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William & Mary Law School

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William & Mary Law School, founded in 1779, enjoys the distinction of being the oldest law school in America. On top of that, it is one of the most reputable public law schools in the country. It offers students an excellent legal education in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia. Class sizes are small, the grounds of the College of William & Mary are replete with colonial architecture, and students report a congenial, noncompetitive atmosphere.

All of these factors explain why U.S. News and World Report ranked William & Mary as the second best law school in Virginia.

William & Mary is a great place to pursue a legal education, particularly for Virginia residents who can take advantage of the school's reduced tuition rates. Applicants looking for a scenic and serene place to study law should seriously consider applying. Its location in historic Williamsburg gives you a chance to learn the law in a relaxing, charming environment.

Some students suggest that Williamsburg, like most small college towns, is not that exciting a place to live. However, one student says, "While I don't think Williamsburg is the best place to just live, I do think it's an amazing place to go to school." The city offers much "that centers around students and campus [such that] you will never be bored if you don't want to be."

If you are looking to obtain a stellar education in a unique location, William & Mary Law School can offer you this, and should definitely be on your list.

Tuition and Fees 2015-2016 
Tuition and fees (resident / nonresident): $30,800 / $39,800
Estimated living/travel expenses, books $17,700
Source: William & Mary Law School


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More than 4,000 applicants vie for about 200 seats each year, which has helped earn William & Mary its reputation as a highly selective law school. For its Class of 2018, 1,653 of more than 4,500 applicants were accepted. This entering class, which consisted of 201 students, boasted a median LSAT score of 163 and a median GPA of 3.69.

Numbers, it must be remembered, are not everything when it comes to law school admissions. Associate Dean Faye Shealy says, in an exclusive TLS interview, "No mathematical formula is applied. We have a whole file review process resulting in subjective evaluations."

Sometimes, military experience, success in the workplace, awards recognition or a unique achievement in your undergraduate career will mark the difference between you and other applicants. Shealy adds, "The reasons for selection are thus numerous and intertwined."

Prospective applicants should note that William & Mary is a public university. Because of this, the School is able to offer residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia a rate of tuition lower than nonresidents. In the 2015-16 academic year, the resident rate was $30,800. The nonresident rate was $39,800. To gain residency, one must have lived in Virginia at least one year prior to attending law school and have the intent to remain in Virginia indefinitely.

Admissions Statistics
Class of: 2013 2014 2015
25th - 75th percentile LSAT 161-165 157-165 158-164
25 - 75th percentile GPA 3.46-3.88 3.52-3.89 3.42-3.85
Percentage Students of Color 11% 13.5% 18.5%
Percentage of Applicants Admitted 30% 32% 36%
Applications Received 5,857 4,418 4,571
Source: William and Mary Office of Admissions

Admissions basics

To say that gaining admission into William & Mary is competitive is a bit of an understatement. The applicant pool has exceeded 4,000 for the last decade. Shealy, perhaps with these numbers in mind, encourages students to "take each part of the application process seriously. The competition will be putting their best foot forward each step of the way. So should you."

She goes on to say, "Admission officers need to know all the strengths the applicant can bring to the School and it behooves you to be detailed and proactive. That said, you shouldn’t be modest. List all of your achievements, even if they seem irrelevant to the study of law. Being an Eagle Scout, an accomplished viola player, or even a certified crossword puzzle master might be an endeavor that separates you from the pack.”


As if to underline the competitiveness of the application process, Shealy says that "upward grade trends are the norm and not the exception" at William & Mary. The transcript review process takes everything into account, but places its focus "more on the course selection and rigorousness of the [applicant's] curriculum."

Shealy informs us, then, that "a semester or year of downward performance is reason for an addendum." As for graduate work, she had this to say:

We value graduate work. Unless the candidate has performed poorly, a graduate degree is a plus…. It is unusual to see grades other than As and Bs on graduate transcripts. However, the majority of our students are admitted and enroll in law school without graduate degrees. Six percent of the 2015 entering class had earned advanced degrees.

Personal statements

When it comes to the personal statement, you can consider it your prime chance to set yourself apart from other candidates with your numbers. According to Shealy, many applicants can improve their chances of admission by drafting a personal statement specifically for William & Mary.

