Virginia is a cultural, economic, and political hub. The state borders Washington D.C. and Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy in the Civil War. It is home to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. It is also one of the largest economies in the region with a bustling technological sector drawing investment capital from across the country.
Virginia's historical and contemporary importance as a regional hub has resulted in a large number of law schools from which to choose. The following article provides a brief overview of your American Bar Association accredited law schools with some observations that can help you narrow your options when determining which Virginia law school is right for you.
Established in the 1990's, the Appalachian School of Law has small class sizes that allow for a considerable amount of personal attention for individual students. The school emphasizes community service and students must complete at least 25 hours of service each semester to qualify for graduation.
George Mason University School of Law changed its name in 2016 to honor the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia was widely known for his conservative politics and many have noted that the school's faculty tends to have a conservative inclination. The student body is a bit more diverse than the school's name might indicate, though passionate liberals may want to consider whether the school is right for them.
Liberty University is a private Evangelical Christian school. The school does not appear on the U.S. News and World Report's list of the nation's best law schools, meaning that it is among the bottom 25 percent of law schools. Those interested in a legal education from a Christian perspective may find Liberty an attractive option, particularly since all students receive some form of financial aid, but other students may find more attractive options among the state's other schools.
Regent University was founded by Pat Robertson as "Christian Broadcasting Network University." The school's mission remains the training of Christian leadership. Those holding differing viewpoints may not find Regent to be entirely welcoming. Adam Key, a second-year law student, was asked to remove social media posts that were critical of Pat Robertson and his positions. When he refused to do so he was suspended and eventually removed. A lawsuit complaining that this was a First Amendment violation of his right to free expression was dismissed because the school was not a state actor, leaving the school free to continue to police the speech of its students.
The University of Richmond's law school produces the majority of the state's judges, a remarkable accomplishment given that each year's class of law students is particularly small. The school is considered highly selective and only accepts about 150 juris doctor candidates every year.
The University of Virginia School of Law was founded by Thomas Jefferson and is the fourth-oldest active law school in the country. The school consistently ranks among the top ten law schools in the nation. It is targeted by major firms looking to recruit new talent and places a large number of Supreme Court clerks. The attention and prestige associated with the school have led to highly competitive admissions and the highest tuition for a legal program in the state.
Washington and Lee offers another small law school option, with just a little over 100 students in each class and generally ranks among the top 30 law school programs in the country. One unique aspect of Washington and Lee's student culture is its "Honor System." Established by General Robert E. Lee during his tenure as President of the university, the Honor System provides that any student found guilty of a single violation of an "Honor Violation" is subject to expulsion. The Honor System is defined and administered by the students without oversight or appeal.
Although many Virginia law schools have a long and prestigious history, William and Mary is the oldest law school in the nation, though it closed for some 60 years during and following the Civil War. Those interested in history will appreciate the school's many connections to U.S. history and its close proximity to Colonial Williamsburg.
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