Founded in 1927, the Law School at Wayne State University offers full and part-time legal education four miles from downtown Detroit.
Admissions & tuition
Typically, about 40% of applicants to Wayne Law gain acceptance each year. This year's 1L class has 25th/50th/75th percentile LSAT and GPA scores of 153/156/159 and 3.13/3.40/3.62, respectively. Admissions are rolling, so interested applicants should aim to "go complete" as soon as possible.
Tuition for Michigan residents, at over $24,000 a year, is not as cheap as at many public schools. Accordingly, out-of-state students don't pay much more, at just over $27,000 a year. In-state tuition is also available to residents of Ontario, Canada and several Ohio counties. The school offers almost $3 million in scholarships per year, mostly based on LSAT and GPA scores. Upper-level students who do especially well during their first year can also garner merit aid.
Employment prospects & bar passage
Wayne State graduates have typically done very well on the Michigan bar. In 2007, 92.2% of first-time takers passed the test, 3.2% more than the state average. According to the Internet Legal Research Group, Wayne Law grads this decade have beaten the statewide bar passage figure by an average of 7.3%.
The economy is bad everywhere, but almost nowhere is it worse than Michigan. For the Class of 2009, only 83% of graduates had found employment within nine months of graduation. Of these students, over two-thirds worked for law firms, with 14.5 % working in business, 8.6% finding jobs with the government, and only a couple of students clerked. The Class of 2007 reported a median private sector salary of $70,000, along with a $43,300 median in the public sector-but those were better times, and barely more than half of those polled responded. Wayne Law reports an average starting salary of $77,900 for Class of 2009, but this number is likely skewed by response rates and a relatively small number of high salaries.
Still, consensus holds that Wayne Law dominates the Michigan legal market, especially Detroit (few University of Michigan graduates stay in-state). Students who do well and network aggressively still have a good chance at finding solid legal jobs in-state, but prospective applicants should not entertain rosy expectations.
Wayne State's first-year curriculum presents few surprises: 1L's take Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legal Research and Writing, Property, Torts, and a class on "The Regulatory State." The only required upper-level courses are Civil Procedure B and Professional Responsibility and the Legal Profession. Otherwise, 2L's and 3L's choose from a wide range of electives.
Wayne Law also encourages its students to gain practical experience. Moot Court and the Student Trial Advocacy Program offer simulated courtroom experience. Seven clinics cover areas of law as diverse as Asylum and Immigration Law and Disability Law. Students can also complete internships for course credit, and over forty student organizations serve a variety of interests. The school publishes The Journal of Law in Society, a write-on complement to The Wayne Law Review.
Wayne Law recently began construction on the 10,000 square-foot Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, and participates in the Intellectual Property Law Institute with the University of Windsor (Canada) and the University of Detroit Mercy. In addition to its full-time curriculum, Wayne State also offers a flexible part-time program that has ranked in the U.S. News and World Report top-25. The school also offers a 24-credit hour Master of Laws program and five joint JD/Masters degrees.
Quality of life
Detroit will not grace the covers of many "Best Place to Live" magazine issues. Its crime rates are notoriously high, and the recent recession has hit Michigan's biggest city especially hard. However, Detroit does offer variety commensurate with the 11th-biggest U.S. city by population. Moreover, the area around Wayne State is a cultural center filled with museums and art galleries. Detroit also has a rich musical history, and continues to attract a wide range of acts. The cost of living in Detroit is low for a big city, slightly less than the national average for all metro areas.
Michigan's legal hiring market has suffered along with the rest of its economy, and Detroit's recent problems are well known. Tuition is not cheap for a public school and the employment outlook for graduates seems grim. Still, for those living in Michigan or with ties to the area, Wayne Law provides access to the biggest legal alumni network in the state and might be a good choice for those who can keep their debt loads low.
Wayne State University Law School
471 West Palmer Street
Detroit, MI 48202
U.S. News Ranking: Tier 3
LSAT Median: 156
GPA Median: 3.40
Entering Class Size: 197
Bar Passage Rate: 92.2%
Application Deadline: March 15 (January 15 for priority scholarship consideration)
Application Fee: $50
Tuition: $24,871 (Resident), $27,187 (Non-resident)
Median Private Sector Salary: $70,000
Median Public Sector Salary: $43,300