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Boston University School of Law

Note: This profile is eventually going to be replaced by the TLS wiki profile for Boston University School of Law.

Special thanks to Alissa Leonard, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, and to a number of TLS students for providing extra insight and details for this profile, published September 2007, last updated August 2011.

When discussing Boston University (BU), the first order of business is usually to clear up any potential confusion -- it is not the same as Boston College (BC)! Despite similar career prospects and enthusiastic students, the schools offer different experiences deserving of careful investigation by any prospective applicant.

While BU Law is within the city limits of Boston, BC Law sits in the suburban area of Newton. Both schools are accessible by the city’s public transit system, the “T”. BU Law may be higher-ranked in the U.S. News & World Report Law School rankings, but BC outranked its rival for many years in the past. BU Law, the older of the two, has an excellent reputation in the New England area and beyond. It is located in a hub of East Coast intellectualism (Harvard and MIT are nearby), has strong connections to large Northeastern legal markets, and features a hard-working career services office.

While the city can be hard on the wallet, and there are some complaints about BU Law’s urban campus, BU has many things working in its favor to make for an exciting, engaging, and valuable law school experience. If you want to attend BU Law, just make sure you send your application to the correct Boston school – or, just to be safe, send it to both!

 

Student Budget 2011-2012

Tuition

$41,780

Room and Board

$12,070

Personal Expenses

$2,990

Health Insurance*

$1,914

Books and Supplies

$1,374

Transportation

$1,044

Total

$62,246

*May be waived if student has other health insurance coverage

Admissions

Although the spike in aspiring law school students may be subsiding somewhat as the economy gradually recovers and a spate of articles in major publications decries the plight of indebted and unemployed graduates, Boston University has in recent years received record numbers of applications, leading to an increasingly competitive admissions process.

Admissions Stats[i]

Class of 2013

Number of Applications

8,515

Acceptance Rate

20.5%

Entering Class Size

268

25th – 50th – 75th Percentile GPA

3.52 – 3.72 – 3.83

25th- 50th- 75th Percentile LSAT

164 – 166 – 167

Previous Years

Class of:

2010

2011

2012

Number of Applications

5,933

5,907

7,660

Acceptance Rate

27%

29%

23%

25th – 75th Percentile GPA

3.51 – 3.81

3.48 – 3.82

3.50 –3.83

25th – 75th Percentile LSAT

164 – 166

163 - 166

164 –167

Admissions Process

BU Law’s holistic application review begins as soon as applications become available in early September and continues until after the March 1 application deadline. The committee begins issuing decisions in late fall, but continues to do so on a rolling basis through winter and early spring. Decisions have been especially spaced out in recent years, as larger applicant pools have encouraged a “wait-and-see” approach.

Undergraduate GPA and LSAT score have long been the most important factors in law school admissions; this has never been truer than today, as schools compete to best their peers in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. These metrics drive Boston University Law’s process to some degree, as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Alissa Leonard admits: “Almost every law school at or near our level feels some pressure to improve its admissions statistics every year,” and prospective students can get “an idea of the GPA and LSAT numbers [BU Law is] looking for” by checking medians from recent years. However, an application is more than just a pair of numbers, according to Leonard:

There is no combination of GPA and LSAT that necessarily results in admission or denial, and, in fact, the weight of these numbers in any particular application will vary according to how much and what other kinds of information are in the file. We are looking…for people who have demonstrated abilities, the capacity for growth, and backgrounds that will enable them to contribute positively to the life of BU Law and to the legal profession.[ii]

Applicants should use the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) Data Assembly Service to submit the application, which requires a resume, personal statement, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. The law school does not have an “early decision” option like many other law schools, but Leonard does encourage candidates to apply as soon as possible, since there will be fewer seats available as the rolling process continues. She also urges the applicant with a specific interest in BU to let the admissions committee know in some fashion. This can be done with a thoughtfully tailored personal statement (although Leonard warns against transparent flattery), or by keeping in touch with periodic e-mails throughout the decision period.

Personal Statements and Addenda

Since law school applications are fairly simple and numbers-based, the personal statement offers perhaps the biggest chance for candidates to differentiate themselves. Leonard stresses the personal statement as a writing sample that should not exceed the recommended two pages and should be “concise, easy to read, and engaging.” She also urges candidates to use the essay to express “something important about who you are.” Personal statements that meaningfully address a preference for BU Law may be successful, but essays that superficially insert the law school’s name are unlikely to be rewarded.

