UVA Law School vs. Duke Law School
The University of Virginia School of Law
580 Massie Road
Application Deadline: March 1
Annual Tuition: $47,900 (residents), $52,900 (non-residents)
Class of 2016 Stats:
Acceptance Rate*: 15.2%
Total Applicants*: 6,062
Students of Color: 24%
Total Full-Time Enrollment*: 1,078
Average Age: 24
Median LSAT: 169
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile): 164-170
Median GPA: 3.87
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile): 3.53-3.94
Employed at Graduation*: 97.3%
Employed Nine Months Later*: 96.0%
Bar Passage*: 91.8%
The University of Virginia School of Law has a solid academic reputation, but there’s another factor that convinces many prospective students to enroll: the current students don’t want to leave. “They all typically wish they could be here forever, which is unheard of among people who go to law school,” says Anne Richard, senior assistant dean for admissions. In fact, UVa has the highest rate of alumni giving among law schools—a sign of happy graduates if there ever was one.
Much of UVa’s appeal is tied to its location. Charlottesville, Virginia, a charming city at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has a population of just under 44,000. Its natural beauty, safety and relative liveliness consistently put it in Magazines’ rankings of the best places to live. “I think students self-select into this community,” Richard says. For the most part, high-strung, hyper-competitive students go elsewhere—or calm down once they arrive.
Charlottesville’s size does limit students’ opportunities to some extent. “If someone wants to be in a major metro area, UVa is probably not the school for them,” Richard says matter-of-factly. “You can’t run up to capitol hill and intern for an hour.” Still, the school makes up for it. UVa has 19 different clinics, covering everything from mental health to child advocacy to the first amendment. And 2Ls and 3Ls who are really set on the capitol hill experience can participate in UVa’s D.C. externship program. Participation involves 40 hours of work per week at a D.C. government office, agency, or nonprofit, as well as enrollment in a weekly seminar (yes, there’s homework involved). Students who don’t want to leave campus can also do a part-time externship nearby.
There are also plenty of options on the coursework front. Though 1Ls only take two electives during their spring semester, 2Ls and 3Ls get to choose from 18 different concentrations. The number of classes within each concentration varies; in the past few years, the most well-stocked concentrations have been business organization and finance, constitutional law, international and national security law, litigation and procedure, and public policy and regulation. Classes are a bit on the larger size—the only 1L small-section class has 30 students—but the professors are easy to approach. “There’s a lot of socializing with faculty,” Richard says. Sometimes faculty members teach in their homes and invite students over for dinner.
Students who didn’t get a chance to study abroad in college can take advantage of UVa’s overseas opportunities. The school has international exchange programs in a diverse set of prime locations: Germany, Spain, Australia, South Korea, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, and Tokyo. Many of the programs have no language requirements. There is, however, a French fluency requirement for enrollment in the dual-degree program with Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), one of Europe’s most renowned universities. Graduates earn a J.D., a Master’s in Economic Law, and the ability to sit the French bar exam. It’s not a bad option for Francophiles.
How well UVa students do after graduation depends on where they choose to work. The good news is that an impressive 97.3% of graduates leave school with jobs lined up. But students with public sector aspirations might be disappointed by their starting salaries: though the median private sector starting salary is $160,000, the median public service starting salary is just $36,000. Still, students who graduated between 2008 and 2011 have snagged some impressive clerkships: 13 in the Supreme Court, 53 in the Circuit Courts of Appeal, and 106 in other federal courts.
Alumni certainly aren’t limited to Virginia. The top three post-graduation destinations are Washington, D.C., New York, and California—though it sounds like many people end up missing peaceful Charlottesville.
*Derived from school-reported U.S. News data
Academics & Programs: It’s all about a work-life harmony at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia. Students talk nonstop about the school’s “high level of academic focus mixed with the importance [it places on] having an enjoyable three years,” which is “a combination that’s really tough to find in a top law school.” When the “demanding course work” required is through, the “play hard” part of the equation begins, and the school is great about “combining out-of-class social activities with in-class work.” “It is amazing how much individual attention each student receives…considering the size of the school” says a student.
