« on: May 06, 2008, 10:59:33 PM »
I have a friend that did two years at LSE and then finished off her third year at USC in california - their program gives you an LLB from LSE and a JD from USC.
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I got into both and chose USC over UCLA. There are actually quite a few people who choose USC over UCLA.
Here are basically the advantages that sold me (in no particular order):
1) Location. While the general area around USC is bad, the campus is generally safe (and having walked around UCLA in the middle of the night and USC in the middle of the night, I felt safer at USC - better patrolled). But much more importantly, the niehgborhood is much less important in law school becuase everyone lives where they want in L.A. and commutes. What is important then is parking - USC guarantees parking for 1st years (and everyone I know had no problem getting it for 2nd and 3rd year too), whereas UCLA doesn't guarantee parking (last I checked at least), and can sometimes be difficult to get. And living in Westwood is insanely expensive so that's not a good option either - you can live in much nicer areas of L.A. for cheaper (you pay a premium for being walking distance to UCLA).
2) Alumni network. The USC alumni network is amazingly strong. While both schools place similarly for first year jobs, alumni connections can be very useful for getting jobs later in your career.This is hard to quantify, but probably true. We get lots of alumni contact at UCLA, too, but i suspect that it's somewhat stronger.
3) Job placement. While at both schools 50% generally do fine and 50% generally have trouble, it is possible (given gpa/lsat admissions statistics for each school), that there is less competition at USC. Those alumni connections can also be useful for helping someone who is in the bottom 50 to get a job opportunity that otherwise would likely be out of reach. With the schools having such similar reputation, you basically want to go to the school where you're likely to do the best, because that's what it will come down to (also relevant for Law Review membership, etc.).
4) Class size. USC is considerably smaller than UCLA (USC has 200 per year whereas UCLA is over 300). For a professional school, that was the environment I preferred. I just found that USC was a lot more personal than UCLA and that was really nice.
5) Competitiveness. USC is probably the least competitive school in the U.S., from what I've read about other law schools. I have no doubt that students are less competitive at USC than UCLA. I heard before joining USC that they were less competitive, and from personal experience USC is not competitive at all. Students share notes and outlines with other students in their class, students sometimes combine to put together 1 joint outline for classes, etc. There's a lot of cooperation and students helping each other. Honestly I've actually found the level of cooperation slightly puzzling when you consider that classes are graded on a curve! But definitely a nice atmosphere.
That said, since they are similar and there's a not insignificant risk of not being able to get a big law job from either school (as was pointed out, roughly only 50% go to big law), it might be wise to go to the school which leaves you with less debt, if there is a significant difference. I think UCLA also has better clerkship rates, so if you want to clerk that might be a factor (I didn't so wasn't a factor for me). As far as national placement, I've heard that UCLA has a better rep nationally, but USC has certainly placed well on the east coast (at firms like Cravath, etc.), so you're certainly not limited in that respect by going to USC. And the reputations are pretty much equal in L.A.
Thanks for the banter.
In my heart of hearts, I feel it is coming down to Boalt's grading system and faculty vs. UCLA fin aid and location.
The portability of Boalt's degree may be better, but I feel that if I go to UCLA I will be able to perform very well and attain a high GPA. Whereas if I went to Boalt, I would just take the easy street to passes and a couple high passes.
If UCLA would just pony up a full ride, I think I could make the decision today for it today. I really don't even know why thats the deal breaker.