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The University of Maine School of Law
Published July 2010, last updated March 2011
Established in 1962, the University of Maine School of Law is a classic example of a law school that ought not to be judged solely by its ranking (100th in the 2010 version of US News and World Report and unranked in the 2011 version). The school offers its students a reasonable in-state tuition and unparalleled access to the Maine legal market, and those interested in pursuing a legal career in the great state of Maine should consider the University of Maine School of Law as one of their absolute top choices.
Students tend to greatly enjoy their time in Portland; one Maine student writes that he feels “right at home” in Portland, even though he originally hails from New York City. The school’s academic programs are decent as well – students can travel abroad to partake in the Franco-American legal seminar, and the Ocean and Coastal Law Journal gives editors the chance to undertake “two years of research, writing, and editing experience.” Overall, the school offers an atmosphere that is invigorating – both academically and socially – and students who are intent on practicing in the Maine legal market would be hard pressed to pick a better school. If you’re not sure about applying to law school or just beginning the application process, then please take the time to read some of the excellent pre-law articles found here.
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Tuition and Fees
Tuition at the University of Maine is slightly different from other public schools, as it is broken down into three levels instead of the customary two (in-state vs. out-of-state). For Maine residents, a year’s tuition costs $19,470. For residents of New England states without an in-state public law school or residents of Canada, annual tuition is $27,420. For all other applicants, the annual tuition cost is $29,970. The law school recommends that all students (regardless of their state of origin) budget just under $13,000 for expenses such as food, lodging and books. With additional mandatory fees of $625 per year, this brings the total cost of attendance of the University of Maine School of Law to around $33,000 a year for residents and $43,000 a year for non-residents.
The school recognizes that despite its reasonable tuition and low cost of living, most students will go into considerable debt while attending. Thus, the University of Maine offers financial aid packages to almost half of its students. In its latest ABA report, the school noted that 46.5% of students received grant money, with a median grant amount of $2,500. The vast majority of students received less than half tuition in funds, although two students received half to full tuition, and one received full tuition plus an additional stipend. Students’ financial aid applications should be submitted by February 15th to optimize the chance for receiving aid.
It is an unfortunate reality that most students will have to borrow money to obtain a legal education. However, the school’s modest tuition and its job opportunities throughout Maine make it a great choice for those seeking to enter the Maine legal market. As one student writes, “Going to another, pricier law school may land you a good job in Portland, but going to U. Maine will put you closer to that goal (and leave more money in your pocket).” To read a TLS article about funding your legal education, click here. Also, if you plan on pursuing a career in public interest, click here to learn about the new program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (or PSLF). Finally, to read about a new payment option for federal student loans called IBR (or Income-Based Repayment), click here.
As with most other law schools, the undergraduate GPA and LSAT requirements for admission to the University of Maine continue to climb. That being said, gaining admission to the University of Maine is not overwhelmingly competitive. In its latest ABA report, the school noted that, out of 697 applications, there were 344 offers. This is an acceptance rate of 49.35%, which is quite high for a school of Maine’s caliber. Of those offers, 92 students decided to matriculate. The application fee is $50, unless one obtains a fee waiver. To read more about how to obtain a fee waiver, click here.
As a side note, Maine only accepts LSAT scores that are up to four years old (as opposed to the general timeline of 5 years), and the school accepts the February LSAT “provided all other application materials are submitted by the March 1 deadline.”
Beyond the Numbers
Of course, numbers aren’t the only important part of your application. The school is quick to emphasize that it considers other factors to be very important in the admissions process. The school’s website writes:
So don’t slack off on other aspects of your application, even if you have a strong LSAT and UGPA! The school also looks at “personal background, professional experience and achievement, academic background (college major and course selection, trend of undergraduate grades, etc.), writing ability (as demonstrated by the quality of the Personal Statement and LSAT Writing Sample(s)), and letters of recommendation.” Although optional for the University of Maine application, your resume is a good way of sharing those factors that make you different in a concise and accessible way. To read some advice about creating a professional law school resume, click here.
