College of William & Mary Law School
613 South Henry Street
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
TippingTheScales (2013): 40
U.S. News (2013): 33
AboveTheLaw (2013): 34
WILLIAM & MARY LAW STUDENTS SAY…
Academics & Programs: William and Mary is an “excellent” public law school with a long and celebrated history. Since Thomas Jefferson helped found the school in 1779, many great attorneys have passed through its hallways. Today, William and Mary professors continue to be “brilliant experts in their field who, while focused on their research, also really care about students and teaching.” “Distinguished and knowledgeable” but rarely intimidating, faculty and staff “facilitate an extremely comfortable, relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere that helps every student excel.” Rather than lecture or pontificate, “professors are interested in student opinions and foster debate within the classroom.” On the whole, coursework is challenging, and “the curve is naturally difficult because of the quality of the students.” Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get extra help. For example, “the TA program the school has in place for all first-year courses is much appreciated by 1Ls,” as it offers students the chance to review course material with upperclassmen several times per semester. Equally important, the majority of instructors “are very accessible and are always willing to meet with students outside of class, whether it is to explain a certain concept discussed in class or to give advice on how to break into a certain field of the legal market.” Some even enjoy lunching with first-year students.
The J.D. curriculum begins with core coursework in legal areas like torts, contracts, and criminal law. In the second and third year, students can tailor their education by choosing from more than 100 elective courses. In addition to the regular 1L core, the school has a “Legal Skills” curriculum, which focuses heavily on writing. While Legal Skills was highly “disorganized” at the outset, the administration is currently overhauling the program; many believe “it will be as outstanding as the rest of the classes in the coming years.” “As a state-run school with low tuition costs, there are certainly glitches” in the day-to-day running of the school; nevertheless, students believe that William and Mary’s deans and administrators have their best interests at heart. When interacting with law students, the “administration is very forthcoming and responds to student issues swiftly.”
Thomas Jefferson’s original vision was to educate “citizen lawyers,” who would contribute to their community and adhere to a high code of ethics. To this day, “the Honor Code is really important” at William and Mary, placing trust in the student body to act responsibly. For example, students take exams without proctors—and even on their own time. What’s more, “the sense of civic duty held by the students” creates a sense of shared purpose across the William and Mary community. A student shares, “Every time I have had a question, needed assistance, or wanted to network, I have been met with enthusiasm by administration, professors, older students, library staff, alumni, and even peers.”
In terms of job placement, William and Mary maintains a strong reputation in Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area, and the school’s Career Services department generally “focuses on those markets, as that is where the majority of students would like to end up.” However, graduates willing to put in a little extra legwork are able to find placements beyond the capital region. A current student agrees, “Many of my 3L classmates have already secured positions for the fall outside of the Virginia/D.C. area—New York City, Texas, Florida, Delaware. Our students successfully compete for positions in these larger markets.
Campus Life/Facilities: There is a “strong sense of community” at William and Mary. Both inside and outside the classroom, “the atmosphere is one of teamwork and collaboration—not grueling competition.” In fact, there’s such great trust among the student body that no one worries about their classmates cheating or stealing. A student recounts, “I freely leave my laptop, phone, or iPad in the library, even for hours. Nobody would ever bother your stuff, and in fact, many students leave their stuff overnight.” On the flip side, the cozy environment and “small class size” means students are deeply involved in each other’s lives. A current student jokes, “We call [it] George Wythe High School for a reason. The students tend to love gossip.”
Some of the facilities are in need of a facelift (think “poor food selection” and “painted cinder-block walls”), so “the law school is planning a big renovation” over the next few years. Fortunately, one important resource has already gotten the once-over: “The law library is beautiful and was renovated only a few years ago.” Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, the College of William and Mary campus is “quiet, peaceful, and beautiful.” Though it does not offer a lot of cultural or nightlife options, most say the school is a wonderful place to live, work, and study. A student beams, “Overall, this tiny city, this small school, and these classmates make for an absolutely wonderful experience. I can’t express how much I love it here.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.