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UNC School of Law

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UNC School of Law

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the premier public university in North Carolina. Founded in 1795, the school holds the distinction of being the nation's first state university. The school's public nature is demonstrated through its commitment to public service; for instance, the school offers students the chance to work with its Center for Civil Rights and its Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. With nearby Wake Forest and Duke being the only real competition for jobs in the immediate area, graduates have decent employment prospects in North Carolina. Combine all of these factors with wonderful weather and a gorgeous campus, and you have a remarkable school that should appeal to those interested in practicing law in North Carolina. If you're not sure about applying to law school or just beginning the application process, then please take the time to read some of the excellent pre-law articles found here.

Employment prospects

As with most top law schools, when students come to UNC, they tend to stay for the entire three years. As of 2011, the 1L attrition rate was 5.1%.

The majority of UNC law students pass the North Carolina bar. For the February and July 2010 administrations, 92.9% of UNC students passed on their first try, compared to 77.5% of first-time test takers overall.

Law School Transparency gives Carolina a 67.2% employment score, which means that for the class of 2011, 67.2% of graduates found long-term, full-time jobs requiring bar passage nine months after graduation (excluding those who started their own solo firm). Six students (out of a graduating class size of 247) were enrolled in graduate school, and the employment status of eight graduates was unknown. Thirty-two grads landed biglaw (firms with more than 100 attorneys), and 11 began federal judicial clerkships. The most common destinations for employed students were North Carolina (111 grads), Washington, D.C. (20), and New York (9).

Salary 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles for graduates working in the private sector were $70,000, $117,500, and $145,000. Graduates working in the public sector generally earned between $44,000 and $60,000. The overall median full-time salaray was $71,000.


Tuition and fees

UNC School of Law

UNC Law will cost in-state students $21,560 and out-of-state students $37,070 in tuition and fees in 2012-2013. Because each entering class at UNC Law usually consists of 70 to 75 percent in-state students and 25 to 30 percent out-of-state students, it is in your best interest to obtain residency if possible. But qualifying for residency is not easy in North Carolina. If you have lived for longer than three years in the state, you can fill out the two-page "short form" and send it to UNC to be considered for residency. If you do not meet these qualifications, you need to send in the four-page "long form." The requirements for residency are quite steep; for instance, one must "intend to make North Carolina a permanent home indefinitely, rather than being in North Carolina solely to attend college." To find out more about obtaining residency, click here.

When taking into account living expenses, books, travel, and other miscellaneous fees, UNC estimates that in-state students will spend $43,898 a year, and out-of-state students will spend $59,408. However, there is merit and need-based aid available. Around 85% of students receive grants, but the median grant amount was $1,550 in 2011.

The numbers

In 2011, Carolina Law accepted 17.9% of applicants. The school received 2,576 applications and made 462 offers. Of those offers, 248 students decided to matriculate. Getting accepted if you're out-of-state is considerably harder.

The following chart details the LSAT and UGPA statistics from the above ABA data. Please note that the most recent median LSAT and UGPA on UNC's website are 162 and 3.50, respectively. To learn more about preparing for the LSAT from some of the highest scorers on TLS, click here.

2011 admissions statistics LSAT UGPA
75th percentile 165 3.69
Median 163 3.51
25th percentile 161 3.33

The application fee is $70, unless one obtains a fee waiver. To read more about how to obtain a fee waiver, click here.

Beyond the numbers

Of course, your LSAT and UGPA aren't the only parts to your application. UNC is quick to emphasize that many other factors are important to students' admission. Some of these include your undergraduate major, your activities and hobbies, work experience, and any graduate work you have completed, but there are many other components that can make a difference. Thus, make sure that every part of your application shines; a weak personal statement or subpar letters of recommendation could doom your application to the waitlist or rejection pile. For a more thorough listing of what UNC is interested in, click here.

For most schools, crafting an effective resume is an important part of the application process. Your resume is a good way of sharing those factors that make you different in a concise and accessible way. To read some advice about creating a professional law school resume, click here.

