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University of Florida Levin College of Law

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When it comes to law schools in Florida, only one has been called "top dog" in years past and only one has a Tax Law program of national renown. That school, the University of Florida Levin College of Law, is the most reputable public law school in the state.

Located in the sunny college town of Gainesville, the law school gives students the chance to study in a green, collegiate city with a cheap cost of living. University of Florida has a large undergraduate population, which may distract some newly minted 1Ls from their new adventures in studying. The city is large enough, however, for all students to find a quiet place to live and study.

The law school seems to bask in its reputation as "an obvious first choice for Florida applicants," according to Dean Robert H. Jerry, II. UF Law boasts an impressive list of alumni. Members of the Gator Nation include "the current president-elect and four previous presidents of the ABA…the majority of Florida Bar presidents, four governors of Florida, and hundreds of state senators, representatives and Florida cabinet members."

Because of its extremely low in-state tuition rates, the law school is seen as an outstanding bargain for natives, and approximately 80 percent of students who enroll have Florida residency. As a top law school, this makes UF Law one of the best values in the country, as students can graduate with less than $80,000 in debt after three years of quality education.

Like most schools in its tier, UF Law is struggling to find high-paying work for its students. Still, the risk to individuals of not obtaining a six-figure salary is counterbalanced by the school's strong regional reputation and the low debt resident students traditionally incur. Medium-sized and small law firms continue to hire graduates from UF Law; government and biglaw jobs have been less available in recent years.

When considering law schools, it behooves you to consider the economic risks. UF Law practically begs for such a comparison, as it will always remain a good bargain, even for nonresidents. For those who live in Florida and want to work in that market, it makes perfect sense to have UF Law as your "obvious first choice."

Tuition and Fees 2013-2014
Tuition and fees (resident / nonresident): $22,181.10 / $41,545.80
Estimated living/travel expenses, books and health insurance: $15,600
Source: University of Florida Levin College of Law


Admissions

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Partially in response to a recent drop in the U.S. News and World Report Rankings (from a five-way tie at #46 to #51), UF Law reduced its class size from about 400 to about 300 students in 2009. It seems likely that this change is permanent, as UF Law returned back to its #46 ranking in 2013.

Despite the high percentage of the student body that has residency in Florida, Dean Jerry insists, "In recent years, it has not been any more or less difficult for residents to obtain admission relative to nonresidents." As a public law school, though, it has a stated obligation to prepare students to serve the state, and as a result, many students who express a desire to work in the Florida market may improve their chances at admission.

Numbers, naturally, only tell part of the story. The median LSAT score and GPA for the Class of 2015 were 161 and 3.55. The student body, collectively, had prior work experience, positions of leadership, extensive community service, and a clearly stated commitment to working for those who cannot afford legal services. Anything you show an admissions officer that says, "I am interested in public service," "I am a leader in my community," or "I have overcome prior disadvantages" will earn you positive marks on your admissions file.

It has been more and more difficult to gain entry into UF Law over the years, as the number of students admitted has dropped from 955 (in 2007) to 780 (in 2009) while the number of students applying has increased. Full statistics follow:

Admissions Statistics
Class of: 2010 2011 2012
25th - 75th percentile LSAT 158-164 158-163 158-163
25 - 75th percentile GPA 3.46-3.85 3.42-3.82 3.42-3.85
Percentage Minority Students 23.2% 25.4% 24.1%
Percentage of Applicants Admitted 32.2% 28.8% 22.8%
Applications Received 2,961 3,373 3,421
Source: University of Florida Levin College of Law Office of Admissions

Diversity

Diversity is also an important factor in gaining admission, though this goes beyond race and ethnicity. A prior or current handicap, a non-traditional background, status as an international student or a series of impressive life accomplishments will make your file stand out.

For those interested in what the ethnic and racial makeup of the law school is, here are the numbers: African-American, 5.3 percent of the class; Asian-American, 6.1 percent; Hispanic-American, 9.6 percent; international students, 2.2 percent. The law school regularly makes it onto Hispanic Business Review's list for top 10 law schools in the nation for Hispanics.

One first-year states that even though there is a diverse student body, including those who are older and married, "your straight-out-of-undergraduate people are probably the prominent population."

