Law School Discussion

SCU, USF, GGU, UCH - scholarships from $10k/year - full tuition, can't decide!

First time posting after being a long time lurker.
I've been accepted into the following schools, in the order listed below, with the following awards:
  • Santa Clara University, $10,000/year
  • University of San Francisco, $27,000/year
  • Golden Gate University, full tuition
  • (UC Hastings, waitlist)

Some background information about myself:
  • Strong interest in IP law
  • I would like to remain in the Bay Area
  • I attended USF for undergrad, graduated a semester early in Dec.
  • 3.23 GPA, 156 LSAT
  • LOTS of soft qualities (i.e., interships, work experience)
  • Applied quite late (March)

I'm not too heavily concerned with rankings, unless it comes down to quality of education, employment prospects, and passing the bar (otherwise I would have jumped for GGU right away). I've heard plenty of mixed reviews about each school from family and friends, and wanted to open the discussion to everyone here...please share your thoughts!  :)

I am familiar with all of these schools and each one will give you a high quality legal education. 

One thing to careful about with the scholarships at any of these schools though is the stipulations. I believe all of them require a 3.0 GPA to maintain your scholarship, which is very misleading to incoming law students. Law school is a lot different than undergrad and I believe at each of these schools only 35% of the class can have a 3.0 at the end of first year, which means there is a 65% chance you will lose your scholarship at Santa Clara or GGU. You can negotiate for better conditions, but you need to and should  bring it up if you are attending a school based on the scholarship.
I have visited and been on all four of these campuses multiple times and I have strong feelings about each one some positive and some negative.  My two cents USF has a beautiful campus and I like the neighborhood; Santa Clara is in San Jose South Bay, which is not an area I like and I feel there is a smugness from that school; Hastings is an ugly campus in the heart of the Tenderloin and my least favorite of all the schools; GGU is probably the ugliest of all the campuses; but it is in downtown San Francisco and probably has the most supportive student environment.

However, those are my opinions and what I as an anonymous internet poster thinks should have no bearing on your life altering  $100,000 3 year commitment. With that I strongly encourage you to visit each school talk to professors; admins; students; alumni; walk around the campus; the neighborhoods; and after each visit your gut will give you a feeling.

Of these four schools there will be one you do not like I guarantee that as they all have different cultures, but listen to your own gut when visiting the school nobody knows what you will like best better than yourself.

As to the quality of education at any of these schools or any ABA school for that matter you will learn the same exact thing. Your first year will consist of Torts; Contracts; Civil Procedure; Property; and Criminal Law; and you will read Supreme Court Cases. At many of these schools you will have the same professors.

Peter Keane for example has and does teach Constitutional Law at Hastings; Golden Gate; and University of San Francisco. Hastings Bio for Keane;
GGU Bio for Keane

Michael Zamperini has and does teach Torts at Hastings and Golden Gate. Hastings bio and GGU bio

I could provide endless examples, but these schools are all interconnected and the education you receive will for all intents and purposes be identical. After three years you will then end up in cramed BarBri course with students from each school then take the California Bar Exam in an even more crowded Convention Center. If you pass the California Bar you are a lawyer regardless of the school you attended and any of these schools will provide you with a bar exam ticket and the legal knowledge to pass the exam.

One difference between the two schools is that Hastings and Golden Gate have very active mock trial teams while USF and SCU do not. Mock Trial competitions are one of the unique things that some schools offer and if litigation is something you are really interested in then Hastings or GGU might provide more opportunities than SCU or USF.

CA Law Dean

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I am also familiar with these schools, being a dean from the region. I have met three of the four deans (not USF), and know that they are extremely capable and focused on the challenging issues going on in legal education today. I believe that in addition  to the considerations listed by Citylaw, you need to do a full COA analysis and seriously consider the implication of student debt post graduation. Go to Law School Transparency to review the financial and employment data for each school as well. In my opinion, none of the schools have rankings of a nature that make much of a difference in your decision-making. All of these schools have recent issues on job placement. That means you will need to go into the process accepting that you will be responsible for crafting and pursuing your own career path. All of the schools have active alumni networks in the Bay Area that will help you.

So how to decide? I second Citylaw's recommendation to visit each school to see whether you see yourself there. Talk with current students, either in person or through one of the many social media law student boards. I would add that your statistics (3.23/156) place you at, or slightly below, the medians at Hastings, USF, and SC. You are well above the median at GGU. One way to look at this might be that with a full ride (=no financial stress), and a more academically competitive standing, Golden Gate would statistically and financially appear to be your best placement for potential success. However, please note that I am very, very biased against six figure student loans (or the $100K or more COA) that you will have everywhere other than GGU.

Congratulations on having earned choices and good luck.

CA Law Dean

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OK . . . I guess that would be remiss in not suggesting that if you have any interest in working/living in a non-urban setting like Santa Cruz or Monterey vs. the big cities of SF, San Jose, and surrounding metropolitan areas, you would be welcome here at Monterey College of Law. You could be a big fish in a small pond if that has any appeal. We are an entirely different, and frequently overlooked alternative to the traditional large ABA urban law schools. Our focus is on preparing lawyers who see themselves living/working/being active in the communities of Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito Counties. Take a look at our website ( and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. Good luck as you set off on your law school adventure.

Thank you to both for your very detailed and thoughtful responses. I do really need to visit each campus and learn more about their individual environments (save for USF, where I attended as an undergrad and worked in the law library for all three years...making me quite familiar with the students and faculty).

Because I have a deep interest in IP law, would it be to my advantage to attend SCU because of their location and program? San Francisco is a high tech hub as well, but it's also not exactly in the heart of Silicon Valley.

After speaking with a few recent law school grads, I've heard that many employers are still unfortunately basing much of their hiring decisions on law school rankings. Can anyone else provide insight to this?

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. . 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.

Overall 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.

Good luck on this very important decision, but remember it is your life altering decision do not let a magazine make it for you.