« on: May 16, 2009, 12:52:38 PM »
I was disappointed that there was so little current information on Toledo on this otherwise incredibly helpful site, so I decided at the time to share my own impressions when 1L year was up, and here we are.
First, some personal stats/story: 163 LSAT, mediocre undergrad grades, strong intangible factors due to personal and work experiences. Choice for me was paying full tuition at a top 20-30 school or going free to Toledo. This isn't unusual, about 1/3 of my class is on full or close-to-full scholarship (one of the best students in class turned down Michigan, which is unusual, but speaks to some folks' belief that 150k in law school debt isn't always the best choice). The catch to this, however, is that Toledo requires students to maintain a 3.3 grade point average to keep their scholarships, which roughly translates into being in the top 30 to 32 percent of the class. Keeping the 3.3 is more difficult than you'd imagine and unfortunately some students come in taking their scholarship for granted only to lose it.
This will be a pretty positive review, but let's get some negatives out of the way first. Whenever you set foot on campus, whether it's the first day of class or for a visit to check the place out, you're going to be underwhelmed by the law school itself. There's a distinct 1970s feel, particularly in the library, one that's enhanced by quirky metal sculptures. You will also potentially be disgusted by an unusual amount of cigarette debris clogging the area around the main entrances, particularly the main courtyard entrance used primarily by students. It's a pretty disgusting situation and one the school really needs to do something about. You will also have a difficult time getting a parking spot - parking is a major issue, so much so that a group of law students is currently considering suing the school over it (yes, you can roll your eyes, it's silly). If you're not at the law school by 9:30 a.m. or so, you're going to be parking at a commuter lot and hiking back to the law school, so plan accordingly.
In addition, Toledo is ... well ... Toledo. If you're looking for a thriving, cosmopolitan area, you'll need to look elsewhere. There is a very, very limited social scene related to the college as a whole or the law school in particular.
Before we go any further, let's talk about the transitional program. About half the incoming 1L class is "transitional", meaning they will begin the first semester by taking 3 classes instead of the standard 5 classes (contracts, civ pro, and legal writing). Transitional students then take 5 classes the second semester and make up the 2 they skipped during the summer. Toledo basically uses the transitional program to hide lower LSAT admits as part-timers initially and pump up its stats for the US News rankings, which succeeded in getting the school ranked in Tier 2 for three of the past 5 years (but neither of the last two). If you're not on scholarship, you might consider voluntarily opting into the transitional program, which is allowed. Why would you do this? Because it's a big advantage to have only 3 first-semester courses to concentrate on, and because being transitional won't prevent you from writing on to law review or graduating on time. There is some negative in knowing you'll have to be in school the summer between 1L and 2L, but the school is good about finding a way to get most student some sort of summer job in the Toledo area (unpaid, of course ...)
OK, so what about academics? Like any school, Toledo professors run the gamut from amazing to you-will-teach-this-course-to-yourself. There were, in my experience, more good teachers than bad, and the good ones were very good. It is not unusual for UT professors to guest teach at Michigan, or for Michigan or Notre Dame professors to guest teach at UT. I'm not going to dish on individual professors strengths or weaknesses - you can go to RateMyProfessor.com if that's important to you.
One of the school's greatest strengths is the faculty's genuine desire to be student-centric and to help you succeed. There are plenty of places that SAY they're student-centric, the Toledo faculty live it. Research and publishing are clearly secondary concerns, if now lower. My professors were extremely generous with their time, scheduling meeting after meeting at my convenience, responding promptly to after-hours e-mails, and taking time to patiently explain things I didn't understand. They are nice people and they are pulling for you. They know Toledo is not Michigan, let alone Harvard or Yale, and because of that are very, very down-to-earth. This is a place trying to produce working lawyers and seemingly doing a pretty good job of it.
And, again, there are more good faculty then bad, some very, VERY good. This is reflected in the fact the school's bar passage rate is very good in Ohio, lately often ahead of Case Western.
In an effort to keep that rate high, almost all standard 1L courses follow the same exam format - 1/2 bar essay, 30 multiple choice questions in an hour, and 1.5 hour long essay. The short essay and multiple choice sections are meant to replicate bar conditions. Almost all professors give closed-book exams.
Like all law schools, there is competition among students, but it isn't cut-throat. The overall vibe is pretty friendly. It's a small world - there are only about 120 to 140 students in a 1L class, and pretty much everybody knows everybody among the day full-timers. About a quarter to a third of the student body are night students, and they keep to themselves. The part-time program, outside of the "transitional" slight of hand is pretty small.
Law review membership is determined by a combination of grades (2/3rds) and the write-on competition (1/3). You need a minimum of 3.2 GPA to be eligible for the competition, however.
The career-services office is very diligent toward working with students about improving their resumes, interviewing skills, etc., but one of the main drawbacks of Toledo is the small number of firms that interview on campus. Fewer than 20 firms interviewed last year, compared to 31 at Akron and 39 at Wayne State (two of Toledo's main competitors). It's an area the school really has to improve in, and should be able to considering it generally attracts statistically stronger admits than Akron or Wayne. Basically, if you're not ranked in the top 10 percent of your class, getting a firm job through OCI is no guarantee, and if you're not ranked in the top 20 percent, you have almost no shot. There is, however, a very strong network of Toledo grads in Ohio and Michigan who seem to be very open and willing to current students, which is a plus.
Overall, it's a nice place. The 1970s vibe actually grows on you after a while, mostly because the people involved in the school, particularly the faculty, are clearly working hard to make you the best lawyer you can be, and genuinely seem invested in your success. It's a more serious place than you might expect - because there's not much social scene, people are there for the law, period (if they were looking for something like a social life, they'd be at another school). There's some overall frustration at falling out of Tier 2 and they're working hard to get back in. Leaked US News docs showed Toledo ranked 104th this year, which has some folks internally thinking they can get back in next year. Overall, it probably doesn't matter much - Toledo is what it is, regardless of whether you consider it near the top of Tier 3 or the bottom of Tier 2.
So, should you go to Toledo?
Some scenarios have obvious answers: If UT is the highest-ranked school you can get into, and you're going to be paying for law school, it's a good choice because tuition is comparatively very low and the overall educational experience is very good. On the other hand, if you're going to be paying full tuition at either Toledo or Case Western, go to Case Western - it's got a better rep and more recruiters on campus. In addition, if a social scene is important to you, Toledo's not going to make you happy.
UT's generosity with scholarship money makes things tricky, though. Should you go to Toledo for free or pay $37,000 a year to go to Case Western? I'd argue in this current economy, you'd have to give a lot of hard thought to choosing Toledo.
Toledo tends to compete with Case, Wayne State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Cooley, Akron, Capital University, the University of Cincinnati and Cleveland State for students.
Toledo is a no-brainer over Michigan State, Cooley and Capital IMO. Whether you should pick UT over the others probably depends on what kind of aid you're being offered and how you fit at each particular school.
If anyone wants to submit follow-up questions, I'll check back from time to time.