Admissions materials

Let us briefly review how to put together a killer application. First, of course, is to make sure your numbers are competitive as possible. Study hard during your undergraduate career; boost your GPA however you can; commit yourself to a rigorous LSAT self-study or test prep program; and most of all, practice, practice, practice. The many TLS forums are here to help, so make the most of them.

The oft-provided, abbreviated advice regarding personal statements is probably the best: Be yourself and do not rehash your resume. For UF Law, you have a generous four pages to elaborate on your life experiences, what makes you unique, and why you are choosing law as opposed to another field of study. Make it concise, don't ramble in the large space allowed, and don't be intimidated by the length. Take advantage of as many pages as you can, but don't feel compelled to fill in any empty space with fluff.

UF Law also allows up to four letters of recommendation, though (a bit surprisingly) none are actually required. The law school will start reviewing your file "with or without letters" if it has the rest of your materials. If you want them to look at your recommendations, you should get them in with the rest of your materials in one batch. As always, ask people who can speak to your intellectual capacity, leadership experience, or employment, and try to avoid those with impressive titles who know your name and role and nothing else about you.

Addenda are allowed, and should be included if you have a downward GPA trend. Also, any history of problems taking standardized tests, linguistic barriers you have had to overcome, or history of educational or socioeconomic disadvantage can be talked about in a brief, one-page addendum. Steer clear of submitting CDs, magazine articles, videotapes of you in a Wizard of Oz production, or anything else the school doesn't ask for. They won't look at it and they won't send anything back to you. Not even that Wizard of Oz tape.

Scholarships

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Speaking of the yellow brick road and other things golden, UF, unfortunately, does not offer much to its students in terms of grant aid. In 2008, 23.2 percent of students got grants, mostly in the amount of less than half tuition. The median grant amount, at $4,000, is underwhelming. Fortunately, the school and city are relatively inexpensive, so even if you get no aid at all, as a resident, you'll likely end up with minimal debt.

Dean Jerry says, "We are a terrific value for any student, in- or out-of-state." The numbers are in his favor, as nonresidents have a low tuition compared to other top schools, and can even apply to grants that may reduce their tuition to resident rates. The other way nonresidents can defray the cost of law school is, very simply, to become a resident.

Establishing residency

This is not as easy as it sounds. If your parent or legal guardian is a resident and you are a dependent, and they have maintained residency for a year, you may qualify for residency. Otherwise, we have this information from Dean Jerry himself:

There are some additional requirements for a student to be classified as an in-state resident for tuition purposes. The key point is that simply living in or attending school in Florida does not, in and of itself, establish legal residence for tuition purposes.

Instead, residence in Florida must be a bona fide domicile, which is more than merely maintaining residence while attending the university. This determination is based on a variety of factors which are evaluated by the University of Florida Office of the Registrar after a student submits information to that office.

Factors that weigh in your favor are the following: having a driver's license and a Florida license plate and registration for twelve months, owning property in Florida for a year, demonstrated commitment to community service, filing and paying taxes in Florida, and a clear desire to staying in Florida after completing the law degree. Gaining residency has been reported as difficult, though since four out of every five students are already Florida residents, there is little anecdotal evidence to go on.

Transferring

In 2008, 24 students transferred in and 12 transferred out. Transferring is not easy for any student, as the application process is usually intense and takes place while you are already at law school and worrying about grades. At least one student on TLS has moved from UF Law to a T14, though this trajectory is rare and, in most cases, it does a prospective student no good to think of a lower-ranked school as a stepping stone up the rankings chain. UF Law is a prestigious university, and this is supported by the fact that twice as many people transfer in than transfer out.

Law school culture

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Generally, 0Ls fear the competitiveness that surrounds the law school mythos. People will tear pages out of library books. Gunners will dominate classroom discussion. The Socratic Method will turn you into a speechless buffoon who has panic attacks during Torts all semester. This is not the case at some schools. If you are accepted into a top school, it is because the school thinks you are capable of handling the coursework, to say the least.

In other words: They like you, they really like you. Students will feel that sentiment more at certain law schools, and at UF Law, which boasts "top dog" status, there doesn't seem to be much of an incentive to step on your peers for personal gain. That said, one first-year student offers this candid assessment of the law school:

I would say it's competitive, but I think most people get along with each other. I personally have not seen any of the hard backstabbing competitiveness described at other schools. Don't get me wrong, the students are very smart and dedicated, but most don't take it to the extreme like I hear students do in other schools.