While BU Law considers each applicant’s highest LSAT score, a candidate with large gaps between their worst and best sitting may want to address that inconsistency in an addendum. BU Law also accepts short addenda explaining medical or personal reasons for seemingly weak points in applications.

Transcripts

Upward grade trends are looked at positively. Downward trends, however, should probably be explained. Leonard states she understands “that ‘life happens’ and when some life event has interfered with academic success or test performance there is no reason not to include an explanatory addendum.” An addendum explaining a poor semester or downward trend may be as short as a few sentences. Graduate degrees are a plus for students, since they show a measure of intellectual commitment and curiosity, but will not make up for a poor undergraduate record.

Letters of Recommendation

Like most law schools, BU requires two letters of recommendation, although the committee will accept up to two more. According to Leonard, “The best recommender is someone who can speak to both your academic talents…and to your personal character.” Although professors usually fit this bill nicely, Leonard encourages applicants to ask recommenders that know them best, even if this means going to a teaching assistant or employer. She also discourages potentially shallow letters from well-known individuals with limited knowledge of the applicant.

The Waitlist

Each year, many applicants are placed on a waitlist; a small number of these candidates are eventually admitted. Although the size of the waitlist and the chances of being admitted once waitlisted are variable functions of each year’s applicant pool, the school does encourage genuinely interested students to keep the school abreast of any relevant information. This may include a new semester of grades, other noteworthy achievements in the classroom or workforce, and an honest communication that BU Law is an applicant’s first choice.

Transfer Admissions

Boston University Law accepts a number of students each year who wish to transfer from other law schools at which they have completed one year of study. Transfer applicants complete a process similar to a regular J.D. application: they use LSAC’s online service and include much of the same documentation, including undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an LSAT score. Although all of these factors are considered, Leonard unequivocally states:

The most important factor in reviewing a transfer application is performance during [the] first year in law school. Successful transfer applicants have typically performed in the top 20% of their law school class…exceptional performance in your first year of law school can make you competitive as a transfer student even if you might have been less competitive as a first-year student.

According to Leonard, the number of transfer students taken in a given year varies, since the school uses transfers to balance out students who leave BU Law on a temporary or permanent basis. In 2009, BU Law accepted 25 out of 125 applicants; in 2008, 15 students transferred in, while 13 transferred out.[iii] Anecdotally, gaining admission to BU Law as a transfer is difficult, as one TLS member relates:

Transferring into BU is a risky proposition. I know someone from my T2 [Tier 2 law school as formerly ranked by U.S. News & World Report] who was from Boston, made it into the top 10%, and still couldn't get into BU. He successfully transferred to UPenn.[iv]

Financial Aid

The cost of law school has increased at a staggering rate in recent decades, combining with a sluggish job market to make attending an increasingly risky investment. Fortunately, BU Law has a reputation for easing this burden with generous financial aid. Like nearly every law school, BU awards some scholarship money on the basis of academic merit (largely determined by undergraduate GPA and LSAT score). Unlike many schools, BU does more than pay lip service to the need-based aid.

According to the school’s website, about 65% of students benefit from scholarship aid, with an average amount of $17,000.[v] The largest merit-based awards are awarded part of the Dean’s Scholar program, while smaller merit grants are designated as BU Law Merit Scholarships. All applicants are considered for these awards and, according to Leonard, nearly all merit-based grants are automatically renewable for three years. One current student verifies this, saying “BU never puts strings [like minimum GPA or class rank requirements] on its money.”[vi] A handful of merit-based awards are reserved for Public Interest Scholars with a demonstrated record of public service involvement who commit to getting deeply involved in the BU Law public service community. The Public Interest Scholarship requires a short supplemental application, which must be submitted by February 15.[vii]

Many students are awarded BU Law Alumni Scholarships, which are based largely on demonstrated financial need. Unlike pure merit-based awards, these scholarships require candidates to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as the Need Access form, which documents income and other financial information for students and (in most cases) their parents. Although preliminary awards are made on the basis of these documents, applicants must submit copies of their federal tax returns before final need-based aid packages can be confirmed.

TLS posters who attend BU Law are enthusiastic about their school’s financial aid: one student who receives $20,000 of need-based aid per year calls BU “one of the best in the country” for non-merit aid,[viii] and another calls aid “ridiculously good.”[ix] A third member claims that the financial aid office’s generosity “helps them pluck a lot of top students who would otherwise be at Top-10 schools.”[x] The National Jurist reinforces this financial aid boasting, ranking BU Law fourth in the nation for public interest support.

