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The Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University
Published July 2008, last updated June 2010
Nestled in the middle of Georgia, Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law provides a quality, private legal education with a strong reputation in Georgia and surrounding states. Founded in 1873, the law school is one of the oldest in the country. Surrounded by a Southern city rich with culture and history coupled with an innovative and thorough legal education, most students should expect to enjoy their time at Mercer.
Mercer received 1,605 applications for the 2009 entering class. Roughly 37%, or 600, of those applicants were admitted showing a semi-competitive admissions process. The number of students that enrolled for the 2009 entering class totaled 161, and it included 87 (55%) males and 70 (45%) females. The 25th-75th percentiles for LSAT scores ranged from 153-158, with a median of 156 for the 2009 entering class. On the other hand, the 25th-75th percentiles for GPAs ranged from 3.13-3.67, with a median of 3.43. The deadline application for Mercer is March 15, and the application cost is $50.
Looking at the tuition cost for Mercer may scare some perspective students at $34,330, but those same students may be happy to learn that the cost-of-living in Macon (estimated to be $9,630 by U.S. News and World Report) is very cheap compared to other cities. Mercer is generous with its scholarships, awarding over $3 million each year to students. The school automatically considers all accepted students for their merit scholarships, but applicants should note that the priority deadline for scholarship consideration is January 1. When taking the cost-of-living and scholarships into account, Mercer can actually be quite affordable in comparison to other private law schools, but without scholarships, students should expect to graduate with substantially more debt than the average student at a state law school.
Mercer also provides a laptop for all matriculating students that are theirs to keep upon graduating, which may save some students the cost of updating their computers before enrolling into Mercer.
Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law is home to the Woodruff Curriculum. Atlanta philanthropist, George W. Woodruff, endowed $15 million to Mercer School of Law and made a challenge to “make a very good law school even better.” Since the initiation of the Woodruff Curriculum in 1990, Mercer has taken a number of steps that have a created a nationally renowned legal program. Some of the initiatives taken in the Woodruff Curriculum include reducing class sizes to some of the smallest in the country and placing a greater emphasis on practical skills; the curriculum’s legal writing program was also the first of its kind.
The first-year courses at Mercer Law are the same as those at other law schools – torts, contracts, civil procedure, etc. – but the Woodruff Curriculum still benefits 1L’s, as many of those courses will have fewer than 25 students. Second and third-year curriculum include a workshop on client interviewing and counseling, in-depth seminars on topics such as labor arbitration and international law, and advanced skill courses. As a testament to the Woodruff Curriculum’s success, Mercer is one of only a select group of schools in the country to have received the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association. The award noted the Woodruff Curriculum’s “depth and excellence” and the schools ability to “turn law students into professionals.”
Legal Writing Program
Since its initiation, Mercer’s legal writing program has risen to the number #1 ranked legal writing program in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report. Mercer is the only school in the country to offer a Certificate in Advanced Legal Writing, Research, and Drafting. By providing students with a strong emphasis on legal writing and offering popular elective courses on advanced legal writing and research, Mercer Law sees to it that hiring firms are consistently impressed with the practical writing skills of newly minted Mercer grads. The school has fervently worked to recruit a legal writing faculty that is either tenured or on a tenure-track to teach the nationally renowned legal writing classes; the research courses are also taught by nationally recruited legal research faculty.
Real World Experience
Mercer has been an educational advocate in providing externships and field placements for students interested in gaining experience while in school. Some of these opportunities include clerkships, judicial field placements, and research and writing opportunities with faculty at Mercer. In addition, Mercer’s Law & Public Service Program is devoted to providing practical experience for students interested in pursuing a career in public service. The Law & Public Service Programs has given students the opportunity to work on real cases while furthering students’ understanding of the role of lawyers as public servants. In addition, Mercer has committed financial support to students pursuing public service work. The school will be providing 28 students with stipends for the summer of 2010 to help them with their work, and 3 full-tuition scholarships are given out each year to students pursuing public interest careers.
Although Mercer has done well in offering the real-world experience for its students, potential applicants should note that such placements and externships may be limited in comparison to a school located in Atlanta. However, it is important to note that Macon, Georgia is still home of county, state, and federal courts, which may provide students with more opportunities than many locations throughout the country.
Moot Court, Mock Trial, and Law Review
In addition to the standard academic program, Mercer is home of a nationally ranked and well-respected moot court program. The school’s moot court teams frequently take home top spots at national competitions, recently beating out schools as Harvard and UGA. Moot court provides students with an opportunity to further their oral speaking abilities while garnering stronger relationships with faculty coaches. Moot court also gives student competitors a chance to travel on Mercer’s dime!
Mercer is also home to the oldest continually published law review in Georgia and a respected mock trial team.
Mercer offers a number of study abroad opportunities for students to countries such as China, Switzerland, Spain, and Argentina. Students also have the choice to find their own study abroad program through another school and have it approved for credit through Mercer.
Mercer’s faculty includes 32 full-time professors, resulting in a 12:1 ratio of students to full-time faculty. In addition, Mercer is also home to 33 adjunct professors. The faculty at Mercer follows an open-door policy and students typically find it easy to access professors and achieve meaningful relationships with them. Most of the faculty has stayed active within their fields of practice, which include publishing papers and articles, giving presentations, and actively practicing in national newsworthy cases. In the classroom, many professors follow the traditional Socratic Method, but the smaller classes, especially in the 2L and 3L years, provide students with an opportunity to truly interact with the faculty and gain meaningful relationships that will carry over into their careers.
