Law School Discussion

Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco

Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco
« on: March 19, 2013, 04:55:57 PM »
Have narrowed down my search to these two schools.

Received 10k from SCU renewable if I am in the top 1/3 of my class (appealed for more money last week, hoping to get more).
18k from USF, 10k renewable if I maintain a 3.2 GPA (from my research, I have found that USF has an insane curbe, with the top 10% of the class having a tad over a 3.3 GPA, so this is going to be very difficult to renew).

Looking to practice in the north bay or SF (do not want to work in the south bay, but I am willing to go to school there).

I am interested in agribusiness, which i know both these schools don't really offer, but everyone who I have talked to in this industry didn't go to school and concentrate in ag, they just got into it after graduation.

Do both schools have a similar alumni network? I know SCU has a fairly strong alumni network (considering its ranking), but not sure about USF. All things being equal, I would like to stay in SF and go to USF because I currently work and live here, and so does my gf.

I also received $27k from McGeorge, which I realize is a lot of money, but I think I would be miserable living in the Sacramento area, even though there is a lot of agribusiness there.

Unfortunately, USF also just took a huge hit in the rankings because of their horrible employment statistics which has me leaning heavily towards SCU :/

In undergrad, I transferred schools because I was miserable at my original school, and I don't want that to happen again. I would rather pay more to be happy then go somewhere that I loathed just to save some money.


Re: Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2013, 07:41:07 PM »
First off realize that any information you receive from anonymous internet posters on boards like this should be taken with a grain of salt my post included. For all you know I am a crackhead in a public library with an internet connection that is all the qualification you need to post on this forum or other boards. Michael Scott from the Office also does a pretty excellent job of driving this point home a little humor for you.

With that said if you want to believe me I am an attorney in the Bay Area and am quite familiar with both these schools I may have even attended one of them. So I will offer the following advice, which I think applies to all OL's in your position, but I can elaborate on it more since I am from the Bay Area. Every OL should consider their law school decision on the following factors in this order (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about the school (4) Reality of Legal Education. (5) and a DISTANT FIFTH U.S. News Rankings particularly for mid-level schools nobody cares about whether Santa Clara is 84th and USF is 99th. I will explain all these factors in more detail.

1) Location

I love the Bay Area so I am biased, but every OL needs to consider location above all else. Law school does not exist in a vacuum and you will deal with ramifications of the area you attend law school. Like you I think Sacramento Sucks and if you attend McGeorge you will live in Sacramento even if it were ranked #1 in the world you would still be in Sacramento for a minimum of three years, eventually you would make friends in sac during law school, get an apartment, plus Sacramento employers would hire you as an intern etc you simply couldn't intern at the San Francisco City Attorney's Office during the school year if you attended McGeorge nothing against the school just simple geography. Conversely you couldn't intern for the Sacramento City Attorney's Office at Santa Clara or USF. Remember that the location you attend law school is where you are going to spend 3 years of the prime of your life and more than likely where you will end up living post-graduation.

In regards to Santa Clara and USF both are in the Bay Area, but they are an hour apart and I currently live blocks from USF and love the location and living in San Francisco, but that is just my personality. Santa Clara I am not as impressed with the location, but it is more low key, suburuban, etc nothing wrong with that while USF is in San Francisco and there is a lot more going on good and bad what you like is your decision.

2) Cost
The scholarships are great, but really dig into the conditions it sounds like you are doing that, but if USF has a condition that you need to be in the top 10% there is a 90% chance that will not happen. Being in the top 1/3 of the class means there is a 66.3% chance it won't happen. This is nothing against you personally, but trust me on the first day of law school 100% of students are convinced they will be in the top 10% of the class and everyone is really smart, hard-working, motivated etc. In undergrad there were quite a few idiots who simply would not turn their paper in or something like that, but in law school everyone shows up and is smart you have gotten to an elite level of education each student is fully capable of doing better than you.

If 27K is being offered at McGeorge and the Conditions are not to strenuous it may be something to consider an essentially free law degree is pretty appealing.

