Selecting An Apartment As An SMU Law Student

By Tyler Levy, SMU Dedman School of Law Class of 2013

You did it! You’ve committed the next three years of your life to days of studying and obsessing about grades, copious amounts of  legal scholarship, and a lot of existential self-examination.

You’re going to SMU Dedman School of Law. Congrats!

I truly loved my time at SMU Law. Maybe not all of it—I’m looking at you, law review and finals week—but overall I can say that I had the time of my life. I made it a point to take advantage of every opportunity the law school has to offer, and met countless lifelong friends (reunion, please??). SMU Law equipped me for practice as a lawyer, and I’m extremely proud of my degree hanging in my office. 

As an apartment locator, my job is to help you narrow the apartment options and find an apartment that matches your lifestyle. As is in our name, we locate, you lease. I was strategic in selecting an apartment to live in that first year, and I attribute that “strategery” to some of the success I had as an 1L. I’ve had the privilege of helping many first-year SMU law students find an apartment that matches the 1L lifestyle. Contact me (Tyler@LocateLease.com) for help finding an apartment, and read the tips below on selecting housing as a 1L.

Here are some tips for finding the perfect apartment as an SMU Law Student from an SMU Law Alum.

1. Proximity to Campus.

This one is likely obvious but you will be spending an exorbitant amount of time on the Quad. From class to studying at the law-brary to moot court and mock trial competitions on campus, SMU Dedman School of Law will become your home away from home. Make sure to choose an apartment that’s close to campus (put that in the details on the Find My Apartment form). Traffic around Dallas can be a nightmare, particular on Highway 75, so try to limit the commute to a maximum of 15 minutes from your apartment.  If you forget a book, need a break, or have pets, you can run home and make it back to class before Civ Pro.

2. Some Space is Healthy.

While you want to be close to campus, I did not want to be on campus. A nice distance buffer helped to give me a mental break between law school and home. I appreciated my five to ten-minute drives to jamming to Katy Perry’s “Firework” on repeat for a pre-class pump-up.  

3. A Dedicated Study Area.

I needed a space in my apartment for a desk that was well-lit for late-night study sessions and case briefing. This is a polarizing topic, but studying at the library was not for me. It was cold and sterile, and at times very depressing. I had enough time there as a Westlaw rep (I’d recommend that job to anyone!). I needed to get off campus to be particularly productive. Space in my apartment was key. I also did a lot of studying on my balcony—being outside was a nice breath of fresh air. And when times got real cray, I’d park myself at a secluded coffee shop (White Rock Coffee Shop) or enjoy late nights at Café Brazil, both close to my apartment, but with no other law students. If you want to get out of your apartment but still be within your apartment community, most apartments now have a cyber lounge or business center that’s under-utilized. Make it your study space!

4. Parking considerations.

I knew I would have some late nights, and I also knew that I would have fellow classmates over to hang out, and of course study (maybe). Parking would be critical. I didn’t want to search for parking at night or have guests have to walk half a mile to get to my apartment. An apartment community with adequate parking for me and my guests was key.

5. A Quiet Setting.

I’m noise sensitive. I blast my music when I study, but I don’t want to hear anyone else doing the same. The weekends are usually for fun, but around finals time, fun dies for the SMU law student. For me, it was important to be away from the oh so tempting bar—“I’ll just have one drink” is never something good to say when you have a four-hour contracts exam the next day.

6. Proximity to the Class Watering Hole.

Be in a quiet area, but be close to the fun stuff. Law students know how to study well. They know how to party and relax even better. We had so many planned and unplanned outings. At the time, Uber wasn’t around until my third year (shows some age…), so we had to call taxis. Still, I knew that most gatherings occurred at a bar in Uptown or the Knox Henderson area. I factored the taxis/Uber rides into choosing an apartment and made sure to choose a place centrally located. Note: even if you don’t think you are a self-declared introvert, I’d highly recommend you socialize with your classmates. The SMU network is strong and built on relationships. Plus, you are all suffering through the same thing, so it’s nice to have some people that can relate to you.

7. Financial Cost.

Yes, SMU law school is expensive, and loans are intimidating. If money is a concern, then factor it in to your housing budget. That being said, it’s critical to have realistic expectations about pricing for housing and not sacrifice sanity for a cost. You are going to law school knowing that it’s an investment—you should intend to make money and get a return on your investment. Be cognizant of your housing budget, but don’t let it be so restrictive to leave you living in a box an hour away from campus.

8. Proximity to Healthy, Non-Law School Activities.

It’s important to have a non-law school activity to keep your sanity. Work out daily, volunteer at your local animal shelter, take up painting. Take advantage of your apartment community’s fitness center and free gym classes. Run, jog, or walk around your neighborhood. Drive over to the Dedman Center to play racquetball with your classmates (great way to get out some frustration). Balance is key.

Every 1L is different, but fortunately, we can all share the experience of saying that we are or have been a 1L at SMU Dedman School of Law. At Locate and Lease, we happy to take some of the work off your plate and find you housing. I’m also happy to answer and share any questions about SMU Law you have! Reach out to me directly at tyler@locatelease.com!