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Tulane University Law School
Published February 2008, last updated June 2010
Tulane University Law School has been around for a long time – it was founded in 1847 and is the 12th oldest law school in the nation. This storied history and the school’s fabulous New Orleans location makes it a fascinating place to spend three years as a law student. Its clinical offerings and internship opportunities are extensive, and Tulane has strong programs in sports law, environmental law, and maritime law (as well as several other fields). In their scarce free time, law students can also participate in the famous party scene on Bourbon Street and contribute to efforts aimed at rebuilding the city after Hurricane Katrina. Overall, with the academic and social offerings at Tulane, students should never be bored. If you’re not sure about applying to law school or just beginning the application process, then please take the time to read some of the excellent pre-law articles found here.
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Tuition and Fees
It seems unfortunate to start on a bad note, but Tulane’s high tuition is one of its biggest problems. Dean Susan L. Krinsky reports in an exclusive interview with TLS that tuition tends to be the students’ chief complaint about the school:
In-state and out-of-state tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year was $37,200. Mandatory fees drag this number up to $40,654, and housing, books, and other miscellaneous expenses make the grand total cost of attendance about $60,000.
Of course, as Dean Krinsky stated previously, there is scholarship aid available for students. In the last data reported to the ABA, over 60% of Tulane students received a financial aid grant from the school. While the large majority of these students (68.3%) received grants totaling less than half the cost of tuition, roughly 31.7% received grants above such a cost. Full tuition scholarships are very hard to come by, with only 2 students receiving a full ride. Overall, the median grant was $12,500.
Thus, though Tulane’s tuition is by no means cheap, financial aid is available for the majority of students. To read a TLS article about funding your legal education, click here. Also, if you plan on pursuing a career in public interest, click here to learn about the new program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (or PSLF). Finally, to read about a new payment option for federal student loans called IBR (or Income-Based Repayment), click here.
Obtaining an acceptance letter from Tulane Law is not an easy task; in the last data reported to the ABA, only 35.6% of applicants were accepted. The school received 2,612 applications, and made only 931 offers. Of those 931 offers, 241 students decided to matriculate.
The following chart details the school’s LSAT and undergraduate GPA (or UGPA) statistics from the entering class in 2009. To learn more about preparing for the LSAT from some of the highest scorers on TLS, click here.
The application fee is $60, unless one obtains a fee waiver by contacting Tulane or receiving a need-based waiver from LSAC. Tulane says the following about fee waivers:
To read a TLS article about obtaining fee waivers, click here.
Beyond the Numbers
Of course, the numbers aren’t the only part of your application for Tulane. Dean Krinsky emphasizes that other factors can make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection:
So, even if you feel like your numbers aren’t terribly competitive, apply anyway! Factors like a strong personal statement, interesting extracurriculars, and compelling letters of recommendation can go a long way. In addition, crafting an effective resume is an important part of the application process. Your resume is a good way of sharing those factors that make you different in a concise and accessible way. To read some advice about creating a professional law school resume, click here.
Dean Krinsky had a lot to say about personal statements in her exclusive interview with Top-Law-Schools.com. Above all, she recommends that applicants tailor their personal statements to individual schools:
In other words, your essay should emphasize how you will contribute to the community at Tulane, but in a subtle way. It is important to note that Tulane requires two different statements – one more general “personal statement” (with a suggested length of 500 words) and one statement explaining why you want to attend Tulane. If you are interested in a specific area of law, the latter essay is a great place to tell the admissions committee why you would be a good fit for a particular program at Tulane.
Dean Krinsky also talks about what she dislikes when it comes to personal statements:
Dean Krinsky admits that, at most, 1% of the personal statements that she reads are truly “exceptional.” However, even a solid personal statement can go a long way in letting the admissions committee know that you’re serious about Tulane. Make sure that you take plenty of time to brainstorm, write, and revise your statement! Finally, Ken DeLeon, the creator of Top-Law-Schools.com, wrote a fantastic guide to personal statements which can be found here for free.
When to Apply
Unfortunately, Tulane doesn’t offer an Early Decision or Early Action program, but applying early is quite beneficial. Dean Krinsky explains:
Applications open up on October 1st, and the school suggests you get your application in by March 15th, although “later applications will be considered.” Tulane’s website clarifies:
Letters of Recommendation
Tulane does not require letters of recommendation. That being said, it is a great idea for most applicants to include at least two letters of recommendation (they accept up to four), including at least one academic recommendation Dean Krinsky’s advice about choosing recommenders echoes what other law school deans generally say: make sure that your letter writers know you and your work.
