American University Washington College of Law


American University Washington College of Law

4801 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: (202) 274-4000
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TippingTheScales (2013): 47
U.S. News (2013): 56
AboveTheLaw (2013): NR

Academics & Programs: Law students looking to study domestic and international “public interest law” will find a welcome home at American University’s Washington College of Law. To emphasize this commitment, among other initiatives, the school provides a “full-tuition scholarship” to “ten students every year with a dedicated commitment to social justice work.”
In addition, the curriculum has a heavy focus on government and ideas and issues. Students here are privy to a host of clinical programs, research and study abroad opportunities, as well as internships and externships. With the District of Columbia at the foot of campus, government agencies and nonprofit sectors provide opportunities that “far exceed those offered by law schools in any other city.” The school also has a rich curriculum and a number of programs in business and corporate law, including a nationally renowned program in intellectual property, as well as a Business Law Program.
“The Clinical program is the best thing I did here. The Immigration Clinic is top-notch and provides better experience than any internship/externship I did (and pretty much everyone does multiple internships because of our location). There are tons of speakers and lunchtime chats. The faculty has tons of practical experience in the areas they are teaching. Almost all of the trial advocacies classes are taught by at least one judge or retired judge, human rights courses are taught by leading experts, etc.,” reflects a 2L.
Teachers are reported as having a variety of different teaching styles but overall most students say they have “really liked most of [their] teachers and feel [they] have gotten a really good education.” Students find that most teachers operate on an open-door policy and always make themselves available for additional help.
Students also believe that their “professors are incredibly knowledgeable. Very often they will suggest that you get a group together and have lunch with them. They take a genuine interest in your goals and opinions. The school put a heavy interest in student evaluations of professors. The students, while competitive, are extremely willing to help each other succeed. Perfect balance,” comments a 1L.
It’s clear the administration is “very student focused”; however, the Office of Career Development gets mixed reviews. “Perhaps the top third get interviews” at “mid-size firms” in “the Mid-Atlantic region.” “About the top fifteen percent of students have a chance of being selected for on-campus interviews with the major international law firms,” says a student. Another notes, “While George Washington is proclaimed to be so much better, every job I’ve had has been with GW students, so I have no idea what they are doing that we aren’t.”
“The Office of Career Development is very helpful and involved. The administration doesn’t spoon-feed so when you need things like financial assistance or career counseling that does not involve big law, you have to work a little harder to get what you need on your own,” explains another student.
Campus Life/Facilities: “The library and some other offices have received makeovers,” and the “clean and large” classrooms offer “plenty of space, as well as sufficient electrical outlets to accommodate the many laptops that students have.”
Washington College of Law is a large school that attracts a diverse student body. “There is really every kind of person at WCL, for better or worse. I think generally for the better,” remarks a 2L. Upon talking to some students, one will discover that many “have spent a year or two between law school (or more) doing really fascinating things with their lives.” Students here are very intelligent yet still idealistic, with goals to enhance law as a profession and to improve society. Most students are active in politics and have “a slight hippy streak.” “Everyone has a cause.”
“The best part of attending American University’s Washington College of Law is the atmosphere among students. I love the cooperative and supportive atmosphere of the school. Classmates, professors, and the administration all contribute positively to the school’s atmosphere.” Though not overwhelmingly so, students find the academic atmosphere competitive yet friendly. It’s not uncommon for students to share their notes or outlines. “There is an incredible sense of camaraderie,” reports one student. Students are also “incredibly involved with the community.” There are “more academic activities than you could ever attend.” Students make social connections through clubs, activities, and community service projects.
Students appreciate the fact that the WCL campus is in D.C.; however, some maintain that the location is less than ideal. They feel that traveling to and from campus can be “difficult” and “time-consuming.” This aspect makes it very much “feel like a commuter school.” Taxis are not easy to find on the street and, though “there is a free shuttle that goes directly to the law school” parking can be tricky for 1Ls. Luckily 2Ls and 3Ls enjoy “a garage underneath the building.”
Some see it as an asset. “What sets the WCL professors apart is that, because of the DC location, they remain engaged in the issues that motivated their passion for the law and encourage students to do the same.” “American’s location in Washington D.C. cannot be understated. The availability of adjunct and tenured faculty who have had diverse and successful careers as well as a seemingly infinite number of externship opportunities make American uniquely suited for a legal education.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.