Leonard encourages students to submit their applications early, since more funds are available early in the cycle. TLS members encourage accepted students to negotiate their initial financial aid offers: one student reports getting his package “increased three times, as late as June,” while a second poster confirms that “BU [is] more than willing to negotiate with those who have a sound basis for asking for merit aid increases.”[xi]

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Many students who enter law school with the intention of working in the public interest sector end up in the private sector due to the pressure of educational debt. In an effort to make public interest careers viable for more students, BU Law maintains a modest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Eligible, recent graduates – generally those working for government organizations or tax-exempt non-profits and making low salaries – receive a new loan each year to cover a portion of their law school debt payments. Those who stay in qualifying employment for the entire year have this loan forgiven; those who become ineligible in the course of the year must pay back at least part of the LRAP loan.

Since available funding and the number of deserving applicants vary from year to year, BU Law does not use a set formula to determine the amount of aid. This means that applicants committed to public service cannot factor LRAP benefits into their debt calculations on BU as they might be able to for some schools. The law school prioritizes applicants on the basis of a calculated debt-to-income ratio, which takes into account assets in excess of $10,000 and also adjusts for spousal income and any dependents. In recent years, BU Law has provided LRAP assistance to about 90% of applicants. In 2009, LRAP applicants had an average income of $50,000; beneficiaries received amounts ranging from $1,500 to $9,000, with a mean award of $4,700. In general, graduates will also have to enroll in federal Income Based Repayment, but BU’s LRAP does provide an additional resource to help make public interest careers feasible despite the increasing cost of legal education.

Law School Culture

In decades past, BU Law had a reputation for a highly competitive atmosphere. One 1L tells us:

One of my bosses mentioned that, when he was in law school 25 years ago, BU was known as the ‘Razor School of Boston’ because students would cut valuable pages out of crucial textbooks before exams just to debilitate their fellow students.

Luckily, these days seem to be gone. A current student describes the school’s feel very differently:

The atmosphere/student body, older students, faculty and staff here are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Random 3Ls will offer to give you outlines and share network contacts. The alumni network is equally friendly…I visited a number of schools before deciding on BU and at most schools the admitted student days were lightly staffed; at BU they had nearly 100 volunteers and the administration actually mentioned turning [volunteers] down….The student body is very diverse and very accepting. The average student is probably 24 with a year of either work or graduate school, but there are also plenty of people who are either older or straight out of college. People here are outgoing, laid back, and very intelligent.[xii]

As an expensive, northeastern law school, BU has plenty of students from well-off East Coast backgrounds. However, one student claims that the law school does plenty to encourage a wide variety of heritages and experiences:

In terms of geography and race, BU is very diverse. That goes for not just the law school but the whole university. BU is a very international school in general so the overall feel is very multicultural. There are quite a few people from California, Chicago, the Mid-Atlantic, etc. People came from pretty much all over.

“Students of color” make up 30% of the most recent entering class, and a full half of current 1Ls are female, a rarity in the usually male-majority game that is law school. As the TLS member quoted above suggests, the average age of entering 1L students is 24. However, the ages of matriculating 1Ls spans two decades, from 21 to 41.[xiii] The table below contains slightly outdated (circa 2009) but more detailed demographic information.

Demographics of J.D. Enrollment

Caucasian

66%

Asian-American

11.5%

African-American

5.5%

Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic

5.5%

Foreign Nations

3.5%

Other or Unknown

8%

Academics

Curriculum

Like most other law schools, Boston University sets the first-year schedule of classes for students; however, upper-division students choose from over 150 courses to round out their coursework. All 1Ls have to take civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, legislation, property law, torts, and a research and writing program that spans the entire year. Sections comprise about 95 students each, and are split into what BU Law calls “mini-sections” of about 50 students each. The writing courses are small, capped at 14 students per class, and progress from focusing on memos (usually written for internal communication at law firms) to more complex assignments as the year goes on.

All second-semester 1Ls participate in the J. Newton Esdaile Appellate Moot Court Program. Here, according to BU Law’s website, students “conduct research, draft a brief, and present a case in oral argument before a panel of moot-court judges made up of faculty, lawyers and students.” This allows students to practice their oral speaking skills in an intense, realistic environment.