Personal statements

UNC has its own set of questions that applicants have to answer for their personal statement(s). In essence, there are four different topics given on the application. Applicants are required to answer both Topic One and Topic Two, and Topics Three and Four are optional. The combined length of Topics One and Two should not exceed three to four pages, and the combined length of Topics Three and Four should not exceed one to two pages. The school also states that applicants should double space their essays and use a font size equal to or greater than 10 point. The questions given on the application are the following:

Topic One: The legal profession plays a vital role in the pursuit of justice and in sustaining the institutions of society, including governments, private corporations and organizations, nonprofit organizations, families and individuals. Please write a statement discussing why you want to become a member of the legal profession and why you think you are prepared for the ethical, professional, and time demands of the profession.

Topic Two: What is your reason for choosing the University of North Carolina School of Law? How does the institution meet your educational and/or your professional goals?

Topic Three: The University of North Carolina School of Law seeks to enroll a wide variety of students (including individuals from groups underrepresented in the legal profession as well as those who have experienced economic, social, or educational disadvantages because of their personal circumstances or characteristics). We find that a breadth of experiences and viewpoints enriches the educational environment for everyone. Please write a statement discussing what you might contribute to the diversity of experiences and viewpoints of the student body.

Topic Four: The School of Law is committed to a full evaluation of your credentials. Please set forth any circumstances you believe may have negatively affected your cumulative undergraduate grade point average, your performance on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and/or your participation in service or extracurricular activities.

Although having four separate topics for students to answer is slightly unusual, the questions themselves are often used in law school admissions. For instance, the first question is a basic "Why Law?" personal statement, the second question is a "Why North Carolina?" supplementary essay, and the third topic is a diversity statement.

For the first question, it is important to avoid sounding trite. Applicants should be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming, writing, and revising their personal statement if they want the full consideration of the admissions committee. Make sure to write your essay in a professional format (no iambic pentameter). Finally, double check that you don't include another school's name in your essay; telling UNC how much you'd love to attend Duke isn't going to win you any brownie points!

For the second topic, make sure that you do a considerable amount of research before you attempt to answer the question. A cursory discussion of a program that you are interested in at UNC probably won't convince them that you are set on attending. This is the part of your application where you can let UNC know why they're a perfect fit for you, so make it count.

Although the third topic is optional, just about anyone can submit a diversity statement. If you truly can't think of anything interesting in your upbringing or collection of cultural experiences, then don't force it, but this essay is a great way of showing how you differ from the pack.

Finally, the fourth question functions as an addendum - a way for students to explain any marks on their record or academic troubles. As long as you have a legitimate excuse (family illness, for instance) for your academic discrepancy, then an explanation can go a long way in helping your application. As a side note, you don't need to write an addendum if you took the LSAT multiple times, as the school only takes the applicant's highest LSAT score into consideration when making its admissions decisions. For more information about writing addenda, click here.

Last but not least, Ken DeLeon, the creator of Top-Law-Schools.com, wrote a fantastic guide to personal statements which can be found here for free.

When to apply

Unfortunately, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doesn't offer an early decision option. However, applying early is still beneficial. Applications generally open up on October 1 and close on March 1, but do not wait until February to start preparing your application. In order for applicants to be considered for the prestigious Chancellors' Scholarships, they must apply by December 31. There are more spots open earlier on in the admissions cycle, so if you want to give yourself the best possible chance, apply early.

Letters of recommendation

UNC requires at least two (but no more than three) letters of recommendation with your application. As always, letters from professors that know you well are ideal. You can also always supplement academic recommendations with a recommendation from your employer, especially if you've been out of school for a few years. To get some additional advice on obtaining letters of recommendation, click here.