3) Personal Feelings about the School
Another thing to realize is that each school has a culture to it and you might like one over the other. This is a highly personal decision and I know when I was a OL I visited many schools and many others when I competed in mock trial competitions. I really liked some schools and disliked others, but you may like the ones I hated and hate the ones I loved. I personally love the USF Campus I think it is beautiful and the students I have interacted with there. I cannot say the same for Santa Clara in my opinion, but I AM NOT YOU you may really like Santa Clara and this is a highly, highly personal decision so I recommend visiting the schools talking to professors, current students, admins, and getting a feel for the campus.

Listen to your gut on these visits some schools will feel right others will not, but NOBODY KNOWS BETTER THAN YOURSELF WHAT A GOOD FIT IS FOR YOURSELF.

4. Reality of Legal Education
It is all the same there is no better or worse education at any ABA school your first year will consist of Torts, Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, etc. In the Bay Area the same professors teach at the different bay area schools as well so you really are getting the exact same education.

Furthermore, in law school all you do is read Supreme Court Cases and in Torts you will read Palsgraff to learn proximate cause, Pennoyer v. Neff in Civ pro to learn notice, Hadley v. Baxendale in contracts to learn about contract remedies etc. Believe it or not the Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for different ranked law schools instead the law is the law. In the Bay Area you are literally reading Supreme Court Cases from the same professors. Jon Sylvester teaches contracts at Golden Gate, USF, Hastings, and has done it at Santa Clara, but I guess techinally he is mainly at Golden Gate, but he is awesome.

A better example of this is Lois Schwartz (Santa Clara Profile) (Golden Gate Profile) (Hastings Profile)

I could go on with endless examples of this, but the reality is particularly in the Bay Area whether you attend Hastings, Santa Clara, University of San Francisco, Golden Gate, even Boalt or Stanford you literally will have the same professors in multiple classes and you will read Supreme Court cases so there really isn't a "BETTER" education it is quite literally the same. That is why location, cost, and personal feelings about the school are so much important than any "alleged claim of better education"

5. U.S. News Ranking
When I was a OL I thought this was gospel, but after going through law school I realized this is quite literally nothing more than a for profit magazine offering an opinion. Furthermore, the rankings change drastically year by year particularly with schools like USF, Santa Clara, and McGeorge. For example last year Santa Clara was in an 11 way tie for 84th place. (So was it 95th or 84th?) we will never know.

This link also does a good job of showing how drastically the rank changes year by year.

in 2009 it was in a tie for 85th place, 2010 in a tie for 93rd place, 2011 in the 11 way tie for 84th place, and now it is 95th I guarantee you nothing of any consequence happened at Santa Clara to improve or worsen the school during those three years.

To really drive the point home realize that U.S. News ranks more than law schools according to them Albuquerque, New Mexico is the best place to live

South Dakota is in the best places to retire in 2032

Now are you going to move to New Mexico because U.S. News said it was the best or open a retirement account in South Dakota because U.S. News says so? I hope not it might make you think, but making a life altering decision of moving across country based on what a magazine says is probably not a good idea. However, for some reason law students myself included when I was a OL do not use common sense and make life altering decisions based on a magazine. (DO NOT MAKE THAT MISTAKE). You can use the rankings as a tie breaker, BUT DO NOT AND I REPEAT DO NOT make it the main basis of your decision.

I love the Bay Area and San Francisco in particular I know successful attorneys from each of these schools and the reality is whether you make it in the legal profession is far more up to you than the name of the school on your degree. Visit the schools see what feels right, consider the costs, and think about where you want to live.

No anonymous internet poster or magazine knows anything about you and this is your life so really use common sense and your own experiences when choosing what school to attend. Good luck to you.