2Ls and 3Ls have many classes to choose from, and most of the classes have enrollment caps of 25 students or less. For these classes, there is no mandatory grade distribution. But for classes of 26 students or more, the following distribution applies:

[A+, A, A-]: 20 to 30% (no more than 5% A+)

[B+ and above]: 40 to 60%

[B]: 10 to 50%

[B- and below]: 10 to 30 %

[C+ and below]: 0 to 10%

[D, F]: 0 to 5%

Professors

BU Law students are enthusiastic about their professors; in fact, the law school ranks first in “Professors Interesting and Accessible” in the latest Princeton Review rankings, based on nationwide student surveys. These professors have also helped the law school place highly in the “Best Classroom Experience” category.[xiv] BU has had a sterling teaching reputation for some time: in 2003, alternative law school rankings guru Brian Leiter noted that contemporary Princeton Review survey results (which also ranked BU #1 for professors) “bear some relation to what one hears anecdotally, from faculty who have visited or taught at various schools, and from students who transfer.”[xv]

In a study conducted by Leiter in 2010, BU ranked 27th among schools studied in scholarly impact as measured by citations.[xvi] Particularly influential faculty members include Wendy Gordon (Intellectual Property), Michael Harper (Labor and Employment), Nancy Moore (Legal Ethics), and Keith Hylton (Torts).

Many future law students tremble at the specter of cold-calling, imagining an experience like that of James Hart in The Paper Chase. Current BU students do not seem to live in fear, and one notes that there is more to modern law teaching than Kingsfield-esque Socratic grilling:

BU has a pretty solid mix of professorial strategies and doesn't seem to favor one over the other. Roughly one-third stick to the classic Socratic method with varying degrees of difficulty. A small percentage, maybe one-tenth or so, seem to be lecturers; they are rare, but they do exist. Most professors use a hybrid method, nearly all incorporating some form of the traditional "on call." A growing number of Socratic professors are starting to use a panel method or something similar to it, [in which] you are notified which date you will be on call.[xvii]

One professor with a particularly unique teaching style is Mark Pettit, who teaches Contracts. To help keep the material interesting, he will sing the details of cases to the tunes of commonly-known songs. Professor Pettit only sings lyrics written by his students, underscoring the high degree of student-faculty collaboration common at BU Law. A current student writes:

Our professors engage in the academic lives of their students. They are invested in making sure our students learn and understand the material. All of our professors have an open door policy and hold office hours each week, and students will tell you that faculty members often stay after class to answer questions and discuss material presented during the lecture. No asked question will go unanswered at BU Law.

If you look at any of our professors’ publications, you will always see at least one or two students mentioned in the dedication. What’s even more notable, however, is the number of professors you’ll see credited in the dedications of our students’ publications. Our professors nurture and support students and encourage them to pursue each student’s own passion in the law…

What truly makes BU Law unique is our professors’ commitment to the BU Law community. You’ll find our professors at the numerous events that happen at the Tower every week, sometimes as audience members, but often as panelists or presenters. You’ll find them out to lunch or dinner with current students and alumni. You’ll find them running in the BU Law 5K, auctioning off themselves at the annual Public Interest Auction, and traveling with students to do public-interest work around the country.

BU Law has a relatively low student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1, giving students plenty of chances to get to know their talented instructors.

Specialties and Concentrations

Boston University’s intellectual property law and tax law specialties are nationally recognized (ranked #7 and #9, respectively, by U.S. News & World Report), and the school’s healthcare law program is considered one of the best in the nation (#2 in USNWR, and first among Tier 1 schools). Students interested in a particular subject area who do not want to pursue a dual degree have the option to concentrate in Business Organizations and Finance Law, Health Law, International Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Litigation or Dispute Resolution.

Study Abroad

BU Law students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign culture in 13 cities around the globe, including Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Florence, Lyon, Paris, Geneva, Hamburg, Madrid, Oxford, Leiden, and Buenos Aires. There is also a foreign exchange program, and a student notes that, “The international program is expanding, adding new countries and internship possibilities [including] the International Criminal Court and EU antitrust.” Visit BU Law's website to learn more about study abroad options.

Dual Degree Programs

Students at BU Law have many options if they want to pursue a dual degree. These include, but are not limited to, Graduate Tax Program, Graduate Program in Banking and Financial Law, European Law, Mass Communication, Philosophy, and Public Health. A full list of opportunities can be viewed here.

