Southern Illinois University School of Law
Academics & Programs: “If you are looking for a great legal education at a reasonable price, then Southern Illinois University School of Law is the place to go.” Students across the board are quick to say that “Southern Illinois University School of Law is one of the most under-rated law schools in the nation.” A true diamond in the rough, the program here remains a “best kept secret” with “an amazing faculty that truly wants you to succeed,” an excellent legal writing and research program, and a practice-based curriculum—all for a price tag that cuts the cost of most legal educations in half. As one student attests, “For the price, I don’t think there is a more affordable and solid legal education in the United States Period. Law school is outrageously expensive as it is, and it is refreshing to know you can still earn a quality education at the fraction of the price. Paying $60,000 for law school versus $120-plus makes a hell of a difference.”
Affordability does not equal inferior legal training at SIU. In fact, students tell us, “The instruction is comparable to any Tier One school.” The professors are “top-notch” and “very specialized in their respective fields.” In addition, instructors “are extremely accessible with an open-door policy.” “Each professor seems to really care and will take the time to develop a relationship with the student, if the student is willing to seek guidance.” Though, as at any program, professors vary in talent and enthusiasm, students at SIU say “the brilliant faculty far outweigh the incompetent.”
The greatest strength of the Southern Illinois University School of Law is “its focus on practical application of legal skills.” In addition, “the legal writing and research program is magnificent” and offers “excellent legal writing and research training in the first year.” In essence, “The faculty and administration understands that SIU Law is preparing graduates to be good practitioners, and the curriculum and instruction is organized accordingly.” The administration at SIU “runs the school at the peak of efficiency.” “They are in constant contact with the students making sure that all of our needs are fulfilled. The Deans are easy to talk to so a student won’t feel afraid to go to one of them with a problem.” And the resources “are amazing!” “From the library, to career services, to opportunities for externships/internships/clerkships, everything is very helpful and a sure way to further your education.” When it comes to the top brass student say, “the only office that lacks the school’s welcoming and friendly demeanor is the law school’s Registrar’s Office,” which students qualify as “not helpful.” Facilities may not be fancy, but students say it hardly matters given the low cost of tuition. “Honestly, I am sure that other schools have better aesthetics, but SIU has all of the necessary resources to learn the law.” High on their wish lists? A “reputation” with more national cache.
Campus Life/Facilities: Hometown Carbondale “is a tight-knit community.” “There is generally no escaping the smallness of it all, but the law school, as well as the larger university, provides many opportunities to ‘play’ so to speak, as a community.” Students here “have a competitive bent, but they’re willing to help each other on everything.” “Although GPA is important, it isn’t so important that we ruin relationships with fellow students or purposely hide information and techniques.” In fact students here tend “to get along great.” “We all have the mindset that we are in it together, while still remaining competitive. We are an amazingly diverse group of students with different backgrounds and interests, yet we all get along.” Others concur, “I was very pleased to find that the majority of the students here were happy to work together, share ideas, and help others understand. It is not at all the stereotypical law school cutthroat environment.” “Everyone knows your name, which can be both a good and bad thing. It is sort of like high school, with quickly spreading rumors and a popular crowd.”
Situated in Carbondale, a city of 26,000 tucked among the hills of the Illinois’ southern corridor, SIU “is located in the most beautiful area of Illinois at the heart of wine country with numerous forests and lakes in the area.” “The law school is within driving distance of outdoor recreation areas.” One student captures the atmosphere as such: “An undergrad professor once said that living in Carbondale was like someone took Berkeley and dropped it in Arkansas. It’s a great place to be a law student. Rent and food and entertainment are all very affordable. The town has a very outdoors[-y] and relaxed environment. It also tends to be a fairly liberal environment politically.” “We are surrounded with bluegrass music, wineries, and country roads for miles.” On the downside, students say the smallness of the town can become a bit pressing for some by the start of second year; “Cabin fever hits at the end of the first year. For those who work locally, the second year can feel like forever. No good shopping, and the nearest metropolitan area is St. Louis, about an hour and a half away!”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.