First thing to realize is that anyone on this board myself included is nothing more than an anonymous internet poster that knows nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you. Furthermore, there is no qualification to type on this board for all you know I am the Dean of Harvard Law School or some crackhead in a public library so please take all advice you receive on this board or others with a major grain of salt. Michael Scott does a good job of explaining why this is a good idea a little humor for you http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvZBg7qLzU8
. Remember the law school you choose to attend will be a life altering decision.
On top of that I would like to add employment stats can be manipulated greatly just look Howard's LSAC Stats 90% of their grads are employed this is reported by Howard Law School who wants to make themselves look good http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/publications/2012og/aba5297.pdf
. Conversely Lawschooltransparency whose goal is to make employment looks bad shows 40% http://www.lstscorereports.com/?school=howard&show=sals
So which is 90% or 40%? I don't know I can tell in trials I have seen two "experts" ask the same question and come up with two completely different numbers. I can tell you if you attend Howard and finish in the bottom 25% of the class it will be a lot harder than if you finish in the top 25% of the class. There is 25% chance you will be in the bottom and a 25% chance you will be in the top, but there is no way to know until you enroll.
On top of the stats I have gone to law school and work as an attorney now and I think any OL should consider the following factors in this order when choosing what school to attend (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about school (4) The reality of legal education (5) Consider U.S. News Rankings last not first. I will analyze these factors below.
Simple question do you want to live in D.C.? That is where you will be living or in Virginia and commutting, but that will be your home for three years is that something you want? Remember law school does not exist in a vacuum and you will deal with all the good and all the bad D.C. has to offer if your from a small town in Arkansas this will be a culture shock to you if your born and raised in D.C. then it could be a great fit this is a question only you can answer. 2) Cost
A 20k scholarship is great, but what are the CONDITIONS many schools will require you to have a 3.0 or be in the top 25% after 1L. Every OL thinks a 3.0 will be a cakewalk since it was for everyone who is offered a scholarship at an ABA school, but law school is much different based on the curve as well as the caliber of students you are competing with. The reality is usually only 35% of 1L's can have a 3.0 at the end of 1L, but on the first day of class 100% of students are certain they are special and will be in the top 10% and certainly the top 35%, but you don't need to be a math major to figure out that more than half of the people come away disappionted. This is no knock on you, but there is a 90% chance you won't be in the top 10% and a 65% chance you won't be in the top 35%. Depending on what the conditions are you will lose that 20K for years two and three.
This NY times article does a better job explaining the whole situation than I can. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=all3) Personal Feelings About the School
It is important to feel out the culture of the school and make sure it fits your style as you will be dealing with it for 3 years. What you like is highly personal when I was a OL I visited multiple schools and during law school competed in mock trial competitions. There were some schools I loved others I hated for example I loved Notre Dame that is my personality Catholic, Football, and more importantly a big emphasis on tradition. Realistically I would classify myself as a jock, but a hipster would HATE Notre Dame or someone that was really into Art or one of a million other things people are into Notre Dame may not be a fit.
You should also speak to professors, students, admins, etc and see if you like them. I have had a few attorney jobs and worked with lawyers at all of them, but the culture of some firms and government agencies was a lot different than others. Law school is no different they are all law schools, but the culture will be a big impact on your experience.
4. Reality of Legal Education
I will let you in on a little secret at every ABA school the education is the same. Your first year will consist of Torts, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, Criminal Law, and Con Law. Then in year 2 and 3 you will take Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Wills & Trusts, Corporations, Remedies, and some writing courses such as Legal Writing & Research or Appellate Advocacy.
The reality is in Torts you will learn Proximate cause in the Palsgraff Case Justice Cardozo in 1930 didn't write a seperate opinion for all the different law schools there is one opinion and here is the citation for it 248 N.Y. 339 and no matter what school you attend you will probably use an online resource such as ecasebriefs where they will break down the case for you http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/torts/torts-keyed-to-dobbs/negligence-the-scope-of-risk-or-proximate-cause-requirement/palsgraf-v-long-island-r-co/there
you go students from every ABA law school Harvard to Cooley use this site to breakdown the cases they read. Or in Civil Procedure you will learn about Notice in Pennoyer v. Neff 95 U.S. 714 again the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1800's wasn't concerned about U.S. News rankings and making sure law students were satisfied and again you would use a site like this one http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/civil-procedure/civil-procedure-keyed-to-subrin/the-choice-of-an-appropriate-court-personal-jurisdiction-notice-and-venue/pennoyer-v-neff-5/
So there really is no "BETTER" education on top of that after three years of law school you will take Barbri or Kaplan to assist you in passing the bar and join students from every law school in some lecture hall. On the first day of Barbri you might see some sweatshirts from different schools, but those slowly go away as you study for the bar and freak the f*** out praying you can pass along with everyone else around you.
5) U.S News Ranking
When I was a OL I though this was the gospel and should be the basis of any decision I made, but now I realize this is nothing more than an a for profit, unregulated magazine offering an opinion. This should not be something you base a life altering decision on you can use it as a factor, but it is literally a magazine nothing more.
To illustrate this point realize U.S. News ranks more than law schools for example New Mexico is the best place to live according to U.S. News http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/real-estate/articles/2009/06/08/best-places-to-live-2009
South Dakota is one of the best 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
One of the factors in making this decision is access to dental visits. Really read the formula U.S. News used to make this determination and you can realize how little research goes into their rankings.
I imagine U.S. News saying New Mexico is the best place to live is not going to inspire you to pack your bags and move there or even apply to New Mexico Law School. Furthermore, I think you would question anyone who opened a retirement account in South Dakota based on this magazine alone. Are their legitimate points made by U.S. News sure, but where you attend law school will impact the rest of your life what some magazine thinks should play a very minor role in your decision and not be the basis of it.
Whether to attend law school and where you attend it will literally change your life you can find all the statistics you want and internet posters telling you Howard is horrible or great, but the reality is it is your life use your common sense when making this life altering decision as you will be the one living with it. Congrats on getting into law school and the scholarship I wish you the best of luck as you pursue a legal career.