Pursuing a dual degree is a commitment that sometimes requires additional time in school beyond the three years required for a J.D. The J.D./M.B.A. with a focus in Health Sector Management, for example, takes 9 semesters (as opposed to the 10 it would take to complete both degrees separately). A J.D./LL.M. in Banking and Financial Law adds one extra semester, as do most other accelerated J.D./LL.M. programs at BU. Some dual degrees, including a J.D./M.A. in Philosophy, may be completed in a normal J.D. time frame. Employers in certain fields may look favorably on dual degrees: for example, policy-oriented public-interest employers may value an M.P.H., and an LL.M. might be useful for those who want to practice in a complex area such as Taxation. However, some traditional employers may view a second degree as indicating flight risk or a lack of focus, so interested candidates should think carefully about their reasons for pursuing a dual degree before spending their time and money.

Clinics and Externships

For a law school with only 270 students per class, BU Law has a large variety of available externships and clinics. This makes sense for a law school that founded one of the nation’s first clinical programs, the Voluntary Defender’s project.

Experiential options include the Civil Litigation Program, Criminal Clinical Program, and Legislative Clinic, as well as a Semester-in-Practice Program, in which students gain credit for externships in places like Geneva (Human Rights Externship), D.C. (Government Lawyering), and Atlanta (Death Penalty Externship). BU also grants students some autonomy in finding their own externship opportunities. Interested applicants can find more details on BU's website.

Student Activities

Journals

The law school publishes six law journals – the Boston University Law Review, the American Journal of Law and Medicine, the Review of Banking and Financial Law, the Boston University International Law Journal, the Journal of Science and Technology Law, and the Public Interest Law Journal. The Law Review is considered the “flagship” publication, requiring the best credentials for membership and carrying the most heft with potential employers. Journal members are selected on first-year grades as well as the results of a writing competition held after 1L year.

Journal members spend much of their time editing and cite-checking publications from established scholars, but many also have opportunities to develop their resumes and research skills by publishing notes. More information about BU Law’s student-edited publications can be found here.

Moot Court

As mentioned above, all first-year students are required to compete in the J. Newton Esdaile Appellate Moot Court Program. Those who enjoy the experience can continue as upper-years in the Edward C. Stone Moot Court Competition, the top participants in which become eligible to compete in the Homer Albers Prize Moot Court Competition and possibly argue in front of U.S. Court of Appeals judges in the final round. BU-sponsored teams also compete against those from other law schools at regional and national competitions, described in more detail here.

Student Organizations

The Student Government Association allows students to exercise significant influence over their extracurricular lives, including allocating funds and planning social events. Additionally, over thirty student organizations encourage classmates to get together over common interests, whether they relate to career goals, common backgrounds, or simply shared hobbies.

Facilities

The law school occupies the entirety of a seventeen-floor, Charles River campus building widely known as the “Tower.” The law library is attached to the building and spills over into the main university library; all other law school facilities are contained in the massive edifice. While most are fine with the expansive and oft-improved interior, the building’s external aesthetics inspire some of the most common gripes of BU students. Even Leonard admits that the building is “not a particular selling point.” One student bluntly expresses his feelings on a TLS forum:

The Tower: The tower sucks. It's always either way too cold or way too hot, the fire alarm went off during some 2L exams, the elevators are slow and always cramped, and the whole building sort of feels like halfway between a high school and a hospital.[xviii]

Other students seem less bothered by the Tower. Writes one:

It’s really not a big deal. Much of the inside is renovated and modern, plus you get the best view of the Boston skyline from the upper floors. [The school is] continually adding study areas and computers to meet student demand. The classrooms themselves are more than adequate as well. So all in all, the facilities aren't bad, though not particularly lovely from the exterior view. Facilities certainly aren't something I'd list as a pro, but it’s not like they are a detriment to the law school experience in any way.[xix]

Yet another TLS member notes that while the building itself is less than ideal, it lacks little in convenience:

It’s definitely not pretty, but it’s ridiculously easy to get to by public transport (literally right off the T). It is right next to the student union which has a ton of food options, the grad student cafeteria, the grad student pub, some decent cheap restaurants, and a bar with great trivia that a lot of law students head to at night. As for the building itself, it’s an eyesore, but you quickly grow to love it. Everything you could possibly need is right there, and has tons of study rooms, social areas, lockers, and nooks and crannies…It’s like having an ugly baby: you and your classmates can make fun of it, but when other people do you take it personally.[xx]

Moreover, the law school is about to get a serious makeover to the tune of $141 million. The renovation will aim to make student life more horizontal by shifting administrative space to the top floors and adding a new west wing to house most classrooms and additional library and study space. The plan also includes improvements to heating and cooling systems and a new main entrance on the east side of the building.

