« on: January 02, 2014, 04:34:45 PM »
First and foremost realize that any anonymous internet poster myself included should not be a major influence in your law school decision. There is no licensing exam to post on this board and for all you know myself or Maintain FL could be bums in a public library so bottom line take anything you read on this board or others with a major grain of salt when making this life altering decision.
With that said Maintain offers solid advice, which I am going to elaborate on it and when choosing a law school I think you should consider the following factors in this order (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feeling abut the school (4) LASTLY not First consider U.S. News rankings and I will also explain the reality of legal education. All of these factors are analyzed in more detail below.
This is by far the most important factor especially when considering a school in Syracuse, New York v. Los Angeles, California or San Francisco. Remember at a bare minimum you will spend three years of your life in the City you attend law school and law school does not exist in a vacuum. Syracuse is a small town in upstate New York that has nothing to offer except a University and it is freezing in the winter. I imagine you are from California based on your other law school selections and have probably never dealt with real weather.
On top of that you will be going away from Family and Friends. Now you may like the small college town atmosphere opposed to L.A., but that is really something to consider when choosing your law school because odds are wherever you attend is where you will spend the rest of your life. Of course there are exceptions, but if you go to law school in New York you will probably end up taking the New York Bar make friends in NY, get into a relationship in NY, have an apartment etc and it will be difficult to leave. When I was in law school many people thought they would end up moving back, but it just doesn't happen law school occurs during the prime of your life essentially and three years is a long time so just really make sure you are comfortable with the location. So this one is one of the most important factors.
Not only that if you attend law school in Syracuse, New York you will not be able to do an internship with the L.A. D.A's office during law school simply due to location. At Syracuse you could probably intern with whatever County D.A's are in upstate New York and I am sure Syracuse has connections in New York for employment, but not in California. Vice Versa for Southwestern.
Do not be sucked in by these scholarships to easily first off they are generally not renewable and you need to maintain a 3.0 generally, which requires you to be in the top 35% of the class in law school. No offense to you, but everyone in law school is smart, hard working, motivated and 100% of people think there is no way they will not be in the top 35% of the class, but you don't need to be a math major to see there is a 65% chance you will not be in the top 35% and you will lose the scholarship for years two and three. Syracuse is also the most expensive of the schools you mentioned at 45k a year although the others are not much cheaper Chapman at 42k per year and cost of living may be less in Syracuse, but don't move across the country for an 8k scholarship that is not guaranteed. It can be a factor, but 8k for law school tuition is just a drop in the bucket.
3. Personal Feelings about the school
This is going to be a three year, 100k investment, that will change your life I highly encourage you to visit all the schools you are interested in attending and see how you personally feel about the school. I know as a OL and having competed in mock trial competitions with other law schools that each school has a culture to it and I know some I liked others I didn't, but I am not you. You may very well have liked what I hated and hated what I liked.
For example I do not like Hastings it is in the Tenderloin the worst part of San Francisco, has giant class sizes, and it just gives me a bad vibe. Conversely I loved the Chapman Campus the campus was beautiful, it had an undergrad, and I liked the smaller town of Orange. However, you may love the bigger city and large class sizes and hate Chapman, but the only way for you to know if a law school is a good fit for you is to visit the school and make the determination yourself. After you check the school, you will be in a better position to make your decision.
4) U.S. News Rankings
I see you mentioned the rankings in your post and you are making the common mistake that many 0L's myself included make by basing a life altering decision on a magazine. It is very important to realize that U.S. News is a for-profit, unregulated, magazine offering an opinion. Furthermore, their opinion changes from year to year for no real reason.
Furthermore U.S. News ranks more than law schools New Mexico is the best place to live http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/real-estate/articles/2009/06/08/best-places-to-live-2009 . Are you going to move there because U.S. News says so? I imagine not surely there is something good about New Mexico, but I would not alter my life because U.S. News says New Mexico is a great place to live. Similarly I would recommend not making the life altering decision on where to attend law school based on this magazine.
If you were choosing Harvard over Southwestern it might play a role, but nobody will be impressed that Syracuse is the 96th best school and rankings are irrelevant for schools of this caliber.
Reality of Legal Education
The realty is what you learn at an ABA school is pretty much identical. Your first year will consist of torts, civil procedure, property, contracts, and criminal law. In these courses you will read Supreme Court cases and they do write separate opinions for different schools. You will read Palsgraff in Torts for proximate cause, Pennoyer v. Neff in civ pro to learn about notice etc .
You might have a few electives here and there, but the majority of your legal education will be identical no matter where you go. As for your desire to be a prosecutor I suppose you would want to attend a school that has a large mock trial competition team as that can help, but still only minimally in your goal to become a prosecutor.
On top of that you can't really know what you want to do until you start law school. I honestly thought IP was what I wanted when I started, but after the one course I dropped it and really liked trial advocacy and became a City Attorney. You may hate criminal law and end up loving IP so just keep your options open in law school.
Bottom line is at any ABA school you will learn the same thing.
Do not let me or any other anonymous internet poster make the life altering decision of what law school to attend. It will be three years of your life, 100K of your money, and your legal career so listen to yourself when making the decision .Good luck!
Very helpful information and well thought out. Thanks, it has helped me too.