University of Idaho College of Law
Founded in 1909, the University of Idaho College of Law prides itself on "a statewide mission to deliver public legal education."
Admissions & tuition
Gaining admission to the University of Idaho College of Law is not tremendously difficult: applicants for the class of 2009 were successful 46.8% of the time. The 25th/50th/75th percentile LSAT and GPA numbers for those who matriculated were 152/155/157 and 3.09/3.29/3.64, respectively.
Tuition for in-state residents is reasonable, at $12,490. Along with Moscow's low cost of living, in-state students can expect to budget about $30,000 per year. The average debt load of new graduates is $55,000, in line with the national average for public law schools. In 2009, National Jurist picked Idaho as one of the country's top-10 "Best Value Law Schools" based on its tuition, bar passage rate, and placement statistics.
Employment prospects & bar passage
Bar passage rates for U of I grads have not varied much from the Idaho state average. In 2007, 87.5% of first-time takers passed, versus 85% statewide.
Like most law schools, the University of Idaho has not gone out of its way to release up-to-the-minute employment data. 89% of 2008 graduates were employed within nine months of graduation. However, starting salaries are not high for lawyers: of the class of 2007, those who responded to a poll (71%) reported median starting salaries of $52,000 in the private sector and $42,500 in the public sector. Accordingly, paying off even modest debt loads may prove difficult. In a struggling economy, applicants should heed these numbers, which in all likelihood have gotten worse-although the school's website states, "90% of our students find employment before or soon after graduation."
The University of Idaho College of Law emphasizes public service-each student must complete at least forty hours of pro bono work-and the law school is not a firm associate factory. Just 37% of 2008 graduates found first jobs at law firms, while 21% entered government work and an additional 8% went into other public service. Almost a quarter of Idaho students clerk, although according to U.S. News and World Report, none found work in the chambers of an Article III federal judge.
Idaho does benefit from being the only law school in the state, and has a huge presence at Boise's biggest firms. However, graduates from the College of Law do not have a stranglehold on the state, as graduates from higher ranked Western schools like BYU also compete for desirable Idaho jobs.
After its hundredth anniversary in 2009, the College of Law introduced a Second Century Initiative designed to revitalize and diversify the school's academics. Boise is central to this plan: third-year students can now take advantage of clinical and doctrinal offerings in the state capital. Eventually, the school wants to create an expansive Idaho Law Learning Center that will make the University of Idaho a true "two-location law school."
The law school, which has a small first-year class size of 114 but a student-faculty ratio of 15.6:1, advertises specialties in Environmental Law, Business Law, Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, and Native American Law. Four joint degrees are available, ranging from a JD/MBA in conjunction with Washington State University to a JD/MS/Ph.D. in Water Law, Management, and Policy.
3L's have access to a variety of clinics, focusing on Appellate Law, Small Business Law, Tax Law, Mediation, Immigration Law, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Victims' Rights. Students can also complete externships. The College hosts almost thirty student organizations, and publishes an unconventional, multimedia critical studies journal (the crit) in addition to a grade-on law review.
Quality of life
Idaho is, well, Idaho, and students who need a fast-paced lifestyle should stay away. However, the University is located in the beautiful, hilly Palouse area, and the campus itself is quite pretty. Moscow is small, but benefits from having another college town just eight miles away (Pullman, home to Washington State University). The U of I plays in the Western Athletic Conference, so sports fans can enjoy Division-1 athletics. Winters are cold but not brutal, and nearby skiing options should ease the cold season's bite for the actively inclined.
As the only law school in its state, the University of Idaho-with its low tuition and cost-of-living-can be a good option for those that want to work in Idaho, especially for those with a public interest or government focus. However, potential applicants should be aware of a tough hiring market and low starting salaries, and applicants who need a cosmopolitan lifestyle should probably stay away.
University of Idaho College of Law
875 Perimeter Drive
Moscow, ID 83844
U.S. News Ranking: Tier 3
LSAT Median: 155
GPA Median: 3.29
Entering Class Size: 114
Bar Passage Rate: 88%
Application Deadline: February 15
Application Fee: $50
Tuition: $12,490 (Resident), $24,532 (Non-resident)
Median Private Sector Salary: $52,000
Median Public Sector Salary: $42,500