Job Prospects

Finding a job is challenging for students at most any law school these days as the economy takes its time recovering and the legal industry adapts to new (and, according to some, permanent) market pressures. The most desirable positions, including jobs at high-paying law firms, clerkships, and prestigious government and non-profit posts, have all become more competitive. BU does benefit from its location in a major legal market, which may have helped it weather the storm better than similarly-regarded schools in more isolated locations. Moreover, BU students still feel confident enough about their job outlooks to place the school #10 in the Princeton Review rankings for “Best Career Prospects,” which are based on student survey results and not actual employment outcomes. The chart below shows in which sectors “employed” graduates in the Class of 2009 worked:

Class of 2009 Job Sectors

Private Practice

63%

Academia and Higher Education

17%

Judicial Clerkships

9%

Business

6%

Government and Public Interest

5%

One of these categories—academia and higher education—deserves an explanation, which BU provides on their website:

Boston University School of Law is committed to supporting our students during this difficult economic cycle. To that end, the law school has provided a variety of fellowships and research opportunities that get reported as positions in academia/ higher education. Please note, therefore, that the percentage of graduates in that category is unusually high and the percentage of graduates in the public interest and government category is unusually low.[xxi]

This can be interpreted as a genuine attempt to help indebted students blindsided by an unprecedented downturn in legal hiring, or as a calculated attempt to game the rankings (percentage employed nine months after graduation is a part of the U.S. News & World Report formula). Either way, it means that the true percentages of what most would consider fully “employed” graduates in the Class of 2009 are likely well below the 85.5% (at graduation) and 94.4% (at nine months) officially reported. Aliarrow, a TLS poster who has broken down the most recent USNWR data, puts the full-time employed percentage at nine months at approximately 75%, meaning that about one-fifth of those counted as employed were in part-time or temporary positions.[xxii] 97% of the Class of 2010 were reported as employed nine months out; while we cannot say with any certainty whether similar amounts of students were employed by BU or otherwise working part-time, applicants should at least take seemingly rosy employment statistics with a grain of salt.

Geographic Placement

In 2009, about half of BU Law graduates stayed in Massachusetts, where the school’s connections and brand name are strongest. Although a BU J.D. has some national reach, the vast majority of graduates stay on the East Coast, most likely due to a combination of available opportunities and self-selection.

Class of 2009 Geographic Placement[xxiii]

New England

53%

Middle Atlantic

20%

South Atlantic

12%

East North Central

4%

Pacific

4%

West South Central

2%

Foreign Countries

2%

Mountain

1%

Career Development Office

Boston University Law students generally have positive things to say about the Career Development Office, which helps students navigate the increasingly treacherous waters of finding legal employment from 1L year on. An online appointment request system makes scheduling advising sessions easy, and the university has added experienced staff to help deal with recent economic stresses. In addition to On-Campus Interviews, which bring more than 200 employers to BU every year, the CDO coordinates participation in job fairs and off-campus interview programs in several major markets.[xxiv]

Private Practice

Law firms have long been the most common first employers for law school grads, and this holds true for BU: about two-thirds of the classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009 went to work in private practice. Law firms, especially large ones with corporate clients, are attractive to recent grads because of high salaries, the capacity to train new associates, and a perception of good “exit options.”

However, firm jobs – especially with “Biglaw” firms that pay the six-figure salaries of indebted law students’ dreams – are increasingly hard to secure. While consensus seems to be that students in the top third of their class are most competitive for Biglaw, Leonard notes that “counting on grades to get you a good job at a big firm” is no longer as reliable as it once was, and that students all over the grade distribution need to search diligently for employment opportunities.

A common measure of a school’s relative “Biglaw” placement power is an annual list published by the National Legal Journal detailing the percentage of graduating law school classes placed into the nation’s 250 biggest law firms (the “NLJ250”).

NLJ 250 Placement

Year

2007

2008

2009

2010

% Placed

38.8%

41.2%

34.6%

30.0%

National Rank

18

20

19

17

While the consistent national rankings above suggest that BU grads have weathered the storm as well or better than those at peer schools, the decline in placement from 2008 to 2010 is significant. It is hard to predict future prospects, but since summer associate class sizes have not rebounded to anything approaching their boom time heyday, prospective law students should not count on a dramatic upswing in hiring. Applicants should also not assume that getting a job at a law firm will allow them to pay off debts quickly: while the $160,000 starting salaries paid by the biggest law firms allow most to comfortably service their payments and even aggressively pay down principal, associates at smaller firms generally earn much lower pay. Law School Transparency attempts to give a more detailed picture of starting salaries, and also analyzes the representativeness of employment information reported to U.S. News and other sources.

