Law School Discussion

ANY Insight?: Chapman VS Southwestern + (USF/UOP/Santa Clara)

Finally registered to make this post because my 'last' summer is very quickly passing me by as I continue to deliberate between schools. Any comments, opinions, insight, and advice whatsoever would be greatly appreciated!

For context: I currently aspire to be a DA, in the SoCal/LA County/Orange area. I want to go to a school for their criminal litigation/trial advocacy programs, clinics, academia, and alumni network. Quality of life inherent from their campus and location is of consideration to me.

So Ive been accepted to: [My Goal was Loyola. Due to family circumstances, I was forced to apply on the last second, of the last hour for each of these school's deadlines, instead of waiting to retake the LSAT and to apply at the beginning of the next cycle, and I'm certain this substantially hurt my admission potential. I'm thus forced to choose from the following]

-   Chapman - with an 80%, $37K/a year scholarship, renewable at 2.9GPA.
-   Southwestern - initially admitted with no scholarship, but was just recently able to negotiate a 53% 25K/year scholarship, renewable at 2.7GPA.
-   Santa Clara - with a 10k scholarship/year, renewable with 3.0GPA.
-   USF with a 27K/1st year, renewable at 20k for 2nd/3rd year with 3.2GPA or top 28%
-   Pacific McGeorge with 23K1st year, renewable if in top 50% of class.
-   Applied to California Western & Western State and received 90% scholarships from both. (I applied to them specifically so I could utilize their scholarships to negotiate other schools with)
-   Waitlisted to: Loyola + USD. Waiting to hear back from Pepperdine. I've already submitted LOCI's and attained a secondary LOR for all of these schools.

Ive visited most of the schools already and have pretty much ruled out USF, pacific, santa clara because I don't want to go to school in and live/work in NorCal. Santa Clara doesn't seem to have any real criminal presence at all, UOP great trial advocacy program but horrible location. USF, would not be able to stay sane/working living in downtown SF.

Right now I'm therefore essentially forced to have to choose between Southwestern with a 50% scholarship and Chapman with an 80% scholarship. I would be finding and moving to an apartment near the school I choose to attend. Still trying to negotiate for more money from each school.

Prior to my visit, I knew nothing about Chapman. However, after visiting Chapman, I was very surprisingly impressed in all regards. Quality of life seems high, as I loved their new clean building on a beautiful undergraduate campus, location in upper-scale residential Irvine/orange, largest scholarship, sharp faculty, proximity to home, friendly student vibe, strong criminal/DA socal/orange/irvine alumni network and criminal/trial clinics/programs/academia. The fact that they do 'slower?' year-long courses also seems like it would be a positive thing. Chapman is also 'ranked', while southwestern is 'not ranked' at the moment, and Chapman has always been higher ranked [I believe]. They had many programs in place to facilitate and aid student success. Students at Chapman seem sharper than at SW. Chapman is still new, and I see it as a positive investment with a lot of potential to only improve and establish itself. Of course this is all just what I had garnered on face value though the tour and from speaking to their admissions/students, so I definitely am considering it with a grain of salt. Feel free to correct/educate me on any point.

Southwestern, in terms of quality of life, for me, seems low; located deep in LA, hellish traffic, small, old and dated campus, students and faculty generally don't seem as sharp. lower rank. substantially smaller scholarship. That aside, I'm aware of their long history and very large criminal/DA/PD alumni network, especially for LA. They seem to have a strong criminal/trial advocacy academia/track, and I'd be very interested in joining their TAP program. If I had to go to SW, I wouldn't doubt that it would get the job done and provide me with what I need to become a successful DA. I see SW as a solid, fundamental, basic law school, but Chapman just seems like it would provide me with a far greater, more pleasant and enjoyable experience.

Of course, If I am admitted to Pepperdine, or to Loyola/USD off their waitlist, that would change everything.

Any comments/opinions/insight whatsoever regarding ANY of the aforementioned schools would be exceptionally appreciated ASAP! Second seat deadlines are right around the corner for me and I want to finally figure everything out so I can be sane by the time I start school.

Kind Regards and thank you in advance!

Burning Sands, Esq.

  • *****
  • 6525
  • Yes We Kan-sas!!!
    • View Profile
Re: ANY Insight?: Chapman VS Southwestern + (USF/UOP/Santa Clara)
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2014, 06:06:39 AM »
I'm in NY but I think there are a couple of regular posters here from SoCal who can probably speak better to your options.

Re: ANY Insight?: Chapman VS Southwestern + (USF/UOP/Santa Clara)
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2014, 12:24:02 PM »
I'm somewhat familiar with these schools. I visited almost all of them, have worked with attorneys from most (if not all), and have friends who went to others.

It sounds like you're pretty set on Chapman, and with an 80% scholarship that's understandable. Chapman has the nicest campus of any of the SoCal schools you're looking at. I was really impressed with their law school building. That's not a huge factor, but if you have to spend three years somewhere you want it to be pleasant.

The main factor I think you need to consider (after expense) is location. Chapman will give you better opportunities in Orange County, but Southwestern, Loyola, and Pepperdine are far better established in LA. There are lots of Chapman grads working in OC as prosecutors, county counsel, etc., but not as many in LA. That doesn't mean that each school will absolutely limit you to it's immediate area, but it will be tougher to compete for jobs in LA if you're competing against LA area students who have been able to make connections.

Between Chapman and Southwestern, I'd be inclined to take the option with the least debt. There is really no reputational advantage between the two, in my opinion. I think most employers will view them as basically on the same level. The only reason to consider SW at a higher cost is if you are determined to work in LA.

