The University of Michigan Law School
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
Class of 2016 Stats:
Acceptance Rate: 27%
Total Applicants: 4,881
Median LSAT: 168
LSAT Scores (25th-75th percentile): 165-170
Median GPA: 3.71
GPA Scores (25th-75th percentile): 3.52-3.82
“You have to really hit the ground running,” student Karin Kringen said in a University of Michigan Law School informational video. It might sound like she was talking about her 1L year, but she wasn’t—she was talking about her externship in Cape Town, South Africa. Since 1996, Michigan has sent more than 100 externs to a variety of South African NGOs. Kringen worked to end violence against women at the Gender, Health, and Justice Research Unit.
Ann Arbor might be small, but students find ways to travel far and wide. Along with its seven study abroad programs, Michigan offers a Geneva-based externship, too.
That’s not to say that Ann Arbor is a bad place to be; it consistently shows up in rankings of America’s top college towns. Ann Arbor has a population of 116,000, and students make up nearly half of it, but the city “features a mix of restaurants, bars, local shops, art museums and parks that make it instantly appealing to both college students and those who are not pursuing a degree,” according to Livability.com, which listed Ann Arbor at No. 9.
But the main draw is still the law school itself, which has a strong national reputation: in 2011, the greatest number of graduates took the bar in New York rather than Michigan. Students spend their 1L year taking required classes, but there’s plenty of room for specialization in the second and third years. Michigan has standard clusters like banking, criminal law, and taxation, but it also has unexpected ones like Japanese law and refugee and asylum law.
Since the clusters aren’t official, Professor Julian Davis Mortenson wrote a guide on choosing upper-division classes. It’s charmingly self-deprecating: he calls it “a few idiosyncratic and highly personal comments based on my own experiences, offered in the hopes that they might be helpful. I’m of course happy to discuss more either on- or off-line,” he adds, signing off with his first name. If the guide is any indicator of Michigan’s culture, professors there are relaxed and happy to help.
In the same guide, Mortenson advises students to gain clinical experience while they can. “Once you join the world of practice, there is rarely much attention paid to developing you as a lawyer,” he warns. Fortunately, Michigan doesn’t lack options on that front either. There are 14 different clinics, ranging from the International Transactions Clinic to the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic. The number of students who participate has grown twofold in the last five years.
What happens when students are ready to transition from working at clinics to working at firms, though? The median private sector starting salary is $160,000. At $61,245, the median public sector starting salary is higher than at several peer schools. Unfortunately, Michigan doesn’t do as well with placement: only 70.7% of the Class of 2011 graduated with a job lined up. Nevertheless, that number rose to 85.8% after 9 months. The takeaway? If you attend Michigan, slack off, and wind up at the bottom of your class, don’t be surprised if the offers aren’t forthcoming.
*Derived from school-reported U.S. News data
Academics & Programs: Students are drawn to the University of Michigan Law School for its “collegial atmosphere,” “engaged and approachable” faculty and “challenging” curriculum. Students say an appropriate slogan here is: “Ivy league brains, Midwest heart.” As one first-year attests, “Unlike other law schools I applied to, Michigan places a very strong emphasis not just on producing a top ten legal education, but on producing the very best lawyers.” The spirit of critical collaboration trickles down from the top. “Dean Baum, Dean of Students, is one big ‘yes.’” Others concur, “The administration at Michigan Law School truly loves the school and wants every student to enjoy their time here, at least as much as one can enjoy law school.” “The spunky, generally delightful letters from Dean Zearfoss set the tone even before I came here.”
Michigan’s Legal Practice curriculum is “practical and challenging.” Michigan breeds “a uniquely competitive yet collegial environment, and it maintains it by selecting only people who would excel in this environment.” In fact, students say the best thing about the study at Michigan is the student body itself. Eager legal eagles hail “from all over the country and, upon graduation, spread out all over the country. Our broad alumni base helps us get plugged in to the legal community literally anywhere in the world, and the diverse backgrounds of the students make for an interesting classroom experience.” The collegial relationship between fellow classmates “is so wholly expected that you forget that most law schools are considered cutthroat.”
Professors at Michigan “are amazingly brilliant and frequently lead you to understand the law in ways you never would have seen on your own.” Universally touted as “geniuses, and leaders in their field,” “many of them literally wrote the book they are teaching,” however, unlike some legal researchers, “They seem to be able to teach as well.” This “all-star” teaching roster contains “both established giants of their fields… and lawyers blazing today’s new legal trails.” The administration follows suit and is “very easy to deal with.” In addition, the top brass “takes seriously its commitment to public service through the loan repayment program, well-staffed Public Interest Office, and funding for non-profit summer work.”
The Career Services Department is “also excellent.” They “not only help you find a job, but also listen to and empathize with your personal career goals and any bad interview stories you need to get off your chest.” However, class registration remains “a Byzantine process, but it’s made up for by the fact that many professors will let a waitlisted student into a class if he pleads his case in person.” When it comes to resources, the library’s “collection is second to none.” Classroom renovations and a brand new law building were completed in the fall of 2012..
Campus Life/Facilities: Students universally exclaim, the greatest strength of Michigan Law “is the student community.” “My fellow students are absolutely incredible.” The camaraderie “is second to none. We eat together, drink together, study together, and one day we will all be there for each other.” In class and out, the environment “is very collegial and collaborative.” “Students all strive to do their best, but do not seek to do so at the expense of others.” “The 1L horror stories of fiercely competitive classmates and pages being ripped out of library books do not exist here.” There is definitely the opportunity “to have a healthy social life at Michigan.” Due to the diversity of the student body, “There are a range of people who attend Michigan; whether you are a work hard/play hard type, enjoy bumming around, or prefer to spend your time in the library over the weekend, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your own niche.” As a 1L, “Living in the Lawyers Club is a great way to meet people.” In addition, with “about half of the 1L class live[s] in the same dorm,” so “you can’t help but get to know your classmates.” In fact some warn, “Law school can start to feel a lot like high school (for better or worse).”
Overall, “Students are quite friendly and open to sharing notes and helping out other students”; however, that’s “not to say there isn’t competition or that students aren’t hardworking.”<p>Ann Arbor “is great.” True to its college atmosphere, “It’s a beer town and it’s pretty low-key.” “You’ll find micro breweries, diners open all night, dive bars, nice bars with organic food—but there is only one wine bar in the whole town and the ‘clubs’ are filled with undergrads. It’s definitely not a city but it’s the best college town I’ve ever seen.” However, despite the warmth of the cozy small town feel, bring your woolens for the weather. Those who crave the sun warn, “Michigan weather is like…winter all year-round.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.