Most professors here are “truly wonderful, [care] deeply about students, and [are] terrific in the classroom,” though many admit that “there are a couple of duds here,” whose primary focus is on “their research.” They’re also all “extraordinarily accessible”: “I eat lunch with my professors on a regular basis,” says a student. UVA is great about hiring up-and-coming faculty members who are “young, funny, and soon-to-be stars in their fields.” Though the professors may know their material “backwards and forwards,” a few could stand to brush up on the technology the school provides them with for demonstration purposes. Opportunities for research assistantships are “numerous,” and independent studies, directed research, and clinics are also “extremely popular.” Small 1L sections (about thirty students) and a strong peer advisor program (which lasts informally beyond the first year) make for “a really supportive atmosphere.”
There are a few kinks in the administrative process—“course registration and [the] grade system could be better”—but the school runs “very smoothly…for an institution this size.” There’s a good sense of appreciation for “the freedom with which we can select our courses.” The loan assistance program has been redesigned, and “The Career Services Department has hired new staff.” Indeed, many people commend the Career Services and Clerkship offices for their work in placing students at jobs during hard times, and one student even claims, “The national reputation of the school for turning out well-rounded students was noted in many of my interviews at firms and for clerkships.”
Campus Life/Facilities: Don’t be fooled by outer appearances; though the law school buildings might not look it from the outside, the facilities within are “top notch,” “classy, and modern,” and the grounds are well-landscaped and “beautifully appointed.” Students’ satisfaction with their three years at UVA builds a strong and fondly reminiscent alumni network and a nationwide reputation that is “simply incredible.” It’s no surprise that people are nostalgic for the school before they’ve even left: “Not only am I being challenged academically, but I’m taking courses that interest me, I have solid job prospects, and, more importantly than some people admit, I love being here.”
“It is hard to imagine a group of people more laid-back” than UVA Law students and faculty. People here manage to be “smart, driven, and successful, and at the same time be down-to-earth, fun, and friendly.” “Many schools boast a ‘collegial’ atmosphere, but I don’t believe that any [other school] could top UVA,” says a 3L. “The keg in the quad every Thursday afternoon really says it all,” says a 2L. There’s also the school’s legendary “Feb Club,” which is a month of themed (and well-attended) parties on every single day of the week. “People of all persuasions attend and it is truly remarkable,” says a non-drinking student. But don’t let Feb Club fool you—”People here are smart and always find the time to get their work done.”
Students are “fairly non-competitive with each other but tough on themselves.” If you miss a class, you’ll often have notes from several other students “before you even have a chance to ask.” This “smart but well-rounded student body” is pretty diverse (the level has been increasing in recent years), but can “be a little fratty.” Cliques only tend to develop “along section lines, not really along racial or gender lines.” In fact, there are “tons” of social events organized through sections, including “section mixers, a tubing trip, Fall Foxfield [a horserace], softball, [and] potluck dinners.” It’s rare to find an unhappy student here, perhaps evidenced by the abundance of major social outlets and the “ubiquity of softball in the fall and spring seasons.” “Softball games are much more competitive than grades,” says a student. Charlottesville is a mid-Atlantic paradise for this happy crowd, who love the “beautiful, vibrant, small city” that boasts “wineries, hiking, golf, volunteering, [and] great bars and restaurants.” “I have absolutely loved living here and will be sorry to go back to the real world in May!” says a 3L.
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.
Duke University Law School
210 Science Dr.
Durham, NC 27708
Admissions: (919) 613-7006
Application Deadline: March 1, 2014
Annual Tuition: $52,620
Class of 2016 Stats:
Acceptance Rate*: 19.1%
Total Applicants*: 5,014
Students of Color: 29%
Average Age: 24
Total Full-Time Enrollment*: 776
Median LSAT: 169
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile)*: 165-170
Median GPA: 3.77
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile)*: 3.59-3.84
Employed at Graduation*: 72.9%
Employed Nine Months Later*: 87.4%%
Bar Passage*: 95.4%%
Academics & Programs: Though Duke University is nationally recognized for its stellar academic programs, students say it is the intimate atmosphere and emphasis on teaching that distinguishes their law school from other top-ranked institutions. Duke’s “ridiculously engaging” professors are “dedicated to both excellent scholarship and excellent teaching.” As at any prestigious school, the faculty’s “academic reputation is made from publishing”; however, “the professors here want to be professors, [they are] not [here to] just write.” That dedication is amply demonstrated in the faculty’s incredible accessibility to their students.
