you want to go to law school there, your choice is limited to the University of South Dakota School of Law.
The University of South Dakota School of Law (USD Law) is located in Vermillion. Vermillion is a small town on the Missouri River in the south east section of the state. While the town is only about 10,000 residents, it is the home to the University of South Dakota, which has an undergraduate population of about 5,000. This population ratio gives the town a unique mixture of rural and academic flavor. A small town may be a boon for the law student as there are fewer distractions to entice you away from law books. However, there are lots recreational opportunities on the shores of the Missouri River and the largest city in South Dakota, Sioux City, is only an hour away.
The law school is a part of the University of South Dakota and may remain in Vermillion, but it is studying moving the law school to Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota and is located near the Iowa and Minnesota borders about 60 miles north of Vermillion. As of this writing any move is a ways off, as the process has just started to gather information, but there is sure to be lots of discussion about it for the next several years.
The school promotes itself as a great value because of its low tuition and high employment rates. The school's mission is to provide a diverse educational and social opportunities to allow the law student to develop skills for lifelong contributions to a global society. The student body composition for 2016 was 58.7% male and 41.3% female.
USD Law is a public school with an enrollment of about 200 full-time and 100 part-time students. The incoming class for 2016 was 52 students. It is an American Bar Association approved school. The school offers nine joint degree programs and eleven specialty course tracks.
The tuition for residents is at the very low end for law schools and the tuition for non-residents is just below the mid-range for U.S. Law schools. The school traditionally accepts LSAT scores between 145 and 152. The bar pass rate for first-time takers of the South Dakota Bar was 58% for 2015, according to the ABA standard 509 disclosures. However, the average bar pass rate had been 86% for bar exams from 2012 to 2014. U.S. World & News Report indicates an employment rate of 52% at graduation in 2016 and considers USD a third tier school, according to their ranking of law schools.
The law school has a standard legal studies curriculum. In addition, there are required courses for experiential learning that include legal clinics and externships. There are also a number of electives that students can choose to take individually or as part of a curricular track.
Tips for Law School and Beyond
Whether or not you decide you to make your way to South Dakota, you will no doubt want to investigate FindLaw's Law Student section website. It contains many articles that offer tips and advice to help select a school, choose classes, take the bar exam, and go onto your first job.