There are some things to avoid: "This is not the place to try to be funny or a poet unless you are naturally so." This may come across as advice to "be yourself," but it is better interpreted as "do not try to be something or someone you are not." Shealy advises students to think long and hard about why law school is the right decision for them. That way, when the time comes to write a statement about it, the writing will not be trite or insincere, but focused and genuine.

Do not, however, take any of the above to mean that if you are naturally inventive, your personal statement should be as inventive as possible. Law school is a serious endeavor. Shealy offers this:

Some candidates [have been] 'creative.' Over the years I have received personal statements in the form of music, poetry, obituaries, collages and puzzles. My advice is not to do anything in the application process for admission to professional schools that should not be done in the application process for professional employment.

Finally, for those who think they can bang out a personal statement in a week or so, unless you are an extremely gifted writer, your statement will likely have errors. When a student submits such an essay, says Shealy, "it is difficult [for a reviewer] to get beyond these deficiencies" because, in the end, they are "evaluating an application for admission to a professional school."

Letters of recommendation

The standard advice for obtaining letters of recommendation has been to ask someone who you know rather than someone with a fancy-sounding job title who hardly knows you. Indeed, Shealy says, "Applicants occasionally make the mistake of thinking the title of the person making the recommendation is more important than the content."

Name-dropping won't get you very far in law school. What admission counselors are looking for are candid, thoughtful and independent appraisals of your capacity to be a lawyer. The only way anybody can do that is by getting to know you. And the longer they know you, the better.

Shealy echoes this in her interview. "I encourage young individuals – and law students – to stay in touch with those who’ve provided recommendations for them in the past. Let them know about your accomplishments and the path you take in your studies and career. Such people may be able to provide recommendations for you throughout your life."

Virginia residents

Shealy did not have much to say about the relative competitiveness of gaining admission for Virginia residents, though she did mention that "location of the applicant's permanent residence is one of the many factors considered. Given our lower in-state tuition, we tend to have a higher yield among Virginia admittees than among those from out-of-state."

Multiple LSAT scores

On their website, William & Mary claims to evaluate "the LSAT portion of the application by using the highest reported score." Shealy, however, says that in the file review process, "we consider everything in the applicant file and that includes each individual score." When computing class medians, the Law School uses only "the high LSAT for multiple test-takers…as directed by the ABA."

Shealy slightly nudges students down the addendum route, stating:

Addendums are helpful in addressing any deficiencies and aberrations in academic performance and test results. Statements on reasons the candidate chose to retake the LSAT and their view of the test results can be helpful.


Many students worry about how the state of the economy will affect scholarship aid in the coming years. To allay these concerns, Shealy says, "We have increased financial aid awards and believe that trend will continue."

"Academic achievement," when it comes to doling out scholarship aid, "is a primary consideration along with the many other factors used in our admission selection process." Some aid is so specific that students are automatically considered. For example, Shealy points out that William & Mary has "prior editor-in-chiefs of the William & Mary Law Review who created a scholarship to be awarded each year to the editor-in-chief of that scholarly publication. We have alumni who created a scholarship for students raising a family while in law school, for a student with military service, and other special criteria."

A full list of scholarships can be found here, and fellowships can be found here.

As for merit aid, it should be noted that 90 percent of students received fellowship or scholarship aid from William & Mary in 2014 and 2015.

The waitlist

Dean Shealy had this to say to students who find themselves in admissions limbo:

We conduct additional reviews of waitlist files.

Take the opportunity to advise us of your continued interest and where William & Mary stands on your priority list. Supplement your file to keep it up-to-date and strengthen it with additional letters of recommendation, your updated final transcript, additional awards or new recognitions that you have received. Summer work experience and/or activities may also be helpful. Make sure your file is as strong as possible.


With regards to incoming transfer students, Shealy says, "Over the last three years, William & Mary Law School received approximately 50 applications for transfer admission. We have admitted, on average, 15 percent of these students." The main factor is clearly a student's first-year academic performance at his or her previous law school. However, supplemental information is requested from the Law School (see here) and "is also used in making transfer admission decisions."

Law school culture

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Several words keep coming back when students describe the culture at William & Mary: friendly, noncompetitive, hard-working. When describing the city of Williamsburg, a wider range of words is offered up: quaint, historic, tiny, touristy, lovely, unexciting, gorgeous.