After class is out, “Professors all maintain an open door policy, and they actually mean it. You can just walk in and talk to them about class, other subjects you’re interested in, careers, or where to find the best microbrew in Durham.” A current student fondly remembers, “My 1L Con Law professor came to our softball game and had us over to his house for a picnic, and a variety of upper-level professors enjoy bowling with us every week.” Enrolling just over 200 first-year students annually, Duke’s modest size practically ensures a personal relationship with the faculty: “With even the largest 1L classes topping out around 75, it’s easy for professors to know you by name, and it’s never hard to spend one-on-one time with professors if you want to.”
Despite it’s all-around excellence, Duke is surprisingly down-to-earth. A current student details, “What really won me over about Duke was the school philosophy, as voiced by Dean Levi: ‘We take scholarship, service, professionalism, and teaching seriously; but we try not to take ourselves too seriously.’” To that end, the Duke culture “promotes a balanced life, instead of letting schoolwork consume you.” For example, the school’s “responsive administration” encourages students to pursue their personal passions, not just their required coursework. A 2L recounts, “Regarding the administration, they are very open to new ideas and flexible in their approach to the curriculum. One of my friends started a program to aid in Haiti’s reconstruction and the school has provided both financial and academic resources.” On that note, while “Duke expects initiative from students,” students have all of the “tools and opportunities” to reach their goals. Across departments, administrators and staff “are warm, friendly, and always available to help.” When it comes to schedule planning, “The academic advising department is fantastic and always available.”
Proud of their unique community, “People really rally around Duke, including alumni, and the enthusiasm for the school is infectious.” In this context, it is easy for students to make “both personal and professional connections with alumni around the country.” When it comes to jobs and internships, “Duke isn’t the biggest law school, so it’s not going to have the sheer number of alums that Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, and others have. However, it is the kind of place that inspires loyalty.” With that loyalty as an asset, Duke boasts “strong placement in numerous legal markets all over the country,” without a strong focus in any one region. Students point out the school’s “terrific connections with federal judges” and a “fantastic network in New York,” yet feel that students are still placed in other markets across the United States. A current student affirms that, “Regardless of what you want to do (big law, government, non-profit, etc.) or where you want to work, you will find Duke grads who are willing to help you break into that particular field.”
Campus Life/Facilities: As one would expect from a high-ranking school, facilities are excellent at Duke. Within the School of Law, “All the classroom are stuffed to the gills with technology,” and “The common area is wide open, with huge windows and comfy chairs.”
For a top-tier law school, Duke’s atmosphere is decidedly low-key and “collegial.” Most students enjoy the social life, noting that Duke is “a small enough school that you can be friends with everyone.” Within the law school, “Everyone works hard, but the school is not a scary or stressful place because we also have many opportunities for extracurriculars and fun activities.” Students say that, “Between a softball league, wellattended bar reviews, and other DBA-planned parties, there’s a lot to do for fun outside of school.” According to students, “If you don’t have a robust social life at Duke, it’s because you’ve chosen not to.”
On top of that, having “access to $10 Duke basketball tickets” is a major perk for Blue Devil fans; across the campus, “The camaraderie around March cannot be beat.”
Off campus, “Durham is a fun city in the middle of a revitalization,” which features “a brand new performing arts center with lots of great concerts and shows coming through (Adele, Wicked), tons of new little independent restaurants, bakeries, breweries, food trucks(!), etc.” When struggling to live on a law student’s limited budget, “It’s worth mentioning that cost of living in Durham is obscenely low.” Not to mention, “The weather is SO NICE in Durham—year round.” When students need a bit more action (or want to attend a legal conference), the school is “only a few hours away from D.C.”