While BU and BC have similar reputations in Boston and place nearly identical numbers of students into NLJ250 firms each year, BU does appear to place better in other large cities. In a 2005 Michael Sullivan study of the most “national” law schools as indicated by top firm hiring in major markets, Boston University did slightly better than its suburban rival, scoring nine points higher on a scale normalized against top-ranking Harvard.[xxv] In a similar study limited to 15 of the most elite law firms (none of which were based in Boston) and conducted in 2008 by Brian Leiter, BU’s ratio of lawyers at top firms to average graduating class size was .29 (20th overall), compared to BC’s .16 (26th overall). In fact, Leiter wrote, “It is quite clear that BU dominates BC at the best firms in the Northeast corridor.”[xxvi] Applicants should note that these studies were conducted in better economic climes, and that elite firms (especially those outside of Boston) are almost certainly hiring fewer BU students now than in 2005 or 2008.

Clerkships

Judicial clerkships – jobs in which young lawyers work closely with a judge researching legal issues, drafting documents, and performing administrative tasks – offer valuable learning experiences and (depending on the court and judge) significant resume boosts to recent law school graduates. Generally, the most prestigious clerkships are with federal judges appointed under Article III of the Constitution. These positions are highly competitive, and law firms often pay generous signing bonuses to former federal clerks. The chart below shows BU Law’s clerkship placement date for the last three available years:

Clerkship Placement

Year

2007

2008

2009

Article III Clerks

1%

1.5%

3.5%

Non-Article III Clerks

5%

4.5%

5.5%

Total Clerks

6%

6%

9%

The data indicate that BU is not a clerkship powerhouse; still, self-selection plays a significant role in job sector percentages, and the fact that the school increased its overall and Article III placement in 2009 (when the application process was more competitive as a result of a decrease in new firm jobs and an increase in alumni applications) can be interpreted as a positive sign.

Government and Public Interest

As noted above, BU shows a commitment to public interest through generous financial support and career development mentoring. One current student opines that one of the few concrete differences between Boston College and Boston University comes in the field of government connections, and claims that placing graduate into federal jobs in Washington, D.C. is “a big focus of the Career Development Office.”[xxvii] Although just 5% of the Class of 2009 went to work for the government or public interest organizations, that percentage was around 11% in 2007 and 2008.

Quality of Life

Choosing which law school to attend represents a huge financial and career path decision, but it also determines where someone will spend three years of his or her life. Quality of life and the “feel” of a law school should factor in alongside monetary considerations and job prospects. Most students describe BU Law as a social place: the school puts on a “densely populated” Bar Review every Thursday, and the SGA throws three major parties a year – an orientation party, Halloween, and Law Prom – to rave reviews.[xxviii]

Boston itself has a lot to offer its visitors and residents: beer lovers can enjoy a visit to the Sam Adams brewery or one of the city’s hundreds of bars and pubs; sports enthusiasts can catch a Red Sox game at legendary Fenway Park or check out a Bruins hockey game. Boston’s nightlife is active, its museums and cultural institutions are world-class, and the city boasts a rich sense of history without approaching the hubbub of New York or Los Angeles. Though some admitted students might find the city too hectic and others find it too calm, many discover that Boston’s size and pace hit a sweet spot, striking an ideal balance between big-city advantages and mid-sized manageability. With a huge population of students and young professionals, Boston is an attractive city for many considering law school. One current student, at least, seems happy with his environs:

Wow. The combination of historical/political/legal/and social aspects that Boston can boast about is truly stunning. [Visiting BU] was my first time here and I loved the city. It was also my first time on a subway, and I was impressed with the truly extensive T. This is definitely a city where you don't need a car. BU is just off center of downtown, and barely a bridge ride away from Harvard and MIT.

One of the most obvious drawbacks of Boston – besides its relatively high cost of living – is cold winters. Although Boston offers beautiful spring and fall seasons and mild summers, its winter months can be bracing, with average high temperatures in the 30s and lows dipping well below freezing. Students coming from more southern climates or the West Coast should prepare to become very familiar with snow and wind.

Transportation

Boston’s public transit system – the “T” – is convenient to the law school, and runs all over the greater Boston area. $59 a month buys unlimited rides on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's subway and local buses, and commuter travel to parts of the greater metropolitan area can also be bought for reasonable monthly prices. According to one current student:

No one needs a car in this city, especially not in the BU area….The B line runs down the center of BU's campus the entire way, and down into Allston/Brighton. Both the C and B line run all the way into Boston and connect to all the other lines. There is a not a single thing I need that would require a car – groceries, haircuts, bank, restaurants...Nothing is more than a quick T ride away.[xxix]

If students have one complaint about public transit, it is that it stops running earlier than some other cities’ train systems, with most lines shutting down around 12:30 AM even on weekends. Still, taxis are easy to find, and Boston’s relative compactness makes getting around easy for BU students.

