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My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)

Stuje1

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My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« on: April 16, 2006, 08:00:17 PM »
I went and visited Seattle and U of Washington several weeks ago (sorry for the delayed review, been busy with Wisconsin Hockey winning the National Championship!).  Because of the few week delay, I might be off a little in the minor details (like the names of places, etc.) but I’ll do the best I can.  As usual, I am sure many of you reading this will already know a lot of the things I mention, but I am going to write it as if someone knows very little about the school, to be safe.

I arrived on the weekend and spent the first few days exploring the city of Seattle.  It is a cool city.  It feels relatively small.  I was surprised to find that it reminded me more of an east coast city, it wasn’t as modern or technologically advanced as I thought it would be; it had an older feel to it.  Pike’s Place Market is a cool place down by the water that has lots of little shops (Seafood, Flowers, little trinkets).  The downtown has various sections, including a shopping district, the old town “Pioneer square”, Space Needle Area, etc.   

The UW campus is not right downtown, it is about a 10 minute drive away.   I arrived in the morning and was paired up with a student who was from Wisconsin (I like when schools match me up with someone from the same state/UG, makes for some nice comparisons that I can understand).  The first class I went to had about 60 students and was a criminal law class with an older professor (who has been there for some time).  He wasn’t the greatest.  The topic was interesting (Statutory Rape), yet he was able to make it pretty boring.  He was pretty slow and dull.  He was also quite harsh to the students at times, giving them a hard time if they didn’t answer the question he was asking.  Towards the end of the class, he lightened up a bit and the class was joking around and having a better time.   All in all, it was a pretty typical law school class, nothing special.   

The second class I went to was much better.  It was held with a younger, energetic professor.  Again, there were about 60 students, but this class was held in the much bigger, and very impressive, moot court room (more on the building later).  This class was pure Socratic, but in a gentle way.  Questioning of students was typically about only one, short response, and the prof. quickly moved on if a student was struggling.   This class was very enjoyable and interesting.   Students were having a much better time, were joking around and seemed to really be enjoying themselves.   

As I am sure most of you know, the building is relatively new, constructed mostly with Millions donated by Bill Gates.  It is quite an impressive building.   When I walked in, there is an electronic guide that has floor plans of the building and locations of all the profs’ offices…I knew I had stepped into a tech advanced law school.   The building is a bit smaller then I would have thought….it could lead to a bit of claustrophobia after many hours/days in there.   The class size at UW is so small though, so there isn’t really a need for a bigger place.  The main hallway has a gigantic glass wall on one side, which is nice to get in natural light in rainy Seattle.  On the main floor is a little coffee shop with seating for about 20-40 people.  This is the main area for students to eat lunch.  It was a little small, but pleasant.  The classrooms are on the 1st and 2nd floor, and are all very modern and nice.  They have comfy, padded chairs, are clean and comfortable.   The moot court/mock trial rooms are gigantic and gorgeous.   Also, every student gets nice big, wood lockers.

The best part of the building is the library.   It has three gigantic skylights that bring in lots of natural light.  They have lots of study tables and personal carrels that are very new and professional looking and look like great places to study.  One annoying thing is that the library is open to undergrads and the public.   Often UG students will come and study in there, but they tend to stick to the lower level while the upper level is usually only law students.  Since the school is open to the public, I guess occasionally homeless people will come and hang out in there.   It seems really weird because the place is so fancy looking, but I guess they don’t bother anyone.  I think there were a few there when I was there, and they seemed to be pretty relaxed and clean.   The library also has a number of group study rooms.  The best part is the law student lounge (which is accessed by electronic card, so no UGs or public).  It is a room in the library with couches and computers and looks like a really great place to relax/study.  I think that food might even be allowed in the lounge.

