So guys, I'm still having problems. I've visited both schools and spent huge amounts of time researching, talking to current and former students of both, and am still unsure of what to do. For ME (I'm sure lots of people think this is an easy decision) the problem breaks down as follows:
Pros - Perennial top 35-ish school; Diploma privilege; Rules in Madison and Milwaukee, and the rest of WI I would assume; Excellent clinical opportunities; Tied to a large, well-respected undergrad institution; Cheap COL; fairly liberal school/city; good community with farmer's markets, independent businesses, etc;
Cons - Freezing for at least 5 months of the school year; have to finish fairly high in the class if you want a chance in Chicago or anywhere else outside of WI; Vast majority of clinical focus on criminal law (which I have no interest in); Cheap COL is due in part to the fact it's still a small city in the middle of nowhere (closest good city is Chicago);
Lewis & Clark:
Pros- Not top 50, but still top 60-ish school; Only school in a large metropolitan area, and (arguably the best school in the state); renowned Environmental law program; broad range of clinical opportunities; fairly liberal school/city; good community with farmer's markets, independent businesses, etc; Cheap-ish COL (at least for the size of the city)
Cons- Not known outside of the state, minus the Environmental law program; Not necessarily a huge legal market in OR; Poorer job prospects in comparison to Wisconsin (at least for biglaw and governmental positions)
I know these decisions are very personal so here's a bit about my position. I have lived in the Midwest for most of my life and don't necessarily want to stay here. Madison isn't a bad city, but I definitely don't want to live in WI for the next 5-10 years, and from what I have heard, it's somewhat of a gamble to think you'll do well enough to find work in Chicago or wherever else. On the other hand, I love Portland. I love the weather, the atmosphere, etc, and could definitely see myself living there for a long time.
However, I'm also realistic about job opportunities. I know it doesn't make sense to pick a school solely based on which city I like better. Prices are gonna be nearly equal for me, with Wisconsin being perhaps a couple thousand cheaper, but nothing substantial. L&C scholarship only requires that I stay in the top 50%, which of course isn't a given, but is better than a lot of other offers I received.
Bottom line is that job prospects overall are better out of Wisconsin. The question is; are the job prospects THAT much better that they should outweigh the other factors? Or does the fact that both schools are very regional make the decision more about where I want to live for the next 5-10 years?
Thoughts, comments, advice, anything? Please vote, I'm stressed!