I have to start out by saying that, as a Pepperdine student, I have a bias in that direction. That being said:
1. The 27K difference in tuition: You're going to be in debt anyways, and 27K is not a large enough difference to be the sole deciding factor in your decision.
2. My understanding is that it is very difficult to transfer anywhere.
3. Getting around L.A: It can be done. I didn't have a driver's license until I was 23, and this was before recent improvements in public transportation. It is true that we don't have the same sort of public transportation system that SF offers, but it is "doable," nonetheless. Additionally, you won't really need the car the first year. It's a better idea not to work your first year (as I'm sure you've heard) and, if you want to go places purely for entertainment, there's usually someone with a car who would like to go as well. This is where the strength of our community comes in. We all genuinely like one another. We're happy to spend time together and, consequently, people spend a lot of time together outside of school. In summary, you really shouldn't need a car your first year.
Now, as for the first summer and subsequent years, you might need a car, but your situation could still be workable without one. Let's assume you have a part-time judicial externship for the fall semester of your second year (as many of us have). You could arrange all your classes to fall on either MWF or TTH and just take public transportation early in the morning. You'd have the added bonus of being able to get work done while you commute (as opposed to driving your own car).
However, if you do decide to buy a car, note that Pepperdine students don't pay for on-campus parking.
4. Malibu...Yes, Malibu is beautiful. I have to say that law school, no matter how good of a student you are, can be a miserable experience. The best you can do is to choose the most pleasant environment available. Pepperdine certainly has the pleasant external environment, and we also (getting back to community again) have a community of people that care about and support one another. We are all very competitive individuals, but we're also very cooperative. I would help anyone in my class if they needed it and I feel that same sort of support is returned. My understanding is that other law schools don't have this sort of environment. You may be thinking to yourself, "I'm tough...I can handle a cutthroat environment," and maybe you can. However, I was in the Army and, just because I am capable of surviving and operating in harsh conditions doesn't mean that I would choose to do so, given a better option. You should do everything in your power to set yourself up for success in school. To me, choosing a cutthroat environment over a cooperative yet still competitive one does not fall within those parameters. Please note that I am not saying Hastings is cutthroat. I have no idea if it is or not. I only know that Pepperdine is not and many other schools are said to be.
5. Jobs: I don't know that I can speak to job-finding as a whole, but I don't know a single person that had difficulty finding a job this summer. I actually have two - one with the DA's office (full-time) and one as a research assistant (part-time), and I'm not in the top 10%. I have a friend who's not in the top 10% (she's in the top third, I think) that has a job at a medium-sized corporate firm this summer and is currently interviewing for judicial externships for the fall of 2008. She currently has two offers and few more possible offers (from judges who are waiting to interview everyone before making any offers). I have another friend who is in the bottom half of the class and she has a job at an estate-planning firm this summer and has another similar offer for part-time work. So, I think you can see that Pepperdine students don't have difficulty finding jobs. Plus, our CDO is amazing! If you have doubts about career opportunities for Pepperdine students, I encourage you to give them a call or send an email:
Pepperdine University School of Law
Career Development Office
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
Phone: (310) 506-4634
Fax: (310) firstname.lastname@example.org
Selina Farrell, Assistant Dean for Career DevelopmentSelina.Farrell@pepperdine.edu
Mireille Butler, DirectorMireille.Butler@pepperdine.edu
Aymara Zielina, Associate DirectorAymara.Zielina@pepperdine.edu
Heinz Fischer, Recruiting CoordinatorHeinz.Fischer@pepperdine.edu
I tried to be more objective than not in addressing your concerns, but it's hard when you love your school as much as I do. Please let me know if I can answer any more questions for you, and good luck!
Note to others reading this post: I want to keep my posts positive, so I will not be responding to cheap shots or personal criticisms. If you want to engage in an honest discussion of Pepperdine's merits or law school in general, that's fine.