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Appalachian School of Law
Published January 2010, last updated June 2010
Founded in 1994 and ABA-approved in 2001, Appalachian School of Law is a relative newcomer in the field of legal education. The school has a small student body and is located in Grundy, a small town in western Virginia. It takes its namesake from being nestled in the coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains. On its website, the law school emphasizes “professional responsibility, dispute resolution, and practice skills” in its program.
Admissions and Tuition
Matriculating students at Appalachian School of Law for the Class of 2012 had a median LSAT score of 148 and a median GPA of 2.94. Current students have said gaining admission to Appalachian was easy and painless. But the school’s acceptance rate is still slightly competitive at 48.5 percent. Applicants with numbers at or above the medians should feel confident in their ability to gain admission. Those whose numbers fall short need to ensure their personal statement and soft factors are polished to perfection.
Tuition at Appalachian School of Law cost $27,025 annually for the 2009-2010 academic year. The median amount of grant aid per recipient is $15,582. The school estimates living and additional school expenses to total $21,025 per year, which brings the total estimated cost of attending Appalachian to over $48,000 for each year of attendance.
Academic Reputation and Curriculum
Appalachian’s newcomer status, small size and remote location limit the school’s national recognition and academic reputation. US News & World Report gave Appalachian School of Law a Tier 4 ranking. Its peer assessment review was a lowly 1.4 out of 5. With only 17 faculty members, Appalachian has a student to faculty ratio of 15.8-to-1. While the school claims its small size helps foster a sense of community and camaraderie, many students find the lack of options when choosing classes to be onerous. Additionally, students find fault with the brutal grading curve. In the past, the curve has forced out an average of 10 to 15 percent of the student population each after both the 1L and 2L years.
The first-year curriculum at Appalachian is similar to other law schools. Students must take a rigorous course schedule that includes civil procedure, contracts, torts, criminal law, legal process and property law classes. 2L and 3L students follow a general outline of courses, with open electives for students who wish to explore different areas of law. Appalachian indicates that all students must complete at least 90 semester hours and a selection of requisite courses in order to graduate.
Quality of Life
Grundy (population: 1,105) is not exactly a social hub. While the mountain town offers proximity to gorgeous parks, mountain trails and stables for horseback riding, the town proper boasts little more than a three-screen movie theater, an active YMCA, and a locally-renowned flood control program. Students complain primarily about poor housing and water quality in Grundy as well as the homogeneity of the population, elements of which may not be friendly to outsiders and minorities.
Employment Prospects and Bar Passage
The median private sector salary for Appalachian School of Law graduates recently was $70,689 while the median public sector salary for graduates was $46,057, both according to US News. The $70,689 number may actually be an average rather than a median, especially since the school did not submit 25th or 75th percentile salary figures, and an average would be skewed upward by the few students that found high-paying jobs. Students have praised the Appalachian career services office as amicable and helpful. Some student complaints, however, have focused on the mandatory six-week, non-paid externship during their first summer.
About 21 percent of 2008 graduates chose to stay in Virginia, while most traveled further south or west to seek full-time employment. Additionally, only 66.2 percent of Appalachian’s Class of 2008 was known to be employed nine months after graduation.
In previous years, many graduates (up to 46 percent) did not pass the Virginia bar exam on their first attempt. The Class of 2008, however, had a passage rate of 82 percent, comfortably above Virginia’s overall passage rate of 74 percent. The numbers were better in Tennessee, where 89 percent of Appalachian graduates passed the bar. These percentages suggest Appalachian has recently improved its ability to prepare students for the bar examination upon graduation.
Students at Appalachian spend nearly $48,000 a year for a 65 percent chance of employment within nine months of graduation. Many students will earn a salary that, even before taxes, would not sufficiently cover one year of attending law school. For even small-town lovers and mountaineers, the numbers alone should make students without substantial scholarship money wary about choosing Appalachian School of Law.
U.S. News & World Report ranking: Tier 4
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