From the admissions office, we have Dean Shealy's point of view: "W&M provides an environment where a law student can both succeed and have fun. The experience is competitive without being cutthroat." Many current students have seconded this. In fact, one 2L offers this assessment:

How competitive are the students? I don't think they're very competitive at all. Sure, there are a few so-called gunners, but none of them walked away with the 4.0. The 4.0s went to surprisingly normal people. But yeah, competition is low. Study groups abound, and it seems like we all really try to help each other out.

I haven't felt any competitiveness at all here. Even the inherently competitive things like moot court tryouts haven't felt competitive.

Several factors contribute to this noncompetitive atmosphere.

Clearly, few students perform poorly, and most are in the B range. The unquestioned congeniality of the student body has actually been the reason some students chose William & Mary. Dean Shealy says, "Many…were swayed towards W&M because, unlike the law school stereotype, everyone wants you to succeed and thrive here. It is a highly academic environment, without the intense stress that is often associated with law school."

To further ease the stress, many students take advantage of the school's social events. Students report there are several sports clubs on campus, and while "most seem school specific, W&M has a number of intramural sports that involve the entire campus."

One perk of living in Williamsburg is, according to another 2L, "reduced admission to the colonial attractions." In fact, many students will take advantage of this, to the point where "when you see students walking/jogging in the colonial area, it isn't because they're seeing the attractions, it's just because it's a nice place to walk. It's a pretty nice way to clear your head, actually."

Political leanings

Williamsburg is in a state with both conservatives and liberals spattered throughout, which is reflected in the student body. Even though law schools have a reputation for being liberal, one 2L notes, "I think we have a pretty good mix, honestly… I've actually been surprised with the conservative presence on campus…The American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society both get pretty decent turnout to their events."


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William & Mary offers a rosy picture of student-faculty interactions, characterizing the situation as such: "They'll be the first people you ask for advice about that summer internship or your first job. And when exams roll around, they'll always make time for one last review session over pizza or via online chat."

While this assessment may make exams seem less like a freight train and more like an excuse to be social, the professor-student relationship is pretty spot-on. Students report that professors will often play the role of a mentor. Faculty members make a concerted effort to interact with students and welcome questions and concerns from everyone on just about anything.

A student adds:

Faculty members are very approachable. Of the six that I've had, three have arranged brown bag lunches with small groups from class to try to get to know the students better. They all stick around after class for questions, and I think they all wish that students would take more advantage of office hours. All of mine so far have been very friendly.

There are 99 full- and part-time faculty members at William & Mary, which makes for an impressive 12.5:1 student to faculty ratio.

Teaching methods

Even though professors vary in their teaching methods and teaching ability, most have the best interests of students in mind. They will do whatever they can to make the course material clear and accessible to each of their students.


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One interesting thing about William & Mary is that the Law School does not divide students into conventional sections. However, students are divided into small classes at the start of the 1L year for the Legal Practice curriculum.

Regarding the workload, one second-year says:

"I think it is very manageable. I spend an average of two hours per day studying (ramped up during the couple of weeks before finals, of course). I learned first semester that if you study effectively, you don't need to do a lot of it to succeed."

Each first-year student must take civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, torts, and legal practice. In their second year, students must finish legal practice and take ethics. Also, at this point, students can choose from more than 100 course titles.

Impressively, more than two-thirds of these upper-level courses contain less than 25 seats, and just four of them have an enrollment above 100 students. By graduation, all students must meet the writing requirement, which is described as "a paper of significant length and publishable quality." More information about the writing requirement can be found here.

Legal Practice Program

The Legal Practice Program is a required, three-semester set of courses that develop practical lawyering skills and professional responsibility. Students work in small classes with a designated member of the Legal Writing Faculty, a practicing attorney, a teaching assistant, and law librarians. In the first year, they concentrate on objective and persuasive writing, as well as other practical skills necessary for successful law practice. In the spring semester of the second year, students choose a specialized, upper-level course of study, such as pre-trial criminal law, pre-trial civil law or transactional law.


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William & Mary, though it is one of the nation's top law schools, does not offer any specialized J.D. programs, while many of its peer schools do. The Law School seems to place a focus on building a reputation in certain areas of the law without any trademark programs to move that agenda forward. It focuses on quality, not quantity, and has a few excellent institutes, conferences, and lecture series that students seem happy with. So far, it is doing a good job of building a strong reputation for itself this way.