I was able to ask my guide a ton of questions, so I’ll go ahead and try to just describe what I found out about the school.  The 1L class is broken down into 5-6 sections of 30 students.   You have every class with your section, and a different section joins you for each class.  So Criminal Law might be your section and section B, and Con Law would be your section and section D, etc.  Classes are broken into a “quarter” (trimester) system, so that you have 3 ‘trimesters’ of classes (and the summer is considered the fourth) instead of just two semesters.  This has pros and cons.  You end up taking fewer classes each semester, allowing you to focus more on each specific class, so you don’t get overwhelmed with material.  Your classes meet more often though, usually everyday.  This also results in 33% more finals…but it allows you to take a lot more classes your 2nd and 3rd year (and thus enhance your background).  Your first year, you actually spend your first two quarters in the same classes (Torts, Contracts and Civil procedure) and then change for the third quarter.   You take a midterm (worth a measly 10%) between 1st and 2nd quarter just to get a feel for how you are doing.  It won’t affect your overall grade, but just gives you an idea.  You have a writing class that goes all three quarters, but the prof. changes.

The grading system at UW is very interesting.   You never receive an official GPA or class rank (you can figure out your own GPA, if you wish, by combining your grades for each class).  This tends to of course lead to a reduction in competition.  If you are never officially compared to other students, it relieves a lot of the stress.   The curve is also a very favorable B+ average…so even an average GPA would look very good, especially since they don’t compare it to others.  However, most of the local employers know how the grading system works and so they know the curve, but it is also good because they don’t get weirded out by not seeing a class rank.  It might be strange though to try and explain the system if you go out of the area.  Another interesting consequence of the trimester system is that students don’t get their 1L grades until March….so they have nothing to show employers.   In a sense, this might make some employers uncomfortable, but it is a plus to be able to sell yourself without having any grades that will lock you out of certain positions.   

Students were dressed pretty casual and were pretty laid back.  They were friendly, but not overly so (not “Midwest friendly”).   My guide spoke of the “seattle reserve”….that students take a little time getting to know you before they open up, and then they are really nice and friendly.  There is some association with the UG students, a lot of it because of the location on the UG campus (which I like).   Some UG come study in the library and some actually have classes in the building.   

The UW law students do spend time attending pro and collegial sporting events.   They definitely go out and have a good time at the bars and stuff in the campus area, downtown or other neighborhoods.  Students live all over Seattle.   There is a free bus system that goes from all the neighborhoods to the campus.  The busses even have wireless internet!   So people can live further away and do work on the way to school.   Parking is $10/day if you come alone….but if you carpool with 2 other students, it is 0.78 cents/day!  Definitely find people to carpool with. 

My guide was very positive on the school.  She said Career Services is great, and has a new dean that has really stepped things up.   This seems to be true as their employment numbers are amazing (99.4% employed after 9 months).  She said the profs are very interesting and very accessible, often taking students out to coffee or dinner.   The amount of extracurricular opportunities at the school are overwhelming….tons of clinicals, externships, centers, journals, moot court, etc.  The thing that really surprised me was the ability to get involved right away.  My guide was a 1L, but had already participated in a few moot court competitions and was already working with clients in a legal center.   

Lastly, the location of the school is great.  It is right on the UG campus (which is very beautiful) and a block away from “the ave.”  “the Ave.” is a street with tons of shops and restaurants.  I guess students often walk over there for lunch during the day.  It isn’t the cleanest area, and has some homeless around, but it is dominated by students, so it feels very safe.  It is similar to state street in Madison.

Well, overall, I really enjoyed my visit.   I was really impressed by the facilities, the relaxed environment, job prospects, legal extracurricular opportunities, and the campus area.  I am a little hesitant about the gray weather and the location on the west coast/lack of national reputation (my family all lives on the east), but I still really liked the school.   That is why it is one of the three schools left on my narrowed down list! (four if my deferral at Minn turns positive).   Hope this was helpful, and let me know if you have any questions!

Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2006, 08:28:41 AM »
Good review.  I'm not going to UW but your comments make me want to.  I'm from Seattle originally, so give me a holler if you have any questions about the area.  Good luck!

Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2006, 10:11:23 AM »
I also had a good experience visiting UW. I found the staff to be very straight-forward and friendly. And the students seemed pretty normal (in a good way) - and I visited during finals week!

pass36

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Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2006, 11:25:26 PM »
Just got back from U.W. today.  Rather than start a new thread I will add my $.02 here.

(1) Staff.  Worthless.  Rating - 0 of 10.  I made an appointment with the admissions/financial aid office for this morning.  I arrived and the staff person asked me what questions I had.  I had a list of five very specific questions.  She successfully answered zero.  At one point she told me "wow, you know a lot more about this stuff than I do."  Not what I want to hear when I am thinking about spending $50K on your school.  I then went to the financial aid office.  My aid package is messed up because they have me listed as a resident, which I am not.  I am tempted to just let it slide, bank error in my favor, but I certainly don't want it to come back to bite my rear down the road.  No merit aid, no seeming rhyme or reason to how aid is distributed.  Full disclosure - part of my frustration here is that if they would give me a full ride it would make my decision a lot easier!!
     The students with whom I spoke shared my low opinion of the staff.  One student I talked to said his aid package wasn't finalized until well after he accepted admission.  That seems a bit backwards to me. 

(2) Students.  Above Average.  Rating - 7 of 10.  I sat in on one class and about 60% of the students seemed to stay on task through the whole hour.  Classes are every day but are really short, so I was a little surprised at how much surfing, emailing, im'ing and craig's listing was going on.  How hard is it to pay attention for 50 minutes?
     The student responses were fairly intelligent and the professor was able to lead a discussion at an acceptable but not superior level.
Most of the students seemed very laid back.

(3) Building/Campus.  Superior.  Rating - 10 of 10.  U.W. is a great campus that I have always liked.  Gates Hall is a technological marvel.  Well-designed, great classrooms, high tech everything, not sure what else you could ask for. 

(4) Faculty.  Superior.  Rating - 9 of 10.  All the professors with whom I spoke were friendly and helpful.  All the students reported positive experiences. 

(5) Campus/Area.  Superior.  Rating - 9 of 10.  I grew up in the Puget Sound region, so Seattle is not new for me.  The U district is actually a LOT cleaner and less "seedy" than it was 15 years ago.  I was sad to see that the Tower Records where Nirvana played the Nevermind release party is gone .... but the Blue Moon is still there!  As the OP noted, the culture is a little stand-offish.  People in Seattle and the PNW generally will never be rude to you but they won't go out of their way to make friends with you either.  Two of the biggest cultural influences are Norwegian and Japanese, which I think has a lot to do with that.  Also, if you have never lived here the rainy winters can be depressing enough that you should take it into consideration.

Overall: Great university, great building, professors seem eager to help, students are capable.  Staff is inept and bureaucracy dominates.  Once you are there that doesn't seem to matter much based on students I spoke with.  8 out of 10.

Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2006, 11:37:29 PM »
For what it's worth, in response to pass36:

1) The staff I dealt with were very helpful. Took a lot of time to talk with me and show me around the building. One of the deans was very honest about the pros and cons of UW and went out of his way to ask me about my specific situation.

As for financial aid - UW just doesn't have very much money to throw around. Except for the Gates Scholarships, I don't know if they offer many full rides at all. They instead talk about their low tuition cost as if that were financial aid.

2) I think the web surfing in class is an issue at every school. There was a bunch of chatter about Harvard profs banning wireless access in the classroom because of students not paying attention.


That's just my opinion.

Stuje1

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Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2006, 12:00:36 AM »
Thanks for the review Pass!  Very interesting to read another person’s takes.

The staff was mediocre during my visit.  Granted, it was partly my fault.  They had offered for me to meet with the admission director or financial aid staffer and I declined.   But, when I got there, I had a few questions and asked if they could meet with me spur of the moment.  They were willing to do so, which was nice.   They weren't particularly friendly or helpful though.  Got a bit of a weird vibe.  But, as you noted pass, I don't think they will have too much impact on our law school experience once we are students.

