During visits to various relatives throughout the summer, I've had the chance to tour a few law schools and thought I'd share my impressions. Most of these visits were very superficial in terms of learning about academics, etc, but I think I did get a pretty good feeling for the "lay of the land" around the schools.Penn
I really hoped that I would like Penn since it is one of my top choices going into this cycle, and it mostly lived up to my expectations. First, the area the school is located in is great. It's literally across the street from a few bars, pubs and restaurants. We ate at the New Deck Tavern (or something like that) and it appeared to have great drink specials.
It's also nears some shops like Urban Outfitters and Barnes and Noble, as well as the grad dorms, which I didn't see on the inside but were in a very good location. Venturing a few blocks off campus gets you into some slightly rougher areas, but it's an urban campus and this is to be expected. I'd visited the Penn campus before and it's very appealing, especially Locust Walk. The law school is nice because it's on a corner of the campus and very near to facilities like the undergrad student center and library, which I can definitely see myself using to get away from the law school, if necessary. The law school itself is somewhat highschoolish save the grand entry way and staircase. The library was nothing to write home about, but it seemed sufficient. The cafeteria area was being redone, so I'm sure it will be nice when completed. THe basement is filled with old lockers and is not too glamorous. There were lots of students around and the place was full of energy...very surprising for the summer. My biggest complaint was that the buildings seemed like they could become claustrophobic, but this is not a unique phenomenon to Penn.
Overall it was a good visit, though, and I can seem myself there pretty easily.NYU
The next day we did NYU and Columbia. I had visited NYU when looking for undergrad, and really hated it, so I was pleasantly surprised by the law school. The university's lack of campus suits a law school environment better than an undergrad, IMO. The school is located in two buildings in the heart of Greenwich Village, and they are as nice as people describe. The library was newly renovated and very plush, as were the classrooms. The facilities were significantly nicer than Penn's, but not so much that I could see it swaying a decision to go there. One thing that really turned me off was that there was no physical admissions office, only a CD that a secretary handed out randomly. Still, if you love New York, this is a great option. Oh, I also saw the lobby of D'Agostino Hall, which supposedly has tiny rooms and high prices. The lobby was nice though, and in a great location at least.Columbia
Next up was Columbia. I had also visited Columbia before, and their campus is very grand and prestigious feeling. The law school is across the street (but there's a pedestrian bridge over the road), and consists of two buildings. It is newly done and has a very modern feeling, but still a lot of tradition and prestige. I was given a tour of the library, which is in the main building. It seemed fine, and my guide was very nice. She noted that CLS has the second biggest law collection in the country. I of course asked her what the first was, fully knowing what the answer would be. (Harvard.) The person in admissions was quite unfriendly and simply pointed to some brochures when I told her I was a prospective student. The area of Morningside Heights wasn't too bad, but nothing special really. My uncle warned me of the areas you don't want to go to at certain times of day, some of which weren't too far away. Kind of scary for a country girl like myself.
I don't think I can see myself in a place like Columbia, just because of the city factor, but there is no denying that Columbia seems like a fabulous school. If I had to choose between NYU and Columbia, well, I don't know what I'd do!BC
This was actually the only school I hadn't visited before for undergrad. The law school is on a satellite campus in the ritzy suburb of Newton. The building seemed fine, although, again, rather "highschooly". It was attached to a big cafeteria with some freshman dorms nearby. I can't see myself commuting to a place like BC every day, but I think it might be ideal for someone with a spouse and a family.BU
I finally got to see the infamous law tower upclose and personal! If I had to choose between BU and BC only on my superficial visit, I'd go with BU. It's in a very urban and vibrant area, although surrounded by a few major highways, which is a huge turnoff for me. The tower was a bit claustrophobic and ugly from the outside, but not horrible on the inside, though I wouldn't care to ride the elevators all day. They're a bit rickety. The most claustrophobic thing for me was the surrounding campus, however. It's not very pedestrian friendly.Harvard
Oh why oh why couldn't I have scored a few points higher on my LSAT? This was my reaction after visiting Harvard. As my dad said, if Boston law schools were the three bears, BC is too cold, BU is too hot, and Harvard is just right. After getting a bit lost, we found the law school campus, and it is just that, a campus! It's the only law school I visited with a truly distinct campus and set of buildings. The library was absolutely huge relative to the other schools, and the other buildings were nice as well. There was a nice commons nearby for eating, and I didn't even find the Gropius complex to be *that* bad.
The man in admissions was very nice, giving me a bunch of literature as well as Hershey's chocolate. Oh, I also saw "Mr. Stock's" office. He didn't appear to be inside, however.
Harvard was definitely head and shoulders above the competition, in my opinion, which, granted, is based on very little substance.
Oh, and on the way home we stopped at Vermont Law School, just because it's literally on the way. If you're interested in living in an extremely small, picturesque town and want to practice environmental law you might consider it, but otherwise it's not quite in the same league as the other schools.
Ok, that's it for my reviews...hopefully they become more detailed as the cycle progresses.