Dean Krinsky remarks that many letters of recommendation are not “affirmatively detrimental,” but are practically useless due to the writer not knowing the applicant “very well (or at all).” She brings up a few examples:
Finally, Dean Krinsky writes that letters that make a significant difference in the admissions process are far and few between. She estimates that about 5% of applicants have a letter that “makes [her] stop and take another look at the applicant.” She describes these letters:
Thus, having recommenders that know and care about your work can be an important leg up in the admissions process. To get some additional advice on obtaining letters of recommendation, click here.
Much like for other law schools, writing an addendum is important if you have a mark on your record. For instance, this can include an “aberrational semester or year” or a low LSAT score. Dean Krinsky remarks that an LSAT addendum is much more effective with a higher LSAT on record – the school looks at multiple LSATs in the following way:
In addition, the school requires an explanation of any and all disciplinary proceedings against an applicant. This includes both academic and criminal charges and convictions. If you’re unsure about whether something in your past counts as a violation, then you should probably disclose. The repercussions for not disclosing an academic or criminal violation can get your offer of admission revoked, and you might even get denied permission to practice law by the bar. It’s better to be safe than sorry! For more information about writing addenda, click here.
Being relegated to the waitlist at Tulane Law does not mean that you are condemned to rejection. Dean Krinsky reports that in previous years, as much as 15% of the entering class has come from the waitlist. However, this number varies wildly – for instance, in 2009, no one was accepted from the waitlist. If you are waitlisted, the best course of action is to let Tulane know that you are interested in attending (but “only if it is true”). Dean Krinsky remarks that an e-mail or a brief telephone call can be helpful, as it allows the school to know who is truly interested in Tulane. That being said, make sure you don’t become a “pest” – leaving dozens of e-mails and sending the admissions committee flowers won’t work in your favor!
URMs (or Underrepresented Minorities)
Because of their disadvantaged histories in the United States, certain minorities enjoy a significant boost in the application process. To read more about this boost and to see whether you classify as an URM, click here. In addition, there are many pre-law programs specifically created to help URM applicants get accepted to top schools. To read more about some of these programs, click here.
For those students hoping to transfer to Tulane, the statistics are quite promising. Dean Krinsky reports that the school typically receives between 50 and 70 transfer applications, and in recent years, has accepted about half of them. The most important factor in your application is your first year grades, followed closely by the need to emphasize why Tulane is the right choice for you. To read a fantastic article about transferring, click here.(back to top)
Law School Culture
As expected, the social life at Tulane is electrifying. Considered by many to be the party capital of the U.S., New Orleans provides Tulane Law students endless nightlife options, including its famous restaurant scene and a wide variety of bars and nightclubs on storied Bourbon Street. Students also have a chance to participate in the annual Mardi Gras festivities, as well as a chance to browse the bars of the city by way of school sponsored bar reviews. The city is also extremely famous for its music scene: some of the best jazz shows in the world can be seen there. If you’re interested in museums, the New Orleans Museum of Art is fantastic, and if you’re more of a sports nut, the city is home to the New Orleans Saints, winners of Super Bowl XLIV.
Some students might be afraid of the “party reputation” that Tulane (and New Orleans) has. However, one student reassures prospective applicants that students are serious about law school:
Although some parts of New Orleans are in disrepair after Hurricane Katrina, the Tulane campus is in one of the safer sections of the city. This area contains many affordable housing options for law students, most of who choose to live off-campus, although graduate dorms are available. The Tulane Law website suggests:
All of these factors, combined with the lack of cutthroat competition among the student body, make for a promising quality of life for Tulane Law students. The school also has plenty of different extracurricular activities for students to get involved in. For instance, one can join the Lambda Law Alliance, Sports Law Society, Christian Legal Society, etc. The Moot Court on campus has a longstanding tradition of excellence at Tulane. Students are given the “opportunity to learn by doing direct and cross-examinations, opening and closing arguments, persuasive appellate presentations, negotiations, and arbitrations.” Those who manage to emerge victorious in the Senior competitions (for third year students) have their names “engraved in gold on the marble tablets in the appellate moot court room in Weinmann Hall,” while those who win the Junior competitions (for second year students) are invited to join the Moot Court Board that supervises intra- and inter-school competitions.
