Penn State is still trying to recover the mess that occurred in the 1990s. It has nothing to do with PSU itself, but the law school. The law school merged with PSU in 1997, become a full fledged member of the Penn State community in 2000. For the first 150 some odd years of its existence, Dickinson School of Law was a private law school not affiliated with any major university. Then in the 1990s, Dickinson went through major budget problems. The quality of applicants decreased, and the schools reputation nationally decreased. But in PA, the school still holds a great rep. So, the school merged with PSU essentially due to cold hard economics. Now, there is a huge influx of cash, diversity increasing, student numbers increasing etc. The law school is building a new building in University Park, along with remodeling and adding to the original building in Carlisle. Carlisle will largely house part-time first year students, upper class students for next year, while UP will have the majority of full-time first years.
I was in a similar boat as your 2 years ago. I was choosing between LSU, PSU, Syracuse and Seton Hall. I chose PSU for few reasons. First, its location. Harrisburg is 25 minutes from Carlisle, 90 minutes from UP. Can't beat being near the state capital. I will be working for the attorney general this summer, and for the fall and spring of my 3rd year for a PA Supreme Court justice. PSU-DSL is 2 hours from Philly and DC, 1.5 from Baltimore and 3 from NYC and Pittsburgh. So if you want to work in major cities, several are within easy driving distance for interviews. Syracuse is cold, dark and dank most the year, not to mention the feet upon feet of snow in the Winter. Although I will have to say, the campus is pretty and the law building was very nice. If you go to PSU, you are going to be dealing with transitional buildings since major construction is ongoing. LSU was too far away from home, which is VA. Seton Hall was in Newark, enough said. Second, it has a better employment rate than the other schools, at least when I applied. Lastly its Penn State. Everyone knows Penn State, maybe the law school is growing in rep, but the school itself is known for JoePa alone. It is nice to have tickets to football games for fall weekends when you need a little break. You have access to the PSU library, and all other Big Ten libraries for when you are writing comments if you are on law review, or working as a research assistant for a prof. I have gotten many things from Ohio State sent here for my prof. pretty quickly too. I don't know a things about SUNY-Buffalo, other than the fact my tax professor went there. He worked for the DOJ for most of his career. He is a brilliant tax professor and very highly regarded. So Buffalo has a good image in my mind just because of him.
I would encourage you to bite the bullet and visit the schools if you can. They are actually all close enough to where a four day weekend would be all you need. Visit Syracuse, 2 hours to Buffalo afterwards, then 6 down to PSU (if you are at the Carlisle campus, 4.5 for the State College campus) then head back to Jersey. Good luck with your decision, and wherever you decide to attend good luck!
I spoke with Dean Austin about enrollment projections a month or so ago, and she expected there would be 110 FT first years at Carlisle and 100 FT first years at UP. SO unless something's changed...