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The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law

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Columbus School of Law, the law school of the Catholic University of America, is ranked 94th by the USNews and World Report. The law school was established in 1892, and is generally considered to be the fourth-best law school in DC, behind Georgetown, George Washington and American University. Famous alumni of the Columbus School of Law include Senators Tom Harkin and Robert Patrick Casey, Jr.

Admissions & tuition

Gaining admission to Columbus requires numbers consistent with those required by other Tier-2 law schools. The median GPAs and LSAT scores of the 2008 batch of full-time matriculants were 3.38 and 158, respectively. Students with numbers above those medians can feel relatively confident about their chances for admission, however students with numbers below Columbus's 25th percentiles (3.17 for GPA and 157 for LSAT, full-time 2009) must absolutely perfect all other aspects of their application package (personal statement, letters, etc.) if they wish to have any chance of admission. The admissions process at Columbus is a slightly competitive one. Each year, they admit roughly 35% of applicants, so even for students with solid numbers, things like a solid personal statement are a must.

There is only one word to describe tuition at Columbus: Pricey. According to the school's website, the cost of attendance for a full-time student is about $42,000 for the school year. The cost for part-time students is closer to $31,000. These figures include tuition, health insurance, and university fees, but not other necessary expenses such as books and rent. With the high cost of living in DC, $15,000 a year is by no means an unreasonable estimate for living expenses, bringing the total cost of attendance closer to $57,000 a year for full-time students and $46,000 for those attending part-time. Students who do not receive substantial scholarships or grant aid must very seriously consider if this high sticker cost is a sound investment.

Employment prospects & bar passage

Considering that Columbus School of Law is a regional school, it is unsurprising that a majority of its graduates opt to take the Bar Examination in Maryland. In terms of Bar passage, Columbus graduates do not fare horribly: 86.1% of the most recent crop passed the Maryland Bar, 9.5% above the statewide average. This is the result of an upward trend; Bar passage rates for CUA Law graduates have been steadily improving over the past decade, however it should be noted that as recently as 2001 the school's Bar passage rate was a rather poor 62% (13% below the Maryland average for that year). Due to this trend, it seems prudent to cautiously assume that Columbus grads are well-prepared for the Maryland Bar. Those who take the bar in Virginia or New York, however, have a pass rate about 10% and 16% lower than their respective state averages.

After slaying the Bar dragon, there comes the additional quest of finding employment. Typically, about 70% of Columbus graduates have some kind of employment lined up by the time they graduate from law school. Although this figure rises to about 93% within nine months, it is reasonable to infer that students graduating in the bottom third of their class at Columbus will have to do a good deal of legwork to find themselves employment. The median private sector salary for Columbus graduates is a very respectable $117,500, a statistic that is likely reflective of the vast size of Washington DC's legal market. Despite this large legal market, and despite the presence of numerous elite firms in Washington DC, only between 5 to 10% of Columbus graduates find themselves working for NLJ250 "biglaw" firms. Students with this as their goal will likely need to finish in the top-10% of their class grade-wise, if not higher.

Academics

1L courses at CUA are the standard first year law school milieu. The law school espouses a belief in the importance of teaching practical professional skills, and also integrates a commitment to social justice into the curriculum. The student-to-faculty ratio of 14.8 suggests that, while classes are hardly an intimate affair, the professors are not as few and far between as they are at many other top-100 law schools. The university has six institutes for specialized study, each of which accepts roughly 15 students a year: The Institute for Communications Law Studies, The Comparative and International Law Institute, the Law and Public Policy Program, the Securities and Corporate Law Program, the Interdisciplinary Program on Law and Religion and the Center for Law, Philosophy and Culture.

Quality of life

Although the cost of living is high, Washington DC is about as fine a place to study the law as could be imagined. All manner of internship, externship, and job opportunities exist right within the city. And of course Washington contains a plethora of cultural events, sports teams, and other fun things to do.

Synopsis

Catholic University's Columbus School of Law could be a very solid choice for someone looking to practice law in Washington DC or Maryland. Many of their specialty programs offer compelling opportunities for applicants with corresponding interests. On the other hand, potential applicants ought really to consider very carefully the law school's high tuition against the relatively low possibility of getting a high-paying "biglaw" job.

Quick reference

U.S. News Ranking: 94
LSAT Median: full-time 158, part-time 156
GPA Median: full-time 3.38, part-time 3.18
Application Deadlines: March 13th
Application fee: $65
2009-2010 Tuition: ~$42,000 full-time, ~$31,000 part-time
Bar passage rate: 86.1%
Avg. Private Sector Salary: $117,500 (Class of 2007, 57% reporting)