One student points out: "About Con Law review. As a 1L, you don't get much chance for that, but the Constitutional Law program here is a big deal." Another says, "We have the Institute of Bill of Rights Law, which does all sorts of events that Con Law nerds love. The big event is every September when they do the Supreme Court Preview."

At this event, continues the student, "Tons of well known judges, academics, and journalists get together and talk about the Court's coming term. It's awesome. And I think our Con Law specific journal is ranked third in the country."

Despite the lack of specialization, students find a way to focus on what they want while they are at William & Mary. One current student says:

"I think we have a wide enough pool of electives that you can pursue whatever path you want, whether that is specialization or just taking a grab bag of classes (my plan).

Now, we do not have enough electives so that you could take, say, all Contracts courses in all four semesters of your upper years, if that is what you mean by specialization. And because of our small size, we naturally won't have as many professors teaching as many classes as some other schools, but I did not feel limited when choosing classes for next semester."

Study abroad

Applicants interested in taking their legal education to another country may be interested in William & Mary's study abroad program in Madrid, Spain. This summer program lasts five weeks and allows students to earn up to five credits while studying in English-language courses taught by prominent Spanish professors. Students fluent in Spanish can also take advantage of a weeklong externship at a Spanish law firm.

Aside from the Madrid program, William & Mary Law School also offers students the opportunity to partake in semester study abroad programs in Austria, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, and Spain.

Joint degree programs

Though it lacks specialized J.D. programs, the Law School has a few joint degree programs that will allow students to earn two degrees in four years. Students can obtain a second degree in Business (M.B.A.), Public Policy (M.P.P.) or American Studies (M.A.). The school also offers an LL.M. for foreign-educated students and attorneys who want a comprehensive overview of the American legal system. More information about these programs can be found here .

Clinics and externships

Students will have the opportunity to practice lawyering skills in the Legal Practice Program, but beyond that, William & Mary offers nine clinical opportunities. Eight clinics and a clinical center are available to students, focusing on appellate litigation, domestic violence, elder law, family law, federal tax practice, innocence project, special education advocacy, veterans' benefits, and Virginia coastal policy. When students are involved in a clinic, they work under the supervision of clinical faculty and represent real clients, practicing good decision-making and proper lawyering skills. Being in a clinic also allows students to consider issues of social justice and ethical-moral dilemmas that arise in the practice of law.

Externships are also available. Externships are important ways to earn academic credit, gain practical experience, and develop professional contacts by assisting judges, government agencies, law firms, public defenders and practicing attorneys. Students can earn externship credit during any semester after their first year while in residence at the Law School or by externing full time in metropolitan Washington, D.C., during the fall semester of their third year. Externships are available in Federal Government, Judicial, Nonprofit Organization, Private Practice and In-House Counsel, Prosecutor, Public Defender, State and Local Government, US Attorney, and Virginia Attorney General.

During the Law School’s inaugural Washington, D.C., Semester Externship Program in Fall 2014, six third-year students externed with the Administrative Conference of the United States; The Honorable Paul Friedman, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia; the National Center for State Courts, International Division; the National Credit Union Administration; the Prince George’s County (Maryland) State’s Attorney; and the United States Capitol Police, Office of General Counsel. Students have also arranged their own externships in the past. For a more detailed explanation, visit this web page.

