Wake Forest University School of Law
Located in Winston-Salem, the Wake Forest University School of Law, founded in 1894, is a pillar of legal education in North Carolina. With the cheap tuition and solid career prospects, there can be no doubt that this school offers a great value. The school is not for everyone, though. Those looking for the experience of attending law school in a big city should look elsewhere, as should those seeking a diverse range of clinical offerings.
Admissions & tuition
Wake Forest School of Law receives around 2,000 applications each year. Wake Forest enrolls 140-170 students each fall but guarantees that each first year section is 40 students or so. Given the small class sizes, it's not surprising that admissions standards are relatively high. Of those who matriculated in fall of 2015, the 25th to 75th percentile GPA range was 3.37-3.73; the 25/75 range for the LSAT was 157-162. The medians for those crucial admissions factors were 3.6 and 161 this fall.
With regards to tuition, Wake Forest School of Law is a great value. Recently, the National Jurist named the school as number one among private schools on a national list of "Best Buys." Not only is the tuition low--$42,738 for 20015-16 but the cost of living is cheap as well. Students spend an average of around $11,700 for room, board, and utilities. What's more, Wake Forest is quite generous when it comes to financial aid. A whopping 15.7% of students receive full tuition grants; and 50% receive somewhere between half and full tuition. 90% of this fall's entering class received a scholarship award of $5,000 to full tuition. Overall, the 75th percentile grant received was just under $34,500 and the 25th percentile grant was $14,000.
Employment prospects & bar passage
Tuition and financial aid are not the only reasons why Wake Forest Law School is considered to be such a good value. The career prospects provide hope for nice return on the investment. Wake forest students perform well on the North Carolina bar exam. Over 79% of students passed in 2014. Compared to a statewide bar passage rate of 75%, this speaks well for Wake Forest grads.
Nine months after graduation, the rate of employment for the 2014 graduating class in JD required or JD advantaged jobs was 83.4%.
For the class of 2013 approximately 45.3% of Wake Forest grads found work in private practice. 6.2% went on to Judicial Clerkships. 13.9% in Government positions. The rest spread themselves out between public interest jobs, business and industry, and other various fields. For those who chose to enter the private sector, they started with a median salary in the mid $80,000s. Graduates of Wake Forest Law enjoy much stronger national mobility than one might expect from a school ranked outside of the top-25. Graduates found work in more than 22 states in 2013, with 52% employed outside of NC.
Quality of life
Wake Forest is a small law school. First year classes generally don't exceed 40 students in size. As a result, students enjoy substantial access to Wake Forest's professors, who are known to be top-notch-the Princeton Review included Wake Forest on its top-10 list of schools with "Professors Who Rock".
The law school has just opened a newly renovated commons space which offers beautiful and welcoming spaces for the students to congregate and study, including a cafe and fireplace. The new space available for students to socialize and study create a positive environment for study.
It is also worth noting that Winston-Salem is a residential area. Prospective students should be aware that this translates to a less diverse night-life than one could expect from a school located in Manhattan or D.C. Students will certainly have the opportunity to go out and interact, but the social scene is not dominated by a drinking culture as it may be at other schools around the country. While this may be a turn-off to some students, it may be exactly the serene setting hoped for by others. As is the case with many factors concerning one's quality of life in law school, this will simply depend on personal preference.
Areas of expertise
While overall a very fine law school-ranked #47 nationally by USNews-Wake Forest is particularly strong when it comes to business law, health law and policy, litigation, international law, intellectual property, sports and entertainment law.The US News ranking this year was adversely impacted by a particularly low employment rate last year. Wake Law expects to rebound quickly given it's national most improved employment statistics for the class of 2014.
Wake Forest offers a number of degrees for international lawyers, including an LLM and SJD. The law school recently began offering a 2 year JD program for international lawyers.
Also Wake Forest began offering a Masters in the Study of Law degree in 2012. Wake's MSL program is unique in that they offer a core curriculum providing a thorough overview of American legal practice. Students in the MSL program have gone on to pursue a JD or to work in law in policy fields not requiring the JD as their interests led them. For fall of 2015 Wake Forest began offering the core curriculum in a low residency option for working professionals and expects to offer a fully online option by fall of 2016. Potential tracks of study for the online program include healthcare, compliance, and human resources.
Wake Forest Law offers a number of dual and concurrent degree options. The most popular is the JD/MBA. Long standing joint degrees include the JD/MA in Bioethics, JD/Masters in Divinity, JD/ MA in Religion. In 2015 the law school began offering a JD/MA in Sustainability. .
Wake Forest recently expanded its clinical offerings. The law school now hosts the following clinics: Appelate Advocacy Child Advocacy Civil and Criminal Litigation Externship Community Law & Business Elder Law Innocence and Justice
In the works are plans for a Veterans Law Clinic.
Wake offers externship experiences in DC or the Carolina where students can spend a semester in a DC, Charlotte, or Raleigh working under the supervision of attorneys at governmental agencies or NGOs. Also the law school offers students an opportunity to turn any upper level course into an externship by partnering with practitioners in the community for an additional hour or credit. They call these Practicum Extentions.
Between the school's low tuition and solid career prospects, any student looking to practice in the southeast would be foolish not to include Wake Forest School of Law on her short list. Wake's student body, in fact, in 2015 came from 32 different states and over 80 colleges and universities. Only 20-25% of Wake's incoming class typically is from North Carolina. While you won't find a big-city experience here, the Wake clinical offerings and the new facilities should nicely complement the school's great professors and strong regional reputation.
U.S. News Ranking: 40
LSAT Median: 163 (2008)
GPA Median: 3.6 (2008)
Multiple LSAT scores: Higher score accepted
Application Deadlines: 04/01
Application fee: $60
Entering class size: 154
Yearly Tuition: $35,450
Bar passage rate in North Carolina: 81%
Percent of graduates employed 9 months after graduation: 94%
Median private sector starting salary: $115,000 (Class of 2007)