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University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law
Thanks to Michelle Rahman, Associate Dean of Admissions, the many Richmond students who responded to our inquiries, and the contingent of Richmond TLSers (especially Hoo09 and apper123) for providing comments for this profile. Published June 2008, last updated by TLS April 2010.
Located in the capital of Virginia, the University of Richmond School of Law is situated on one of the nation's most gorgeous campuses. In addition to the main campus, students can take classes at downtown satellite location just blocks from state government buildings. For applicants seeking to build a career in Virginia, the University of Richmond offers strong academics and plentiful opportunities for networking. While some URichmond graduates go on to find work in New York, California, and other major legal markets, the majority of Richmond Law students choose to work in Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C.
Richmond's cost of living is relatively low, and nearby hiking trails, mountains, and beaches offer many options for outdoor recreation. Overall, students are pleased with their time at URichmond, reporting a challenging experience in a positive and non-competitive atmosphere. The law school works to nurture the sense of community encouraged by its relatively small class size of 150 students. With a student to faculty ratio of 10:1, URichmond students enjoy an accessible and highly esteemed faculty.
Tuition and Fees 2009-2010
Applicants should note that URichmond Law is reducing its enrollment by about ten students per year to reach a permanently reduced class size of around 150 for the Class of 2013. This increased selectivity means admissions will be more competitive in the future.
Associate Dean of Admissions Michelle Rahman describes the ideal candidate as "somebody who will bring something special to the table, some experience they've had that distinguishes them from other applicants. It's not only about the [LSAT and GPA]." With the decrease in class size, URichmond admissions officers will be afforded greater leeway to select candidates with interesting backgrounds or work experience among a group of applicants with similar numbers. For this reason, applicants are encouraged to showcase such experience in a personal or diversity statement. Applicants with numbers near or above the school's medians (161 LSAT, 3.48 GPA) will be competitive, but a solid statement highlighting what special contributions he or she would make to the class will boost the applicants' chances of admission.
Associate Dean Rahman offers the following description of the admissions committee's method of reviewing applications:
Furthermore, an upward grade trend is a positive factor in an application, and the admissions committee does account for the applicant's undergraduate institution's caliber. For applicants with multiple LSAT scores, URichmond will consider the highest score.
Addenda and Soft Factors
Reasons that a student may want to submit an addendum to Richmond Law include explaining a poor academic semester or an LSAT score that is unrepresentative of the applicant's ability due to certain circumstances. A diversity statement highlighting an applicant's unique background or qualities can also benefit the application. Emphasizing experiences such as Teach for America, the Peace Corps, and Americorps will add a great "soft" factor to an applicant's file, as will highlighting prestigious academic achievements such as Fulbright scholarships.
URichmond's John Marshall Scholarship is an invitation-only program awarded separately from the law school's other merit- and need-based financial aid. Applicants selected for the scholarship receive a $10,000-per-year award, granted on the condition that the student remains in the top third of his or her class. Another $15,000 per year is granted if a student remains in good standing.
Applicants with a strong academic record (high LSAT and/or GPA relative to URichmond's medians) are encouraged to apply. Applicants must write a short essay on a topic provided by the law school. The selection process is fairly selective, with the scholarship committee awarding around twelve of the scholarships per year, although the committee is seeking to increase this number. John Marshall Scholars meet for a weekly lunch seminar with a Virginia Supreme Court justice and a Federal Judge who run the program, providing students with a unique educational opportunity.
Aside from the JMS, URichmond awards scholarships based on the regular law school application; there is no separate application for other scholarships.
URichmond has two waitlists, a priority waitlist and a regular waitlist. Dean Rahman encourages waitlisted students to “contact the admissions office by phone or email to check on the status of the waitlist and to express their continued interest in remaining on the waitlist if they are so interested.” Notifications of selection from the waitlist can go out up until the first day of classes, and students report that a good February or June LSAT score or a well-written letter of continued interest (LOCI) can increase a waitlisted applicant's chances of being selected out of the law school application "purgatory."
