I am honored to assume the leadership of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana at such an exciting time in the School's distinguished history. For more than a century, the School of Law has been a leader in legal education, with a commitment to practical training that began with its first class of students in 1911. Today, supported by its many dedicated alumni and friends—exemplified by the extraordinary generosity of the Blewett family—the School of Law is poised to become the premier law school in the burgeoning Rocky Mountain West.
We are blessed to live, study, and work in an amazing place. Montana's physical beauty provides a spectacular setting for a University, with unmatched opportunities to unwind from the rigors of legal study. But even more important is the vibrant community that this institution fosters. Whether they come from the sweeping plains of eastern Montana, the mountains straddling the continental divide, one of our seven tribal reservations, or beyond our borders, our students join a tradition of mutual respect and support that they carry through their academic and professional lives. This law school is not just a place to get a degree. We build relationships that last a lifetime.
Academically, our program of legal education separates us from the crowd of law schools. Recently, the ABA began requiring law schools to teach skills. We've been doing that since our founding. Our mission commits us to preparing students "for the people-oriented practice of law by integrating theory and practice in a competency-based curriculum." We take that goal seriously. One of the first law schools in the nation to provide clinical experience to every student, the School of Law has long had a unique approach to training lawyers. All our students get skills training beginning in the first year, and every one has at least one live-client experience. More broadly, we integrate theory and practice throughout the curriculum, with experiential learning incorporated into everything from Administrative Law to Wildlife Law.
Of course, the success of any institution of higher learning depends on the quality of its faculty. Ours is unsurpassed. Over the past few years, our faculty has seen significant turnover, with a number of distinguished, long-serving members entering retirement. In turn, a new generation has emerged. Every one of our new faculty members has significant practice experience—something very few law schools even strive for—as well as a passion for teaching and an intellectual curiosity about the law. These are the professors who will propel the School of Law to a new prominence in its second century.
This influx of talent has injected a renewed energy into our programs of distinction. In areas such as Environmental Law and Natural Resources, Indian Law, and Conflict Resolution, we have long been seen as regional and national leaders. New hires and expanded programs will cement our position at the forefront of those critical fields. At the same time, the resources now available through the Blewett family's philanthropy will give us a new prominence in Consumer Law & Protection, while providing our students and faculty the means to expand access to justice throughout the state. And on the business side, the new Max S. Baucus Institute will focus on economic development, with a global perspective.
In sum, at a time of retrenchment for many law schools around the country, our future has never been brighter. We will continue to do the things that have brought us so much success to date, delivering an outstanding legal education at a reasonable cost while serving as the academic legal center for the state of Montana. We will pursue excellence in the fields—both new and already established—in which we can make a difference in the lives of our citizens and people around the world. And at all times, we will remain focused on the one thing that matters most: the academic, personal, and professional success of our students.
Welcome to the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana!
Paul F. Kirgis
For more than 100 years, the University of Montana School of Law has educated lawyers and prepared them to serve society. In 1914, the School of Law became a member of The Association of American Law Schools and in 1923, received accreditation from the American Bar Association. In 2011, the School of Law celebrated 100 years of education and service.
In 2014, the School of Law announced a major scholarship gift from Alexander "Zander" and Andrea (Andy) Blewett of Great Falls, Montana, who previously made several other major donations to the law school for building projects including the Hoyt & Blewett Courtroom and the Blewett Room, which houses the offices of the Montana Law Review. The new gift of $800,000 created the Blewett Scholars Fund which benefits graduates of Montana State University who attend law school at the University of Montana. Zander graduated from Montana State University and later attended the University of Montana School of Law, as did his father, Alex, and two sons, Anders and Drew, who all received their Juris Doctor degrees from UM Law. In 2015, the Blewetts generously offered a school "naming gift" of another $9.2 million to the law school, bringing their total gift to $10 million. In May, 2015, the Montana Board of Regents approved the gift, and in recognition of it and the Blewett family's long history of other contributions to UM Law, formally named the law school the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana.
Each year, approximately 84 students enroll from across the country looking for a hands-on approach to legal education. Under the guidance of dedicated faculty and staff, students thrive in an experience-rich environment that integrates theory and practice. Long before it was fashionable, the University of Montana School of Law made a commitment to training practice-ready lawyers. At the University of Montana, every student must participate in clinical programs in order to graduate. The atmosphere at the University of Montana is enhanced by the surrounding Rocky Mountains, where wilderness and recreation offer a break from the rigors of law study.
Mission and Values
The University of Montana School of Law prepares students for the people-oriented practice of law by integrating theory and practice in a competency-based curriculum; serves as the academic legal center in Montana; and contributes to the development of national, state, and tribal law and legal institutions through teaching, scholarship, and service.
In pursuit of this mission, the School of Law strives to:
- Develop in its students the demonstrated ability to serve society as lawyers, to represent clients generally and in particular transactions, and to seek resolution of conflicts in appropriate forums;
- Foster intellectual inquiry, knowledge of the law, fundamental professional skills, perspective on the role of law and lawyers in society, and the character and values necessary to serve society;
- Support scholarship and provide professional service to Montana, tribal governments and communities, the nation, and the international community;
- Emphasize those areas of law significant to the Rocky Mountain West, including natural resources, environmental, and Indian law; and
- Promote among students, faculty, and the profession a sense of community enriched by a diverse group of people devoted to freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression.
Commitment to Diversity
The University of Montana School of Law shall promote and support a learning environment that encourages, enriches and respects the multidimensional aspects of diversity. Recognizing that the quality of legal education is enhanced by a diverse educational community, the Law School is committed to recruiting and retaining students, faculty, staff and administrators capable of creating a safe, vibrant, diverse, engaging and intellectually stimulating learning environment. This educational environment reinforces and models the principle that diversity is an integral part of learning and the competent, people-oriented practice of law. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, differences based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation or background, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, economic class or status, points of view, or disabilities.