There are no horror stories to be found at UF Law. "There are smart, motivated individuals, as you'll find at any academic institution of this caliber," says another 1L. "I haven't met anyone so keenly competitive that they won't talk to anyone else. Everyone is generally affable."

Where there can be competition, students generally find cooperation. Some students chalk it up to an overwhelmingly shared interest in college football and the SEC (Southeastern Conference). This keeps many students coming back in September looking forward to another year. As mentioned above, about 12 students transfer out each year, and about 17 will drop out because of personal or academic reasons.

Political leanings

Law school is full of opinions. This includes where people stand on the political spectrum. For some students, how conservative or liberal the student body is will be an important consideration. Luckily, UF Law does not swing one way or the other, according to current students.

I have noticed that the class politically is pretty much 50-50 (maybe a bit more conservative than liberal). Everyone knows their politics, so there is no point to trying to convince people otherwise, and political discussions can get very interesting. Everyone I have met is very friendly, so even if you don't agree with them politically, you can get along with them socially and out of class.

Another student adds:

I think that there are a well balanced number of conservatives and liberals, and this fact is reflected in many class discussions that hinge on policy issues (i.e. personal autonomy vs. social benefit and the like).

Even if students did let their affiliations be known, it hardly matters. Mostly, students "don't have any idea of the numbers of, say, democrats vs. republicans or Methodists vs. Muslims, since that sort of thing doesn't really come up too often in casual discussion." In a field that values good communication skills, it seems that students are more than willing to listen to each other's views, even when they disagree.

Professors

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Students give inspired praise for the faculty, most of which seems well-earned. Attending applicants can rest assured that the professors at UF Law will be intelligent, dynamic, and more than helpful to each of their students. Some first years have the following to say:

The professors are awesome, and most are very cool and want to help out students as much as possible. The professors I have had are not as Socratic as others, and when they are it isn't as bad as one fears as a 0L.

Our teachers are absolutely phenomenal; my worst teacher here is easily as good as the best professors I had in undergrad. I feel that they really care about their students, are extremely accessible and down to earth.

[Overall, my reviews are] generally positive. All of the teachers I've had so far are amazing. My section got blessed with some great professors. I enjoy my classes; they are usually interesting and engaging.

Some reviews are more colorful. One student who transferred out says, "Little is a beast. He's demanding but fantastic." Also, this person's favorite is "either Lidsky or Harrison. They're equal. I have some great Harrison smack-down stories." On the other hand, the student reports, "Lidsky is the bombzors."

Professors have been known to go above and beyond student expectations. In one case, one professor, new to the law school, held an extra, optional class to review an essay question with students. Another has a weekly exam question review that uses old tests. This sort of commitment seems commonplace at UF Law, though some students have some qualms about how faculty members appear to relate with one another. A 1L writes:

One professor has told me some negative comments regarding the intellectual community of the school. The professor says faculty leave campus at 5 pm every day; UF doesn't bring in as many speakers as other law schools; the faculty aren't that engaged with one another; etc. While this may all be true, I think this speaks more to the faculty's happiness as opposed to the average student's.

Another 1L writes:

Here is something I've discussed privately, but not publicly, so just know it's based only on my observations. However, I believe there might be significant racial tension between the faculty members.

This is evident to me through my first-hand interactions with professors from both side of the coin. Maybe I pick up on this type of stuff more easily than others. I think it's moving in a good direction, but it's there for sure.

In fact, one professor, Jeffrey Harrison, has a blog about class bias in education that can give students some insight into one of the minds at UF Law.

When it comes to ideology, however, professors stick to teaching, not preaching. A first-year says, "It is difficult to ascertain the political views of law professors, who by nature are willing to and competent at discussing both sides of an issue." Even so, this student says, professors will lean liberal most of the time.

The law school has about 100 full and part-time teaching faculty, which makes the student to faculty ratio a respectable 15.4 to 1. This number is relatively high when compared to schools that are similarly ranked, though with the 25% reduction in incoming class size, this metric is sure to improve.

