Ave Maria School of Law
1025 Commons Circle
Naples, FL 34119
ABA-accredited law schools don’t often pick up and transport themselves to locations hundreds of miles away. But that’s exactly what Ave Maria School of Law did in 2009, relocating from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Naples, Florida (and not just because of the weather). While the move was not without controversy, students call it “a successful transition.”
For one thing, the weather is a whole lot warmer and sunnier. Florida’s outlook for economic growth appears much brighter, too. Also, southwest Florida is a better fit for Ave Maria’s unswerving fidelity to the tenets of the Catholic faith. Ave Maria is “a real Catholic law school” with a “conservative perspective”—”one of the few schools in the nation that could be called right of center.”
Students call the curriculum “particularly rigorous.” In addition to the standard array of first-year course work that you’ll find at any law school, 1Ls here must take a course called Moral Foundations of the Law. Students should expect to take a few more ethics-related courses during their second and third years as well. This is because “having morals and great ethics is a top priority here.” “Ave Maria does not pull any punches about its Catholic identity,” explains a 3L, “and that lends itself particularly well to relevant discussions about contemporary moral and political issues.”
At the same time, there’s a strong focus “on the practical aspect of law.” Ave Maria “incorporates the Catholic intellectual tradition in a way that allows students to understand and practically apply such principles into the legal environment.”
Students are pretty effusive in their praise of their “knowledgeable, approachable, and fair” faculty. Professors are “delightful to have for class.” “They use a balance between the Socratic Method and voluntary student interaction.” While “they won’t coddle you,” they are “dedicated to educating and availing themselves [for] the aid of students.” “Our professors know who we are and try to help us overcome our weaknesses and improve on our strengths,” gushes a 1L. “It is an amazing environment [in which] to learn very challenging material.” Some students call the administration “very open.” Others tell us that the top brass is “aloof” and “unreliable at best.” One student also gripes that “financial aid is a ‘bear’ to work with.”
On the upside, Ave Maria’s campus is “beautiful.” However, students say it can feel a bit “cramped,” and note that there are “very limited facilities.” The campus’ new location in Naples, Florida, means that virtually all the opportunities to work at law firms in the region belong to Ave Maria students. There’s not much competition from other schools because there aren’t any other law schools in the immediate vicinity. “I find that many people in this area of southwest Florida have heard of Ave Maria and there is less of a need to ‘sell’ ourselves to the job world,” relates a 3L. Also worth noting is the fact that graduates of Ave Maria have successfully fanned out all over the country.
“Many of the students here are from out of state.” Around forty states (and a handful of foreign countries) are represented among these future lawyers, in fact. Catholicism is unmistakably a very big deal at Ave Maria and there are some deeply religious students among the student body. However, students are quick to remind us that there are “tons of non-Catholics” as well.
Some students say that “The student body is, as a whole, very conservative.” They contend that the milieu tends “to prevent any thorough and fair presentation of opposing opinions or viewpoints.” Others maintain “Many students are actually pro-choice, liberal, and apolitical.” “There is tolerance for all religions, or no religion.” Politics “is not something most are bothered by.” “I am not Catholic,” relates a 3L, “but I feel my beliefs are accepted and that I can engage in conversations not specifically related to the Catholic position that are well-received. “The academic atmosphere is highly spirited but basically cooperative.
“We are very competitive with one another,” says a 1L. “However, most of us also want to see our classmates succeed.” “One of the greatest strengths of Ave Maria Law is the friendly and helpful atmosphere among its students.” Beyond academics, “a large number” of clubs and organizations keep students busy. They also get to live in “the most beautiful city in the world.” It’s “really like paradise,” they say, especially if you like shopping or golf. Another advantage is the fact that the Gulf of Mexico is just minutes away from campus. “Sand always gets in my textbooks when studying on the beach,” a satisfied 1L needles.
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.
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