As a side note, the school emphasizes that graduate work can be “an important factor in the admissions process.” The school’s website continues: “In some cases, it may be viewed as a more significant predictor of success than undergraduate work, especially when the applicant has been out of undergraduate school for several years.” That being said, your undergraduate GPA is still important, as “the ABA requires law schools to report only students' undergraduate GPA's.”
Personal Statements, Diversity Statements, and Addenda
Your personal statement is one of the most important parts of your application. You should be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming about, writing, and revising your essay if you want the full consideration of the admissions committee. The school emphasizes on its application that the personal statement should highlight aspects of your life and education that are not apparent in the other parts of your application. The Maine Law admissions committee is looking for “insights that cannot be obtained from the LSDAS report, resume (if included) or other information contained in the application (including any particular reasons you are interested in Maine Law).” In other words, it’s a great idea to do a bit of research so that you can write about the different programs or elements of Maine Law which pique your interest. Working specific references to the Maine Law program into your essay will show that you have done your homework and are seriously considering the school.
Applicants can also submit an additional optional essay in which they talk about “any economic, cultural, and/or societal factors (i.e., ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic disadvantage, special responsibilities, family background, etc.), your academic record, LSAT results or other information you believe is relevant or which would provide the Admissions Committee with additional insight into your application.” In other words, this essay can function as either a diversity statement or an addendum. Although it isn’t stated outright, including two separate essays that address both of these elements would probably not be frowned upon.
The diversity statement is a great way for applicants to break away from the pack. Diversity isn’t just limited to ethnicity, either; one can write a great statement about one’s socioeconomic condition, one’s sexual orientation, etc. If you feel like you’ve had any cultural or societal experiences that make you different from the average law school applicant, then write a short essay (roughly a page) about them! The school will be impressed by your depth and may be more likely to admit you.
Finally, an addendum can be useful in explaining a black mark on your application. The school’s website writes that if “there are circumstances that negatively impacted your GPA (i.e., illness, work schedule, change of major, etc.) please feel free to attach an addendum to your application or to include this information in your personal statement.” The school also emphasizes that an LSAT addendum can be helpful if one has a history of underperforming on standardized tests. They write:
For more information about writing addenda, click here. Also, if you’re interested in improving your personal statement or even just looking for ideas to write about, Ken DeLeon, the creator of Top-Law-Schools.com, wrote a fantastic guide to personal statements which can be found here for free.
When to Apply
Like most schools, the University of Maine has a rolling admissions policy, so the sooner you get your application in, the better! Early birds can take advantage of the school’s non-binding Early Action (or EA) option, where applicants are guaranteed their admissions decisions to be postmarked by December 31st. To utilize this option, prospective students are required to submit their applications by November 15th, and their applications must be complete by December 1st. Applications open on September 15th, so students should have plenty of time to prepare their essays and get their letters of recommendation in order. For the regular decision crowd, applications must be submitted (and complete) by March 1st. To read a TLS article about making the decision between EA and RD, click here.
Letters of Recommendation
Like most law schools, the University of Maine requires at least one letter of recommendation (but accepts up to four). The school accepts letters of recommendation in three different ways: directly from the recommender(s), through the LSDAS Recommendation Service, or enclosed along with the application. If you do submit your letter(s) with your application, make sure to place each recommendation inside its own sealed envelope, with the recommender’s signature across the flap. As always, professors are a great source for recommendations, but TAs and even employers will work as well. It is always best to have at least one academic recommendation; law school is an academic (as well as professional) pursuit, after all! To get some additional advice on obtaining letters of recommendation, click here.
URMs (or Underrepresented Minorities)
Because of their disadvantaged histories in the United States, certain minorities enjoy a significant boost in the application process. To read more about this boost and to see whether you classify as an URM, click here. In addition, there are many pre-law programs specifically created to help URM applicants get accepted to top schools. To read more about some of these programs, click here.