Tulane, like other law schools, is interested in creating a diverse group of individuals in each entering class. The following chart gives a few facts about the makeup of the Class of 2011:
In addition, the average age of incoming students was 24+ years, and 48 different states are represented in the law school (plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia). The following chart gives information about where students come from:
The top five states represented in the student body include Louisiana, Texas, New York, Florida, and California, and the school’s main undergraduate feeder schools include Tulane, LSU in Baton Rouge, University of Texas in Austin, and Vanderbilt University. Finally, there are 15 different countries represented in the JD student body. Tulane is proud of its diversity and is dedicated to creating an environment where differences are encouraged and nurtured. One student writes:
Most students are slightly nervous when they go off to law school about meeting people and making new friends. Luckily, Tulane seems to be a school where this is no problem at all. One student even claims that this is the most compelling trait of the Tulane student body:
The city of New Orleans is also a “great place to meet people,” with plenty of different venues (museums, bars, restaurants) depending on your taste. Dean Krinsky confirms that the atmosphere is “relaxed,” and highlights this as one of the biggest draws of the school. Overall, students seem satisfied with their classmates, and the rumored “cutthroat” atmosphere of law school is virtually nonexistent at Tulane.
The facilities at Tulane are top-notch. The law building has an “outstanding library and excellent computer facilities,” and students have access to a computer lab with 40 different workstations. Tulane’s website continues:
Those looking to exercise can utilize Tulane’s excellent gym, which has five basketball/volleyball courts, a 7,000 sq. foot weight room, and many other amenities.
Students who are interested in participating in a journal while in law school are in luck if they attend Tulane. There are eight different law journals, six of which are solely student-run. These six include the Tulane Law Review, Tulane Maritime Law Journal, Tulane Environmental Law Journal, Tulane Journal of International & Comparative Law, Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, and Law & Sexuality. The school’s Tulane European & Civil Law Forum "has faculty involvement in the selection of manuscripts, but students assist with editing,” and the Sports Lawyers Journalis “published by the national Sports Lawyers Association and edited by Tulane students.”
The Tulane Law Review is the school’s flagship journal. It was founded in 1916, is published six times annually, and is on its 84th volume. Based on citations, the Law Review places in the top 15% of general law reviews. The Board of Student Editors is “composed of approximately 60 upper-class students chosen for their outstanding scholastic records or demonstrated ability in legal research and writing.” Recent articles in the Law Review have discussed antimicrobial resistance, doctors as bankers, and the clear statement rule for spending clause legislation. The journal has a “special commitment” to civil law, comparative law, and admiralty law. Finally, each year, the Law Review posts “articles from two different symposia.” Recent topics have included “Federal Preemption of State Tort Law: A Snapshot of the Ongoing Debate” and “The Principles of the Law of Software Contracts.”
The Maritime Law Journal is the most cited maritime journal in the country. Founded in 1973, the journal publishes two issues annually “consisting of practical and scholarly works written by academics, practitioners, and students.” Subscribers span 38 countries on six continents, and include private law firms, marine insurance companies, shipping lines, federal agencies, federal judges, and the United States Supreme Court. Forty to 45 students are selected to work on the journal “d on the basis of a summer writing competition and academic performance.” Currently on its 34th volume, the journal is perfect for those students who are interested in admiralty and maritime law.
Although the Tulane Environmental Law Journal was founded more recently (in 1986) than some of the other journals at Tulane, it is an important part of the academic life at the university. Published biannually, the Journal “has been rated as one of the top 15 environmental law journals” and in recent issues has examined Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, Southeastern Federal Power Customers, Inc. v. Geren, and the regulation of street trees. Members of the journal are chosen through write-on competitions every summer and fall. The school’s website continues, “All Tulane Law School students are invited to compete for membership after their first year. International graduate students are also welcome to participate in the competition.”
The Tulane Journal of International & Comparative Law is made up of “over 40 members” and “focuses predominantly on current topics in international law.” The journal is in the top quarter of all journals in the nation in terms of citations, and subscribers span over fifty different nations and six continents. Recent issues have addressed slavery in India, obesity and disability in the airline industry, and sovereign wealth funds. Students become members on the journal by participating in the summer or fall write-on competitions at the school. Most students apply during the summer competition, where approximately 50 to 100 students apply for 20 to 25 spots. For the fall competition, the journal typically accepts another five to ten students, “depending on the number of students accepted during the Summer Write-On Competition.”
The newest journal at Tulane is the Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant to the intellectual vitality of the school. Published annually in the fall, the journal is an “integral part of the intellectual property program at Tulane Law School.” Recent issues have examined cyber attacks, copyright law, hybrid devices, and patent law. Students are accepted to be members on the journal via the school’s two annual write-on competitions (in the summer and in the fall).