Current law students interested in transferring to URichmond will need to submit first-year grades, a letter of recommendation from a law school professor, and an undergraduate record including the applicant's UGPA and LSAT score. According to Dean Rahman, "There is no minimum law school GPA requirements; however, successful transfer applicants have a fairly strong GPA and class rank, if their school ranks." Generally, transfer students report a seamless integration into URichmond law.
Law School Culture
When visiting URichmond, many prospective students are most impressed with the intimate nature of the school, one recent applicant reporting that "Dean Rahman and Dean Douglass are very nice and outgoing, and the administration in general has done a wonderful job of making me feel comfortable."
Students select URichmond for its congenial atmosphere, quality faculty, and opportunities the school provides its students. Below, several students describe their experience of URichmond's collegial and close-knit community.
Students describe the student body at URichmond as politically diverse, with most of their classmates open to rational discussion of current events and politics. While the school may lean slightly to the left, students report meeting and talking with people with views across the political spectrum. This diversity and open-mindedness combined with an inherent sense of community make students of all political leanings comfortable at URichmond.
With highly prolific faculty, URichmond law has been ranked fourth on a measure of academic productivity by Roger Williams University. Dean Rahman describes the effect such accomplished professors have on their students:
After channeling substantial funds into hiring distinguished faculty, URichmond has lowered the student-to-faculty ratio to an impressive 10:1. In 2009, faculty members published in a number of law reviews and journals, including Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, NYU Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Northwestern University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, and UCLA Law Review, to name a few.
An admissions counselor reports that “Every one of our current tenured and tenure-track professors has published a law review article or book chapter in the last five years, and the average is much higher.” Students have nothing but praise for the full-time faculty. The adjunct faculty, however, are not as highly regarded by some students as the tenured professors.
A first-year student says the following about their experience with URichmond faculty:
Some professors even invite students to dinners, events, and other activities outside of school. This really helps build a good rapport with professors and is an amazing way not only to "pick their brains," but also to build networks and procure recommendations down the line.
Some students describe their favorite faculty members:
As for the adjuncts, a third-year says:
Finally, another first-year reports:
URichmond Law lives up to its reputation as a school with excellent full-time faculty. While there are some complaints about the adjunct members of the faculty, it should be noted that all law schools show some variation in professor quality.
Each instructor at Richmond Law has his or her particular style of teaching. A first-year holds that teaching methods vary class to class, stating,
Another student shares this assessment and elaborates on what is expected from first-year students:
In summary, the teaching styles and methods vary a great deal at the school depending on the professor and type or level of class they teach, but many of the professors have been teaching the topics for over 20 years and know nearly everything there is to know about their chosen area. Many of them provide old exams for practice before the final.
Students at URichmond will learn the law, whether the professor's teaching method is Socratic or more lecture-based. Professors at Richmond are hands-on and will do what they can to ensure their students are fully prepared by exam day.
A second-year describes the workload at URichmond as “intense, but manageable. The school has a strict curve for first-year students, but students that study hard generally do well.” A 1L elaborates on this description:
First-year students are required to take the following classes: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, lawyering skills, property, and torts. There is also an upper-level writing requirement that can be satisfied by a “substantial paper that requires in-depth research and rigorous analysis of a specific area of law…fulfilled by an independent research paper, a paper for a seminar, or a published article or student note in a law review,” according to Richmond Law’s website.
A first-year student describes their approach to successfully handling the workload:
The typical first-year class size is an relatively small 55 students. Over 100 classes are offered to upperclassmen that have 25 students or less. Classes are initially broken up into three sections which are broken into smaller sections for lawyering skills and legal research classes.
Exam styles vary from professor to professor, though a first-year notes that “many of the professors, at least in my experience, put word limits on their exams. Of the 7 exams I will take, (3 first semester, 4 second semester), four have word limits. I can't say I'm a fan of this, but I know many students who like it. It's really a matter of preference.” When it comes to grades, a 1L informs us:
Classes at Richmond Law are small, collegial, and have a relatively generous curve. Students are not overworked, though there is the opportunity for the overzealous student to take on more than he or she can can handle if time is mismanaged. Even so, professors, classmates, and administrators work to make sure everybody is focused on their studies.