Housing

The city of Boston has plenty to offer, but one downside is that housing is often expensive and difficult to find. A visiting student said, “[The law school] made living in Boston sound easy and convenient. But when I talked to some students, many of them were doubling up in single bedroom studios to save on rent, which seemed to be between $1,000 - $1,600 per month depending on where you live.” The university rents some apartments to graduate and professional students, but the vast majority of BU Law students live in off-campus apartments.

One TLS member offers a detailed breakdown of nearby housing options:

Allston/Brighton: The most popular area and is by far the cheapest. One-bedroom apartments start at around $700; two-bedrooms, around $1,000. Just about every bar you will ever want to go to is located there. The downsides: the apartments are generally pretty crappy, the area is overrun with college students, and you have to take the B line into school. This area is probably your best value.

Kenmore/Back Bay: The nicest area, and the most expensive. One-bedrooms start at $1050; two-bedrooms, around $1,400. Good news: you can walk to school in 5 minutes. Bad news: you have to deal with the green line at night when all your friends are out in Allston.

Brookline: As you go further out the C line, the prices drop a little. One-bedrooms run around $900, two-bedrooms, $1200. The area is as nice as Kenmore, and the best apartments are located here, [but] you have to go a decent way down the C line before the prices become affordable. Lots of convenient shopping (Trader Joes, dry cleaners, etc.) but now, instead of taking the B line outbound to hang out with your friends in Allston, you have to take the C inbound to Kenmore, then the B outbound.

South End: If you are committed to "city living," this is your best bet. It's a bit more urban without being cost-prohibitive like the North End & Downtown. The downside: a long commute. Prices in the area vary widely so be on the lookout if you want to live here.

Cambridge: Some students just like it; it’s like Allston if it had any class. Prices are comparable to Brookline. Upside: lots of coffee shops and small concert venues. Downside? Red Line to Park, outbound to BU Central takes about 35 minutes.

Conclusions

The Boston University School of Law has much to recommend it, including a renowned teaching faculty, a convenient location near the heart of one of America’s best cities for young people, and a generous financial aid office. The downsides of attending Boston University are mostly the same as those of any law school in an era of rising tuition and depressed job prospects. For those who want an urban feel and access to Northeastern legal markets, BU is as attractive as any of its peer schools, and deserves a look from any candidate who can distinguish a “U” from a “C.”

Contact Information

Office of Admissions
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Phone: 617.353.3100
E-mail: bulawadm@bu.edu

Quick Reference

U.S. News Ranking: 22
Regular Decision Application Deadline: March 1
Early Decision Application Deadline: None
Application fee: $75
Entering class size: 268
Student/Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1
Acceptance Rate: 20.5%
Median GPA/LSAT: 3.72/166
LSAT scores at 25th and 75th percentiles: 164 – 167
GPA at the 25th and 75th percentiles: 3.52 – 3.83
Tuition: $41,780
Class of 2009 Employed at Graduation: 85.5%
Class of 2009 Employed at Nine Months: 94.4%
Bar passage rate, all reporting: 92%
Median private sector starting salary: $148,000

[i] From Boston University and U.S. News and World Report
[ii]
Interview with TLS
[iii]
LSAC Official Guide
[iv]
TLS Forums
[v]
BU Law Financial Aid
[vi]
TLS Forums
[vii]
BU Law Public Interest Scholars
[viii]
TLS Forums
[ix]
TLS Forums
[x]
TLS Forums
[xi]
TLS Forums
[xii]
TLS Forums
[xiii]
BU Law Class Profile
[xiv]
Princeton Review
[xv]
Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings
[xvi]
Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings
[xvii]
TLS Forums
[xviii]
TLS Forums
[xix]
TLS Forums
[xx]
TLS Forums
[xxi]
BU Law Careers
[xxii]
TLS Forums, special thanks to Aliarrow
[xxiii]
USNWR data as compiled by Law School Transparency; 2% of locations “unknown”
[xxiv]
BU Law Careers
[xxv]
Law School Job Placement
[xxvi]
Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings
[xxvii]
TLS Forums
[xxviii]
TLS Forums
[xxix]
TLS Forums









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