Re: Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2013, 10:58:24 AM »

If USF was still ranked 99, I would go there in a heart beat.  Unfortunately, they have dropped to 144.  Like you said though, rankings don't matter much at the bottom, or maybe at all, but the new US News rankings take into account employment prospects, and that is where USF took a hit.  The fact they they dropped so far down mainly because of employment is very disconcerting to me, because my main goal is to become a lawyer, and to become a lawyer I need a job.

1.  As far as location, I currently live and work in SF, and wanted to go to Hastings (but didn't get in) so I could stay in SF.  I really liked the USF campus as well, and I am not a fan of the South Bay at all.  I actually hate the South Bay.  But I am biased, because I had an internship in Santa Clara a few years back and it was a horrible time in my life and caused me to hate the area.  Plus I am not a fan of the suburbs, growing up in a small rural town.  But my gf went to Santa Clara and she loved it, so I am willing to give it another shot if I like the school.  Another thing that I am not sure about regarding location, is that if I want to eventually work in the North Bay, does it matter if I attend USF or SCU?  Even though SCU is only an hour (with no traffic) south of SF, it is pretty much another world.  I would imagine that most graduates of SCU stay and work in the south bay after graduation, and I refuse to do that (although if push came to shove, aka gotta pay off them loans, I would take a job anywhere).

2.  I am looking at all the scholarships as a one year deal.  I am not naive enough to think I am going to go into law school and dominate.  I have confidence in myself of course, but to assume I am going to renew my scholarship would be doing myself a disfavor. All the scholarships are renewed at about top 1/3 of your class as well. 
I have already appealed all the scholarships, USF and McGeorge said they did not negotiate scholarships, and I have not heard back from SCU.  Even though USF rejected my appeal, I am thinking about writing/calling them again after their free fall in the rankings (100 to 144).  I am sure I am not the only one freaking about about their new rankings and horrible employment statistics, and this could (and probably will) significantly affect their incoming class.  If I were them I would start upping scholarship offers, just to try to keep quality students at their school, but who knows.  I know you said US News rankings don't matter, but sadly it does matter to 0Ls who don't have much information to pick schools with.

3.  I really liked the USF campus and the feel.  I could definitely see myself going there.  Like I said before, I am not a fan of the South Bay at all, but maybe the Santa Clara Campus will change my mind.  We shall see when I visit the campus.  I really know what you mean about the feel of a school and their students though.  I transferred universities in undergrad because I hated the one I attended first (loved it when I visited in the summer of my Jr. year of HS), and it made a world of difference.  I absolutely loved the second university I attended, and it made my quality of life a million times better and just made me an overall happy person.  So the feel of a school matters immensely to me, since I have experienced hating the school I attended.

Would you say USF and SCU have similar alumni networks in terms of strength of lawyers in the Bay Area?  The alumni network of each school is high on my list of deciding factors, but I cannot get a grip on which is better, or how strong they are, because everyone I talk to says their school has the best alumni network.  I guess I need to contact more lawyers who didn't go to USF or SCU and asked them.  I have contacted a few, and they didn't really know.

Thanks for all the help, I really really appreciate it Mr. Library Crackhead Man.  If you want to respond back I would be  forever greatfull, but if not, no hard feelings.

Re: Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2013, 07:05:49 PM »
One thing to realize is statistics are highly flawed particularly when it comes to all the numerous factors that go into calcualting employment statistics of each individual with their own unique situations. I know looking at a quick stat sheet is easy and it sounds like a good idea, but I can tell you in court I see two experts say the exact opposite things using charts etc.

For example according to USF's LSAC profile 93% of their grads are employed. This is a high number, which is not surprising since it is reported by USF itself they manipulate the stats in their favor nothing illegal it is more puffery, which is a term you will learn in law school.

Conversely lawschooltransparency whose agenda is to discourage everyone from attending law school reports 20% of people are employed with salaries.

What is the right answer I know more than 20% of the graduating class is employed and 93% of their grads are not working as lawyers either neither is right.