Your transfer application will include many of the same materials as a regular application. You are required to send the school a personal statement, at least one letter of recommendation, and your LSDAS report (which contains your LSAT score, your college transcript, etc.). In addition, transfer applicants are required to send in their law school transcripts, as well as a letter of good standing from their law school dean. In their last ABA report, the school noted that five students transferred in and three students transferred out. Transfer applications are usually due on July 1st for the upcoming fall semester, but there are exceptions sometimes made for students to transfer to the law school in the spring semester. To read more about transferring to the University of Maine, click here and here.(back to top)
Law School Culture
The University of Maine is located in Portland, which was recently named the number one most livable city in America by Forbes.com. That being said, the small-town atmosphere isn’t for everyone. While Portland is the largest city in Maine, it only has a population of approximately 60,000; those who are used to the busy lifestyle of cities like New York City or Los Angeles will have a bit of adjusting to do.
However, even if it’s not a bustling metropolis, the city is not without its charms. There are minor-league sports teams and other local attractions, and of course plenty of lobster can be found in local eateries. Those looking for a bigger city can travel to nearby Boston, which is only about two hours away via car. Overall, students seem to enjoy the atmosphere at the University of Maine; one student writes, “I'm currently a 1L at University of Maine School of Law and I'm finding that its small character and home-like atmosphere is great.” To find out more about the city of Portland, click here.
Because the University of Maine School of Law has such a small student body, students tend to be incredibly close-knit. One student writes, “Since the University of Maine Law School is so small (there are only 72 students in my class), the competition is virtually non-existent.” He further elaborates, “Overall, I enjoy the closeness that has developed within our class. Everyone knows everyone else at this point, and we all sit in the same seats we picked at the beginning of the year. We stay in one room with the professors coming to us!” The school encourages students to get to know each other by hosting breakfasts and lunches, and guest speakers are routinely brought in (with free pizza, no less).
One student writes on the subject of going out, “And to have a little social life, the Men's Law Association picks a bar each Thursday night where the majority of the school meets and socializes. We're right in Portland, merely a 5 minute drive to the old port where it has a very Greenwich Village-type feel to it.” So, even if Portland isn’t quite New York City, students have a decent night life and regularly go out and have fun throughout the week. One student sums up the situation: “I think Portland is a great place to go to law school. It is small enough that you have great exposure to the legal community, but big enough to have a lot of things to do. The downtown area is fun, with a lot of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, musical venues, etc.”
Students had differing opinions on whether a car was necessary. One Maine resident wrote, “If you are going to live in Portland, you may not need a car. There is a bus system and things are relatively close together. Things outside of Portland would be a bit more difficult to get to without your car, but all of the 'essentials' are right in town.” However, another student wrote, “I would definitely recommend taking your car. Portland is a fairly walkable city, especially if you live downtown, but once winter hits you will really want a car. Plus, the law school schedule is pretty hectic so it is nice to have a car.”
Like most other law schools, the University of Maine has plenty of extracurricular activities on campus in which students can participate. Besides the Student Bar Association, students can get involved with clubs like the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Law Caucus, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Maine Law Basketball Association. To read more about these organizations and others, click here.
Some students might be worried about the cold weather in Maine; students reassure applicants that it isn’t that bad. One writes:
Another Maine resident adds that Maine's weather is “weird” and can vary drastically from one week to the next. She remarks that, although the winters are long, one can always find “all kinds of cool things to do in the snow.” So make sure that pack some winter clothes and prepare yourself for the cold weather!
Finally, the school is serious about keeping its students safe; there are eleven different safety programs and initiatives listed on the University of Maine website. Some include emergency telephones (both indoor and outdoor), printed crime prevention materials, and electronic alarm systems. Programs of note include the Community Service Corps and the Rape Aggression Defense Program. The school’s website explains the former below:
The Rape Aggression Defense Program (or R.A.D.) is a “comprehensive self-defense program for women” in which participants “are provided with the knowledge and ability to survive a sexual assault through lecture, discussion, and the learning of physical techniques.” To learn more about this program and other safety initiatives at the University of Maine, click here.
