I've been stuck for a while between UVA and GULC. I've visited both, interviewed a ton of students, and spoken with multiple Deans.
I like UVA better, but am worried that since I'm interested in politics I'd be SOL at UVA and happy at Georgetown. Are UVA kids involved in politics? Even if its in a laid back way?
And how are the 1L profs?
There are plenty of UVA students involved in politics. I'm sure there are probably a lot more at GULC, but we're not short on them here. I talk politics with a few people from my section all the time. We have Law Democrats and Law Republicans, but I'm not involved with either and not sure how active they are. We have an active Federalist Society chapter, though that's more policy than politics. We also have the counterpart to FedSoc, the American Constitution Society. Most notably, however, is the Virginia Journal of Law & Politics, which was founded by Antonin Scalia and will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary this coming year. Oh, and if you like really annoying hardcore liberal Democrat activists, we have Mike Stark who you may have heard about in the news.
The 1L profs aren't any different than "regular" profs. Obviously, the professors here are amazing overall, but some are more so and others less. A few aren't good. My section was fortunate in the professor assignments; we had Dean Jeffries for Criminal Law and Michael Klarman for Constitutional Law, both phenomenal teachers. One person said it best when he said, "Jeffries doesn't lecture; he orates." (Rumor is Harvard is trying to steal Klarman, but us students are trying to keep him.) Frankly, the professors generally make attending class a thoroughly enjoyable experience both because they are so extremely knowledgeable and also because many of them are incredibly funny. Our newspaper, the Law Weekly, has a section each week with faculty quotes. You'd be amazed at the things that come out of professors' mouths!
What is the job competition like for firm jobs within the state of Virginia (i.e. Richmond, Virginia Beach, etc. and not the N. Virginia/DC area)? Are a lot of people interested in staying in VA or is the path pretty clear if you want to stay in the state?
In the circles that I hang out with, D.C. and Dallas are the two hottest markets. There are also lots of NY people. I've been told that Richmond is actually pretty competitive due to the low ratio of jobs to students. I've not heard anyone talking about other parts of Virginia. Personally, I'm hoping to work in the Shenandoah Valley area--Harrisonburg, Staunton, maybe Roanoke. I suspect if you are looking for a job somewhere other than N. Virginia or Richmond, the competition won't be too intense. You probably won't be the only applicant, but it will be a small handful at most.
is it difficult for 1Ls to get firm jobs their first summer? also, for Bar Review does UVA rent out a place for just the law students? Or is more like everyone meets at a bar but anyone (UGs, townies) can go as well?
About 1/3 of 1Ls get firm jobs their first summer. Most (but not all) of the people I know that tried to get them were successful, but it's hard to measure how hard it is due to other factors. For example, some people go work at firms where they already have connections (paralegal work before law school, etc.). Also, there is a fair degree of self-selection. Plenty of people don't even try to get firm jobs and choose instead to take a public service job, a government job (such as working for federal judges, working for a U.S. Attorney's Office, etc.), or work for a professor. While the money you make at a firm is great, the experience you get in other jobs is often more rewarding. For example, developing a good relationship with a professor can be helpful later when you're seeking a judicial clerkship. For those who are headed to big firms, your 1L summer might be your last chance to do something different and so a lot of people take advantage of that.
Your best bet for getting a firm job your first summer is to apply someplace where you already have connections, such as your hometown. If you get your resume sent out before Christmas break, you can often get an interview arranged while you are home for the holidays.