Finally, the last student-run journal at Tulane is the Law & Sexuality journal. As the “first and only student-edited law review in the United States to be devoted to issues of concern to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community” and as the “official legal journal of the National LGBT Bar Association,” the journal is an important part of sexuality studies nationwide. Like the other journals, members apply via the annual write-on competitions at the school. Recent topics addressed include equal access to healthcare, the defense of ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), and the prohibition of anti-sodomy laws. The journal also hosts symposia; the most recent of which, entitled “Durable Relationships under the Law,” addressed a “variety of topics… that pertain to LGBT concerns.”
Although the Tulane European & Civil Law Forum is not purely student-run, it is an important factor in students’ understanding of European and civil law. The editing board is primarily composed of professors from ten European countries as well as the United States. In addition, one student editor-in-chief and five or six student editors are chosen to aid in the editing of material. Students tend to be chosen “based on demonstration of interest in the area,” and contribute to one of the “most highly cited peer-reviewed journals in the world,” according to the 2008 results of Washington and Lee University School of Law’s annual rankings. The journal ranks first out of three European Law peer-edited journals in the United States and second out of 18 European Law peer-edited journals in the world. Recent issues have examined the books that shaped Louisiana law, recodification of civil law in Puerto Rico, and foreign influences in Israeli banking law.
The final journal that students at Tulane are involved with is the Sports Lawyers Journal. This journal is published annually by the Sports Lawyers Association (or SLA), but articles are edited by Tulane students. As the most widely read legal sports journal in the United States, the Journal reaches over 1000 subscribers. The editorial board for this journal is made up of up to ten Tulane students, with a “slightly larger junior staff.” Students become members of the journal through the write-on competition mentioned previously. Although the school does not host a symposium in association with the journal, students are welcome to attend the Sports Lawyers Association Annual Conference, where “agents, attorneys, stadium and arena personnel, team and league officials, students and professors, and company representatives” all converge and talk about “important and timely issues facing the sports world.” Recent issues have discussed arena liability for fan injuries, protective federal regulations for professional boxers, and issues in Puerto Rican sports.(back to top)
During their 1L year, students at Tulane Law School enroll in the usual required set of core courses, including Torts, Contracts, Property, and Legal Writing. After this first and most rigorous year, students are mostly free to choose from among the school’s 143 elective courses to round out their JD degrees, the majority of which contain less than 25 seats. Tulane Law School students can also choose to pursue certification through concentration programs in European Legal Studies, Maritime Law, Sports Law, Civil Law, or Environmental Law.
Clinical and joint-degree opportunities are also abundant, as are study abroad programs that allow students to take their legal education beyond American borders to such countries as Italy, France, and Greece. Also, because Louisiana is a civil-law state, whereas other states operate by common-law, Tulane Law offers numerous civil-law courses for students hoping to work in Louisiana after graduation. That said, Tulane Law students are not required at any point to enroll in any civil-law courses, and their legal education will not necessarily differ in that sense from students at other law schools.
Dean Krinsky is proud of Tulane’s diverse course offerings and remarks that, “Tulane’s strengths include depth and breadth of curriculum, a superb faculty who genuinely enjoy teaching and who also pursue their scholarship with seriousness….” The school is particularly renowned for its maritime program; the school’s website states that, “Tulane Law School is widely acknowledged to have the strongest maritime law program in the world.” Tulane also hosts many “distinguished scholars of maritime law” through its Maritime Law Center, the heart of its maritime program. To find out more about the maritime law program at Tulane, click here.
The school offers seven standard joint degrees, as well as the option to petition for a custom joint degree program. Some standard choices include the JD / MBA, JD / MAACT (Master of Accounting), and JD / MHA (Master of Health Administration). To read more about joint degrees and why one might pursue one, click here and here.
Tulane has a long history of promoting its public interest program. For instance, it was the first law school in the country to require pro bono work in order to graduate. The school’s website continues:
The school was also the 15th law school in the country to implement a LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program). The income cap for the program is dependent upon the state in which one is working; for the 2009 calendar year, the income cap for Louisiana was set at $46,625, and data for other localities can be found here. The maximum that a graduate can receive LRAP benefits is 5 years, and aid is given through a “forgivable loan in the amount of regular monthly payments made for eligible loans, after subtracting an amount the participant is expected to pay (“graduate contribution”) and multiplying the result by the percentage of pro bono work the graduate performs.” The document further explains that, “‘Graduate contribution’ is the higher of 12% of the graduate’s net income or 6% of his or her family net income. Net income is gross income from all sources less taxes, less $3,000 per dependent child, and less certain business expenses for self-employed graduates.”