Classes

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All first year students have to take the following courses: Contracts, Criminal Law, Torts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Property, Legal Writing and Legal Research. This is the standard menu for 1Ls at a law school, but UF Law adds two classes, Introduction to Lawyering and Appellate Advocacy, to the required list.

Students have traditionally taken these classes in large sections of about 100 students each. Students in each section generally "just hang out with people of your own section," says one first-year. Students, for the most part, "don't feel 'lost within the crowd' [and] get to meet people [once] involved in clubs and activities." The class size, while large compared to other similarly-ranked schools, is not overwhelming to students. During breaks in between classes, one student reports, "I always find someone I know to talk to or sit with."

The exam bank, or the place where old exams are held for your convenience, is "extremely underwhelming," argues one student. "It seems the only way (at least for my section) to obtain exams is through the actual professor. The same thing can be said for the outline bank." One student gives a more favorable report, noting that "all the professor's old exams that they put on course reserve are online through the library's website. Getting through the hoops to get there is a bit tricky, but once you've done it a few times it is pretty easy to get what you need."

Books

An interesting situation surrounds the purchasing of books at UF Law. The University bookstore has something called "deferment," which allows students to buy their books using financial aid that has yet to be dispersed. From the school's website:

The UF Bookstore offers textbook deferments to students who are receiving a predetermined amount of financial aid each semester. The UF Bookstore establishes an amount of credit that you can use to purchase books and supplies.

These charges are placed on your UF accounts receivable account and are deducted from your financial aid when your aid is disbursed. There is no special application for a bookstore deferment.

Laptops

There is a computer requirement at UF Law, though some professors do not allow laptops. There is no irony in this statement; the law school seems to recognize that computers will help students stay organized in their studies, but too many incidents of distracted students in class have prompted professors to ban such implements in their classrooms. This trend doesn't seem like it will stop anytime soon, so at UF Law, sadly, you'll have to forfeit your ability to tweet about law school in hyperrealist fashion.

Curriculum

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After completing your standard first-year requirements, you are mostly free to choose from up to 140 elective courses. We say "mostly" free because you will still have two required classes, Legal Drafting and Professional Responsibility, to fit into your upper-level schedule.

For the student who wants to commit herself to a particular track of study, there are several concentration areas and certificate programs. These tracks include Environmental & Land Use Law, in which students can help preserve Florida's natural environments, and Family, Intellectual Property, and International & Comparative Law programs. If you're interested primarily in property law, you can take classes in the Estates and Trusts Practice track for some valuable experience.

A small percentage of students (3.5%) will take on an additional course load to earn a joint degree. The list of such possible degrees is large, as the J.D. can be combined with almost any area; see UF Law's brochure for more details. This program lets students follow their interests and earn another valuable credential.

Any student who chooses to take classes in tax law is fortunate, as UF Law is currently ranked second in the nation for its tax law program. Not all law schools have a specialty; that is, a standout program, and sometimes a school's specialty will be funded to the detriment of other programs. Fortunately, UF Law is able to keep its general curriculum strong while having one program that excels on a national level.

Study abroad

Students can skip town and continue their study of the law in five out of seven continents. (Excluded are Asia and the cold, university-less Antarctica.) Summer abroad programs are available in South Africa, Costa Rica, and France, while exchange programs are open to students who have completed two full semesters. Eight exchange programs exist, three in the above-mentioned countries and the rest in Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, and Poland. There is a spring study abroad called the London Law Consortium available as well.

Leaving the country to study law can be an exciting, transformative experience, whether you end up in San Jose or Paris, Cape Town or Warsaw. In some cases, so that students can make the most of this experience, fluency in a foreign language is required. You can find out more about program requirements from this page.

Clinics

The law school offers eight clinics to its students. A clinic is a place where law students can earn real-world experience as lawyers. Many clinics will have students act as representatives, mediators, negotiators, defenders or prosecutors. Clients, who receive legal services, are grateful for the free aid provided. Professors are able to take advantage of teachable moments while clients and students interact. The law school can grant credit for these classes, bringing its students one step closer to graduation. Everybody benefits from clinics, and their presence at a top law school is indicative of a serious commitment to the students and to the community at large.

