University of Virginia Law School (UVA Law): Reasons to Go (or Not)
The University of Virginia Law School is pretty cool. That is, it is both pretty and cool. It is an elite law school with a nice, laid back vibe (perhaps as a result of its location in the genteel part of the South) set on a beautiful campus (designed by law school founder Thomas Jefferson), filled with beautiful students.
What more could you want?
If this is the most prestigious school you get into, it's is a great place.
If you have other options but don't want to be in the quintessential college town, then you might want to study law elsewhere, as I explain below.
Again, along with the University of Michigan and Berkeley, the University of Virginia Law School is one of the "big 3" public law schools. While in this economy, you still must know how to study law and get good grades to do anything, if you do, there is no limit to what you can do -- become a Supreme Court clerk, teach law, be a partner at one of the major national law firms, etc. It's all possible.
Again, the prestige game is what it is. However you might love UVA Law in theory, you would generally be well advised to choose to go to Yale, Harvard and Stanford instead of UVA Law unless UVA offered you a full or otherwise generous scholarship.
If you didn't get into the Top 3, you would likely but not necessarily choose Columbia, Chicago or NYU Law School instead of the University of Virginia Law school. Again, if UVA Law gave you a generous scholarship, and the Next 3 did not, your decision would be easy.
If you get into Michigan and Berkeley as well, then it is a bit of a toss-up. Thoughts about which school offers you the most scholarships and grants, where you'd like to be for 3 years, and where you want to ultimately practice and what you want to do would become the key major considerations.
Less Debt/Lower Cost of Living. It is cheaper to live in Charlottesville compared to other cities where other elite law schools are. It is in central Virginia, just less than 100 miles from Washington D.C. and Richmond.
(Somewhat) Easier Admission for In-State Students. UVA Law School is a state-funded institution, and one of the conditions for receiving the money of Virginia taxpayers is that UVA Law reserve 40% of its spots to in-state applicants. If you already live in Virginia (perhaps more likely Northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C.,), your likelihood of getting in is somewhat higher.
Fun = Beer and softball. Law students elsewhere around the country always hear how fun UVA Law is; rumor (when I was in law school) had it that the most fun law schools were UVA and NYU Law. One staple of social life at UVA Law is softball and keg beer. Quite fratty, but most students appear to love it. Another bit of fun is that the University of Virginia Law School hosts an annual softball tournament for students around the country. Given the fact that UVA Law is not near a major urban center like NYU, Northwestern, UCLA, etc.
Tradition. If this is important to you, the University of Virginia Law School has got it. Virginia Law School itself was founded by Thomas Jefferson himself in 1819. It isn't the oldest law school in the US -- apparently Marshall-Wythe Law School at the College of William and Mary takes that prize -- but can you think of another law school that has a direct historical tie to someone as important as good ol' TJ?
Good looking students. It is my wholly non-scientific and not statistically valid impression that the students from UVA Law School were especially good looking compared to other law students. You can include undergraduates as well, since you will see them on campus.
Fun = Beer and softball. This is, if people are honest, a somewhat fratty school, a fact that can be a drawback if your idea of a good time does not involve softball and beer. I know at least two UVA students, one of whom transferred out, because he did not like the atmosphere there. It is lovely for many, but it isn't for everyone.
You don't want to be anywhere near the countryside. Don't be mistaken; while idyllic, the University of Virginia Law School is far from major metropolitan centers. Not only does this make having a night life a bit harder, but it reduces the chances that students will be able to participate in interesting term-time interships or time.