Transfer students

Getting into UNC as a transfer student is very difficult. First, the school will usually not accept "transfer applications from students currently enrolled at law schools in North Carolina - even from students who are academically qualified - unless they present a compelling case for enrollment at UNC." The website goes on to clarify that, "Better job opportunities, better course selection or lower tuition are not viewed as compelling reasons."

When looking at transfer applicants, the school first considers "academically qualified residents of N.C. attending law schools outside of N.C. who present compelling reason(s) for attending UNC." For example, a compelling reason might be a "desire to follow a spouse who has been transferred to North Carolina by the military or a business." After considering this pool of applicants, the school "will offer any remaining opportunities to qualified residents and nonresidents attending law schools outside of the state of N.C., who present compelling reasons for wanting to attend the UNC School of Law."

Law school culture

UNC School of Law

One former student explained:

UNC may be a fallback school for a very small group of people, but for the vast majority of students UNC was our top choice and we're thrilled to be there. There is almost a noticeable lack of competitiveness here; if you miss class and e-mail your class asking for notes for the day, you'll likely get upwards of 30 e-mails in return with the notes. People help each other out and enjoy each other; we're not oblivious to the fact that we're competing for jobs, but there's a strong sense that you do what you can and then relax. That's not to say there aren't cliques and social networks and whatnot, but that's just natural. It's definitely not an overly clique-y place.

Apart from the collegial student body, the social life at UNC is notable. There are many different restaurants and bars to visit in Chapel Hill and nearby Carrboro, and different venues in the area put on music of all kinds. Catching a show at the Cat's Cradle and eating at the Top of the Hill are virtually requisites while attending UNC, and there are plenty of other opportunities to pursue as well. Athletics are another big part of life at Chapel Hill; the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry is one of the most celebrated in American sports, and UNC's other sports teams are top notch. The law school has a number of intramural teams in sports like basketball, softball, and volleyball, and students can be found playing casually on most nights. One student said:

There's a wide group of guys that play basketball three nights a week, and there's a lot of activity. A nice thing about the law school building is that it's very close to the IM fields and Woolen gym where there are basketball courts. I'd say the average UNC law student is pretty physically active, and there are a lot of options available if you want to play intramural sports.

A UNC law alum discussed the quality of life in and around Chapel Hill:

We never run out of things to do - this area is absolutely incredible and there is something for everyone. Chapel Hill has a great party scene and is always bustling with young people. It's definitely where most students spend a lot of their free time. Carrboro is where we go for the best coffee shops, concerts, and restaurants; it has a more alternative scene. Durham is diverse and has amazing food, as well as its very own film festival and a great arts scene. Finally, Raleigh is certainly bigger and it's only 25-30 minutes away, so I do go there occasionally for a change of scenery.

The student body tends to be liberal-leaning (one student described the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro as "among the most liberal/progressive in the South"), but there are organizations available for students who are more conservative as well. Finally, students who are interested in more outdoors-esque activities can rest assured that they have plenty of options; one student writes:

Hiking locally is a little bit limited, but you've got some good trails at Duke Forest, Eno River State Park, Jordan Lake, and a few other places. As far as long weekend trips there is a ton of great stuff within a half-day drive: It ranges from primitive camping on uninhabited islands on the Outer Banks, to hiking the Appalachian Trail or the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. You're a two and a half to five hour drive from the mountains and two and a half to five hour drive from the coast. In the Piedmont (the flat area between) there are also some nice areas to hike/camp like the Uwharrie.


In terms of housing, law students generally experience few problems, as affordable and suitable apartments are available near the law school campus and throughout Chapel Hill and nearby Durham. One student said:

A lot of grad students, and law students in particular, live in Glen Lennox. You'll also find law students scattered around places like Southern Village, Meadowmont, and any of the various apartment complexes in town. A good number choose to live in Southern Durham at some of the apartment complexes off 54.