There are plenty of housing opportunities available near the law school. Specifically, the University of Maine’s website has a section where people can advertise available housing options in the Portland area. If nothing on that page tickles your fancy, then check the local listings for Portland – you should definitely be able to find something convenient and affordable. One student highly recommends Craigslist:
Another student agrees, writing, “As far as apartments, I would recommend checking out Craigslist. A lot of students live in the West End, the East End, and right around the law school / USM area. You can find some pretty great deals and landlords usually like law students because we are quiet and pay our rent on time.” The school’s Facebook page (found here) has a topic on its discussion board entitled “Where to Live” where students can get additional advice. In this topic, the school posted a map of Portland, ME with locations where students typically rent marked. It can be found here.
Finally, the school advises that most apartments in Maine “will come available about a month before the end of a lease term, unlike in other areas of the country where you need to sign your lease many months in advance.” This is advantageous for students, as they can get to know their future classmates via Facebook, TLS, or any other medium and make arrangements very close to when classes start.
Diversity and the Student Body
One area where the University of Maine lacks slightly is its diversity. The student body is overwhelmingly Caucasian, with only a few minorities in the mix. In its last ABA report, the school noted the following breakdown:
In addition, the vast majority of students come from Maine. For example, in the Class of 2010, only 15 states were represented in total. The school reports that 78% of the class came from Maine, with second-place Massachusetts/New Hampshire checking in with 3%. The four most represented undergraduate colleges in the class were all located in Maine as well: the University of South Maine (16%), Colby College (8%), the University of Maine – Orono (6%), and the University of Maine – Farmington (3%).
However, the mean age of entering students for the Class of 2010 was 26, and students ranged in age from 21 to 44. This means that “the class [was] a mixture of recent college graduates and seasoned professionals.” The school emphasizes the importance of this point, stating, “Each group contributes to the education of the other.”
There are two different student-run journals at the University of Maine: Maine Law Review and the Ocean and Coastal Law Journal. Both journals provide students with an “invaluable two-year research, editing, and writing experience.” In recent editions of the Maine Law Review, students have examined “the preservation of judicial discretion in criminal sentencing, the equal protection implications of child adoption by same-sex couples, the scope of ‘public records’ and privacy under Maine law, and the prudence of posthumous paternity testing for inheritance purposes.” Students who participate in the Ocean and Coastal Law Journal work to “[facilitate] discourse on legal issues related to domestic and international use of the sea and seashores.” According to the school, membership is determined through a combination of “academic performance and writing skills.” Students can enter the school’s yearly writing competition to write-on onto the journals.(back to top)
When it comes to the quality of professors, the opinion from current students is overwhelmingly positive. One student writes, “Our professors go out of their way to make sure we understand what is going on, and our legal writing program is headed by the person who wrote the book on Maine citations.” The small size of the school allows students to get to know their professors (and each other) in a way that might be impossible at larger schools. In addition, the student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1 is relatively good for a school of Maine’s ranking. An alumnus from the class of 2006 had nothing but positive thoughts about the professors:
As with most law schools, first year students take a fixed schedule consisting of Torts, Contracts, Constitutional Law, etc. However, in their second and third years, students can choose from a wide variety of different classes. Some options include Environmental Law, Estate and Gift Taxation, and Gender and the Law. A listing of all the available courses at the University of Maine School of Law can be found here, and short descriptions of the courses can be found here.
The school offers a number joint degree programs for students. These include two different JD / MBA programs (with the University of Maine School of Business and the University of Southern Maine’s School of Business) as well as three different joint degrees with USM’s Muskie School of Public Service. To read more about joint degrees and why one might pursue one, click here and here.
Those seeking hands-on experience while in law school won’t be disappointed by the University of Maine’s excellent clinical program. Peter Pitegoff, the dean of the law school, had the following to say:
The Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic (or CLAC) is the control center for low-income related clinics at the school. Complete with its own building, student offices, and a library, CLAC offers students the opportunity to do real legal work while still in law school. The school’s website explains:
Clinics offered by CLAC include a General Practice Clinic, a Juvenile Justice Clinic, and a Prisoner Assistance Clinic. Students who participate in these clinics also work for the school’s Domestic Violence Program, where they “represent victims of domestic violence in protection from abuse proceedings in Lewiston District Court.” Participants “develop skills in negotiations and evidentiary trials, while addressing a critical need.”