Although URichmond requires students to have a laptop, a few professors ban laptops from their classes, some of whom make audio recordings of their lectures available online. Most students make it through all three years without encountering a laptop-averse professor.
Dean Rahman names a few of the several specializations on which URichmond prides itself:
Applicants are encouraged to refer to http://law.richmond.edu/centers/index.php for a complete list of URichmond's specializations. These programs provide students a leg-up in a particular field of the law by exposing students to professors and concepts invaluable to each specific field.
Study Abroad and Dual Degree Programs
Richmond Law has a partnership with Emmanuel College at Cambridge University in England. Students can spend a summer studying across the pond or, if they so desire, a semester abroad at one of UR Law’s partner universities around the world. A sampling of available options is available here.
Students at UR Law also have the opportunity to gain a dual degree in one of many fields. These include an MBA/JD, MHA/JD, MSW/JD, MURP/JD, and MPA/JD.
Clinics and Externships
A current student describes the value of clinics and externships:
Richmond has seven in-house clinics available including Actual Innocence, Family Law, Delinquency, Disability, Intellectual Property, Juvenile Law and Policy, and Advanced Children’s Law. The law school recently added UR Downtown, a 4,500 square-foot facility in the heart of the city that further expands Richmond Law’s outreach and opportunities for students by collaborating with non-profit and government partners to address pressing community needs in part through pro bono legal services. Students can also take classes at this facility, steps away from important government buildings. Additionally, Richmond maintains an extensive Clinical Placement Program permitting students to take full advantage of the legal and political resources offered by the capital city.
Dean Rahman continues:
A first-year agrees that clinics are a valuable addition to the law school:
A third-year student is frank in describing the employment situation at UR Law:
Another third-year describes her experience:
Some graduates are still looking for work several months after graduation. Dean Rahman concedes the point that “the current legal market offers many unknowns.” She continues, “Nationwide, record changes in the marketplace have left almost everyone questioning and guessing as to how things will look in the future.”
Only 66% of students had employment secured at the time of graduation in 2008, a rather troubling percentage. However, in 2009, over 95% of students had found jobs or were enrolled in a full-time degree program nine months after graduation. 2009 graduates going into the private sector earned a median starting salary of approximately $105,000. Those in public service started with a median salary of $50,000.
As mentioned above, URichmond is considered a regional school, possibly its greatest strength. A current first-year agrees, with a caveat:
Another first-year student describes Richmond's strong local network:
Another student believes URichmond's location gives students greater access to local opportunities. It should be noted that most students at Tier 2 and Tier 3 schools with regional reputations do have options outside of a their state or region – it just takes some extra push to get those jobs. A first-year agrees:
Still, at UR Law, these students are the exception to the rule. Less than 10 percent of graduates venture West of the Mississippi, as the numbers below show. That said, self-selection certainly plays a significant factor in these statistics; many Richmond Law students choose Richmond Law due to their specific interest in working in the South Atlantic.
An admissions representative states that students at URichmond often pass the Virginia bar exam at a rate exceeding those of more highly ranked law schools. The law school also notes that students who take the bar in other states enjoy a pass rate of as high as 100% in those states.
Each year, about 20% of the graduating class take judicial clerkships -- a rate which is double the national average. Richmond has more courts than anywhere in the country outside of Boston and D.C., offering graduates many opportunities for clerkships. It should be noted that, in turn, this high percentage of graduates in clerkships has a misleadingly adverse effect on graduate salary statistics, as these positions pay significantly lower than most private-sector jobs.
According to an admissions representative, Richmond Law has offered summer stipends to students working in public interest jobs since 2005. The recent opening of the Harry L. Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service in downtown Richmond also indicates the law school’s commitment to this branch of work. The center matches students with local attorneys, legal organizations, and community outreach groups in a variety of settings – from helping a victim of domestic violence obtain a protective order to assisting a nonprofit with its incorporation. Furthermore, students logging 120 hours of service during their three years graduate with a pro bono certificate.