Additionally, a UNC undergraduate and law school alum had the following extensive advice about where to find housing:

For unfurnished apartments, Shadowood is really nice and doesn't have too many undergrads. A lot of the units are two floors and have an upper living room (which might be nice for an office). Glen Lennox has small condos that are a bit more expensive. It's also almost impossible to get a washer and dryer included. BUT, if you don't need a washer/dryer their small singles are an AWESOME deal and the closest thing you'll find to the law school. On the MUCH more expensive side is Meadowmont. It is close to the law school and really high-end. You should also check out Heels Housing, which is a really great resource that the Daily Tar Heel [the school's newspaper] has put together. Finally, a really popular option in Chapel Hill is renting a small house (or portion of a house) from a private company. Most of these rentals are run through ChapelHillRent. Most years, I found my housing on ChapelHillRent or on Craigslist.

If you're looking for furnished apartments, your best furnished option in the area is Chapel Ridge. The down side for Chapel Ridge are the undergrads. This is one of the most popular places for undergrads to live, but it's generally quiet and the best of the furnished options. Good neighborhoods / areas include Carrboro and Davie Circle. Carrboro is a wonderful area; the only downside is that it is far from the law school. Davie Circle is a GREAT place to rent a house! It's a quiet neighborhood setting, and although there are undergrads, they are usually upperclassmen. A lot of senior citizens are there as well. Also, anything on Highway 54 will be close to the law school and easily accessible for the bus line.

Places not to live include Townhouse Apartments ("Where the party's at"), the Verge, and Odum Village on campus. In my opinion, the Verge is completely overpriced and so far from campus it's ridiculous. Their bus is not convenient. Only live here if you're planning to drive every day. Odum Village is really old and also not close to the law school. You probably won't get a parking spot, so you'll have to pay for parking elsewhere. You'll also have to go back to sleeping in an XL twin bed.


On the subject of safety, the school tries its hardest to make sure that students remain out of harm's way. There are a number of "campus call boxes" located around campus, where students can lift a telephone receiver to alert the police of an emergency. The school also offers a "P2P service" where students can telephone a bus to come pick them up and transport them to another location near campus at any time of the day. Finally, the UNC Police Department offers a women's self defense class called RAD. The official website explains:

RAD is a program of realistic self-defense tactics and techniques for women. The RAD system is a comprehensive, women-only course of instruction that begins with awareness, prevention, risk, and risk avoidance. It then progresses to teaching hands-on self-defense training, but it is not a martial arts program.

Safety is a tricky subject at UNC. One recent student body president, Eve Carson, was murdered near UNC's campus. This terrible event created a great deal of concern for the security of the university's students. Thus, several additional security measures have recently been introduced. First, the lighting on several of the school's quads was improved. In addition, the school has recently improved its program called "Alert Carolina," where UNC will send texts to students, faculty and stuff to alert them of any danger in the area. Finally, for truly dangerous situations, the school will sound sirens to alert students to find immediate shelter. Undoubtedly, Eve Carson's murder was an immense tragedy; however, in general, UNC is quite safe. Crimes do occur, so one should always take preventative measures to avoid putting oneself in dangerous situations. Walk in groups, carry mace or other defense devices, and avoid being out late at night in secluded areas.


One recent UNC undergrad the following to say about parking:

Parking in Chapel Hill is difficult at best. There are very few spots located near the law school where you'll be able to rent parking. Usually parking is rented privately by house owners in the area. Areas that are good for law school parking include Gimgoul Village and Ridge Road.


The academic facilities at the UNC School of Law could be improved. One student explains at length:

The facilities are pretty blah. The school is a bit cramped since they've increased the class size and expanded the faculty in the last couple of years. Also, the main building was put up in the 60s and has started having some maintenance issues, like when a brick facade cracked in 2007 and forced the school to close several classrooms for three months. But everything is adequate. The library has everything you need and is well used. As an in-state student, I'm happy with a less-than-stellar building in return for the relatively low tuition. Also, there are plans in the works to build a modern facility at a new satellite campus. Construction was supposed to start this year, but everything appears to be on hold because of the economy.