To give some context to this you can see on the law school transparency reports 55% simply didn't report. This could mean the person never filled out the survey, which is quite common. When I graduated, passed the bar, and got a job I never filled out the information or reported. I probably should have, but i just didn't there is no penalty for not reporting and once you have graduated your not eager to spend anymore time dealing with your law school. Just imagine if your undergrad asked for a bunch of salary information and wanted you to submit all your personal information assuming they even still knew where you lived. Would you take time to fill it out? Would you just forget? the list goes on and on so these stats are very inefficient based on that alone.

Then you delve a little deeper and realistically 50% the students at every law school finish in the bottom half of the class. There is a 50% chance you will as well and if that is the scenario it will be harder to find a job conversely if you are in the top 10% it will be easier to find a job. I imagine the bottom 50% of the class at each of these schools struggled to find employment.

Then delve even deeper I know plenty of people who went to law school with 0 intention of being a lawyer or ever working. One girl in my class had a rich husband and she just wanted something to do so she went to law school. She never intended to work and is an unemployed grad, but she is doing fine.

Another guy I know got offered a job as a D.A., but failed his drug test they revoked his offer that has nothing to do with the law school it has to do with his drug problem. Yes many lawyers do not find work because they abuse alcohol, drugs, or other things and no matter what law school you attend this will impact your job search.

Still others are lazy or do not know how to conduct themselves in a job interview. I knew plenty of people in law school who simply didn't apply to jobs or failed to show up to job interviews. These are highly unique situations that U.S. News, LSAC, and Law School Transparency don't account for. There is much, much, more to succeeding as a lawyer than some blanket number I cannot stress that enough.  You can certainly look into the numbers and if one school has a higher employment number that's great, but that doesn't guarantee you will find a job. When you take the bar you might be comforted by your schools 80% bar passage rate, but that by no means guarantees you will pass. Watch the movie "LAWYER WALKS INTO A BAR" you will see the UCLA Grad discuss how great her bar passage rate was and then watch how she personally handles the bar exam her results are not surprising. -Furthermore, you can really see the individuals in this and I imagine once you see the personalities you would be more eager to hire some people over others and they went to a range of different schools.

-Specific Questions-
If you attend Santa Clara are you relegated to the South Bay? No, but practically speaking the San Francisco District Attorney is going to interview in San Francisco there is USF, Hastings, and Golden Gate 2 miles away they always do OCI's there. Why would they drive down to Santa Clara to do an OCI when there are three schools in their backyard.

Conversely the Santa Clara D.A. will do OCI at Santa Clara for the same reasons. I knew plenty of people from Santa Clara who did internships in San Francisco and people in San Francisco that did internships in Santa Clara, but it is not the best solution as gas is expensive and your in law school so money is not flying in.

You are smart enough to get into law school so just think of the practical aspects of attending school in San Francisco v. Santa Clara no right or wrong, but they are two very different areas.

--Alumni Networks--

All the alumni networks are good I know I always interview people from my law school, other people interview from their law school. There are lawyers from Boalt, Stanford, Santa Clara, USF, Hastings, and Golden Gate all over the Bay Area. The Santa Clara Grad will likely give a little favoritism to a Santa Clara applicant, a Hastings grad favoritism to Hastings so on and so on.

For example I know professors and admins at the school I attended if a potential employee lists someone I know as a reference I take their word more seriously than from a professor at a school I don't know. Each alumni Network is strong at my job there are grads from Santa Clara, Hastings, Golden Gate, McGeorge, University of San Francisco, and one from University of Oregon. We all occasionally do things for our particular law school and I will always give a slight bump to someone from my school, but the reality is we have a job to do and we want the right person. We interview plenty of people and there are lot more factors than the name of a school on a piece of paper that go into hiring someone.

Each school is fine and can result in obtaining employment, but as I mentioned there is a 50% chance you will end up in the bottom half of your class if that occurs it will be a lot harder. Furthermore, even if you are in the top half of your class NO SCHOOL guarantees you a job at graduation or that you will pass the bar. Getting through law school, passing the bar, and then finding a job is extremely difficult. I know I must have been rejected by over 400 employers when I was starting out, but it was pretty much the same when I started out of college no matter what career path you take getting your career started will be tough.

