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Georgetown University Law Center
Published September 2007, last updated September 2013.
The Georgetown University Law Center (GULC) is located in one of the world’s most vibrant legal and political communities and has vast resources to offer its students. Academic opportunities and extracurricular activities, including clinics and journals, are never in short supply, and the school's location near the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol is something else students can take advantage of. GULC offers both a full- and a part-time J.D. program, the highest-ranked program to do so.
As of the class of 2012, Georgetown had a Law School Transparency employment score of 73.2% (essentially the percentage of graduates employed as entry-level lawyers) and a total debt-financed price tag of $263,473. In this age of rapidly increasing cost of law school and rapidly decreasing job prospects, 0Ls must do their due diligence when investigating law schools and do everything possible to maximize chances of employment and minimize debt.
Georgetown's D.C. location can be a benefit and a burden when it comes to employment prospects. Washington—particularly for biglaw firms and so-called BigFed—is notorious as one of the most competitive legal job markets in the country, with a reputation of emphasizing school prestige and top grades above all else. Additionally, the legal hiring market is down across the board.
Still, for the class of 2012, more than 40% of GULC grads ended up staying in Washington, according to Law School Transparency. A further 18% went to New York, and about 6% went to California. Most 2012 grads took the bar exam in New York, Maryland, Virginia, or California:
The most important number for judging a school's employment prospects is its Law School Transparency employment score, which indicates the percentage of graduates who by nine months after graduation had obtained full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage. GULC's score in 2012 was 73.2%. Its underemployment score was almost 13%.
Georgetown usually places relatively well in both traditional biglaw and in the public sector (government and public interest). On the National Law Journal's most recent annual ranking of the most prolific biglaw feeder schools, Georgetown placed 13th, with a total of 31.3% of 2012 grads headed straight to the nation's largest 250 law firms. About 39% of grads joined firms with more than 100 attorneys. A further 3.7% obtained federal judicial clerkships, which often lead to biglaw jobs or prestigious government work.
Almost 26% of the class of 2012 got long-term, full-time jobs in the government or in public interest (90 in government, 70 in public interest, out of a total class size of 626). Interestingly, 83 students from the class of 2012 reported being employed in law-school-funded jobs, 61 of which were in long-term, full-time positions.
Not much complete, up-to-date information regarding GULC grads' starting salaries is available. As of the class of 2011 (38% total reporting), the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile salaries for grads going into private law practice were all $160,000, the going rate for new biglaw associates in major markets. Given the bimodal distribution of starting salaries for lawyers, entry-level public-sector jobs tend to pay around $40,000 to $65,000.
Tuition and fees
Tuition alone is up to almost $51,000 per year for full-time J.D. students ($1,800 per credit hour for part-time J.D. students). The ABA reports that other expenses, including fees and living expenses, are almost $24,000 per year. Keep in mind that student loan debt is generally nondischargeable in bankruptcy.
Of course, some scholarships and grants are available, but only for a select few. In 2012, 32% of students received grants, and the median grant was a measly $17,500, or less than a quarter of the total cost per year. While the majority of aid from GULC is based on need and academic achievement, there is also a public interest scholarship (up to a third of annual tuition) for students who have demonstrated a strong commitment to a public interest field.
For those looking for merit scholarships, Andy Cornblatt, the dean of admissions, said the amount of aid given depends on more than one’s LSAT and undergrad GPA:
Earlier this year, Georgetown caught some flak for brazenly gaming the federal loan forgiveness programs to encourage students to take on more debt at taxpayer expense and to maximize its own profits from the "warped economics" of law school tuition. The school's actions are not technically illegal, but they are a good representation of how skewed the law school and legal markets have become in recent years.
Beyond the numbers
In his interview with TLS, Dean Cornblatt emphasized that getting admitted at GULC depends on more than an applicant’s LSAT and GPA. He said:
Even if you believe that you are slightly deficient in terms of your numbers, a great personal statement, and a cohesive and well-thought-out application can increase your chances of acceptance. Likewise, even if you have great numbers, a sloppy application can put you in the reject pile. Dean Cornblatt emphasized this point:
In other words, make sure to spell-check your application and your essays. Multiple typos make an application look sloppy and rushed. Also, don’t accidentally include another school’s name in your application. One surprisingly common error is when applicants forget to fully edit a personal statement or a “Why?” essay for different schools; telling Georgetown Law how much you’d love to attend Harvard isn’t going to win you any love. However, somewhat surprisingly, Dean Cornblatt doesn’t seem to think that this mistake necessarily dooms the applicant:
Finally, Dean Cornblatt had a number of interesting comments on applicants who have gone through severe hardship (alcoholism, drugs, depression, etc.). When asked whether those factors can help explain away a lower GPA, he said:
In other words, there’s no need to avoid these “taboo” topics if they proved to be a significant factor in your personal development. Instead, consider confronting them in an addendum and explaining how you’ve changed. It will help explain any deficiencies in your academic record, and it might just get the admissions committee to give your application a second look.