There are several gyms on campus that are quite near the law school, and they provide up-to-date equipment for both cardiovascular work and weightlifting. A recent graduate of the law school states: "The recreational facilities are excellent, as UNC is known for its athletics. The law school is in the heart of all of the athletic facilities and 2 great gyms are literally a 5-minute walk from the law school. Lots of students participate in intramural sports teams, so this is very convenient for us." The facilities tend to get quite busy during peak hours, but you can usually find a free treadmill or bench if you wait around for a few minutes. There are also fields and an outdoor track available for students to exercise on. Finally, if all else fails, you can always go for a run around the gorgeous Carolina campus.


Like other top law schools, there are plenty of different activities and organizations for students to get involved with at UNC. As mentioned previously, students enjoy playing on intramural sports teams. There are also clubs like Parents as Law Students (PALS), the Christian Legal Society, and the UNC Law Music Club, just to name a few.

At the beginning of each year, there is an event called "Fall Fest," where all of the various clubs and organizations set up booths on South Road to look for new members. This is an exciting way to start off the new academic year and to get involved on campus. That being said, make sure that you don't bite off more than you can chew; the first year of law school is extremely busy, so you won't have a great deal of time for extracurricular activities.

UNC School of Law


First-year students take the standard law school fare of torts, contracts, constitutional law, etc. This schedule tends to be fixed, so first year students don't get a choice on what classes they get to take. However, in their second and third years, students get to choose from a variety of different courses.

The grading curve at Carolina is like most other law schools' curves. For first year classes, the professor is required to give out 35% A/A-, 55% B+/B/B-, and 10% C+/C, with a deviation of 4% allowed in each grading category. The class grade mean is 3.25 (with an allowable deviation of 0.05). Upper-level courses have more of a "target band" for classes; generally, professors aim to have a mean GPA of 3.2-3.3 for courses and a mean GPA of 3.4-3.6 for WEs (Writing Experiences) and RWEs (Rigorous Writing Experiences). To find out more about the curve at Carolina, click here.

Joint degrees

The school offers many different joint degree programs. These include degrees like a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and a Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) or Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS). In particular, students can capitalize on UNC's top-20 business program. A former student of the law school wrote: "I know several students who have done joint degrees at UNC-dual degrees in the business school and the public health school are probably the most popular. I know a couple of students who have also done dual degrees in social work and city planning." Students interested in securities and finance law find that the University of North Carolina is an ideal place to study, as nearby Charlotte is the second largest financial and banking center in America after Wall Street. To see a full listing of joint degrees at UNC, click here. To read more about joint degrees and why one might pursue one, click here and here.


The school has a number of centers and initiatives that promote specific areas of law. They include: the Center for Banking & Finance, the Center for Civil Rights, the Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity, the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation & Resources, the Center for Law & Government, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center, the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, the Director Diversity Initiative, and the Intellectual Property Initiative.

As one example, the Center for Banking & Finance aspires "to take a leadership role in the continual evolution of the financial services industry." It hopes to achieve this through "leading discussions and studying the legal and policy issues related to banking and finance," "advancing the teaching of banking and finance," and "sponsoring conferences for industry professionals." Previous speakers have included Ken Thompson, CEO of Wachovia; H. Rodgin Cohen, partner at Sullivan & Cromwell; and Hugh McColl, CEO of Bank of America.

As another example, the Intellectual Property Initiative hopes to "open an exciting forum for exploring hot topics in intellectual property law, and to build bridges with our community by creating opportunities for our students to use their intellectual property skills to serve the public interest." The initiative recently hosted the Laura N. Gasaway Tribute Symposium on Digital Publication and Libraries, where panels discussed copyright and digital distribution, Google Books, and several other interesting topics.