Since they are so labor-intensive and expensive to run, you will often find less than ten clinics at a law school. UF Law has eight that serve the Gainesville community. These are lumped into four categories: Criminal Law Clinics; Virgil Hawkins Civil Clinics, which involves students in Juvenile Law, Small Claims Mediation, or Family Law; Child Welfare Clinic and Conservation Clinic.

At each of these clinics, students work with real people who have real needs. This sort of interaction is usually quite fulfilling, and most students who go through the clinic experience report that all the hard work was well worth it.

Employment prospects

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In the words of Dean Jerry, "Jobs are harder to find, and firms have cut back considerably in their visitation and hiring patterns." It is no secret that the legal market took a hit - rather, multiple hits, which has caused predictions of everything and anything happening, from the bursting of a legal bubble that hurts other sectors to a graduated comeback that will leave the market permanently shrunken.

Ask a law school what it will do to tame the chaos, and you'll get a dozen different answers. UF Law seems to rely on faith, trusting that their alumni base in Florida, their reputation as the best public law school in the state, and an anticipated "uptick in the spring recruiting program" will keep their students from serving shakes at Sonic.

This faith is well-founded, it seems, as there are some factors that mitigate the drop in biglaw hires. First, Florida has smaller firms that are have not laid off large amounts of employees. In fact, those firms still have positions open for students. Second, the law firm market is not the only market that matters. Students take government jobs, find public interest work, or will start a career in business or academia.

Still, one major market for UF Law is suffering. According to Dean Jerry, traditionally, government jobs "accounted for 25 to 30% of entry-level positions for UF Law graduates in past years…The state has been in a hiring freeze for more than a year, [so] that market has dramatically dropped off."

Dean Jerry remains optimistic, saying, "Right now, it's a difficult market, but it's not an impossible market." First-years and helpful posters on TLS have backed up the fact that finding employment is not impossible in Florida, but much harder elsewhere. Several 1Ls write:

I am fairly certain I want to practice in Florida, but in the moments I think about practicing outside of Florida, I regret going to UF. One thing that sort of disturbed me were comments made by two of my professors in office hours to me - they stressed the regional nature of UF, and that UF doesn't place well in the Northeast.

My main beef lies with career services, the job prospects, and the general administration of the school. Career Services is unlike any office I've ever seen. I found the staff rude, wasteful of my time. With the best school in Florida only pulling in about 70ish firms for Early Interview Week - that's scary. Also, every firm only wanted top 20% or above.

In terms of NYC placement, it's pretty non-existent.

Graduates report private-sector salaries of anywhere from $70,000 (25th percentile of those reporting) to $92,000 (median) to as high as $115,000 (75th percentile). Only about two-thirds of students in the private sector reported what they make. Compare these numbers with Florida State University (FSU), where a comparable number of graduates shared salary information: $55,000 (25th percentile), $67,500 (median), and $90,000 (75th percentile).

For those in the public sector, the median salary for UF Law graduates was $46,000.

Placement Statistics (via USNWR)
Law Firms 62%
Government 15%
Business and Industry 8%
Public Interest 8%
Judicial Clerkships 5%
Academia 2%

Geographic placement

UF Law is a regional school with some national reach. The numbers back this up very clearly. Three-quarters of the graduating class stays in Florida, while the remaining graduates either stay in the region or end up in the East or West Coast markets. There has not been much variation in this pattern for several years, and everything points to UF Law remaining more of a regional powerhouse than a national one in years to come.

Top Geographic Locations (2007 Graduates)
South Atlantic (DC, DE, FL [76%], GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV) 90%
Middle Atlantic (NJ, NY, PA) 3%
Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) 2%
West South Central (AR, LA, OK, TX) 2%
Midwest (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI) 1%
New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) 1%
East South Central (AL, KY, MS, TN) 1%

Bar passage

UF Law graduates do very well on the Florida bar. The statistics below show a passage rate that beats out the state average. UF Law finished 2013 with the second highest bar passage rate in the state, trailing only Stetson.

2013 Bar Passage Rates (via ABA)
State UF Law's Passage Rate Jurisdiction's Overall Passage Rate
Florida 88.2% 77.2%

Summer employment

According to Dean Jerry, UF Law "doesn't keep statistics on how students spend their summers." This may be a sticking point for prospective students who like to look at all the numbers. Sadly, this practice, which is common among law schools, leaves many applicants in the dark.

