Appalachian School of Law
The Appalachian School of Law is a young, private institution, organized in 1994 and given full accreditation from the American Bar Association in 2006. The traditional-looking campus is very beautiful and the library is “new.” Wireless Internet access is available and, in recent years, “The technology aspect of the Law School has shown a significant improvement.”
Students report that “trial advocacy training,” “moot court programs,” and other “practical courses” are “first rate” at ASL. The mock trial team “has trounced big names” in national competitions. “The law school’s emphasis on practical legal skills has thoroughly prepared me for everyday situations in the general practice of law,” says a 3L. “I will graduate and know what to do in a courtroom besides espouse constitutional theory with opposing counsel at lunch.”
Appalachian also “distinguishes itself from the majority of other law schools by requiring 150 hours of community service.” A summer externship is also “required of all first-year students.” “The community-service requirement promotes student involvement in law school organizations, benefits the community, and strengthens the reputations of both ASL and the legal profession in general,” explains one student. “The summer externship program provides all rising 2Ls with the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gained from first-year classes to real-life situations.” There is also a “mandatory alternative dispute resolution requirement,” though the school seems keener on this than the students.
The “knowledgeable” and “very approachable” professors here are “down-to-earth people who have a wide variety of legal experience” and “extensive practical and theoretical knowledge of the subjects they teach.” Their dedication means that “they are exceptionally concerned with bar passage” and always “available outside of the classroom.” “My experience at the Appalachian School of Law has been nothing short of exceptional,” confides one student. “The teachers love interacting with the students and are our greatest cheerleaders, mentors, and leaders.” “Faculty turnover” has been a problem, though. The “remote location” is “not the most appealing place” for academics to “hang their hats for the long term.” However, “The town and area are progressing.”
Students tell us that “the greatest strength” of their law school is its “concern and respect for students as individuals.” “The administration, faculty, staff, and students have created a community where you can receive an excellent legal education in the midst of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains,” explains one student. However, there is a “communication gap between students and administration,” meaning that “it often takes days to cut through whatever hidden red tape or underlying ineptness or unwillingness exists.” “The administration is very unpredictable” as well. “I realize every new school needs to work out its quirks, but ASL especially needs to do so,” gripes one student. Career Services could stand to be “more active,” and there seems to be a revolving door regarding deans. “The school appears to promote diversity among our deans with the tenure running about a dean a year,” observes a wry 2L.
Grundy is a “small community” located near the convergence of Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia. “You can’t go to the grocery store without seeing another law student.” “The remote location of the school” helps to make “studying is [the] number-one priority.” One student explains, “There’s nothing to do but study in Grundy, so I went from a below-average college student to above average,” adds a proud 3L. “I will probably graduate with honors. I’m not so sure that’s [because] of the law school itself…[or] the general area.”
Town-gown relations are strained. “There is some resentment from locals toward law students and vice versa,” most agree. “The rugged, desolate terrain” and “isolation” lead students to say that “Appalachian could benefit from more things to do in Grundy outside of law school activities.” Students lament that “there isn’t a bar or club in the town” where they could “relieve stress and get a drink.” (In fact, there is “no liquor by the drink in the county.”) “The three-screen movie theater is the most diversion many will get,” says one student.
That said, people here take a DIY approach to entertainment and “typically find or make [their] own fun to blow off the steam and stress of law school.” “A culture of frugal bacchanalia persists in the form of student-hosted house parties.” When cabin fever sets in, students take “sojourns” to the nearest bigger cities, “both of which are over the mountains and about forty-five minutes away.”
Not surprisingly, “You definitely develop a sense of family with the law school students and faculty.” “The law students are a very tight-knit group,” though beware as “gossip flourishes” and “everyone’s life is an open book.” “With scant few exceptions, the student body is Caucasian.” Most students would like to see “diversity promoted” at ALS, feeling that “out in town” “underlying discrimination” exists “based on race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and even geographic origin.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.