Law School Discussion

Hamilton at CLS vs. SLS vs. HLS

Hamilton at CLS vs. SLS vs. HLS
« on: February 02, 2014, 09:43:50 AM »
I'm interested in public policy.  Just received the Hamilton at Columbia but have been accepted to Stanford and Harvard.  Stanford's close to home and I'm a CA girl.  Any advice?

Re: Hamilton at CLS vs. SLS vs. HLS
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2014, 04:03:26 PM »
First Congrats on your acceptances those are some great options. Also remember where to attend law school is a life altering decision and you should take any advice received on internet boards such as this, my post included with a grain of salt.

With that said I think any law student should consider the following five factors when choosing a law school in this order. (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about school; (4) Understanding the Reality of Legal Education; (5) Last and Least U.S. Rankings.

The reasons for these factors are analyzed below.

This is the most important decision in my opinion, because law school does not exist in a vacuum and you will spend a minimum of three years in the City you attend school. Additionally, odds are after three years during the prime of your life in a City where you have an apartment, make friends, likely enter into a relationship, take a state bar, obtain internships, etc odds are you will remain in the City you attend school. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but if you attend Columbia odds are you will end up in New York; Stanford in the Bay Area; Harvard in Boston.

With that you have to ask yourself where you want to live. If your a California girl and want to be in California Stanford might be the best option. I don't know your personal situation, but if you are close to your family, have friends, are in a relationship etc those relationships will be impacted if you attend Columbia or Harvard by the distance. However, there is excitement moving to a new City and meeting new people, but only you can answer what is best for you.

Additionally, Palo Alto, Manhattan, and Boston are different places. I personally think Palo Alto is very boring and hate it I am in that City all the time. It is very safe and nice, but I like a little more chaos. Columbia is sort of near Harlem and a beautiful campus and you have easy access to NYC and it can be great. I have never been to Boston or the Harvard campus.

You definitely need to visit the schools and evaluate the Cities for yourself.

2) Cost

I imagine with these acceptances you can get scholarship money from these schools, but look at the total cost. I assume you will be taking out loans to pay for school and this money is not free

Stanford is 50k per year tuition 25k per year living expenses x 3 years = $225,000. Here is LSAC price link

Columbia is 52k per year tuition 22k living expenses x 3 years = $222,000. Here is the LSAC price link

Harvard is 48k per year tuition 23k per year living expenses x 3 years = $213,000. Here is the LSAC price link

So looks like Harvard is the cheapest, but they are all roughly the same price. However, if you can obtain scholarship money from these schools that is definitely a factor. You may also be able to get full ride scholarships from other law schools.

Before entering law school you have negotiating power and don't be afraid to use it. Tell Stanford you are thinking of choosing Harvard and vice versa see if they offer you 5-10k scholarship.

(3) Personal Feelings about School:
This is also very important every school has a culture to it and whether you like that culture or not is a decision only you can make. To determine if the school is a fit for you visit the schools talk to professors, students, admins, alumni and see how you feel after meeting them.

Also walk around the campus and the surrounding area. You will be spending a lot of time on campus and in those few blocks and you will either love it, be indifferent, or hate it. After visiting the schools you will have a gut feeling and it is important to listen to that.

(4) Reality of Legal Education:

Whether you attend Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, etc or some other ABA school you will be learning the same thing. You will be reading Supreme Court Cases and the Supreme Court doesn't write separate opinions for each school. No matter what school you attend your first year will consist of Torts, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property and you will be reading Pennoyer v. Neff to learn about notice, Palsgraf in Torts to learn proximate cause etc.

Obviously at these institutions the professors will be phenomenal, but at the end of the day the law is the law.

(5) Rankings:
Remember U.S. News is nothing more than a for-profit, unregulated opinion that is offering an opinion. Just because they say Harvard is better than Columbia this year doesn't make it true. Additionally, the rankings change every year and this year Harvard and Stanford are tied. If you actually look at the rankings you will see the endless ties and you can really see the ridiculousness of it.

Additionally, all of these are amazing institutions known worldwide so you would much better off considering location, cost, and personal feeling about the school when making your decision.

At the end of the day there is no right answer. I remember when I was a 0L deciding where to go I kept looking for something that would make the decision for me, but there is no way to know how it will work out. Maybe if you go to Stanford everything will go right maybe it will go horribly there is no Crystal Ball unfortunately although it would be great to know how it would turn out.

I really think once you visit the schools a gut feeling will develop and go with that.

Congrats on your acceptances and good luck whatever you decide.

Re: Hamilton at CLS vs. SLS vs. HLS
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2014, 09:19:13 PM »
Citylaw's post is comprehensive and excellent, so all I'll add is that with those options you can't go wrong. All three are excellent schools with huge reputations. That said, I've travelled quite a bit and I must say that Harvard has a certain, immediately recognizable prestige that is special. You can walk into a meeting in Cape Town, Rio, or Beijing and people will go "Damn, Harvard!"

Good luck and remember, even at elite schools your professors are just people and this is just their job. They don't know everything, and get a lot of stuff wrong! I had to occasionally remind myself of that during law school. 

Re: Hamilton at CLS vs. SLS vs. HLS
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2014, 09:18:26 AM »
1) Any one of these would be amazing.

2) Everything equal... If you absolutely KNOW you want to live/work in California, and in the Bay area in specific, go to stanford. If its New York, then Columbia. If you aren't committed to anywhere but want the most universal pull, Harvard.

3) That is, of course, assuming all is equal... all may not be equal. Check out the course offerings, professor backgrounds, and relative rankings as related to public interest. Also look up law firms/organizations that specialize in public interest - where did those lawyers go to school? Where are those organizations located?

4) The largest factor that may sway a decision is $$. You may have to double check, but I'm almost certain Stanford and Harvard do not negotiate scholarships (neither does Yale). This is simply because they do not offer merit scholarship, but rather need-based scholarships. These scholarships are based on how your specific level of need matches up to the rest of the class, and then divided amongst the funds. Now, if there is a very significant discrepancy (ie. Harvard offers you 75k while Stanford doesnt offer you anything), then you may want to contact the respective fin. aid offices. Other than that, it is what it is. You may be able to negotiate more with Columbia though.

4) Another factor is loan-repayment and, more importantly, loan-forgivenness programs. Harvard has an amazing loan-forgiveness program. So long as you are working in a legal position, they will help you out significantly. Stanford has a similar program, however, is limited to positions related to public interest (yay!). These are all great safety nets. I'm not sure if Columbia has a similar program. Note that these programs are significant as they are essentially guaranteed "scholarships" in the future and should factor into your calculations side by side Columbia's scholarship offer.

5) My speculation is that Harvard may offer the strongest outcomes for you, followed by Stanford, and then Columbia. At this point, however, you just have to wait and see where the $$ falls.

Good luck and congratulations!

Re: Hamilton at CLS vs. SLS vs. HLS
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2014, 06:33:01 PM »
I looked up the Hamilton at CLS and it is my understanding that provides a full scholarship.

If you have a full scholarship to Columbia that might be something to consider, particularly if your goal is not BigLaw.

Without debt you can have a lot more options, but I don't know what you want. If your goal is to be a D.A. or something I would take the money, because you will get hired from any of these schools, but a government position will pay what is pays regardless of your educational background.

If your goal is to work at Cravath or something then Harvard might be the best choice.

Again, you know what you want more than some anonymous internet poster, but a J.D. from Columbia and no debt is a pretty good position to be in.