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Author Topic: UCI vs. USD?  (Read 3596 times)

Sandy Eggo

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UCI vs. USD?
« on: April 13, 2011, 05:15:58 AM »
I live in San Diego with my boyfriend and donít plan to move in the foreseeable future. (This means I would be commuting to UCI; itís about an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half. My parents live nearby, though, so I could crash with them as often as I liked.) I also want to practice in San Diego after I graduate, and Iíve heard that, given a desire to work here, USD is ďbetter than Harvard.Ē I want to do public interest law; I think Iíd like to work as a public defender, and/or work for the ACLU, Lambda Legal, etc. Someday I might like to teach law, not necessarily in a tenure-track position, but maybe as an adjunct while working in private practice.

Attending USD would definitely be easier. Itís a fifteen-minute drive from my current apartment, which I love and want to stay in. Iím a little above their average in terms of grades and LSAT (3.8 and 166), so Iíll likely rank pretty high in my class. Things like law review and order of the coif would be less competitive. (Actually, UCI wonít even have an Order of the Coif chapter for many years after I graduate.) Upon graduation, Iíd have a vast alumni network in the area to help land a job; in the last few years (the ones when there wasnít a hiring freeze, anyway) close to half of all public defenders hired in San Diego came from this school. They also have an awesome mock trial team, ranked 16th in the country, which Iíd love to join. I definitely want to spend a good chunk of my career in court, not just behind a desk, and this would be good experience.

However, I just attended ASD there, and wasnít exactly dazzled by the mock class. The professor kind of stammered her way through the lecture, and the reading assignment was a scanned pdf that was so grainy, it was difficult to read. By contrast, both the mock class at UCIís ASD and the real class I sat in on at UCI really captivated me. I also got a great vibe from the faculty who sat on the panel, and of course, Dean Chemerinsky. Thereís no question in my mind that UCIís faculty is superior, and of course, so is their student-faculty ratio.

UCI represents risk, as itís not yet accredited or ranked, but also potential rewards, as it seems to be on track to be not only accredited, but ranked in the top tier, perhaps even in the top 20. There are fewer clubs to join, but more that I could start. I would be a much more average student at UCI, given my numbers, and given that and the newness of the school, Iíd have to work a lot harder. But the chance to be a part of something so great almost from its inception is almost irresistible.

I should add that Iím very lucky not to have to worry about money in making my decision. Iíve got scholarships from both schools (40% from UCI, $38k/year from USD) and I have some money coming from my grandparentsí estate that will pretty much cover the rest.

I have to notify UCI by Friday, although thereís no deposit, and USD by the end of the month. What should I do?

Morten Lund

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Re: UCI vs. USD?
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2011, 03:45:32 PM »
I would start with this primary observation:  You should choose your law school not based on how the law school experience will be, but based on how the POST-law school experience will be.  Those two are obviously not entirely independent, but I nevertheless encourage you not to get too distracted by the promise of a more enjoyable law school experience.  You will be a law student for three years; you will be a lawyer for thirty years. Choose the law school that will serve you best AFTER law school.

As between USD and Irvine, IMO, there is no comparison - particularly if you truly plan on staying in San Diego.  A better option with your GPA/LSAT would have been UCLA or USC (or Harvard), but it sounds like that boat has sailed.  Given a choice between USD and UCI in your circumstances I would be hard pressed to choose UCI.

USD has deep roots in the area; UCI does not.  USD is well established and decently ranked; UCI is not.  Sure, UCI hired a hotshot professor, but you might have one class with him.  Maybe UCI will gain status and be helpful to you later in your career; USD will be helpful to you early in your career, when you need it most.

But, above all - UCI is not currently ABA accredited.  That alone is in my book enough to not give it another moment's thought.  It seems likely that accredidation will occur, but - as any lawyer will tell you - "likely" is not the standard upon which to base an important life decision.

It is your decision alone, of course, but I certainly know which way I would go.

(Also, as an aside:  while it does seem likely that you will have an academic edge on most USD students, I encourage you to approach law school with humility.  Law school is different.  Aptitude in college does not translate particularly well to aptitude in law school.  Read some law school guides, like (my favorite) Law School:  Getting In, etc., by Thane Messinger, or Law School Fast Track, by Derrick Hibbard, and prepare well.)