In addition, in cooperation with the Kendall-Vick Foundation, the school offers a forgivable loan of up to $3,000 a year over five years to “Tulane JD graduates employed in Louisiana as attorneys by a district attorney's office or other governmental agency.” Note that judicial clerks are not eligible for this program. The income cap is $10,000 higher than the GS-9 Step 1 federal level, which governs the income cap for the regular LRAP program.
There are many different student organizations based around public interest, and the school is proud to offer six different clinics that focus on public interest law. These include civic litigation, domestic violence, environmental law, criminal litigation, juvenile litigation, and legislative and administrative advocacy. The majority of these clinics only enroll between 10 and 15 students each year, although some (like the environmental law clinic) enroll as many as 26. The only clinic that is not public interest based is the Mediation Clinic.
The externship program at Tulane provides an outlet for public interest students to get experience in the real world. Its third-year externships allow students to work closely with federal district judges, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and several other prestigious opportunities. In addition, there are two one-semester externships that students can participate in, as the school’s website explains:
Finally, the school offers several different options for summer internships. For instance, the Public Interest Law Foundation Grant Program (or PILF) gives “financial support for summer internships which would otherwise be unpaid.” On average, PILF “distributes approximately thirty grants with an average grant amount of $2,000, which covers basic food and housing expenses.” To find out more about internships and fellowships as well as the public interest program in general, click here.(back to top)
Generally, when students come to Tulane, they stay for the entire three years. In Tulane’s last ABA report, it states that the 1L attrition rate was 7%. That number quickly drops for 2Ls (2.6%) and 3Ls (1.7%). In other words, you’ll be competing with the vast majority of your 1L classmates for job opportunities. In addition, more students transfer into Tulane than transfer out. In the same report, it states that 23 students transferred into Tulane, while only 9 transferred out.
The majority of Tulane students pass the bar the first time that they take it. Graduates take the bar exam in various states, including Louisiana, New York, and Texas. With the majority of first time takers reporting (71.26%), the average school passing rate was 78.98%, versus the average state passing rate of 75.01%. This is a difference of 3.97%.
The following chart outlines the distribution of jobs for the Class of 2009. While the school didn’t report for this class what percent of students were able to find jobs, 95% of students from a recent class were able to find employment within nine months of graduation.
With only 56% of employed students able to find jobs in private practice, job prospects could be better at Tulane. When asked about a typical Tulane student’s employment situation after graduating, Dean Krinsky responds:
The school reports that the average reported starting salary for the class of 2007 was $97,000 overall, with $118,800 on average for law firms and $46,100 on average for government jobs. In addition, of the students who reported their salaries, 33% made between $34,000 and $60,000, 33% made between $61,000 and $140,000, and 33% made between $145,000 and $160,000. That being said, only 37% of graduates reported salary information from the class of 2007, so the numbers seem skewed at best. Dean Krinsky defends the data:
In other words, if you have a question about Tulane’s placement in a certain area of the country, then e-mailing or meeting with a representative is a safer bet than trusting the school’s employment statistics. Tulane does seem to have a more “national reputation” than some similarly ranked schools, but with the market changing, it’s not entirely clear how out-of-state placement will be affected in coming years. The school gave the following geographical distribution for where graduates from the Class of 2009 found employment. Unsurprisingly, the majority of students are located in the West South Central region (Where Louisiana is located).
Tulane’s Career Development Office (or CDO) is a helpful tool for students who don’t land jobs via OCI. The office hosts mock interviews and students can make appointments with career counselors to discuss their options. Every month, the CDO also provides “programs, panels, receptions, and workshops on topics ranging from practice areas to job search skills.” To find out more about Tulane’s CDO, click here.(back to top)
When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana a few years ago, many people were unsure about Tulane’s future. The school has weathered this catastrophic disaster admirably, remaining a good program with some national reach. Students interested in living in New Orleans for three years should give the school serious consideration, as should students interested in entering fields like maritime law, environmental law, and sports law. The school’s dedication to public interest is shown through its pro bono requirement and clinics, and its rich history as the 12th oldest law school in the country gives it a well-deserved national reputation.
U.S. News ranking: 48th
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