As someone who has been debating the merits of going to one school over the other for the last few months I thought I'd chime in.
Putting aside the financial difference, I think there are plenty of reasons to choose SC over UCLA.
(1) Alumni connections, reading through vault surveys and talking to students, SC's alumni network seems to be much, much stronger then UCLA's. SC alumni are compared to a mafia around Los Angeles in that they watch out for their own. Whereas UCLA alumni seemed to be a bit more detached from their school.
(2) Smaller class size. This translates over to more personal attention from different services in the lawschool. It also makes it easier to get involved in clinics, courses, and other activities. While the faculty/student rate is similar, I know SC is planning on hiring a dozen faculty or so fairly soon to help lower that rate.
(3) Biglaw in LA. SC beats out UCLA in placement in the NLJ250. According to USNEWS their 25 and 75% for private practice salary are both 135K whereas UCLA's is 110 and 135K respectively.
(4) Competition - When one school talks up the collegial atmosphere and the other doesn't talk about it much, you know there is a difference. UCLA seems a lot more competitive from what I've gathered and it seems the students study more.
(5) Entertainment Law- While UCLA talks this up, it seems to me to be more a ploy to attract applicants. They just don't seem to back up their program with being able to place students in this area as much(although there are plenty in the industry from UCLA). Whereas SC doesn't brag about it, but seems able to place students in ent. firms and the studios. A lot of the major studios have 10+ USC Law grads working in their Legal department.
Getting back to the financial difference though, that seems to be evaporating. UCLA upped their tuition about 4K this year and from what I understand similar increases of 10-15% are planned for the next two years which would put it's tuition quite close to SCs.
UCLA does have an advantage in national prestige, national placement, nicer location, public interest and clerkships. So it really comes down to what you're looking for and fit.
I just want to respond to biglaw placement - those NLJ250 surveys are deceptive. They are not a good measure of marketability due to the self-selecting nature of law student bodies. I think Yale would place around #4, behind Columbia and Northwestern (not sure what the third one is) on such a survey. Obviously, any major firm would love to hire Yale Law grads, but a large portion of Yale'sstudent body self-select for prestigious jobs in academia, government and clerkshipts. Thus, the NLJ250 placement should not suggest that a Northwestern grad has a better chance of landing a biglaw job than a Yale grad (when all other factors are controlled). I think a similar thing is going on with UCLA's NLJ250 placement and median salaries. UCLA ranks #8 for federal clerkship placement (tied with NYU) and a rather large portion of our student body is public interest bound. This says nothing about biglaw employers' desire to hire USC grads over UCLA grads or vice versa, but common trends and preferences among the two different student bodies. UCLA students are just generally more public interest minded than USC students. This would not be reflected in national surveys on biglaw placement. Thus, these numbers do not accurately reflect an individual student's disperate chances of landing a biglaw job from USC or UCLA.