Therefore, it is imperative you are truly interested in the legal profession. It is not anywhere near as lucrative as movies make it out to be. However, it can be a very rewarding career I personally love my job as an attorney, but I could have made more money doing something else. At the end of the day this is a highly personal decision and don't let some numbers based on inadequate data be the basis of a life altering decision. Good luck to you.

Re: Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2013, 08:08:43 PM »
Ok- full disclosure I am a SCU alum graduating a couple of years ago, so I can only tell you about SCU; I know very little about USF. SCU has a strong and very active alumni network. Alumni are always on campus to talk with students about their practice area,  current legal issues or jobs. The SCU student body is very diverse  in their backgrounds; a large number of engineers, not surprising given their Silicon Valley location, but also others from all walks of life. The social life of the South Bay can't really compare to SF but you will be in law school, you won't have much of a social life anyways. I loved the SCU campus, go visit and see for yourself

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Re: Santa Clara University vs. University of San Francisco
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2013, 08:58:36 AM »
I am interested in agribusiness, which i know both these schools don't really offer, but everyone who I have talked to in this industry didn't go to school and concentrate in ag, they just got into it after graduation.

I would rather pay more to be happy then go somewhere that I loathed just to save some money

How about if I make your decision harder, not easier . . . welcome to the law school approach of making you think past what seem like the most obvious choices. In full disclosure, I am the dean of a CBE law school Monterey College of Law, so I am in no way unbiased . . . but hopefully, I can provide some additional considerations that might challenge the standard assumptions.

First, you should go to if you have not already done so and determine your "COA" . . . cost of attendance between the schools you are considering. The estimated cost of attendance for both of these schools (and McGeorge would be similar) is slightly higher than $70K per year for about a $210K total over three years. Unfortunately, that means that although you should be congratulated on receiving scholarship offers . . . what you have been offered is insignificant in the big picture. You didn't say how you will be paying for law school, but if it is through student loans, you will be graduating with a ten-year obligation of about $2K-$2.5K per month for ten years. This means the first $30-40K of your post-law school annual salary will be solely going towards your annual student loan debt. In this context, it is important for you to also have looked at the employment opportunities for agribusiness. You state that these schools are not known for graduates entering this field . . . so how will the alumni network help you, even if it is closely knit and engaged (as most law school alumni networks will be). Is anyone paying $100K for USF or SCU graduates in the agribusiness field? Because if you are not making $100K, after deducting your $40K student loan costs, living in SF on less than $60K is a pretty modest existance for the ten years after graduation.

If you want the blunt truth . . . all three schools that you are considering are relatively low-ranked in employment statistics. That should concern you . . . and your level of concern should be directly proportionate to the level of student debt (undergrad and law school) that you will have upon graduation.

Keep in mind that in SF, your competition will not just be your classmates from USF and SCU, but Stanford, Berkeley, Hastings, and any other top tier law school grad who wants to move back to SF to practice.

So here is another consideration. At the risk of being self-promotional . . . where do you think the largest agribusiness concentration is located in California? Monterey County! Whether it is lettuce, strawberries, artichokes, or grapes . . . some of the largest grower shipper companies in the world are here along the central coast.

Monterey College of Law is the only law school in the central coast agribusiness region. As an accredited, evening program . . . your goal could be to get started in agribusiness while attending law school in the evening and graduate with actual experience in the industry. Your consideration is how much more competitive would that make you? Keep in mind that MCL costs less than one-half of any of the three schools that you are considering . . . and since you would be working while attending law school, you can pay as you go and reduce much, if not all of the need to take out huge student loans.

OK, enough of the advertisement . . . it is just that with such a specific area of interest, and the dominance of that industry in the area surrounding our law school . . . I just wanted to provide an alternative for you to consider.

Good luck in your decisions . . . the fact that you are carefully weighing your options before you commit speaks well for your ultimate prospects.