As with other top law schools, writing a compelling personal statement is an important part of gaining admission. A riveting essay can seal the deal if your numbers are borderline; similarly, a sloppy one can spell doom for your application. Dean Cornblatt said:
Dean Cornblatt also recommended that applicants keep their personal statements concise and to the point. He said:
It should be noted that there is no minimum or maximum length for personal statements submitted to GULC, though it’s probably best to keep your essay to a reasonable length (around two to three pages).
Finally, making your essay Georgetown-centric can win you some points in the admissions game. Dean Cornblatt said:
When to apply
For applicants who are truly dedicated to Georgetown and do not need financial aid, applying Early Decision can provide a boost. ED is binding, meaning that if you are accepted, you must attend Georgetown and withdraw applications from all other schools. Georgetown promises a decision within three weeks if an application is complete by Feb. 1. The "strongly recommended" deadline for ED and RD applications is March 1.
Given the recent decline in law school applications across the board, it is probably wise for 0Ls to avoid binding ED applications in order to maximize potential scholarship money.
Georgetown undergraduates (juniors only) can take advantage of the nonbinding Early Assurance program, designed to encourage top students from Georgetown undergrad to apply to the law school. This can be a great option for Georgetown juniors who are intent on studying law at GULC. Georgetown has the following to say about applying EA:
The admissions process at GULC is conducted on a rolling basis. Regardless of whether you apply through a formal ED program, it is smart to submit your polished application as soon as possible in order to maximize your chances for admission and a scholarship.
Letters of recommendation
GULC requires only one letter of recommendation but accepts as many as you want. The school prefers letters from professors because they can attest to your academic potential, but letters from employers are also accepted.
Canceled LSATs and other addendums
For a single canceled LSAT score, Dean Cornblatt said an addendum is not necessary. However, in some circumstances an addendum can help explain a dark spot in an applicant’s file. For instance, in cases of academic probation, Dean Cornblatt said:
One should also consider writing an addendum if one has an issue with one’s UGPA, such as a downward trend. The school will take into account factors like family illness or work responsibilities when making its decisions, and an addendum can help mitigate the damage of a lower GPA.
As with most schools, transferring into Georgetown is a difficult task. According to the school’s website, GULC received almost 600 applications in 2012. Eighty-five students ended up transferring in, and 10 transferred out.
Law school culture
Situated in downtown Washington, D.C., Georgetown provides its students with a good quality of life. You don’t need to travel far to find culture and recreation in the nation’s capital. The Capitol, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the National Mall, and the Smithsonian museums are all within blocks of the law school. There are frequent outdoor concerts, movies, and other events hosted in the area, and some of the best fireworks in the world can be seen on July 4. The Mall is also home to the famous Cherry Blossom Festival and weekly ultimate Frisbee tournaments.
In addition to giving its students a great social life, GULC also offers an intellectually charged environment. At Georgetown, students study against the best legal backdrop in the United States. Dean Cornblatt explains further:
In terms of housing, there are plenty of options available for students. Dean Carol Walsh of Residence Life went into detail:
Other neighborhoods that are becoming more trendy include the Southeast area near the Washington Nationals stadium, NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue), and the 14th Street corridor (NW). If you’re looking for a bit more guidance, you can always contact Georgetown’s off-campus housing director and ask for advice. Dean Walsh explained further:
It should be noted that GULC is separated from Georgetown’s main campus; there is also a general lack of parking at the law school. However, most law students appreciate being separated from the undergraduate mayhem, and access to the D.C. Metro (GULC’s campus is only a five-minute walk from Union Station) removes the need for most students to drive.
The student body
For the class of 2015, the student body is 54% male and 46% female. Students of color make up 28% of the class, and international students make up 3% of the class.
Despite being a top law school, Georgetown doesn’t have an overly competitive environment. One student explained further:
There are also plenty of different kinds of people at GULC, so chances are that all students will find a place to fit in. As one student remarked:
Another student confirmed this viewpoint:
If you search around TLS, you’ll find similar perspectives from many other students. Despite the fact that GULC boasts one of the largest student bodies of any top law school, it clearly takes steps to ensure that students have the opportunity to experience smaller class settings.
Georgetown’s gym is a frequent recipient of praise. One student detailed the workout facility:
The rest of the school’s facilities are modern and impressive as well. One applicant even described Georgetown’s facilities as “overwhelming.”
Like other top law schools, the choices are practically endless when it comes to extracurricular activities. Students can choose among dozens of different organizations and clubs to get involved with; a small sampling might include the Military Law Society, the Wine Tasters, and the GULC Softball Club.
