Sturm Starts the Year Strong

Preliminary numbers hint at higher national profile and broader geographic reach

University of Denver Sturm College of Law Dean Bruce Smith is quick to note that this year’s entering class data have yet to be verified by the Law School Admission Council, but the numbers so far all point in one direction: up.


Three days into the start of the fall semester, the incoming class size totaled 274, up from 247 last year. LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs were up across the board, as well, according to the preliminary data. The median GPA for the incoming class of 2019 rose from 3.45 to 3.49. This year’s median LSAT score rose one point to 159.

“My experience is that it is not common to increase the academic credentials of your class [and] increase your class size,” Smith said, adding that an increased yield on offers of admission contributed to the  academic qualifications and size of this year’s entering class.

Smith said the allure of Denver as a location and legal market has been a consistent advantage in drawing strong law school applicants over the last several years.

“Denver in 2019 is a very lively, dynamic, diversified legal sector,” he said. 

Out-of-state students accounted for 56% of incoming students in 2019, a jump from 45% last year, and members of this year’s entering class hailed from 40 states — up from 35 states in 2018.

Smith said Sturm’s strong experiential learning programs also probably helped draw a highly qualified pool of applicants this year. 

DU was the only law school to have all three such programs — its clinical program, its advocacy program and its legal writing program — ranked in the top 10 in the 2020 U.S. News and World Report rankings released in March.

“That is very helpful, especially for students who are thinking about the return on investment on their legal education, if you will, and looking at institutions that can prepare them rigorously for the future practice of law,” Smith said.

The law school has also stepped up its scholarship support in the past couple years, supported by what Smith called a “transformative set of commitments” from the Denver-based Sturm Family Foundation. 

He said the increased availability of scholarships has also helped draw strong students from further afield. Changes to Sturm’s part-time J.D. program since last year have also widened the law school’s reach. Prior to 2018, Sturm’s part-time program had been an evening program requiring students to be on campus four nights a week, making it hard to recruit students from even Colorado Springs or Castle Rock.

After switching to weekend classes with a significant online component last fall, Sturm’s four-year part-time JD program began drawing students from as far as Salt Lake City, Omaha and Dallas, according to Smith. 

“It has brought in incredible students — students with extensive work experience in financial compliance, oil and gas, higher-ed and law enforcement — across a range of specialty areas,” he said. 

— Jessica Folker

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