Regardless, we do know some things about the breadth of students' summer activities. Many will take advantage of the aforementioned study abroad programs. Some will work as summer associates in firms or take on volunteer internships in government or at legal service providers. Some will take classes during the summer; others will work as law clerks in firms.

Without hard numbers, though, it is difficult to say to what extent students take advantage of these opportunities and, consequently, what your chances are at landing a summer job.

Clerkships

UF Law does what it can to train students to be good judicial clerks. Dean Jerry says, "We offer a number of career programs each year focused in the clerkship process, ranging from bringing in judges to discuss [issues] to…nuts and bolts application process programs."

Because of these efforts, while clerkships are difficult to obtain because of their rarity, "UF Law leads in Florida in the total number of judicial clerkships attained upon graduation."

Loan repayment assistance program (LRAP)

University of Florida Law does not offer a Loan Repayment Assistance Program. In some ways, it doesn't need to. LRAPs are designed to help students fight off colossal debt (for our purposes, defined as debt of $75,000 or more). UF Law is not known for weighing students down with debt.

As we cover below, Gainesville and the law school are both inexpensive, especially for in-state students, who make up 80% of the student body. Most people graduate with under $57,000 in debt, and with salaries for graduates running anywhere from $42,000 to $115,000, this debt can be reasonably managed.

Quality of life

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Many factors come into play when factoring in what a law school's - or a city's - quality of life entails. Almost all of these factors are subjective, even when they are grounded in strict numbers. Population size, percentage of minorities, number of strip malls, crime rates and the like only tell so much. We know that Gainesville is relatively small. We know it is primarily a college town. University of Florida has a large undergraduate population. There are a good number of bars, clubs and restaurants spread throughout the city.

Because of Gainesville's large student population there will always be something for you to do. That, should you choose to end the week with a date night with your spouse, or take a trip to the sports bar or nightclub with fellow law students, Gainesville will be there to suit your tastes. The city, which offers movie theaters, a "decent" mall, and nearby lakes and springs where some students go tubing, is a great jumping-off point for outdoorsy activities like cycling, hiking, camping, bird-watching, alligator watching and fishing.

First-years and other students have framed the city as everything from boring to livable, but none of the reviews are wholesale recommendations or critiques. They mostly come with qualifying remarks:

Gainesville is pretty boring; maybe it is just me, but there was just much more to do in Tallahassee and Tampa. Then again, lack of anything to do equals more studying.

One thing I would like to say to prospective law school students is that you may feel old and too mature for this town. Most of my friends in grad school, especially the women, feel like they are too old for this place. The undergraduate population is around 40,000 kids so you will be in a young environment.

From what I've asked of others, I think the general feel of Gainesville is that it's a decent town for college but most people are ready to leave after a few years. I don't find too many people that hate Gainesville or too many that love it either.

Our nightlife is segregated. You have the black venues and the white venues. There is some mixing, but not as much as you would think. I don't find that students have any racial tension though.

In terms of things to do, it's actually quite limited. We have a decent bar scene. University Ave (the street that runs east to west that directly borders the north side of campus) has a handful college bars; this is called midtown. These bars are more casual, have a good amount of frat boys, and generally host a younger crowd than the downtown scene…During the summers we have a lot of pool parties at various apartment complexes that have huge turnouts.

It's definitely a true college town if you like that. I've lived in Southwest Florida all my life so I was used to hot and humid weather, but Gainesville takes it to an entirely different level.
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As for the campus:
The campus is really nice, the student culture is awesome, football games are a ton of fun, and the gym facilities are stellar (and currently in the process of being upgraded).

Football lovers are in for a treat. Students are mad about the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the city will even shut down (including the law library) on game day. This football fanaticism can irk students who don't really get swept up in sports, but for the fan, it can be heaven. A first year seems taken aback by the level of devotion students have:

I like football, but not like UF fans do. Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome to take Saturdays off and have fun, but I didn't expect the dedication to football Levin students have. Even the most random person will start talking about Tebow, Alabama, UM, the BCS rankings, and bitch about the AP rankings.