Either way, good luck.

bigs5068

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Re: UCI vs. USD?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2011, 05:29:32 PM »
Everything Morten said is correct, but be careful about the scholarships these are often not guaranteed. I imagine USD and UCI put in a condition that you need to maintain a 3.0 or be in the top 30% of the class at the end of first year. If that is the case realize getting a 3.0 is nothing like it was in undergrad. Generally only 35% of the class can achieve a 3.0 in their first year. Everyone at any law school is pretty smart and everyone thinks they will be in the top 10%, but you don't need to be a math major to figure that 90% of these people will be wrong when the first year grades come out. The same logic applies that if maintaining a 3.0 is the requirement there is a 65% chance or higher you will lose it at the end of the first year.

Bottom line really look at the conditions of the scholarship. This can save you 70k to 80k and that is generally important.

Assuming everything else is the same and you want to be in San Diego then San Diego is where you should go. Your BF is there and law school combined with an hour and fifteen minute commute will put a significant strain on that relationship. I imagine that commute is one way correct? I am from L.A. and don't remember Irvine to San Diego being a quick drive not to mention the ridiculous traffic that present itself.

Sandy Eggo

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Re: UCI vs. USD?
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2011, 09:34:56 PM »
UCLA hasn't gotten back to me yet, and as I said, I really don't want to move. I'm surprised, though, given what you said about USD, that you think UCLA would be so much better. UCI will be ranked by the time I graduate, and it will very likely be ranked above USD. So should I be focused more on rankings or local connections, given my stated goals?

Also, FWIW, as a liberal atheist I'm a little leery of going to a Catholic university, though I don't think it will be a huge issue with USD. But, I know you said focus on post-graduation, not law school experience.

bigs5068

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Re: UCI vs. USD?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2011, 09:59:43 PM »
The rankings are pointless and I don't know if UCI will be a highly ranked school. The rankings literally make no sense. How the rankings are done are as follows, this is not a joke either.  Judges from across the country mark a scantron rating a school from 1-5. So a judge in Nebraska who has never been to San Diego or Irvine marks a box rating a school as 1 or 5. This formula makes no sense is the reason why neither the ABA or AALS or any recognized organization gives them credibility. It is a for profit magazine offering a subjective opinion based on what some guy in Milwaukee thinks about a school in San Francisco. Odds are judge outside of L.A. have never heard of Irvine and won't mark it highly. Read this article directly from LSAC about the rankings http://www.lsac.org/LsacResources/Research/GR/GR-07-02.pdf.

The reality is that unless you go to a national school like Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc there is no distinction between the 81st or 68th best school nobody cares. USD is the most reputable school in San Diego and local reputation does matter. If you want to work in Wyoming going to Wyoming would be the best school to choose. If you want to live in Washington State then University of Washington would be the best choice. The most reputable school in a giving location is important and Irvine will never be the top law school in L.A. UCLA, USC, are the best in the market and Loyola, Pepperdine, along with the other schools will probably be ahead of UCI, which has only been in existence for two years. etc Even if UCI does get accredited which is not a guarantee it will just  be another school in the area. You also need to consider plenty of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkley etc grads want to move to L.A. or San Diego. Odds are UCI will never be an ELITE school. I remember them sending me forms about how they are going to be a highly ranked school etc, but they can't guarantee that. Even if their program is outstanding and 100% of the students pass the bar it will not matter because bar passage makes up 2% of the U.S. News ranking. Bottom line is don't count on UCI being a highly ranked school. It is possible that it will be, but it is a complete crapshoot because the formula makes no sense.

Morten Lund

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Re: UCI vs. USD?
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2011, 01:58:22 AM »
UCLA hasn't gotten back to me yet, and as I said, I really don't want to move. I'm surprised, though, given what you said about USD, that you think UCLA would be so much better. UCI will be ranked by the time I graduate, and it will very likely be ranked above USD. So should I be focused more on rankings or local connections, given my stated goals?

As bigs pointed out, rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.  But that applies only when the rankings are low or close. 

UCLA is a top-20 school with a national reputation; USD is top-60 with a local reputation.  A law degree from UCLA makes you basically eligible for any legal job in the US, whereas a USD law degree will forever exclude you from many jobs (including some in San Diego).  UCLA law will make you far more attractive to San Diego employers than USD law.  Whoever told you that USD is better than Harvard for San Diego jobs did you no favors - that is far from true.  USD is a perfectly good law school, but even in San Diego it does not open as many doors as a truly high-ranked school like UCLA.

I understand your personal issues regarding moving, and those are of course important issues that only you can evaluate - but understand that you will be making a significant career sacrifice if you choose USD over UCLA (assuming that you are accepted to UCLA, of course).