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Any Advice about possibly Choosing DU??

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Elinnecke13:
Hello all,
I am about to finish up my undergrad degree, and am planning on entering law school next fall. I applied to a lot of schools because I was paranoid about getting a good deal, and am not faced with the choice of deciding where to go. I have been accepted at DU and have gotten a full-tuition scholarship. However, I have also been accepted at some higher ranked schools, like William and Mary and Washington and Lee who have not given me quite as much money, but still a good amount (probably around a $10,000/year difference). I know the career prospects at W&M and W&L are better than DU, but frankly I am much more attracted to living in Denver. At this point I am thinking about sacrificing the higher ranking to come out to Denver, but I am still not sure. Is there anyone with any opinions about what I should do? Would it be a poor decision to sacrifice the career prospects for the Quality of Life?? Thanks a lot for all of your help!

Elinnecke13:
Sorry about the typo too, the "not" should be a "now."

livinglegend:
First off realize whether you attend law school and where you attend it is a life altering decisions and anything you read from anonymous internet posters on this board or others should be taken with a major grain of salt my post included.

With that disclaimer I will give you some insight about choosing a law school. I think any OL should consider these factors in this order. (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about the School (4) Reality of Legal Education (5) U.S. News (last NOT first)

I will analyze these factors below.

Location
Realize law school does not exist in a vaccuum and the City you attend law school in will have a tremendous impact on your law school experience as well as your legal career.

For example I am a lawyer now and I have an intern who went to Washington and Lee for her first year, but she is from the Bay Area and wanted to work in the Bay Area. She made the decision to go to Washington and Lee based solely on rankings, but after 1L she was homesick and had made no connections in the Bay Area where she wanted to work. She then transferred down to University of San Francisco a mid-level school and got an internship in our office, which she could not have if she attended Washington and Lee. She wanted to be a City Attorney in the Bay area and in all likelihood assuming funding is there we will hire her if she passes the bar.

She has her family, her friends, etc at the lower ranked school, but she will get the job she wanted based on location not the name of her school.

On top of that 3 years is a long time wherever you attend school you are going to get an apartment, make friends, possibly enter a romantic relationship and essentially build a life in the City you attend law school in. If you like Denver want to work in Denver then go to law school in Denver it is that easy.

2 Cost
Cost is something to consider as well and if you have a scholarship at Denver then that is great. Particularly if you can live with your parents or at the very least stop by your parents house for some free dinners, laundry, etc.  I am not sure if you are from Denver I am just assuming you are.

On top of that graduating with 0 debt is awesome, BUT beware of the scholarship conditions. Often there will be some condition of maintaining a 3.0 or something, which is very difficult to do in law school. I am sure in UG you got a 3.0 with ease, but law school is very different. There is a curve and generally only 35% of students can have a 3.0. 100% of 1L's are convinced they will be in the top 35% of the class, but you don't need to be a math major to see 65% will be disappointed. So if there are conditions be ready to lose the scholarship it is always a possibility, but you can negotiate for better terms.

3. Personal Feelings About School
Each school has a culture to it and make sure it fits your style. When I was OL I visited numerous schools and while in law school I participated in multiple mock trial competitions. Each school had a culture to it and there were some I liked and others I didn't, but that is my personal opinion. For example I loved Notre Dame University I am a huge Sports Fan, I like College Towns, I am Catholic, etc. Loved the culture there, but you might be Mormon and love BYU, just on and on. The only person that can determine whether YOU will like a school is yourself. So I highly recommend visiting the schools talking to professors, admins, current students, etc.

If you visit Washington & Lee and hate the campus it will be a long three years.

4. Reality of Legal Education
This may come as a surprise, but the education at every ABA school is the same. Your first year will consist of Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Property, and Contracts. You might get Con Law & Crim Pro in Year 1 or Year 2 or some slight mixture of those courses, but you will take all of them. In these courses you will read Supreme Court Cases and the Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for different law schools. Instead whether you are at Denver or Washington & Lee you will read Palsgraff in Torts to learn proximate cause, You will read Pennoyer v. Neff in Civil Procedure to learn notice, You will read the hairy hand case in Contracts, so on and so forth.

So wherever you attend you will learn the same thing, which is why location and personal feelings about the school are so important.

5. Rankings
This is very important to realize and U.S. News is nothing more than a for profit magazine offering an opinion. They are more than welcome to offer an opinion, but they are not regulated by anyone and the formula used to rank schools make little to no sense. Furthermore, U.S. News ranks more than law schools for example they say Albuquerque, New Mexico is the best place to live. (link http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/real-estate/articles/2009/06/08/best-places-to-live-2009 )

South Dakota is one of the top 10 places to retire in 2032 http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-best-life/2012/08/07/here-are-the-best-places-to-livein-2032 .

Are you going to move to New Mexico right now because a magazine said so? I hope not. Or are you going to start looking into property because U.S. News says it is the best place to retire in 2032? I hope not. They have reasons for the rankings, but making a life altering decision based on what a magazine says doesn't make a lot of sense. If had no desire to live in New Mexico I imagine this link did not push it to the top of your list. Therefore, use the same logic for law school. It is something to consider, but DO NOT make it the main basis of your decision.

The intern we have lost a year of life with her family, friends, and now pays full tuition for USF. She could have had a full scholarship and started working for our office her 1L summer. She choose rankings above her common  sense and regrets it. It is certainly correctable her life is by no means ruined she is a great kid, but her situation is a classic example of why making a life altering decision based on a magazine is a bad idea.

CONCLUSION:
Neither I or anyone else can tell you the right decision. If you had a crystal ball to know how it would turn out it would be easy. Maybe W & L will be an awesome experience for you and Denver will be awful, but all you can do is really look into the situation and get information from people with direct experience with the school. However, I strongly encourage you to not make a life altering decision based solely on what some unregulated for-profit magazine thinks.

IrrX:
If you want to work in Denver, go to DU. Better still, go to DU, contact Judge Alfred Harrell about meeting with the Inns of Court, so you can meet some lawyers and make valuable contacts. He's an incredibly nice, knowledgeable and supportive person.

Elinnecke13:
Thank you both for the advice! I guess I forgot to mention that I am not from Colorado, or Virginia. I am from Western New York, about 1 1/2 Hours from Buffalo, and I know that I do NOT want to go to law school in this area. I am visiting Denver, and have visited Virginia, and as far as my research has shown me, Denver is a great city to live (especially for a 22 yr old Single person). I really appreciated your insight LivingLegend, I guess one of my main questions was whether or not taking quality of life into such a serious consideration was a "No No" for choosing Law school. Some people I talk to are sort of only interested in higher ranking.

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