They basically closed the deal as far as I'm concerned this past weekend. Awesome place, I'm pumped.
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I wrote this while responding to a poster trying to choose between Boalt and UVA, so I apologize for being slightly off topic. But it basically summarizes why UVA has really won me over--their admitted student weekend was really just the culmination of the gut feeling that's been building slowly for months--
I can't really comment as to Boalt--but I will say that I've really been won over by Virginia, to the point that I'm on the verge of sending in my deposit this week. Never really expected that to happen--a year ago, the thought of being admitted to Penn Law (I'm a Penn alum, still lots of great friends in Philly, as well as my little bro who I'm really tight with) and not going would've been inconceivable, as would have been the notion of turning down Columbia for UVA.
But they've impressed me that much. The facilities are truly fantastic. I'm not intimately familiar with every detail of Leiter and GTO's studies of elite firm placement, but UVA does tremendously well in both, coming in at 3rd and 5th respectively. To the extent that rankings are a consideration beyond rating consistently in the top 10 in USNWR, UVA does exceptionally well in virtually any type of ranking methodology one could point to. They also, I believe (and not certain of every detail here) have the most managing partners at large American law firms over a certain size (not positve where the cut-off is) than any law school in the country besides Harvard. One of their big themes in selling the school's national reputation is that, in regards to succesful alumni, "wherever you go, there we are." That really does seem to be the case based on the statistics.
In terms of the school's atmosphere, my gut sense is just that while lots of schools throw around ridiculous buzz words/phrases like "collegial" and "work hard, play hard," it's actually true at UVA.
As someone who's spent basically his entire life in NYC and Philly, and also as a Jew (though not an overly observant one), I think I had some pre-conceived concerns as to whether UVA would be a "good fit." or whether I'd find myself feeling outside the school's mainstream culture. But those concerns have been totally done away with. I just couldn't get over how truly happy the students at Virginia seemed to be, how loyal the school's alumni are (they have, I believe, the highest percentage of donating alumni of any law school in the country), and the truly national placement (both in terms of firms and geographic location). I've also been particularly impressed by UVA's Law and Business program, which seems designed for folks like me--those who have at least some interest in practicing corporate law, but don't have any business background to speak of. UVA also has outstanding international law and constitutional law offerings, which are of particular interest to me.
I don't consider myself much of a prestige whore--but I tend to be attracted to people/institutions that know they've got alot going for them and are secure about it and hence don't go overboard in flaunting it. I definitely get that vibe from UVA--they know that it's a great school and a great environment. They don't shy away from extolling its merits, but they also don't see the need to be keep getting in your face telling you how great they are (I've gotten really insecure vibes from a few schools, Duke most specifically, but also Penn to an extent where truly all their material seems like it was written primarily by the marketing department).
I didn't really know what to expect from Charlotsville, as I've never really lived in a college town--but it struck me as really a perfect setting in which to study law. Quality of life is huge with me, amd the thought of living in a pretty luxurious apartment with my fiance in VA for the same money that would buy me a closet in a northeastern city is awfully compelling. I should note, though, that I'm def. a fairly frat-oriented guy who enjoys the whole beer/softball thing. My sense of UVA is that it is probably somewhat more of a fraternity atmosphere than other schools--but also that those who really are into that culture are probably actually just a vocal minority, as opposed to the majority. And also note that here I use fraternity in the best sense of the word--there really doesn't seem to be any element of competition. The B+ median ensures that virtually anyone who puts in the effort will do well enough to open a whole lot it of doors--and I was constantly struck by all the students who emphasized how much they all pull for their section-mates.
I figure my whole life is gonna be spent in Northeastern cities--and I think there's something to say for spending my last three academic years in a different kind of environment, one that feels absolutely right for me. I know next to nothing about Boalt, so I can't really compare--and I certainly understand the desire to stay local (I have it also to an extent). But I don't think you can go wrong with Virginia. Best of luck with the decision.