As far as the San Diego schools, I'd only consider them if I was willing to live in SD. It will be difficult to make connections in the LA area and to obtain internships if you're in SD. USD has a decent local reputation, but it's not so strong that it's going to open many doors outside of SD. The LA area is already so flooded with local grads that it won't make much difference.

If you get into Loyola or Pepperdine it may very well be at sticker price. Personally, I don't think either of those schools at full price is a better option than Chapman or SW at a substantial discount. Again, they're each good schools but they're not elite. They are ranked higher, true, but take those rankings with a grain of salt. Nobody is going to be so blown away by a Pepperdine degree that they'll offer you a job based on pedigree alone. To get hired at the DA you're still going to have to make connections.

That's not to say that it doesn't matter at all. Loyola, especially, is held in good regard and a degree from Loyola combined with relevant experience might have an advantage over a degree from Chapman or SW with the same experience. But just keep it in perspective.

If you were trying to decide between UCLA and Chapman/SW, UCLA might win. But as between schools like Chapman, Southwestern, Loyola, etc., the decision becomes murkier.

I currently aspire to be a DA, in the SoCal/LA County/Orange area. I want to go to a school for their criminal litigation/trial advocacy programs, clinics, academia, and alumni network. Quality of life inherent from their campus and location is of consideration to me.

A word about getting hired as a DA. The DA's office is probably the most competitive government law office in terms of hiring. LOTS of people want to be DAs, and hiring in most counties is currently very low. When a position opens it is not unusual to get literally hundreds of applicants. People who have crimlaw experience and personal connections (such as having worked at that office as an intern) will have a distinct advantage. Obviously, grades and class rank will matter too, but connections and experience are really the key.

The reason I'm pointing out the highly competitive nature of DA hiring is because you should go into law school with a flexible attitude. The fact is, the vast majority of aspiring DAs will not become prosecutors. Trust me, half the people in your class plan on being DAs. It's good to understand early on that you may end up doing employment law, family law, or defending DUIs. In this market you need to be willing to go where the jobs are.

Hope that helped, Good Luck with your decision!

Re: ANY Insight?: Chapman VS Southwestern + (USF/UOP/Santa Clara)
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2014, 08:41:11 AM »
Excellent post by Maintain and he covered pretty much every point, but I want to add one important consideration scholarship conditions and a few follow up points.

Scholarship Conditions:
I see Chapman requires a 2.9, Southwestern a 2.7 etc. I imagine like many incoming 0L's you believe obtaining those GPA's will be a piece of cake. Law school however, is very different due to the strict curve and at many schools you need to finish in the top 35% just to have a 2.5 G.P.A it varies from school to school, but there is a strong chance you will not maintain the scholarship years two & three. This is nothing against you personally, but the reality is everyone in law school is smart, hard-working and motivated and 100% of students think they are going to be in the top of the class, but 50% of them will be finishing in the bottom half and 25% in the bottom 25%. This New York Times Article does a far better job explaining the situation than I can.

Personal Feelings about School:

It sounds like you have done the important process of visiting the campuses you are interested in and it seems like you are a person that does not enjoy downtown S.F or Downtown L.A you want a smaller environment, which is fine . Chapman provides much more of a college feel and you appear to have enjoyed your visit and that is very important. Each student has their own personal feelings about schools when I was visiting there were some I hated and others I loved, but you could have the opposite feeling. I liked Southwestern, because there was so much going on and Chapman felt isolated although the campus is beautiful. Nothing wrong with having your own preference this is a 3 year, $100,000 commitment so list to your gut. It sounds like Chapman left you with a good impression and the other schools did not. That says something about what YOU want and this is your life. Do not let anonymous internet poster like myself, a for profit magazine like U.S. News, or anyone else that knows nothing about you tell you what is best for you.

You mention talking to students etc at Chapman should be taken with a grain of salt, but I think those opinions should carry the most weight. Every posting on this board or other law school boards is  behind a computer screen and you have no way of gauging our credibility. I could be a crackhead in a public library there is no qualification for posting on the internet talking to students, professors, and walking around the campus is reality and can offer far more insight than the internet.

District Attorney Reality:
Maintain also makes a great point about D.A's there are very few positions and even if you get hired as D.A. the reality of it is a lot different than what is displayed on T.V. and many people end up not wanting the job. So as Maintain suggests keep an open mind, but if you really want to be D.A. if you graduate from an ABA school it can happen, but just be 100% sure that is what you want.

Choosing a School :
To answer your question I would negotiate with all of these schools for better scholarship terms more money and better conditions. Worse case scenario they will say no, but nothing bad will happen by asking.

This is also a pretty good article explaining factors to consider when choosing a law school.

Knowing nothing about you it seems like Chapman is a good fit for you. Do not make things more complicated than they need to be, but I do encourage you to negotiate for better scholarship conditions and money you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.

Good luck in your legal career.

Re: ANY Insight?: Chapman VS Southwestern + (USF/UOP/Santa Clara)
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2014, 03:51:48 PM »
Do not go to University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
They have consistently dropped in the rankings for good reason. The professors are inconsistent (some excellent and some terrible), the administration is atrocious, and the students are not very friendly, are highly competitive, and not as bright as one would expect law students to be.
I went there for 2 years and decided to get out before I invested any more time or money on it.
 I was fortunate enough to (barely) keep my scholarship for my second year, but very few do. They practice grade deflation for multiple reasons - to avoid paying out scholarships and to lower their attrition rates (you won't be able to transfer out if your grades aren't stellar) among those reasons.
Many schools do this I'm told, but seeing the practice first hand is extremely frustrating and stressful when you're actually in the thick of it.
Be cautious, which ever school you choose.
I wish you the best of luck,