Employment prospects

From Manhattan to Los Angeles and from Anchorage to Orlando, William & Mary Law School’s national reach provides students with the opportunity to pursue their careers in locations throughout the U.S. For the Class of 2014, graduates obtained post-graduate employment in 30 states and D.C. While the largest percentage of graduates remain in Virginia (37 percent of employed graduates from the Class of 2014 took positions in Virginia), nearly 30 percent of the Class of 2014 took positions in New York and D.C. Students benefit from thriving off-campus interview programs in D.C., New York, Boston, Dallas and Richmond; a highly successful on-campus interview program featuring a variety of law firms, government agencies and public interest organizations; participation in national and regional recruiting programs; and the support of a dedicated and reliable alumni network. For students focused on careers with the largest national law firms, in 2014 and 2015, William & Mary was ranked by the National Law Journal as a top 30 “Go-To” law school based on the percentage of its graduates joining National Law Journal Top 250 law firms as first-year associates. Judicial clerkship opportunities are also strong at William & Mary, with 14 percent of employed graduates from the Class of 2014 securing a clerkship (6 percent in prestigious federal court clerkships). Nearly 90 percent of Class of 2014 graduates taking positions in law firms reported salary information, with a median salary of $90,000 (with 25th percentile and 75th percentile salaries ranging from $62,000 to $141,000). The median starting salary for Class of 2014 graduates pursuing careers in the public sector was approximately $55,000; this figure does not include 24 employed graduates in the Class who were working for government agencies and public interest organizations and receiving stipends in the amount of $19,200 through the William & Mary Law Public Interest Post-Graduate Fellowship Program. Detailed information regarding William & Mary’s employment outcomes for the Classes of 2011 through 2014 can be found here.

Class of 2014 Employment Status and Employer Types
Employment Status Full Time Long Term Full Time Short Term Part Time Long Term Part Time Short Term Total
Employed - Bar Passage Required 156 2 3 0 161 (75%)
Employed - JD Advantaged 21 1 2 2 26 (12%)
Employed - Professional Position 6 0 0 1 7 (3.3%)
Employed - Non-Professional Position 0 0 0 0 0
Employed - Indeterminable 0 0 0 0 0
Pursuing Graduate Degree Full Time 3 (1.4%)
Unemployed - Start Date Deferred 2 (1.0%)
Unemployed - Not Seeking 0
Unemployed - Seeking 16 (7.4%)
Employment Status Unknown 0
Total Graduates 215

Geographic placement

As the chart below shows (and the information above hints at), most graduates stay regional. You'll be hard-pressed to find a William & Mary graduate in North Dakota or Kentucky, but they abound in Washington, D.C.

Class of 2014 Geographic Placement
Region Number Percentage
South Atlantic: DC(22), DE(1), FL(5), GA(1), MD(9), NC(3), VA(71), WV(1) 113 58%
Middle Atlantic: NJ(7), NY(23), PA(9) 39 20%
Pacific: AK(1), CA(7), OR(2), WA(2) 12 6%
East North Central: IL(1), IN(2), OH(4), WI(1) 8 4%
West South Central: LA(1), OK(1), TX(6) 8 4%
Mountain: AZ(1), CO(3), NM(1), UT(1) 6 3%
New England: CT(1), MA(2), ME(1), RI(1) 5 3%
West North Central: MO(2) 2 1%
East South Central: TN(1) 1 1%
Total 194 100%

Bar passage

Typically, a William & Mary graduating class enjoys a strong pass rate for all bar exams taken in a year. Students in a graduating class take exams in more than 25 jurisdictions annually. The pass rates for the 2014 summer bar exams where seven or more students from the Class of 2014 sat for the exam are:

2014 Bar Passage Rates (via ABA)
State W&M's Passage Rate
Virginia 85%
California 90%
Maryland 80%
New York 94%
Pennsylvania 93%

Loan repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

Students who choose to work in public service are eligible for William & Mary's LRAP. Full details are available at http://law.wm.edu/careerservices/currentstudents/lrap/index.php. Here are some excerpts:

Eligible applicants will be working full-time for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, legal aid office, prosecutor, public defender, government agency, JAG Corps, or legislative office. Organizations outside the U.S. qualify if they would have 501(c)(3) status if they were a U.S. organization. Partisan political organizations, partisan political work, lobbying, and judicial clerkships are not eligible.

Eligible applicants [must also have] an annual salary of $58,000 or less for first-time applicants (the salary cap increases to $61,000 for an applicant in the second year of assistance and $63,000 in the third year).

Quality of life

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William & Mary has a small student body, which means you will get to know most, if not all, of your fellow classmates. Couple this with the tranquility of Williamsburg and you have an intimate and collegial atmosphere in which to study law. Despite the relative lack of bars and clubs in the city, students have reported satisfying social lives, as they frequently host parties, participate in the school's weekly bar reviews, and attend school-sponsored lectures and socials.

To top it off, the Law School is relatively inexpensive. In Dean Shealy's words

William & Mary offers an excellent (some say equal or superior) education at a much lower cost…We honestly believe that most law students will have a more productive and enjoyable law school experience in a small town instead of a big city.