Facilities

A few freebies come with the price of admission to UF Law. Law students have free access to the gym, a modern library, and a gorgeous campus full of palm trees and bike racks. The university keeps its buildings close together, so students won't have to hike too far from building to building.

The most recent improvement to the law school includes a new courtroom. Other than that, students are left to enjoy the same facilities the rest of the university does. The law library is described as "generally fairly empty" and leaving "something to be desired in terms of supplements." It closes at 11:30pm and is open to the entire university; some days, students have reported seeing more undergraduates in the library than law students. Still, it never really gets overcrowded.

Parking lots are plentiful, which makes driving "not as big a deal as many people make it out to be." First-year students give some further details about driving:

The "Parking Information" section notes that in order to obtain a parking decal, one must visit http://www.parking.ufl.edu/. The cost of an annual decal is $154.00 and it is charged to your student account, which can be accessed at http://my.ufl.edu (if you have not made your Gatorlink user name, you will not be able to access this).

On Lexis Nexis, there is a carpool partner finder. Under class preparation, choose "Access Web course." Another screen will pop up and you click on the tab that says courses. Search for the 1L orientation & carpool course and enroll in the course. You can also start a thread to get to know your classmates once you enroll in the course.

Housing

Dean Jerry tells us that "housing is both plentiful and very affordable." Students agree. Gainesville is a city with a low cost of living, which means law students have little to worry about when it comes to budgeting monthly expenses. According to an undergraduate, "Rent is pretty reasonable; anywhere form $400 to $700 per month depending on how many roommates you have."

Many students choose to live off campus, but it isn't too hard to find places to live within walking distance of the law school. One student says, "If you want to live right next to the law school (within walking distance), then your best bet is renting out a house on SW 2nd Avenue." Another student says, for those with families, "There is family housing right across Levin called Corry Village."

Other students have a slew of recommendations:

Other than [SW 2nd Avenue], you're going to be looking on SW 34th Street and 13th Street and all the roads that branch out from there, like SW 20th.

There's lots of really big, undergraduate apartment complexes that I would avoid like the plague - The Estates, Cabana Beach, Stoneridge. Then there are some older complexes with sometimes sketchy management. And there are condos. Lots and lots of condos.

If you don't mind commuting, you can even live in the downtown area (15 minutes away) in the Duckpond area which is where the yuppies tend to flock after graduation and it's gorgeous.

You can try to rent out a house in NW Gainesville, which shouldn't be too hard right now in this economy. Everywhere in this town is a 15-minute car ride away, so if you have a car and can get a [parking] decal, then you can live pretty much anywhere.

Basically, you're going to have lots and lots of options. Gainesville is ridiculously overbuilt right now. I would say that if you're paying more than $600/month (including A/C & water), you're overpaying.

There's a condo complex called Campus Edge that's about a 5 to 10 minute bike ride over to the law school with single rooms. I think Camelot, which is also a short bike ride, may have singles, but in the immediate vicinity of the law school it's all houses so if you want to live alone you'll probably have more than a short walk as a commute.

My unsolicited advice is not to stay at Wildflower. Technically they are like 100 yards from campus. However, it's like 15 minutes minimum to the law school.

Wherever you decide to live, chances are you might not need a car, as the city has a reportedly excellent public transportation system.

Gainesville

Other pluses to Gainesville (besides the already-mentioned low cost of living) include the incidentals of living in Florida. Nature trails, tubing, animal watching, and other outdoor activities are popular among students. Dean Jerry reminds us that "Gainesville consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the nation, thanks to a dynamic art community, lush natural environment, and the benefits of being the hometown of a major university."

This community brings good music to the city, festivals, performing arts programs, and theatres and museums that have a national reputation. Parks abound, and students have been known to "play pick-up football and soccer games by Norman Hall." Students give some straightforward reviews about what the city has to offer:

The art museum and the natural history museum are both worth a visit, and both are on campus. Also, I would recommend going downtown to the Sun Center and check it out during the day; there are lots of local cafes and restaurants.

For the nightlife, you can go two routes. There is midtown, which is where all of the dive bars are that undergraduates usually frequent. They are cheap, crowded, noisy, and you won't have trouble finding drunks to talk to.

Downtown is where all of the clubs are; they are pricey but pretty cheap by big city standards. There are a few places to dance in midtown but downtown is where you go if dancing is your thing. Both places are pretty safe at night as long as you don't wander off too far away from the major streets.