A second-year shares some general information about the Richmond market:
For some students, the proximity of URichmond to firms and courthouses has tangible benefits.
Quality of Life
Richmond's southern flair and lively atmosphere combine with the law school's welcoming and collegial environment to make URichmond an enjoyable place to spend three years. According to Dean Rahman,
A first-year adds:
Another student reports:
Students have many positive things to say about the URichmond Law facilities:
The school also has an office downtown which is right across the street from the Federal District Court House, three blocks from the General Assembly, four blocks from the Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals, and two blocks the State Circuit Court.
Current students suggest visiting URichmond as it is the best way to get a sense for the campus.
Dean Rahman says:
A third-year says, “The law building is older, and that comes with the usual maladies. The school is renovating, though, and I've been comfortable in this building throughout my time here.” Another student states campus has “any number of places to sit, relax, focus and enjoy a beautiful surrounding.” The red brick of many of the study areas and buildings complements the plentiful greenery right outside the law school’s windows.
Students also have praise for the new gym and the law library, in which every student has their own assigned desk.Overall, URichmond is described as a comfortable and attractive setting to study law.
URichmond offers a limited amount of on-campus housing on a first-come, first-serve basis. For students looking for housing off-campus, current students offer some advice:
A helpful first-year gives us this rundown of the campus surroundings:
In sum, housing in Richmond is reportedly plentiful and not too costly. Most students are able to find an affordable and pleasant place to live that is not too far from the law school.
Richmond is full of history and power with “great restaurants, cool pubs, and neat people.” A former resident says, “It’s a city with a small-town, neighborhood feeling.” The city is full of parks, places to relax, read, or exercise. Students enjoy their time in Richmond partly due to the city's relatively low cost of living.
Richmond natives say:
For the Class of 2008, the average amount of debt at graduation was $84,710. This average is lower than those at many top law schools; however, this still represents a significant financial commitment on behalf of Richmond Law students. As with any other law school, prospective students are advised to carefully weigh their own ambitions and goals along with University of Richmond's strengths, weaknesses, reputation, and recent employment statistics before taking the plunge into student debt.
The law school offers about 30 clubs and organizations to its students, a full list of which can be found here. An admissions representative says:
A first-year student reports, “Students can plug into various student organizations ranging from the Women's Student Law Association to Veterans and Friends of Veterans Law Association to Animal Law Society. Students find instant homes in these organizations.” Clubs and similar organizations offer students to come together around a common interest. Some of the opportunities available are more specific than others, as is highlighted by the following statements from a student:
Overall, students at URichmond are highly likely to find something that suits them.
A third-year student describes the process for gaining membership into a law journal:
The four legal journals available to students are University of Richmond Law Review, Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, Richmond Journal of Law and the Public Interest, and Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business.
URichmond has several moot court competitions open to all students. A first-year tells us:
A third-year describes opportunities for upperclass students:
These opportunities help students strengthen their resume and hone litigation skills. The law school’s commitment to these competitions has resulted in a slew of victories including national championships in trial advocacy, mediation, labor and employment and admiralty and seven regional championships and individual advocacy awards.
There is clearly much to love about Richmond Law. In three years, students have the opportunity to make valuable, powerful contacts in the worlds of business, law, the judiciary, and non-profits. Furthermore, students are able to take advantage of three years in Richmond, one of America's most charming and livable small cities. Many students find that Richmond Law is the perfect school for them -- especially those intent on working in Virginia after graduation.
Unfortunately, the effects of the recent economic downturn have affected many law graduates adversely, and the University of Richmond is no exception. Students are rightly worried about their ability to find work, with many third-year students did not have work lined up just a few months away from graduation. However, those who are currently enrolled seem well-aware of the risks involved in finding work after graduation -- a challenge that is hardly unique to URichmond students.
Any prospective students potentially interested in the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law are encouraged to visit the law school and also to reach out to the admissions office. The highly accessible admissions staff will do everything they can to answer your questions or address your particular concerns.
U.S. News & World Report Ranking: 77th
Median private sector salary: $105,000
Median public sector salary: $50,000
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