Law students regularly praise the beauty of the town and the college right in its center. One student said, “If you've never seen it, the main campus of William & Mary is absolutely gorgeous. When I think of a university, the W&M main campus is what I picture.”

There is plenty of stuff to do for the late 20s crowd. Besides the attractions near the College, New Town, a vibrant 365-acre multi-use center, has more than 170 shops and restaurants to choose from, as well as a 12-screen movie theater, parks and walking trails, concerts and special events, and many apartments and townhouses/condos. Virginia Beach is less than an hour away, and Newport News 30 minutes. Williamsburg itself has just about every type of eatery you can think of, and the bars that are here are populated by law students.

Williamsburg may be too far from the nightlife in D.C. to warrant frequent trips (it is 2.5 hours away), which may add to the general feeling that the city doesn't offer much of an opportunity to let loose. Applicants who prefer a quieter life will feel quite at-home in this environment. Those who’d like to meet people from outside the Law School will have a harder time, as it is difficult to maintain anonymity when you live in a city of ca. 15,000 people.

One plus, however, is the tremendous safety. To top it off, daily life is very affordable when compared to other schools in larger cities. Your debt will be noticeable, but it is very likely not going to be massive.


Students come to William & Mary from all over the United States and many parts of the world with various background and professional and personal experiences. The 201 students in the 2015 entering class represent 37 states, D.C., Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Estonia and India. Nine others identified dual citizenship. They attended 133 different undergraduate colleges and universities and reported undergraduate majors in almost all disciplines (political science, history, English, government, philosophy, and international relations are the prominent majors, represented by over half of the class). Fifty one percent are female. Six percent have graduate degrees and 49 percent have full-time work experience. The average age is 24. Ages range from 20 to 38. Eighteen percent self-identified as students of color. In recent years, an increasing number of applicants self-identify with multiple racial/ethnic groups or do not provide this information. Students (28 in 2015) enrolled in the American Legal System/LL.M. program and increase the diversity and experiences represented by degree candidates at William & Mary. LL.M. students claim citizenship in Algeria, China, India, Italy, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.


Students make many positive remarks about the facilities at William & Mary. For instance, a third-year proudly notes, "We have the most technologically advanced courtroom in the world." Indeed, among the many capabilities of the McGlothlin Courtroom, home of the Center for Legal and Court Technology, are multiple evidence presentation technologies, advanced videoconferencing software, real time stenograph and voice writing technology, automatic translation into dozens of languages, and much more. Students use the courtroom for mock trials and oral arguments, trial advocacy, and other specialized classes.

The Wolf Law Library is another draw. One third-year student said, "[Our] law library [is] 3 stories with tons of study rooms, nice areas and great views out of the main windows." The state-of-the-art library provides access to law and law-related resources and a wide range of services that support the Law School curriculum and programs, promote the advancement of legal scholarship, and fulfill the information needs of library users.

All classrooms in the Law School have been updated, the most recent being the John E. Donaldson Classroom. Dedicated in Fall 2014, the fully refurbished, high-tech classroom (Room 127) offers the latest in high definition audio-visual technology and video conferencing equipment.

And the Law School is not done growing. A major new Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership on the school's campus will provide a two-story, 12,000-square-foot home for the clinical programs and legal practice. The Center will also feature offices for managing attorneys to meet individually with students enrolled in the clinics, client interview rooms, a multipurpose conference room/clinical classroom and a new courtroom, which will provide additional space for trial and appellate advocacy training. A glass-paneled common area will connect the Center to the Law School entrance hall and provide casual seating for study and conversation.


Many students choose to live in the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Graduate Complex, which students fondly call the Gradplex. The complex is roomy, furnished, and close to the Law School, shopping centers, and Colonial Williamsburg. "Rent," according to a rising first-year student, "comes out to roughly 700 per month and includes utilities." So cable, high-speed Internet, water, electricity, and gas are all included in the flat rate.

Because of the benefits to living on campus, many graduate students choose to do so. One student says, "If you live far away, it can be tough to find a new place without getting to see the apartments in person, so the Gradplex provides an easy alternative. No need to get to town early to shop around for housing." Another benefit comes in the form of frequent social interaction. This student continues, "If you're shy, like me, it's a good way to force you into interacting with new people."


