I'm getting 18k at Miami, and nothing at GW
but GW has a great IP program, and I want freedom to move around the country
but I have great connections in Florida
I know I would have a much better quality of life during those 3 years if I went to Miami, and it is right next to home.
Does it really matter where I go if I plan on starting my own practice within a couple years of graduating?
Some questions are hard to answer, and some are no-brainers. Yours, thankfully, is a no-brainer.
Keep in mind that rankings mean very little beyond the top 15 or so schools, and they only are relevant if you want to work for one of the top firms in the nation where you will work 80 hours a week for a slim chance of making partner. Many persons overblow the importance of rankings to delude themselves into thinking they are better than others. Of course, many persons don't think of it that way, but many do. But enough preamble.
If you plan on starting your own practice, you should go to the best local school you can, and you should focus more on connections than even grades. If given a choice to work Law Review, or to join a few local social clubs, choose the latter. Some of the most brilliant law students and Biglaw associates would make lousy solo-pracs because they lack either the sociability or the flexibility to be successful on their own. Who you know is more important than how smart you are in the startup business work. Law included. It would be hard to start a solo prac if you went to school in DC, and all of your classmates were working in Dc and New York. Further, all of those Miami grads would have 3 extra years of networking in town under their belt.
Then the intangibles. If you are happier, you will do better in school, you will learn more, you will be more successful.
If a higher ranking was all it took to make someone happy and successful, then go to GW. Otherwise, Miami.