As a final example, the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation & Resources is focused on addressing "emerging environmental law issues, particularly serving as a leader on the laws related to climate change adaptation." Affiliated projects include "examination of barriers to the integration of carbon trading regime," "examination of the failings of various insurance regimes to give proper economic incentives with respect to Natural Disasters and Climate Change," and "examination of legal regime governing post disaster response recovery and proposals for addressing flaws." Student associates with the center have also written a number of environmentally focused papers; titles include, "Air Toxins and the Waxman-Markey Bill, "The Fight for Environmental Justice in New Hill, NC," and "Exploring the Neuse River as a Public Trust Issue."

Public interest

Perhaps foremost, UNC is known for its commitment to public service and social responsibility. First, the school's pro bono program is designed to reward students who dedicate their time to the public good. Students who complete 50 hours of pro bono service receive a "Letter of Recognition" from the dean of the law school, as well as a notation on their transcripts. Those who complete 75 hours of pro bono service "receive a certificate from the North Carolina Bar Association and the law school acknowledging their service at the end of their third year." Finally, those who complete 100 hours of pro bono service receive "a special recognition at graduation." Many different organizations participate in the pro bono program; for instance, one could partner up with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, the U.S. Marine Corps, or N.C. Prisoner Legal Services.

Students who are entering public interest should be relived to hear that UNC has a LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program) to help graduates pay back their loan debt. Eligibility for the program is done in two different tiers. The applicants that have first priority are those working in jobs like non-profits, federal or state prosecutor's offices, or public service law-related fellowships. After money is distributed to these applicants, the school will give any remaining funds to those working in judicial clerkships. In addition, one's annual salary must be less than $59,000, and one must not be in default or in deferment of any educational loans.

The school also has a number of clinics that help students get real-world experience in the public interest arena. For instance, the Juvenile Justice clinic allows students to "represent children accused of crimes." Other clinics include the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic, the Community Development Law Clinic, and the Immigration / Human Rights Policy Clinic, which gives students "an opportunity to represent clients in immigration cases and work on legal projects addressing human rights initiative." Likewise, some of the externship programs the school offers allow students to work with public interest groups to get hands-on experience with public interest work. Students who want to participate in the clinical and externship programs can usually find a spot; one student remarks:

There are a lot of sites, and I will be doing one in the fall. You can do an externship or clinic starting in the spring of your 2L year. The selection method for participation in the externship program to bid on sites or clinics is a pure lottery system, so it really just depends on how many people participate. I'd say it would be pretty unusual for a student to not be able to do a clinic.

Finally, as mentioned previously, students can get involved with a number of centers on campus for public interest and environmental work. The Center for Civil Rights allows students to work on issues related to "education, housing and community development, economic justice and voting rights." Students can obtain fellowships and summer internships in civil rights work, bolstering their resume and learning valuable skills.


Students at UNC can choose between five different journals. The school's website explains the selection process for the journals:

First-year law students are eligible to participate in the Joint Journal Competition held each May, the week after spring semester exams. Each of the five journals selects staff members from the competition. In total, there are 130 staff positions among the five journals available to rising second-year law students. Journal selection is made by the editors-in-chief of the journals, typically in mid-July. Students are invited to join the journal staffs in late July before resume collection begins for on-campus interviews.

The five journals include the North Carolina Law Review, the North Carolina Banking Journal, the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, and the First Amendment Law Review.

Contact information

Office of Admissions
Van Hecke - Wettach Hall
CB No. 3380
Chapel Hill, NC 29599

Quick reference

The University of North Carolina School of Law. Retrieved September 2, 2014
U.S. News ranking (2012): 38
LSAT median (class of 2015): 162
GPA median (class of 2015): 3.50
Multiple LSAT scores: Highest score is used
Application Deadline: March 1
Application fee: $75
Entering class size: approximately 250
Yearly tuition and fees: $21,560 in-state, $37,070 out-of-state
Bar passage rate in North Carolina: 92.9% (2010, both administrations)
Law School Transparency employment score: 67.2% (percentage of 2011 grads with long-term, full-time legal jobs)
Median private sector salary: $117,500