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.