Recent Visit to Duke and UVA

(Where, When and What Did You Think)
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Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:00 pm

Recent Visit to Duke and UVA

Postby insidethetwenty » Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:15 am

I recently visited UVA and Duke, since I will most likely be deciding between the two in April. Here are some thoughts I had from my visit:


Facilities: The facilities were beautiful. Pretty much every part of the building is bathed in natural light and most every window has sweeping forest views. The library is huge and comes with the obligatory forested views and natural light. The building, though, seemed to be pretty small and compact. There aren't that many students at Duke, though, so it didn't seem crowded or anything, even during the middle of the day. The whole class is only 200-220 people, though, so it's still pretty small.

1L Year @ Duke: Unless you are a summer starter, your entire first year is picked for you. You take 3 of the "Big 6" classes each semester, then an LRW (which is only half the semester, I think?), and a Dean's class. I don't know a whole lot of specifics on that class. Class sizes are small, though, with the biggest being only your section and another.

Journals: Law Review selection is 1/3 grade-on, 1/3 write-on, and 1/3 grades and writing. There's a competition in the spring for the writing-on process. I believe you can "note-on" later in your career at the Law School, too.

Clinics: Upper-level students and summer-start 1Ls have the opportunity to participate in lots of clinics. I won't list them all, but there are lots of them and lots of people take part in them.

Classroom Atmosphere: I only visited one class, but it was a really good one. The professor cold-called mostly, but it wasn't mean or anything. He didn't try to embarrass anyone. Most of his questions were something like "tell me the facts about this" or "what is Article III?" (it was a ConLaw class). He did ask one or two students what their opinions were about various things, which I thought was cool.

Durham/The Triangle: Durham is not a "great" city of America, but it's a LOT better than it was 5 years ago and I think definitely better than it was 10 years ago. There's some revitalization going on Downtown, but there's also plenty of suburbia. Chapel Hill is a true "college-town" so if you like that feel you could live there. Raleigh is 25mi. away and it is NC's capitol, so there's a lot there, too. One thing about the Triangle is that COL is dirt cheap, compared to pretty much anywhere.

Careers: I was most interested in clerkships, so I spent most of my questions on that topic. Duke has a full-time clerkship coordinator who works solely on helping students present themselves in the best possible light to judges. Duke's clerkship numbers have been really solid the last few years, so I guess it's working. Duke places a lot of people in a lot of jobs around the country. A lot of people go there looking for NYC BigLaw and it looks like this is a viable option. However, they place people all over the country, too.

Overall Feel/Environment: I got the feeling that most people there were happy to be there and generally happy with their choice. The school is serious about pro bono and many students seemed to take this to heart. There was a diverse group of people there, probably because Duke attracts people for several different reasons. It really felt like the people there were good-natured and not overly competitive.

Complaints: I don't really have any complaints about the Law School. I know that I would appreciate being able to start in the Summer, even though I'm not doing a joint degree, and I wish that I could pick some of my own classes and participate in clinics in the Spring, but those things are relatively minor to me. I thought I would be able to/want to complain about Durham, but I honestly didn't feel that bad about the place. There's actually a lot of cool stuff there, even in Durham proper. You've got the Bulls, a little downtown area with an Irish pub and a brewpub place with really good food. There's a new downtown area called Brightleaf Square that I thought was pretty nice.


Facilities: The facilities at UVA were really nice. There was lots of "living" space in their building. If you wanted to study quietly, you could go to the library or to a windowed study room. If you wanted to socialize, there was TONS of space for eating/socializing, etc. There's also a little bookstore/gift shop right there in the Law School, which was really pretty awesome. Everything was so nicely appointed there, too. There were portraits adorning large hallways, medium-toned wood everywhere. It really was nice.

1L Year @ UVA: Fall semester classes are chosen for you. In the Spring, you get seven hours of your own choosing. I was told that most people take electives of 4 hours and 3 hours. The class size there is very large. In your 1L year, you will have one core class with just your section, another core class with another section, and probably another core class with two other sections. 90+ people is a pretty big class, in my opinion.

Journals: There are three ways to get on Law Review at UVA. The first is to grade-on. The second is the uniform writing competition in the Spring. The third is to "note-on" which means that you must write a note of publishable quality.

Clinics: There are lots of them. I didn't really get a whole lot of information, but I think it's pretty easy to research this stuff online.

Charlottesville: C'ville is one of the coolest small towns I've ever been to. The Downtown Mall is awesome and has great choices for dining, drinking, hanging out, etc. Though, if you need to go to Best Buy, there's one in town. Charlottesville mixes small-town sensibilities with medium-sized city amenities quite well. Outside of the town of Charlottesville, there are tons of wineries and breweries, which is awesome. We also visited Monticello, which is pretty cool, especially if you are a U.S. History buff or a Founding Fathers buff.

Traffic and parking there seemed really bad. I was there when the University wasn't even in session, and it was difficult to go anywhere without traffic congestion and the bigger shopping/dining areas were PACKED. Small towns do have a tendency to get way bigger than their streets, and I can't imagine what it would be like to get around/shop/eat when there the University is actually in session.

Careers: Virginia has a clerkship coordinator who seems really committed to getting people who want to clerk into the clerkship they want. She can help not only with getting students where they need to be, but getting professors involved in the process. References are a BIG deal in the clerkship process, and though making relationships with your professors on your own is important, it helps to have somebody who can pressure professors to get those references done for clerkships, etc. UVA places people all over the country and they have a large, active alumni base. UVA probably has the most active and positive alumni base of any school save Texas graduates in Texas.

Overall Feel/Environment
Everybody I talked to stressed the congenial, fun, and inclusive atmosphere at UVA. Going to school at UVA seems like a pretty fun thing to do. I think the environment is laid back, in general. I think the culture at UVA is quite pervasive, since most people who come to UVA do so, in part, for that environment and as such, defend and promote this kind of atmosphere vigorously.

Complaints: See above re: traffic. I mean, it doesn't take a whole lot of time to get anywhere in the town, but being in traffic and struggling to park really stresses me out. Personally, though I really like Charlottesville the small town, I don't like the fact that you pretty much have to leave C'Ville to work during the summers. If you are doing local PI, you probably don't have to, but if you want to try to land a firm job, you have to leave your "home" during Law School. That's not UVA's fault, though, that's just my opinion.

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Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:30 pm

Re: Recent Visit to Duke and UVA

Postby jtang11 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:58 pm

Just wanted to say thanks, this post was extremely helpful.

Apple Tree
Posts: 419
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:19 pm

Re: Recent Visit to Duke and UVA

Postby Apple Tree » Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:34 am

Thank you! It's really helpful, especially now I've decided on UVA.

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