Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Recently ranked 68th by US News & World Report, Loyola University Chicago School of Law (henceforth often referred to as "Loyola Chicago") is a private Jesuit law school located right in the heart of downtown Chicago. It offers many options not implied by its rank, and can be a compelling choice for many students wishing to study the law in America's Second City.
Admissions & tuition
Despite being ranked in the middle of the Second Tier -- or towards the tail end of the First Tier if one subscribes to USN&WR's latest claim that the First Tier is not the top-50 as was previously claimed but rather the top-100--Loyola Chicago is no cakewalk to gain admission to. Over the past several years, they average only about a 30% acceptance rate. Medians fall at 3.56 GPA and 162 LSAT, meaning that applicants with an A-/B+ average during their undergraduate careers and a strong LSAT score can feel relatively confident about being in that lucky 30%.
Once admitted, of course, applicants confront the reality that haunts all students of private law schools, paying monstrous tuition bills. Those bills, as is the case with most private law schools of Loyola Chicago's ilk, are not to be dismissed: $36,290 per year, and that doesn't include misc. student fees, health insurance, books, living expenses and all of the other costs associated with attending law school. Factoring those in, one will more likely find a figure approaching $57,000 per year, due to Chicago's high cost of living. This brings the total cost of 3 years studying at Loyola Chicago to potentially as high as $170,000, a factor one should consider carefully before taking out loans. Nevertheless, the school does offer a number of scholarships and fellowships to students with varying academic interests and credentials, so many applicants will not find themselves paying sticker price for their Loyola Chicago JD.
Academics & curriculum
First-year students at Loyola Chicago take the standard litany of 1L classes: Civil procedure, property, torts, legal writing, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law and legal writing. Class sizes, while not what you would call intimate, are reasonable as the student-to-faculty ratio is a modest 14.5-to-1. They offer specialties in business law, child and family law, and health law. Additionally, students may elect to pursue a joint degree such as a JD/MBA or a JD with a master's in political science.
Loyola Chicago is known for its prowess in trial advocacy and consequently has a perennially formidable moot court team. They do especially well in the well-known Thomas Tang Moot Court Competition, a nationwide competition with scholarship prize money, where Loyola Chicago teams have won 9 times since the inception of the competition in 1993. Students with a strong interest in trial advocacy and/or participation in moot court should definitely consider this particular strength of Loyola Chicago's overall program.
Quality of life
What can be said about the quality of life when one studies law in Downtown Chicago? Assuming one is seeking life in an urban environment and is not adverse to some seriously wintry winters, then the panoply of social, cultural, entertainment, sports and museum options becomes almost beyond belief. Students dead-set on a serene, rural atmosphere or a place with a rock-bottom cost of living will no doubt be disappointed, as will those who don't own a good jacket, but for anyone else opportunities abound.
Employment prospects & bar passage
Loyola Chicago is a regional school, and on top of this it's located in one of the most expansive legal markets in the nation, so it is unsurprising that a majority of its graduates opt to take the bar in Illinois. For those who do, since 2001 the average bar passage rate has been 89.2%, nearly 5% over the statewide average during this time (an impressive feat when one considers that that statewide average factors in graduates of very elite law schools such as University of Chicago, Northwestern and University of Illinois). No, the major concern for students coming out of Loyola Chicago with newly-minted JDs is not bar passage but rather securing employment. At the time of graduation in 2007, only a little more than half of students (54%) had jobs secured. After 9 months, when bar results are typically in, this figure jumps to only 90%. Perhaps one can account for these figures by noting the three aforementioned elite law schools in the area are feeding a large amount of high-priority graduates into the Chicago market each year. In addition to this, students from many schools in the broader region, all of whom are ranked higher than Loyola Chicago (Michigan, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin, WashU in St. Louis, etc.) often opt to head to Chicago for their job searches, meaning that Loyola Chicago students--bound largely to the Chicago area due to the regional nature of the school --need to finish towards the top of their class in order to feel confident about being able to get hired and start paying back all those loans.
The silver lining of all this for Loyola Chicago grads is that for those who do secure work in the area, the median private-sector starting salary is much higher than that of similarly-ranked schools: $95,000 for those working in the private sector, and this was as of 2007. So even though the Chicago market can be tough to crack, it is one that is (financially) rewarding, a major point to consider given the expense of tuition.
For students willing to pay high tuition and compete for a high class rank to secure employment, Loyola Chicago can be a rewarding experience. There is a problem however with getting applicants placed due to the intense competition for Chicago's many legal jobs.
U.S. News ranking: 87
Application Fee: $0 if applicants apply online
Application deadline: 3/1/09
Median LSAT: 162 full-time, 154 part-time
Median undergraduate GPA: 3.56 full-time, 3.24 part-time
Yearly tuition: $36,290
Average private sector first-year salary: $95,000 (c/o 2007, 74% reporting)