BYU Law School
The Mormon Factor:
It is difficult to discuss BYU Law without placing some emphasis on the fact that the school is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. The vast majority of applicants and students at BYU Law are of the Mormon faith, and all are expected to live within the boundaries set by Mormon beliefs and practices. The university's honor code rules out alcohol, tobacco use, and the drinking of tea or coffee, as well pre-marital sexual relations and also advocates against the "promoting [of] homosexual relations as being morally acceptable." The honor code also rules out any form of revealing clothing and sets forth limitations on hairstyles, facial-hair and piercings. Of course, this effectively rules out BYU Law as an option for most applicants, evidenced by the fact that the school receives fewer than 800 applications in a typical year, whereas similarly ranked schools usually receive more than 2,000. Non-Mormons considering applying to BYU would be wise to visit the school before enrolling if accepted.
Admissions & tuition
As mentioned in the introduction, a major draw of Brigham Young University Law School is its low cost of tuition, and in fact, the school calls itself "The Best Bargain in American Legal Education." For Mormon students, this claim certainly holds true, as BYU Law replaces the usual resident/non-resident tuition distinction with a Mormon/non-Mormon distinction and charges its Mormon students exactly half of what it charges non-Mormons, $9,980 and $19,960, respectively, for the 2009-2010 academic year. According to the school, BYU Law is able to charge such low tuition rates because 50 percent of the cost of operation of the school is paid through the tithing of Mormons, and thus, it is justifiable that tithe-paying students should pay a lower rate of tuition than those who don't pay tithes to the Church.
Academics & curriculum
A seemingly rare similarity between Brigham Young University Law School and most other law schools is the core set of classes required of all 1L students. Also, although BYU Law's entering classes are much smaller than those of similarly ranked law schools, its section sizes are not significantly lower in the first year, and 1Ls enroll in classes usually filled with 100 or more students. The workload during this first year is said to be tremendous, perhaps contributing to the school's decision to establish its Academic Success Program, which offers weekly tutorial sessions in each first-year course, alongside many other services aimed at helping students adjust to the workload at BYU Law. After this rigorous first year, students are free to choose from among 100 elective courses in rounding out their JD degrees, and can also choose to pursue various joint degrees. It bears mention that students of BYU Law are not required to enroll in any religious courses, and non-Mormon students are not at any academic disadvantage. Of course, any classroom dominated by Mormon students will naturally have a Mormon tint, but it seems that professors and students try their best to carry on discussions inclusive to members of all faiths.
Quality of life
There is no alcohol. This overarching fact will either provide for a very high or very low quality of life for BYU Law School students, depending of course on whether they share in Mormon principles and beliefs. The ban on alcohol effectively eliminates the typical law school social scene that revolves around bars and replaces it with a social scene largely dominated by married couples, which make up a much larger portion of the student body than at other law schools. Life in Provo is also likely to be much more enjoyable for Mormons, as the town is largely homogenous and dominated by members of the Church. All students, however, will likely enjoy the city's lack of crime and traffic and its low cost of living, as well as its proximity to great ski resorts and other mountain-related activities. Additionally, Provo is ruggedly beautiful as the BYU campus is surrounded by towering mountains. In all, Mormons and those comfortable with the lifestyle of Mormons will likely enjoy a tremendous quality of life at BYU Law that is unlikely to be matched elsewhere, while those who wish to have a more typical law school experience should, frankly, look elsewhere.
Employment prospects & bar passage
For Mormon applicants, the Brigham Young University Law School is an obvious choice, as the school is both a bargain and a haven. Those who are comfortable living the Mormon lifestyle should also give the school serious consideration, as they are unlikely to find such a "clean" atmosphere elsewhere. Applicants who are not comfortable with the boundaries set by Mormon practices and beliefs, on the other hand, should steer clear of the school, as they are likely to experience an uncomfortable three years in Mormon-dominated Provo, Utah.
U.S. News ranking: 40th
Application deadline: 3/1
Application fee: $50
Entering class size: ~150
Median LSAT: 164 (2008)
Median GPA: 3.73 (2008)
Yearly tuition: Mormon: $9,980, Non-Mormon: $19,960 (2009-2010)
Average private sector first-year salary: $114,000 (Class of 2008)