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University of Wyoming, College of Law
Published September 2009, last updated June 2010
The University of Wyoming College of Law (hereinafter Wyoming Law) is a public law school serving roughly 225 students and located in Laramie, WY. The law school opened in 1920 and its famous alumni include many prominent politicians and jurists from Wyoming.
Admissions and Tuition
The admissions process at Wyoming Law is a bit more competitive than that of many Tier 3 law schools. While many similarly ranked schools admit 40 or even 50 percent of applicants, the admission rate at Wyoming Law is only 34%. Of the students admitted, an impressive 42% opt to attend, a high figure likely owing at least in part to self-selection—students uninterested in studying law and practicing in Wyoming are unlikely to apply to Wyoming Law.
The most recent batch of matriculating students sported median GPAs and LSAT scores of 3.44 and 153, respectively. These numbers are roughly on par with other T3 law schools. The middle 50% of matriculating applicants had GPAs and LSAT scores ranging from 3.25 to 3.68 and 150 to 157. Students with numbers below these bands will need to work very hard on their personal statements and letters of recommendation if they wish to have any realistic shot at gaining admission.
Tuition at Wyoming Law comes to just under $10,000 a year for residents ($9,966) and just over $21,000 for non-residents ($21,156). The school also recommends budgeting another $10,000-$11,000 annually for room and board and $1,200 for books. Roughly 50% of Wyoming Law students are attending with grants scholarships of less than half tuition, and some 6% receive more than that. The median grant amount is $2,000. Not surprisingly, the average indebtedness of Wyoming grads is a very reasonable $36,000.
1Ls at Wyoming Law take the basic 1L milieu: Contracts, property, torts, criminal law, civil procedure, legal research and writing and a 1-unit class called “Introduction to Law.” The grading curve is not notoriously harsh, and as a result, 1L academic attrition is quite low (most recently the figure was about 5%). The student-to-faculty ratio is a very respectable 12.4-to-1, suggesting that students can receive personalized interactions and instruction from their professors at Wyoming Law.
Wyoming Law publishes a law review and also offers three joint degree programs: The JD/MBA, the JD/MPA and a JD with a Masters in Environment and Natural Resources. This makes Wyoming Law a potentially compelling choice for students who are interested in environmental or forestry law and wish to practice in the Mountain West area.
Wyoming Law does not offer a part-time JD program.
Employment Prospects and Bar Passage
Students looking to practice “biglaw” at high-paying firms in major cities will likely discover that Wyoming Law is just not the school for them. Most recently, not a single firm from New York, California or Washington DC took part in Wyoming Law’s OCI (on-campus interview) process. On the other hand, students wishing to stay and practice in Wyoming will likely find themselves with opportunities aplenty. In fact, within 9 months of graduation, 84% had found some sort of employment.
The bar exam does tend to pose an impediment to Wyoming Law graduates. Most recently, 76.3% of graduates passed, compared to a statewide average of 67%. Between 2001 and the present time, Wyoming Law graduates have outperformed the statewide bar passage rate by 0.8%. However, it should be noted that this is likely due at least partially to the fact that Wyoming Law is the only ABA-accredited law school in the state. A large number of graduates take the Colorado bar and do not fare so well at it. 75% pass compared with the state's average of 83%.
Graduates working in the private sector earn median starting salaries of just $48,000 a year, compared to $46,000 for those in the public sector. While these salaries (especially for private sector work) do not compare favorably to those of more highly ranked law schools, they should be viewed in light of the rock-bottom cost of living in Wyoming.
Quality of Life
In addition to being the home of the University of Wyoming, Laramie (population 27,000) is also a major center of outdoor tourism due to its proximity to many of Wyoming’s natural wonders. Students with an affinity for the outdoors, rural life and the ability to tolerate cold winters will likely find Laramie to be an ideal place to live. On the other hand, those used to a more cosmopolitan lifestyle will have some adjusting to do. On the plus side, however, rent costs in Laramie scarcely even compare to what one would pay in major cities like New York or San Francisco.
Although it’s not the place for students interested in New York biglaw, Wyoming Law is a potentially excellent choice for Wyoming residents looking to take advantage of low in-state tuition and practice in their home state.
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