There is also a big local music scene. If you want to get an idea of what's playing, http://gainesvillebands.com is pretty useful. If you're into indie music (or scenesters), The Atlantic is pretty fun on Thursday.
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All in all, the city only has about 114,000 people with an undergraduate population of nearly a third of that. Keep in mind that wherever you go, whether it's to the movie theater, mall, or to a park, it is likely you will encounter a fellow Gator and probably a fellow law student. Some may find this experience claustrophobic, but many students like these chance encounters, saying they add to the experience of being part of such a great community.

Indebtedness

Cost has been mentioned above as a good thing, which is not an absolute, since taking on over $60,000 in debt is a serious and sometimes an extremely stressful decision. Relatively, though, UF Law is a bargain. The 50 schools ranked higher than UF Law have a hard time leaving students with less than $60,000 in debt, and at many places, your debt will double if you choose not to attend UF Law.

Part of this has to do with the low cost of attending as a resident. Nonresidents who seriously want to practice in Florida might find it worthwhile to gain residency before applying to UF Law, not because it makes it easier to get in, but because it is easier on your bank account over the long term. The average debt for students who graduated in 2012 was $72,974.

Extracurricular

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At UF Law, students have over 40 opportunities to get involved. There is a Real Property Group ("for students interested in real property - specifically real estate") and a St. Thomas More Society (where students can "seek to emulate…the patron saint of lawyers"). You can volunteer to help people save money by filling out income tax forms, or you can join Jewish Law Students Association, Outlaw (the LGBT law organization), a legal fraternity or Animal Law Association. The opportunities are dizzying, and not even the most overzealous 1L could take advantage of them all.

Extracurricular organizations are a fun way of meeting like-minded students and offer a safe place to talk about issues that are of particular interest to you.

Journals

Journals, on the other hand, are best framed as intense, time-consuming activities that are resumé gold for law students. Dean Jerry explains how some students are chosen:

Florida Law Review receives first year student names for the top five percent in each first year section, and the Journal of Law and Public Policy, Journal of Technology Law and Policy, and Florida Journal of International Law each receive the top ten percent of students in the first year class (not each section).

Other students are chosen through an open competition. If picked to be on a journal, you can earn up to three credit hours towards your degree.

Synopsis

An "obvious first choice." "Top dog" in Florida. These are bold assertions to make for anyone about their law school. For UF Law, these statements hold water. Residents should not hesitate to apply to this law school, as it will very likely set them on a successful path in the state and, in some cases, in the region.

Dean Jerry also says, "I believe we offer the best educational value in the country, combining low tuition with an outstanding academic experience." The extremely low debt-upon-graduation is something to consider. Students who attend UF Law claim to have "no regrets" about their choice, and this is one reason why.

While the legal market shrinks, everyone should be cautious about the law school they choose to attend. A degree from UF Law has its strength in its regional quality; professors, students and employers all stress this. There is hardly a better choice for students who want to study tax law, and if you want to work in any of Florida's subregional markets (from Tampa to Miami), you will be set.

A law degree only says so much about a student. It is a foot in the door at law firms, in government positions, and at non-profits. The hard work you put into law school will be rewarded with the opportunity to work hard elsewhere. The industrious and helpful culture at UF Law has helped students bond over three years of school. The Gator Nation is a proud one, and it is spread throughout Florida in force.

If you see a future for yourself in the Sunshine State, UF Law is a great choice. So, if you haven't done so already, polish your statements, do well on the LSAT, and get those applications out there.

Interview: Dean Robert H. Jerry, II of University of Florida Law

Contact information

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University of Florida Levin College of Law Office of Admissions
P.O. Box 117620
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-0890
patrick@law.ufl.edu
http://www.law.ufl.edu

Quick reference

U.S. News & World Report Ranking: 49th
LSAT Median: 160
GPA Median: 3.55
Application Deadline: May 1
Application fee: $30
Entering class size: 318
Yearly Tuition: Resident, $22,181.10; Nonresident, $41,545.80
Bar passage rate in Florida: 88.2%
Percent of graduates employed 9 months after graduation: 80.73%
Median private sector salary: $70,000