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 2,500 applications each year. Given that the school can only accept approximately 650 students, it's not surprising that admissions standards are relatively high. Roughly 24% (~650 of 2,700) of applicants were granted admission for the 2009-10 academic year. Of those who matriculated, the 25th to 75th percentile GPA range was 3.26-3.71; the range for the LSAT was 160-164. The medians for those crucial admissions factors were 3.6 and 163 in the previous year.
With regards to tuition, Wake Forest School of Law is a steal. 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--$35,450 for 2009-10-but the cost of living is cheap as well. Students spend an average of around $8500 for room and board. What's more, Wake Forest is quite generous when it comes to financial aid. A whopping 15% of students receive full tuition grants; and 12% receive somewhere between half and full tuition. Overall, the 75th percentile grant received was just under $31,500 and the 25th percentile grant was $10,000 (which is higher than the 75th percentile grant at many U.S. law schools).
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 a very lucrative return on the investment. Wake forest students perform well on the North Carolina bar exam. Over 81% of students passed in 2007. Compared to a statewide bar passage rate of 75.8%, this speaks well for Wake Forest grads.
While the percentage of students who had secured employment at the time of graduation was a discouragingly low 78% in 2007, one would be mistaken to take this as a sign of weak career prospects overall. In fact, nine months after graduation, the rate of employment shot up to a solid 94%.
Approximately 65% of Wake Forest grads found work in private practice. 12% went on to Judicial Clerkships. The rest spread themselves out between public interest jobs, government work, and other various fields. For those who chose to enter the private sector, they started with a very comfortable $115,000 median salary. Also promising is the fact that 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 23 states in 2007, with 2% going as far as the Pacific Coast, according to US News.
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".
There are some negatives to be considered. For instance, while the school is small in population, students still complain of cramped social spaces. What's more, students interviewed by the Princeton Review used such words as "awful" and "drab" when asked to describe the school's facilities. They even complained of cold classrooms and a shortage of bathrooms.
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 #36 nationally by USNews-Wake Forest is particularly strong when it comes to Litigation. The school reports that the litigation education program has been named as one of the best in the country, winning several awards such as the "Emil Gumpert Award" from the American college of Trial Lawyers. Healthcare Law, ranked #18 by USNews, is another strength that the school boasts.
The only advanced degree offered by Wake Forest is an LLM designed for international students who want to familiarize themselves with the American legal system. Further, only one joint degree is offered; admittedly, though, it is a promising one. Taking classes at both the Law School and the Babcock Graduate School of Management, students can earn both a JD and an MBA in only four years.
Wake Forest recently expanded its clinical offerings. The law school now hosts six clinical programs: Appelate Advocacy, Child Advocacy, Community Law & Business, Elder Law, Innocence and Justice, and Litigation.
Between the school's low tuition and solid career prospects, any student looking to practice in North Carolina would be foolish not to include Wake Forest School of Law on her short list. One won't find a big-city experience here, though. And the Wake clinical offerings and complaints against the facilities should be considered just as heavily as the school's great professors and 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)