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Lewis & Clark Law School

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Lewis and Clark's Northwestern School of Law, located in Portland Oregon, combines a high quality of life with a powerhouse of an Environmental Law program. The school is also surprisingly strong in other fields. Few of these programs, however, are strong enough to carry students out of the Northwestern states, as Lewis and Clark is, and will most likely remain a regional school.

Admissions & tuition

Admissions standards at Lewis & Clark School of Law are higher than anywhere else in Oregon. Roughly 37% of applicants were granted admission in 2008 (1041 out of 2,845). For those who were admitted in 2009, the 25th to 75th percentile GPA range was 3.19-3.71 and the range for the LSAT was 157-164-with medians of 3.52 and 161, respectively.

Like the other urban law schools, Lewis & Clark also accepts applicants on a part-time basis. And, as is usually the case, the admissions standards were slightly less demanding compared to those of the school's full-time program. In 2008, GPA's ranged from 3.15 to 3.59 for the 25th to 75th percentiles, and LSAT scores ranged from 155 to 162.

Without a doubt, Lewis & Clark is one of the cheaper private schools in the country. Full-time students pay only $31,934, per year, while part-timers pay $23,984. What's more, room and board is relatively cheap as well, with the average student spending roughly $10,000 per year for housing and food. As low as the cost of attendance is at Lewis & Clark, there will always be students who cannot incur the financial burden, and that's where the financial aid office comes in. Last year, over 45% of students received a grant. For full-time students, the median amount was $8,000 while the 25th and 75th percentiles were $5,000 and $11,000, respectively.

Employment prospects & bar passage

As mentioned above, Lewis & Clark is a regional school. And so, the best employment prospects are generally found within Oregon. It is unsurprising then, that, almost every Lewis & Clark graduate takes the bar in Oregon, where they make a respectable showing for themselves with an 81.7% passage rate, beating out the state-wide passage rate of 81.1%. 

After taking the bar, it seems as though Lewis & Clark graduates do well in the search for employment, though the school suspiciously withholds time-of-graduation employment rates. They do report the school's rate of employment for nine months after graduation, however; and it is a respectable 97%.

Few abnormalities are found in the division of graduates among areas of practice. 44% enter law firms; 20% went into business; 17% found government work; and 6% spent their first year in a clerkship. The only real deviation comes from the fact that a whopping 11% of L & C graduates work in public-interest fields. This is double the rate of the large majority of law schools in the country. The median starting salary for all grads in public service lawyers was $43,100, while those in the private sector made a median of $90,000 in their first year.

Academics

Academics at Lewis & Clark tend to be dominated by the school's public interest programs-especially those in Environmental Law. This should not be surprising: Lewis and Clark tops USNews' national ranking of programs in Environmental Law. Heck, the school itself is located in the middle of a forested state park. Lewis and Clark's faculty in Environmental Law, as well as its course offerings and clinics, are tough to beat. And it can be justifiably hypothesized that a significant portion of the 11% of L & C grads working in public-interest (see employment section above) are working in Environmental Law. For students who want to get a leg-up in the hunt for such jobs, Lewis and Clark also offers a joint-degree in which students can earn a JD as well as an LLM in Environmental & Natural Resources Law in four consecutive years.

Lewis and Clark is not a one-trick pony, however. The school ranks in the top 20 on USNews' list of the country's best programs in Legal writing, and is also tied for 22nd on the same website's ranking of Intellectual Property programs. So, while the program in Environmental Law may steal the show, Lewis & Clark is easily suited to prepare students for careers in other fields as well.

Quality of life

Lewis & Clark's high quality of life is undoubtedly one of the school's selling points. Not only is the student-body more cooperative than it is competitive-the small size of the student-body allows for a sense of community that seems to trump trends of one-upmanship-but the Portland area is a hotbed for outdoor recreation: students can go biking, running, skiing, rafting, and even wind surfing as a means of escaping those never-ending workloads that inevitably characterize the law school experience.

It is often complained, however, that the school suffers a lack of ideological diversity. As mentioned above, Lewis & Clark is known for its liberal bias. The Princeton Review ranked the school as 4th in the nation on a list of schools that are "Candidates for the Center for American Progress Fellowships" (the list might as well be called 'Most Liberal Schools'). Obviously, in what way this will affect the quality of life at Lewis & Clark will depend on one's own ideologies. It will be quite different for a conservative from the Bible Belt than it would be for a progressive from Greenwich Village. Still, there is much to be said for exposure to various perspectives, and liberals and conservatives alike should keep this in mind.

Synopsis

Combining sound legal education with public-interest passion, Lewis and Clark is sending willing and able lawyers into the world every year. One need not want to use their law degree to make the world a better place, however, as the school enjoys solid job placement for all fields of law within the Portland area. Students should be aware however, that they will be competing for jobs with students graduating from that 'other' school of law over in Eugene.  

Quick Reference

Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, OR. Retrieved September 30, 2014
U.S. News Ranking: 61st
LSAT Range: 157-164 (2009)
GPA Range: 3.19-3.71 (2009)
Multiple LSAT scores: Higher score accepted (with explanation)
Application Deadlines: 03/01
Application fee: $50
Entering class size: 231 (2009)
Yearly Tuition: Full-time $31,934, Part-time 23,984 (2009-2010)
Bar passage rate in Oregon: 81.7%
Percent of graduates employed 9 months after graduation: 92.2%
Median private sector starting salary: $90,000 (2007, 43% reporting)