If Intellectual Property law is more your style, then the University of Maine has a clinic for that as well. Under the expert supervision of the school’s Center for Law & Innovation, students help “independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and research scientists engaged in technology transfer” with legal issues. Along with this student clinic, the school was selected as one of six to participate in a pilot program to be part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Law School Clinical Certification program.”
The school offers both a summer internship program and externship opportunities for its students. Summer interns “do the same work as students in all three clinic courses and the Domestic Violence Program, and CLAC thus is able to provide much-needed representation on a year-round basis.” Those who are selected to be in the program get the chance to have a “paid, intensive experience practicing public interest law.” Likewise, students who participate in the externship program get the chance to apply theoretical law to real-world situations. Students have worked with the following organizations (and others): Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Maine Attorney General's Office, U.S. Attorney, University Counsel of the University of Maine System, Worker's Compensation Board - Advocacy Division, and the Conservation Law Foundation.
The institute publishes the previously mentioned Ocean and Coastal Law Journal.(back to top)
When students come to the University of Maine School of Law, they tend to stay for the entire three years. In the school’s last ABA report, it states that the 1L attrition rate was only 10.1%. That number drops down quickly for 2Ls (5.3%) and bottoms out completely for 3Ls (0%). The same report states that five students transferred into Maine Law while only three transferred out.
The majority of students pass the Maine bar the first time they take it. With most students reporting (81.10%), the average school passing rate was 92.19%, versus the average state passing rate of 84.71%. This is a sizable difference of 7.48%. In the school’s last ABA report, 97.7% (or 85/87) of graduates reported their employment status, and 91.8% (or 78/85) of those students were employed after nine months. The following chart shows some of the more popular jobs that students chose. The majority of all of these graduates were employed in-state (53/78 or 67.9%).
The University of Maine School of Law benefits from being the only law school in Maine; one student writes, “We have direct access to all the representatives for the state, as well as the state supreme court justices, and other offices pretty high up in the hierarchy of government because we're the only law school in Maine.” So the school will open many doors in Maine, but employers’ knowledge of the school rapidly diminishes as you move outside of the state. For the class of 2008, 82% of students ended up working in New England, with the Mid Atlantic states coming in a distant second with 3.3%. If you plan to work in Maine, then the school is one of your best possible options, but students looking to break into the New York City or other major markets may have a tough time finding a job.
The school reported its median private sector starting salary in 2006 as $60,000, and its median public sector staring salary for the same year was $39,900. This might seem slightly low, but the average debt of a Maine Law graduate is much lower than many similarly ranked schools. The Maine Law Alumni Community reported that the average debt was $63,347, so even if you get a job that only pays $60,000 yearly, you should be able to pay off your debt in a relatively short time. In addition, if you pursue public interest, the school has a LRAP program to help students pay off their debt. The program only started in 2004, and awards range from $1,500 to $3,000 (and can be renewed annually). First-time applicants must have graduated from the University of Maine School of Law within the past five years, and must make less than $36,000 annually in a full-time public interest job to be eligible for the program. They can continue to be eligible until they make $42,000 annually.
The school’s Career Services Office is a valuable resource for students who are unsure about the OCI (on campus interview) process or finding a job in general. The CSO has informational sessions that offer students tips on interviews, on making a compelling resume, and many other aspects of the job search. Students can also meet face-to-face with a CSO member to get advice on whatever questions they might have. One student wrote:
To find out more about the CSO at the University of Maine School of Law, click here.(back to top)
While the University of Maine School of Law isn’t for everyone, it’s a perfect choice for those who are interested in a legal career in the great state of Maine. With a sky-high quality of life in the city of Portland, students can feast on fresh lobster while networking with the Maine graduates that are abundant throughout the state. Students rave about the low cost of tuition, and even if you don’t make $160,000 a year after graduation, you will be able to pay off your student debt in a reasonable amount of time. Despite the school’s low ranking, if you are interested in working in Maine, it should be difficult to turn down the University of Maine School of Law.
U.S. News Ranking: Unranked
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