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The city, well-known for its colonial flair and association with amusement park Busch Gardens, is actually quite small. The city's population is just over 15,000, though it draws millions of visitors each year. This influx has led some students to complain about the "annoying tourists" who spend much of their time meandering around the city, but who, for the most part, congregate away from the Law School.

The weather in Williamsburg is standard for the mid-Atlantic region; generally pleasant, sometimes fickle but hardly extreme. One student says, "When it's good, it's great. When it's not good, it's feels like the rain will never stop. But, it's beautiful either way, and very warm…From the perspective of a northerner, the weather's a lot better down here than in the tri-state area." A third-year student reports that it is "hot as hell in the summer due to the humidity. Cold in the winter [though, with] little snow."

Transportation can come in a few forms. Many people bike to campus. Some enjoy walking to and from classes. Some ride the city bus from their off-campus apartment to the Law School. One second-year reports:

"I see people on road bikes everywhere. There are some specific bike lanes around the undergraduate campus and several other areas, but I see people riding bikes even where there aren't any all the time, because the roads are pretty wide and it's a pretty normal occurrence here.

I wouldn't suggest using a bike as your sole mode of transportation as James City County (which surrounds Williamsburg) is fairly large, but depending on where you live in relation to campus and how far you need to travel, it's definitely a viable option some of the time. I'll add that there are some mountain biking trails as well if you're into that, and there are several bike stores here."

The William & Mary campus bus system provides a bus dedicated to daily transportation throughout campus seven days a week. The Green Line also provides a connection with other buses in the greater Williamsburg area through buses on a circuit loop, every 30 minutes.

William & Mary also has an ongoing contract with Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) to provide free bus services for William & Mary students, faculty and staff through Williamsburg. The public bus system can bring students to and from locations throughout the city, but for the most part, students who want to leave the city to explore the surrounding area will need a car to do so.

If you can get out of the city, one student says, "We have some pretty decent hiking/biking trails around. We have a number of great golf courses around [as well]. D.C. is about 2.5 hours away, so people don't head up there too often, but day trips to Richmond (45 minutes - 1 hour) are not uncommon."


How does it feel to live in one of the most historic places in the country? Some students love the sleepy nature of the town. Some are unhappy with the heavy focus the city places on tourism. Others, however, find themselves pleasantly surprised with the perks of being a student

Students get a lot of discounts at places in Williamsburg. I think you can get [a discount at] Colonial Williamsburg with your student ID. A lot of people walk around that area because it is so close to campus and it's just such a pretty place.

On a nice day you will see students sitting in Merchant's Square, jogging on Duke of Gloucester Street, etc. The City of Williamsburg makes at least some effort to include the students in events that are going on in the area, too. Most of the local businesses offer some sort of discount or freebie with a student ID.

Despite a great number of tourists in the summer months and during the winter holidays, students learn to live in a popular destination. Located three blocks from the historic area, the Law School rarely sees the tourists that visit William & Mary’s main campus.

Busch Gardens is also in the area, and one first-year offers an opinion on this. "I'm not a huge amusement park enthusiast, but I was pretty impressed by Busch Gardens. There are some pretty solid rides, and they do a great job maintaining the park."


Due to the low cost of living in Williamsburg and the reduced tuition rates for residents, the average debt for students upon graduation in 2014 was $98,487. This is an impressively low figure for a top law school, and makes William & Mary quite the bargain for any student, even those looking to enter into the public sector. In comparison, though, some schools in the same tier (T20 to T30) offer equally good, or better, deals.

When comparing this figure for graduating students)\, it makes a case for Williamsburg and the Commonwealth of Virginia as an affordable place to live. These factors help explain why William & Mary has not offered full tuition scholarships. The Law School is a decent enough deal as is. Students may find Williamsburg to be less active than a big city, but its low cost, natural landscape, and the Law School's lack of competitiveness all offer a peace of mind that has no price tag.


Students can engage in a variety of activities at William & Mary. Some like to hike on the city's surrounding trails. Others will tell you to visit Colonial Williamsburg during the holiday season, when wreaths line the walks and lights give the city a quaint holiday glow. The Law School will point you to its journals and moot court competitions; it will encourage you to perform public service; it will have you taking advantage of the city to the fullest extent possible.

