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USD Establishes Task Force to Study Law School Move

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota will establish a task force to study the idea of moving the state’s only law school from the Vermillion campus to Sioux Falls, USD President James W. Abbott said Friday.

Across the nation law schools have reported up to a 40 percent drop in applicants since 2009. Some law schools have relaxed entrance standards in order to fill seats, resulting in fewer graduates passing the bar exam. Others, like USD, continue to seek quality applicants over quantity, even if it means smaller classes and a budget shortfall.

“Neither strategy is sustainable long term,” Abbott said. “It has been suggested that relocation of the law school to Sioux Falls may result in an increase in the number of qualified applicants.”

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, has agreed to chair the Special Law School Task Force. Mickelson serves as speaker of the South Dakota State House and is a USD graduate. He earned his law degree at Harvard. Twelve additional members will be appointed to the broad-based task force.

South Dakota’s School of Law, founded in 1901, educates most of the state’s lawyers and judges, filling spots in private law firms and in public legal practice. The USD School of Law is nationally ranked as a best value law school for quality of programs and affordable cost.


USD’s Knudson School of Law prepares students for leadership in the administration of justice in South Dakota, including in rural areas where the demand is great, and for private practice, public service, business and other law-related endeavors anywhere. Its joint degree program allows students to also earn one of nine master’s degrees within the traditional three-year law curriculum, which includes course tracks in business, commercial, constitutional, criminal, employment, environmental, Indian, real estate and tax law as well as civil litigation and estate planning.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News