Mercer University is located in the heart of Macon, Georgia – a city rich with culture and history. The law school sits atop Coleman Hill and overlooks the downtown portion of the city. The school itself is an oversized reproduction of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which Mercer acquired from an insurance company some years ago. Students will find the law school surrounded by gorgeous antebellum homes which serve as a significant tourist attraction for Macon visitors; many students choose to live around or even in (some homes have been turned into apartments) some of these cherished Macon treasures.
Macon is also rich with music history as it is the home of the Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding, Little Richard, and many more legendary musicians. Although Macon may not be the center of the Southern music scene anymore, the city still continues to foster the development of new musicians and local artists. Students will find a prominent, independent restaurant scene spread across Macon, and many graduates often find themselves craving some of their favorite local eateries from when they were at Mercer. Further, Macon serves as the home of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and numerous other local museums and attractions. The Grand Opera House, a historic landmark currently run by Mercer, houses many Broadway productions and concerts each year.
The downtown area has continued improving over the years with the addition of bars, restaurants, and shops, but the nightlife for students and Macon residents is still relatively limited. Though there are not many places where Macon residents can enjoy the outdoor patios, music, and libations of the downtown bars, it appears as though things will continue to get better for the downtown area due to renovation efforts and organizations. Macon is also host to the annual Cherry Blossom festival. The city has more cherry blossom trees than any other city in the world, and to celebrate, the city hosts a week long line-up of concerts, activities, fair rides, and parties that people from all across the world come to attend. In addition, Macon is home to a minor league hockey team, arena football team, and an independent baseball league for players attempting to break into the majors.
One downfall of the Macon area is that students who enjoy outdoor activities will have to work to find them. There are a dozen golf courses in the Macon area, a river walk, and Lake Tobesofkee, but these provide limited activities and other outdoor activities are few and far between. If students try hard enough, they will be able to find biking and walking trails, Indian mounds, and river floats, but the trouble of locating such activities often discourages many students from taking advantage of them.
One great thing about Macon is its location. Being in the center of the state, Macon is 80 miles away from Atlanta and just over two hours from the closest beach. Students who don’t mind a little drive can easily be in Atlanta for a Braves game, concert, or nightlife in a little over an hour. Alternatively, in just over two hours, students could head south to Savannah or Tybee Island for a weekend getaway. Macon’s central location is truly convenient for people who enjoy weekend road trips.
Students at Mercer have access to over 26 student organizations which provide them with a chance to interact with like-minded individuals and participate in related activities. Furthermore, Mercer’s Student Bar Association hosts a number of school-wide functions each year including a talent show and formal. Students also have access to the relatively new University Center on the undergraduate campus which houses a number or basketball courts, workout facilities, a coffee house, and restaurants. Law students should be aware that the University Center has limited hours on weeks that the undergraduate campus is away for fall or spring break. The law school itself has a student lounge that serves coffee and food, but the hours are limited in comparison to the food at the University Center. Aside from their studies, many students choose to participate in intramural sports with other students that include flag football, tennis, soccer, basketball, and a number of other sports.
The Furman Smith Law Library is utilized by lawyers and judges across Georgia and features computer labs, multimedia outlets, private study carrels, and more than 80 network drops for laptop connections. Additionally, the entire law school is wireless and includes student office space.
Employment Prospects + Bar Passage
Mercer students who took the bar in July of 2008 had a first time-bar pass rate of 95.8%. These graduates went on to earn an average salary of $71,906. The average salary was $81,414 in the private sector and $50,413 for government practice. One blemish for Mercer is the average salary in the private sector fails in comparison to schools such as UGA and Emory. The percentage of students that entered the private sector was 65.87%, while 14.29% went into government work, 7.94% took judicial clerkships, 4.76% went into business, 3.17% went into public interest work, and 3.97% went on to work for the military.
Mercer has a very strong reputation in Georgia and surrounding states, but students may find it a little difficult to obtain jobs outside of the region. 80.95% of the 2008 class took positions in Georgia. Other students took positions in 12 other states. Perspective students should keep in mind that finding a position outside of the region will likely not be an easy task, but it can be done.
Mercer students in general have a lot of competition when hunting for employment after graduation as their main competition includes Emory, UGA, and Georgia State. One benefit of Mercer is the strong alumni connection. Mercer alumni often reach out to their fellow Mercer graduates, and Mercer has a strong connection with some major Atlanta firms such a King & Spalding. Former King & Spalding managing partner and U.S. Attorney General, Griffin Bell, was a Mercer graduate and helped instill the strong ties between Mercer and King & Spalding. Other notable alumni include Nancy Grace from CNN, humorist and senior partner at King & Spalding, Robert Steed, Judge William Augustus Bootle who served on the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Georgia for over 50 years, and former senator and judge, Walter F. George whom the school is named after. This short list should indicate that though Mercer is small in comparison and reputation to other schools, it will not prevent students from doing great things.
Though it may not garnish the rankings of other Georgia schools, most students will find their time and education from Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law rewarding and fulfilling. The quality legal education should prepare students to be a strong competitor for jobs in the Southeast region, while providing them with a charming Southern city to live in while in school. Students should not expect easy to find outdoor activities nor an abundant nightlife, but most students should still expect to find an overall rewarding experience at Mercer.
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