Georgetown Law has 12 law journals. Topics of specialty journals include immigration law, poverty law, and legal ethics (among others), and the Georgetown Law Journal, the flagship journal, addresses topics of “general legal concern.”
In 2009, the GULC administration changed the curve for classes with exams. The updated curve targets are: A: 10%, A-: 15%, B+: 25%, B: 30%, B-: 15%, C+ to F: 5%. This led to cries of grade inflation designed to artificially boost the GPAs of students in times of shrinking job opportunities for graduates. The Curriculum & Academic Standards Committee explained why the change was implemented:
One of the most intriguing parts of Georgetown is its alternate first-year curriculum, Curriculum B. Developed in 1991, the curriculum offers what the school calls "an innovative and integrated approach to the study of law." According to the school, courses in the B section "emphasize the sources of law in history, philosophy, political theory, and economics." One TLS user clarified what sort of interdisciplinary study Curriculum B entails:
There are four sections (three full time, one part time) of curriculum A and only one section of curriculum B at Georgetown, and the alternate curriculum is definitely not for everyone. Dean Cornblatt described the curriculum as “more of a liberal arts approach to the first year of law school,” so if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, applying to Curriculum B might not be in your best interest.
Joining the section (Section 3) that uses Curriculum B doesn’t seem to be overly competitive, as “nearly every year it’s what almost exactly one full section of our class is looking for.” In terms of career options, Section 3 alumni do not seem to be at any distinct disadvantage, as one student said
One TLS user added: "OCI interviewers have no bias one way or the other from what I've heard and experienced."
Finally, GULC offers 15 joint-degree programs. More information about admissions and financial aid for these joint degrees can be found on the joint degree FAQ page. Prospective joint-degree applicants should bear in mind that joint degrees often add a great amount of time and money to the already staggering cost of a J.D. and seldom help you get a traditional legal job. Have a detailed and well-thought-out plan before you apply for a joint degree.
Georgetown is well known for its part-time J.D. program. The school is proud of its "long tradition of providing quality legal education to working students.” Those students who need to work while in law school can rest assured that they will receive a first-rate education at GULC.
The differences between the full-time program and part-time program are minor. Part-time students can’t take the alternate curriculum (Curriculum B/Section 3), and they take 24 hours of credit their first year and eight to 11 credits each semester after that. The whole program is designed to take eight semesters, but it’s possible to complete the program faster if you’re truly dedicated. In contrast, full-time students usually have 31 hours of credit their first year and 12 to 16 credits after that.
Of course, there are a few other minor setbacks that part time students have to deal with. One student in the FT program suggested that it might be difficult to find clinical work while working full-time, and socializing with your classmates might be slightly more difficult if you take mostly evening classes. In general, however, the part-time program offers the same education as the full-time program.
Those who wish to transfer from the part-time program to the full-time program can usually do so at will. One student describes the process:
Those applicants who would have difficulty getting into GULC’s full-time program can apply for the part-time program and then transfer into the full-time program after a year. This plan might help students with slightly lower numbers complete most of a full-time GULC education.
Georgetown is known for its focus on public service. Dean Cornblatt has described GULC as the “largest public interest firm in the country”:
Because of the school’s location in Washington, students have unparalleled access to government externships and other opportunities. Georgetown even has its own career services office for public interest, the Office of Public Interest Community Services (OPICS), which Gihan Fernando (formerly of GULC career services, now of American University) explained in detail:
As mentioned earlier, there is also a public interest scholarship where GULC offers to pay up to one third of a student’s annual tuition. While not as generous as some public interest scholarships at peer schools, the added financial cushion this scholarship provides is another reason those students seeking public interest careers may be drawn to the school. There are a plethora of public interest programs to get involved with at GULC, including the D.C. Family Literacy Project, the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program, and the National Center for Tenant Ownership.
Georgetown offers 25 clinical courses through 15 clinics each year. Clinics such as the Appellate Litigation Clinic, the Criminal Justice Clinic, and the Domestic Violence Clinic allow students to get hands-on experience in one of the most electrifying legal settings in the world.
Unfortunately, with such a large student body, it is sometimes challenging for students to get into clinics. One student wrote:
Another student’s assessment was less dramatic:
Finally, if you manage to get into a clinic as a 2L, then you “go to the back of the line if you apply for another as a 3L,” as the school wants to give as many students as possible the opportunity to do clinical work.
Most students seem to enjoy their professors at GULC. One student wrote:
Another student wrote that all of his professors have been “friendly and approachable.” Of course, as with any school, some students are going to find some professors more boring than others, but in general, students tend to think highly of their professors. The teachers also tend to have real-world experience, as former dean Fernando points out:
Georgetown University Law Center
2013 Above the Law ranking: 16
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