Just thought I'd add my advice on this topic, since I was in the same shoes as you just a short time ago.I also did my undergrad at UT, and for law school I had a similar choice to make: Berkeley, Gtown, Northwestern, or UT. Like you, I would love to be in Austin after I get my JD. In the end, I of course (see username) decided on Berkeley. Here are my reasons:1. Everyone who goes to UT for law school wants to stay in Austin, which makes competition a lot harder for UT JDs.2. Overall, for this reason and possibly for many others, UT seemed like a much more competitive law school environment.3. I had the same feeling about Gtown. The people I met there during ASW were okay, but I sensed a tension that made me uneasy, and I also hated the law school's location.4. The Berkeley JD is, in my opinion, very portable, regardless of grades. I loved the idea of the Berkeley grading system, and I had offers in multiple cities for SA positions.5. I think it's good to get away from the place you're from (or the place you want to wind up) and live in another part of the country.6. There were at least a dozen firms with Austin offices who came to Berkeley OCI to interview. This may change with the economy, but as recently as last September Texas firms were well represented at Berkeley's OCI.7. You really can't beat the weather in the Bay Area8. If you decide you hate the idea of working for a firm, Berkeley's LRAP is top-notch (something UT and Chicago don't have (or at least didn't 2 years ago) and something that Gtown has but which only covers an insanely low income level).9. Chicago is a great city to visit, but I would not want to sit through a Chicago winter. Law school is depressing enough as it is.10. Gtown and UT have huge student bodies. I think Berkeley's size is just right.These are my opinions based on real experiences, so I hope they help. One downside of being in Berkeley is that I can't really network and make connections in Austin. It's such a small legal community there, and I think it helps to know people, which is something you'll surely end up doing if you stay at UT. In the end, I'm happy with my decision to attend Berkeley. Law school is pretty awful no matter where you go, but I honestly believe it's a little less awful at Berkeley (comparing my experience with friends' experiences). I hope that helps. Good luck!
Actually, it's less debt than if I'd gone to UT. Berkeley has quite a few grants that I qualified for, plus I got a small scholarship. Overall, though, the grants from Berkeley made my decision a lot easier.UT offered me a small scholarship as well ($15K over three years), but even that combined with the instate tuition would have been more than Berkeley. Sidenote: I qualified as an independent student for Berkeley's finaid, which I'm sure was one reason I received so many grants.I'll be the first to admit that living in the Bay Area costs a lot more than Austin (especially in rent and groceries), but overall I think people put too much emphasis on this point. If you give yourself reasonable time (for me it took only one week the summer before school started), you can find affordable housing in Berkeley. I landed a studio for less than $700/month in a great neighborhood, and a close friend has a room in a large 3 bedroom house for $450 (also in a good neighborhood). Finally, in Austin (and most other cities) you need a car, and in Berkeley you can get by perfectly fine with a bike and/or public transit, thereby saving you some money.
As far as the apartment goes, it's about the same size as the place I had for $695 in Austin (which was a good deal for the neighborhood). I don't know where you're writing from, but in most cities (especially in a place like the Bay Area), $700 for a studio is dirt cheap. Hope that helps.