University of Michigan Law School

625 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 | Google Map

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Founded 1859 | ABA Accredited 1923

The University of Michigan Law School has always been a large law school. When the law school first opened its doors in 1859, it was home to 90 students and by 1870 it was the then-largest law school in the nation. In 1871, one of Michigan Law’s many students, Sarah Killgore Wertman, graduated to become the first female law student to be admitted to the bar. Today, Michigan has over 1,100 enrolled students and consistently ranks among the top ten law schools according to U.S. News & World Report.

Located on a 2,860-acre suburban campus about 45 miles west of Detroit, the law school provides an interdisciplinary approach to the law through its diverse class offerings, joint-degree programs, seminars, clinics, international and domestic externships, and independent research opportunities. “Many of its faculty members hold advanced degrees in other fields and have dual appointments with other schools and departments in the University. This interdisciplinary approach reflects the School's philosophy that the study of law should be combined, as much as possible, with an awareness of the broader context of American society and the international community.” (Michigan Law Website)


Clarence Darrow, Famous trial lawyer; defense counsel in Scopes Monkey Trial Valerie Jarrett, Senior advisor and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama administration Charles Edward Merrill, Co-Founded Merrill Lynch Ari Gold, Fictional Hollywood Power Agent on the HBO Orginal Series Enrourage Branch Rickey, MLB executive who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, baseball's first African American player

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Sarah Zearfoss


"Ours is a very collegial student body . . . so, I think it’s really important that there not be a high 'jackass' quotient here." - Sarah Zearfoss - Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions, UMich Law

February 18, 2010 \ This is the 13th installment of our 224 part series, Better Know A Dean. Today we posted our interview with Sarah Zearfoss, Associate Dean and Director of Admissions at The University of Michigan School of Law -- The Fightin' Wolverines!

Sarah C. Zearfoss became the assistant dean and director of Admissions at UMich in 2001. In that capacity, she oversees all aspects of JD admissions (including transfer and visitor admissions), as well as administering LLM, MCL, and SJD admissions. Beginning in 2010, Dean Zearfoss began overseeing the offices of Career Planning and Financial Aid, in order to coordinate a consistent approach to employment and financial resource issues throughout students' law school tenure. She received her AB, cum laude, in psychology from Bryn Mawr College and her JD, magna cum laude, from Michigan Law. At Michigan, she was the editor-in-chief of the Michigan Journal of International Law, and authored a note on women's rights. Following graduation, Dean Zearfoss clerked for the Hon. James L. Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and then practiced labor and employment law at Pepper Hamilton LLP's Detroit office. In 1999, she returned to work at the Law School as the judicial clerkship advisor before becoming part of the Admissions Office team. A member of the Michigan Bar, she stays active in the practice of law as a volunteer cooperating attorney for the ACLU.

AD We’ve done our research, and UMich Law has certainly has had its share of graduates who have gone on to be leaders in law, business and politics -- for example, Clarence Darrow and Charles Merrill, the co-founder of Merrill Lynch. But it’s Ari Gold -- super agent to the stars on HBO’s Entourage who could be your most famous (albeit fictional) alumnus. Does his character represent the type of intensity and combativeness that admitted students can expect to face from their classmates when they arrive on campus?
SZ Absolutely not. First off, let’s be clear. Ari Gold graduated with a JD/MBA from Michigan. He’s a graduate of the Law School and the Ross School of Business. So, while I don’t know where he picked up his combative nature -- or his foul mouth -- I can almost 100% guarantee it wasn’t in the Law Quad.
AD So which of his characteristics did he pick up from the law school -- what part of him are you willing to claim?
SZ Sure, there are parts of Mr. Gold that are all Wolverine, but instead of focusing on his management style, lets look at the way he settles disputes -- hugs. I believe that’s something he picked up when he was student in the Law School’s nurturing environment. At least that’s what I’m told by those who remember him, that he frequently ended quarrels with “Let’s hug it out brother” -- and I believe he continues that practice to this day.

And, just in case you are planning to go there, if you check with the Medical School I bet they’ll say Greg House is not representative of their student body either.
AD Nicely played Dean Z.
SZ [Laughing] I’m glad you liked it.
AD For the past few years, more and more applicants have turned to the Internet to help them navigate the law school admissions process, whether it’s: getting advice from fellow applicants on a discussion board; anonymously tracking applicants through the law school admissions process; or even reading the musings of admissions deans like yourself on their blogs (I’m a big fan of your A2Z Blog, by the way!). Whatever the medium, how do you see the current trends in social media affecting the law school admissions process and/or the law school experience, both positively and negatively?
SZ I'll start by saying that it’s a little exhausting trying to keep up with all the latest trends. From our point of view in the admissions office it represents a bit of a challenge to make sure that we are using the most effective means for communicating with our applicants. For instance, a few years ago people started to say that applicants are not using email as much as they used to ­­ and at the time, that was very disheartening to hear because we do a lot of our communications by email. Thankfully, that claim turned out to be wildly over exaggerated. While it may be true in some contexts ­­ it’s true that people are relying more on things like Facebook to connect and communicate with their friends – people still expect to hear from the admissions office by email. So that is a huge relief. I mean, it would take a really long time to tweet an entire offer letter.

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