Below is a response to each of your questions, but do remember I and everyone else on this board or others is nothing more than an anonymous internet poster so take any advice you receive here from myself or other posters with a grain of salt. (1) IP Law & Location:
First I have to ask what do you know about IP law and why do you want to work in it? I ask this first and foremost, because when I first attended law school I thought I was interested in IP law, but turns out I took one class and thought it was awful most likely because I had no technical background prior to going into law school, and I ended up loving litigation.
If you really want to work in IP law you pretty much need to have a science background to obtain employment in the IP field. If you do not have that then odds are you will not like IP law and even if you do will not be able to compete with law school graduates with technical backgrounds regardless of what school you attend.
If you do have a tech background then I suppose Santa Clara would offer you more opportunities, because Santa Clara is the only school in the South Bay, which would provide you more internship connections down there. In San Francisco you would be competing with GGU, USF, Hastings, and Boalt students (Boalt has easy BART access to SF so I do realize in it is not actually in SF.)
So the short answer to that question is #1 if you do not have a tech background do not make a decision on what law school to attend based on it possibly being located in a better area for IP law, because odds are you will not like IP law and you will not get hired in it so any intangible hypothetical should not be involved in making the life altering decision of what law school to attend.
If you do have a tech background then you may want to consider Santa Clara, but there is a strong chance you still may have an interest in IP law and if you really wanted to work in IP CalTrain, Bart, 101 or 80 Freeway can get you anywhere you want in the Bay Area and again it should not be a major factor in your decision. Rankings and Hiring:
Very few employers care about ranking particularly the difference between GGU, USF, Santa Clara, Hastings. If you were saying Stanford v. GGU then yes that would have an impact, but none of the other schools are elite enough to provide a Pedigree that will wow anyone.
Many students that are no employable due to their own shortcomings like to blame their law school, the economy, their parents, the guy at Walgreen's any excuse other than making changes in their own life to accept responsibility for themselves.
I can guarantee you there are 1,000's of successful grads from GGU, USF, Santa Clara, and Hastings and 1,000's of failures. The reality is whether you succeed in the legal profession will have a lot more to do with you than the name of the school printed on your J.D.
Something I recommend you do to see this in real life is attend a few court hearings. 400 McCallister Street (Civil Court) or 850 Bryant Street (Criminal Court) watch lawyers in action some will be amazing, others mediocre, others terrible. You will not hear anyone's law school mentioned once in court and some people will have it others will not. Any of the schools you have been accepted to will provide you with a basic understanding of the law, a bar exam ticket, and the tools to succeed in the legal profession, but it will be up to you pass the bar exam and then apply what you learned in law school to the real world.
One final note on the rankings is that it is a for-profit-unpublished magazine offering an opinion. According to U.S. News New Mexico is the #1 place to live here is the citation. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/best-places-to-live
. Are you going to move to New Mexico because U.S. News says it is #1?
Probably not it would be a little ridiculous to make a life altering decision of moving to a city based on what some magazine said. For many incoming law students however, myself included when I was 0L think making a life altering decision of where to spend three years of their life, $100,000 of their money, and the stepping stone of their legal career is a good idea. I can assure you it is not particularly because rankings change every year for no reason, because the formula makes no sense.
As example University of San Francisco was a top #100 school and they didn't even rank past top 100 when I was applying to law school. U.S. News started ranking to the top #150 and University of Francisco has now dropped 50-60 spots. You went to undergrad there was their some rebellion at the law school? Did anything at all change?
Conversely when I was a 0L I received a full scholarship to University of Tulsa law school, which was an unranked tier 4 school this year they are #72. I did not end up attending USF or Tulsa, but theoretically had I chosen the higher ranked school USF six years ago I would now have a degree from the lower ranked school by far.
Here is the chart for the last 6 years showing how drastically law school rankings change year by year. http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.htmlOverall Conclusion:
Rankings should play a very minimal role in your decision if all else fails use it, but very few if any legal employers will say wow he went to Santa Clara hire him; GGU hire him; Hastings hire him; USF hire him; you will have to interview, stick out, and do the right things that will be up to you.
I recommend visiting each school and seeing what school feels right. Also consider cost and make sure to NEGOTIATE for more scholarship money and better conditions. A 3.0 GPA stipulation from any of these schools will be hard to maintain and make sure you know what you are getting into there. Here is a New York Times Article that explains how it works. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Good luck on this very important decision, but remember it is your life altering decision do not let a magazine make it for you.