Indeed, students can participate in a bone marrow drive, a legal fraternity or in hurricane relief in the South. These service options exist at many law schools, but some opportunities truly set William & Mary apart.


The Law School's Bill of Rights Journal is touted as one of the country's best with respect to Constitutional Law. More than 80 percent of third-year students participate on one of five student-edited journals, which are Business Law Review, Bill of Rights Journal, Environmental Law and Policy Review, Journal of Women and the Law, and William & Mary Law Review. "Selection," according to the Law School's website, "is made through a joint journal competition held at the conclusion of the students' first full year of law school."

Competitive organizations

Those who enjoy the rush that comes along with a good argument can join William & Mary's Alternative Dispute Resolution Team, which allows students the opportunity to practice resolution skills other than litigation. As at other schools, a competitive Moot Court Program exists, and students who excel in their oral argumentative skills are sure to earn a spot.

Finally, the Law School has an outstanding National Trial Team. Membership is extremely competitive and limited to those students who are accepted during an annual Fall Selection Tournament. No more than 14 members are admitted to the Team each year. Team members are required to participate in a comprehensive development program, and members have the opportunity to receive academic credit for courses designed specifically for the National Trial Team and taught by the Team's advisor. Members gain extensive training in all levels of trial advocacy, from evidentiary objections and fundamental trial skills to sophisticated trial strategy and persuasion.

The Team and its members have enjoyed a number of successes throughout the years, and in 2014-15 emerged as Champion at the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny Country Trial Competition (Gourley); Champion and National Qualifier at the MABLSA Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition; and Champion and National Qualifier at the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law's Student Trial Advocacy Regional Competition, Washington, D.C.


William & Mary gives students something that many other law schools cannot, simply by virtue of their location and student body. The Law School is distinctly noncompetitive. Students look to each other for class notes and study groups; they find friendships that end up lasting a lifetime. The cost of attendance is low, especially for Virginia residents, and the city will not dig you into a ditch of exorbitant debt.

While the unpredictable state of the legal economy should make students look closely at the facts and figures surrounding any law school, some things that relate to William & Mary are sure to remain constant. Williamsburg will remain a popular tourist population. The city will be swamped with tourists looking for a bit of history. Surrounding trails and hiking areas will not disappear, and people will bike freely around the city.

Students will still have the opportunity to roam Colonial Williamsburg while thinking of exams, cases, or moot court. Some will walk around just to clear their mind. The town will still be idyllic, peaceful, and tranquil, and its nightlife options will stay lacking for those seeking a metropolitan lifestyle. It takes a certain kind of student to enjoy such a small town, and chances are that students self-select into this environment. As a result, at least some of your peers will be like-minded admirers of small-city life.

That said, finding a job out of law school is of paramount importance. How much debt you will incur is also important. Students at all schools are worried about finding work. William & Mary has statistics to show that, in the long term, students can expect to earn more per year than the average debt incurred upon graduation. This gives the impression that William & Mary is and will continue to be a sound investment.

Students should remember that William & Mary is perceived by some as the second most prestigious law school in Virginia, unmatched in some regards. The Law School reports high bar passage rates wherever its students go. There should be little doubt in your mind that the Law School will provide you with a quality education. What you will be able to do with that education, as the legal market changes, is yet to be seen.

Overall, students at William & Mary Law School have a positive outlook. The school is gorgeous, serene, and has a strong regional reputation that stretches into Washington, D.C. Its spot among the best law schools in the nation is well-earned, and William & Mary will certainly hold this post for many years to come.

Interview: Associate Dean Faye Shealy of W&M Law

Contact information

William & Mary Law School Admission Office
P.O. Box 8795 Williamsburg, VA 23187
(757) 221-3785

Quick reference

William & Mary Law School
Rank #41 - The College Of William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School Of Law (The 2019 BCG Attorney Search Guide To America's Top 50 Law Schools)
U.S. News & World Report Ranking: (2015) 29th

2015 Entering class size: 201

2015 Entering class LSAT Median: 163

2015 Entering class GPA Median: 3.69

Application Deadline: March 1

Application fee: $50

2015-16 Tuition: Resident, $30,800; Nonresident: $39,800