« on: Yesterday at 12:21:33 PM »
The wife is set on staying in her home town for her support network. I cannot change that. I am not expecting to commute either. I don't have direct experience, but I expect law school to eat away at me (especially since I am a perfectionist and will be looking to be the top in my class, on the trial team, etc.). I hope to travel home on the weekends, or maybe twice a month if I need to do additional school work.
That's why distance factors so heavily in the conversation, and why I dismissed the idea of William and Mary even though they are offering me $10k a year and the GI Bill would pay for all tuition. I have no love of Tampa, but it seems hard to turn down the money offered by Stetson even if UF is going to make getting a job easier later. The problem is that the two considerations are so different that it is hard to compare them.
First, stop stressing and concentrate on the positives. You have been accepted to the good law schools in the state you want to practice in. Congratulations! There is no truly "bad" option between UF, FSU, and Stetson. Instead, you're making a positive choice as to which of the schools best fits your needs.
So let's look at some factors-
1. Your wife and family live in Vero Beach and want to stay there. First things first- is this going to be your permanent home after law school? If so, then, well, the Ft. Pierce/Lucie legal market isn't that large, and I wouldn't recommend the commute to Orlando or W. Palm (yep!). But it's doable- there are jobs. Just not ... your pick of jobs, or "BigLaw" jobs.
2. If you're not willing to relocate, Stetson's relative advantage in Tampa doesn't mean anything, and you'd be better off with UF or FSU's overall advantage. Ideally, given what you have written about costs, I'd recommend FSU. However ...
3. There's no way you'd be regularly, or semi-regularly, visiting your family from FSU. Not going to happen. Weird fact that you may (or may not) be aware of, but because of the road set up and E/W travel in Florida, UF and Stetson are about the same distance from Vero Beach. Go fig.
4. Given your military background, and non-traditional status (that's fancy talk for, "taking time off between UG and law school") I expect that you will treat law school like a job, and put the time in. So I'm going to be honest with you- if you want to place at the top of your class, and you want the prestigious extras (law review, moot court, trial team), you will be a ghost to your family for a good part of your first two years. I was a non-trad with a family, and I did the work to place at the top of my class and get law review, and I was effectively a stranger for the first two years ... and I lived with them.
In the end, you need to make the decision that is best for you, and I can't answer that. I can tell you that if everything else is equal, I would go UF > FSU .... > Stetson. But I would also say that the difference between UF and FSU is negligible. The most important thing is to graduate with little debt.
I will add this; where you graduated from will not matter after several years of practice, other than alum networks. It will help with your first job (or jobs, if you get a new job early in your career). But debt ... that can haunt you.
But for your family, given what you wrote about the costs, I would choose FSU. If your family is a concern (as in regular visits) then you should choose between UF and Stetson.