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Roger Williams / RWU--The Good and The Bad
« on: March 30, 2006, 01:17:02 PM »

I am a current 3L and about to graduate from RWU Law. These discussion boards (on this site and elsewhere) seem very useful for prospective students and other interested in a particular school. However, some of the posts seem to be little more than inane rants or "my Tier 4 school is better than your Tier 4 school". My goal here is to try and give an honest appraisal of RWU.

Positives First:
* The faculty is generally very good. As the school is on the younger side, many taught at other more prestigious schools before coming here (this school allowed many to "come home" to RI/Southern Mass). Further, most of the faculty have impressive credentials and are generally fair to gifted in their teaching ability.

* The law school is the only one in the state. As a result, there is ample opportunity for extern/internships in state government and local courts. I have no idea if other Tier 4 (or even Tier 3) schools can offer such broad access to state government and the courts.

* It seems as if half the students could easily excel at a more prestigious law school. A fair amount of students here work very hard and it shows in class.

* The Trial Team is highly competitive and frequently places higher than more prestigious schools.

* There is not an overly competitive atmosphere here. I have no idea if some of the crazy stories about people hiding books or purposefully misleading classmates are true or merely legend. RWU is the opposite of competitive. People are generally cooperative and there is little (if any) backbiting.

* The school offers robust clinical and externship opportunities which allow students to gain practical experience. The extern director and clinical professor and staff are very good. Again, as this is the only law school in the state, clinical students and externs have a high degree of visibility.

* Rhode Island is a very nice state to go to school. The people are friendly and you are (relatively) close to Boston and New York. There is good food to be had in Providence and plenty of distractions.

The Bad:
* This is likely true with any Tier 4 school, but the job opportunities are just not there. People do get hired for clerkships, but don't expect that, just because you work for the state/AG's office in the summer, you'll get a job there. While most know a Tier 4 school doesn't equal a big firm offer, you'd hope that if you are highly accomplished at your school, it might equal a mid or small firm job. Not so here. Also, don't think that because you want to go in public interest, the law school matter less. Plenty of Harvard, Boston College, and Northeastern grands want to go into public interest too. Who do you think the Public Defender or local Prosecutor's office wants? The earnest RWU grad or the earnest Harvard grad? The facts are this: the legal field is all about reputation. If your personal reputation is bad, no job. If your school's rep is bad, no job.

* The Career Management office here does not alleviate the problem... they only add on. The somewhat recent hire of Dean Bastone, despite all the hoopla surrounding it, has been an abject failure. To be blunt, he is completely unhelpful and the only person who he has managed to find work for is himself. He is also abrasive, arrogant, and concerned only for himself. Yes, that is a personal attack and perhaps overly harsh. However, it is based on personal experience. To be fair, I can't speak to the other CM employees--I haven't had much contact with them. Nonetheless, Bastone is the public face of the office.

* While roughly 50% of the students could excel almost anywhere, the other half are not so hot. A few simply struggle with law school and work as hard as they can. These people are everywhere (yes Virginia, even at Harvard). It doesn't mean they are stupid, but just that law school is difficult for them. Unfortunately, another breed--those that can't be bothered to read and coast by--outnumber the struggling hard-workers by a fair amount (no Virginia, likely not many of them at Harvard). Just be aware that not everyone at the school will work as hard as you.

* The class selections are generally adequate, but could be better.

* The new Dean is an amiable fellow, but seems to lack vision. Nothing he has done or proposed has impressed me at all.

My Advice
Ultimately, the law school decision is up to you. Do your homework. Don't trust nutty messages that slam a school, but don't let people blow sunshine up your rear either. If you take a tour of a school, ask questions of students in the library or cafeteria (not just the tour guides). Try to get opinions from each year. A 2L's opinion may vary wildly from a 3L.
Just be aware that a Tier 4 school on your resume makes it much harder to get a job after graduation. If you are confident you'll succeed in law school, but your grades/LSAT score disappointed you, try a Tier 4 school for a semester. If your grades are high, transfer at the end of the year. If not, think about if law school is right for you. Consider that your first job likely won't be your first (or even 5th) choice. It may take some time to catch up to where a Tier 3 graduate is after they matriculate. Also, the debt is considerable. The difference between a Tier 3 school and Tier 4 is vast. Don't worry--you can transfer from 4 to 3, but your grades better support that. Lastly, don't think membership in Law Review or Moot Court compensates. While it does make a difference, an employer will likely go for the decent to good Tier 3 grad over a Law Review or Moot Court member at a Tier 4 school.

Would I attend RWU again?
Initially, I loved going here. I didn't incur much debt and got a Dean's Scholarship at the end of my first year due to my academic performance. I wrote onto Law Review and made many good friends during my time here. I've also participated in other opportunities. Lastly, Rhode Island is a great place to live. Nonetheless, I would not attend this school, or any other Tier 4 school, if I had it to do over. The job outlook is bleak. The debt wasn't worth it. I am also an older student, I really don't relish taking a 35k a year job when I used to make a fair amount more before attending school. Yes, some of my fellow students did get the big firm job or a nice clerkship, but for many, the options are too few.

If you graduate from a Tier 4 school, all is not lost. You might be able to "scrub" your RWU (or other) degree with a LLM from a prestigious school. If you work very hard and make it too the top, a decent job could be in the wings (or at least a scholarship). Still, carefully consider your choices. Don't believe this place (or any other) is easy. Don't think you'll be the exception either. Lastly, DO NOT attend a non-ABA school. Remember, reputation is everything. A non-ABA school is never worth your time or money. I mean no offense to those students, they could easily be brighter or more dedicated than I, but this is my observation.

Good luck. Questions? I'll try to reply to posts. If the post is merely an unwarranted attack on me or the school, I'll simply ignore you. I assume I put enough personal information in here to give my classmates (or others) a good idea of who I am. I generally don't like to be anonymous, but feel as though it allows me to be more candid in this regard.

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