It's impossible to think of West Virginia without the words of John Denver's song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" coming to mind. The first line of the song, "Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River", says a lot about the state. However, this description actually covers one of the reasons West Virginia became a separate state in the first place. Before the Civil War, West Virginia was simply the western part of Virginia, but because of the rugged terrain of the western portion of the state, it developed very differently than the eastern part. When the Civil War broke out, West Virginia seized upon the opportunity to become independent of Virginia. Today, nestled in West Virginia's mountains, along the Monongahela River, is the state's only law school: West Virginia University, College of Law (WVU).
West Virginia University is located in Morgantown in the north eastern part of the state near the Pennsylvania and Maryland borders, some two hundred miles west of Washington D.C. Morgantown is a small city with a population of only about 30,000 according to the 2015 census. However, it is in a larger metropolitan area, but still small, with roughly 130,000 people, according to the 2015 census. The area surrounding Morgantown contains beautiful rolling hills, river valleys, state forests, and a large lake. If you like outdoor activities, you could not pick a better spot for finding hiking and biking trails to relieve the stress of law school.
West Virginia University College of Law is a public school that was founded in 1878. The school's West Virginia Law Review is the oldest in the country having been founded in 1894. It is a small school with a student body of a historical average of 300 students. According to the U.S. News law school ranking system it is a second tier school. The tuition for in state students is on the lower end for all law schools in the United States, but the out of state tuition is in the mid-range for U.S. law schools.
It's an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited school. The 2016, ABA's 509 Information Report on the school shows that there is about a 60% chance of being accepted to the school if you apply. The report will also tell you the range for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) that the school will accept.
There are no surprises in WVU College of Law's required J.D. program required courses. After the first year, each student is required to complete Appellate Advocacy, Professional Responsibility, a Seminar Class, and a "perspective course". The school's website does not give a lot of information about "Perspective courses", but does say that they are, "in areas designed to impart a wider or different perspective on the legal system." In addition to those requirements one course or program that will build practical skills either in a law clinic or an externship is required for graduation. The second and third year courses will consist of mostly electives and fulfilling the requirements of the schools required additional courses.
The school offers joint degree programs either as JD/MBA or JD/MPA degrees. Special study concentrations include:
- Energy & Sustainable Development Law
- International Law
- Labor & Employment Concentration
- Public Interest
WVU College of Law counts among its graduates several politicians and judges both at the state and federal levels, including the former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice, Elliott E. Maynard, Jr. and Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia, Gina Marie Groh. WVU College of Law also counts former CEO of Cisco Systems, John T. Chambers as a graduate.
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