I think your assessment on the students is pretty fair. They were definitely intelligent and provided thoughtful responses.   I agree with Fakemark in that the internet thing is a problem everywhere.  I have visited 11 law schools (I know, ridiculous) and students were surfing the internet at every school, to varying degrees.  There was one exception, and that was because they didn't get internet in the classrooms (and even then, there were a few playing computer games).  It seems taboo and easy to dismiss now, but in a year, after the 5th straight day of property class, your internet browser might occasionally be pooping open.

As you said, building and campus area were great.  Besides the beauty and tech of the law building, I found it a little small and claustrophobic though, do you agree?

Is the winter rain really that bad and depressing?  Do you think it is any worse than snowy, midwesterner winters?  I am a bit concerned about depressing environment while I am in the hells of law school.   

So after your visit, are you leaning towards a particular school?  Is UW still a top choice?
 

pass36

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Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2006, 12:18:20 AM »
I liked your comments as well Stuje!  I didn't find the building claustrophobic at all.  I thought the library was really well laid out and I liked the simple floor plan and convenience of it all.  The staff was friendly enough, I should have emphasized that more, I was just not too impressed with their professionalism or competence. 

And I am sure I will be guilty of internet surfing, but since when was not being hypocritical a necessary requirement for law school!!  :D

As far as the weather, I went to grad school in Ann Arbor for several years and I could never understand why people there would prefer it to be zero degrees and sunny over forty five and cloudy??  We are not primitive man, we do not need to see the sun every day to know she is still there and the gods are not displeased with us!!!  I imagine for you, it will be the other way around, trying to figure out why lesser Seattlites are happy with grey rainy skies for the 42nd day in a row ... but seriously, I remember back in the early 90's when everyone in the world was moving to Seattle we led the nation in suicides for a couple of years and most of them were people in their first winter.  Definitely invest in a good Goretex rain jacket and some quality boots.  Like you pointed out, fashion takes a back seat to function out here (more Norwegian influence?)

Finally, for the long version of my decision making, see the U.W. thread in the One L section.  Short version: still very torn between LC for free and U.W.  Comments and suggestions welcomed!!

Stuje1

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Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2006, 01:02:58 AM »
I didn't find the building claustrophobic at all.  I thought the library was really well laid out and I liked the simple floor plan and convenience of it all. 

yeah, I really loved the library.   It was very nicely laid out and the natural light was great.  I guess it was just the rest of the building that felt small, since there really is only one area to hang out (the coffee shop seating area).  I am just afraid that I will feel that T am always in the same spot.   but, thinking back, all law schools are pretty small.  The ones that are more spread out just seem bigger though.

And I am sure I will be guilty of internet surfing, but since when was not being hypocritical a necessary requirement for law school!!  :D

 ;D very funny.

As far as the weather, I went to grad school in Ann Arbor for several years and I could never understand why people there would prefer it to be zero degrees and sunny over forty five and cloudy??  We are not primitive man, we do not need to see the sun every day to know she is still there and the gods are not displeased with us!!!  I imagine for you, it will be the other way around, trying to figure out why lesser Seattlites are happy with grey rainy skies for the 42nd day in a row

Uh oh, so are you saying I will have trouble getting used to it?  Are you originally from Seattle?  If not, how long did it take you to appreciate the warmer weather, but lack of sun?   I am a psych major, so I tend to focus a bit on that type of thing.   I am not a fan of the cold or anything, so I think the warmer weather will be really nice, but I do worry that the lack of sun will get to me.  I have no idea why that is, but it is a psychological need to see sunshine (maybe it actually is my primitive brain still thinking the gods are punishing us!  ;) )

Finally, for the long version of my decision making, see the U.W. thread in the One L section.  Short version: still very torn between LC for free and U.W.  Comments and suggestions welcomed!!

I read the other thread about your decision.  Unfortunately, I don't know too much about LC.  A free ride is hard to turn down.  Would you be ok practicing in Oregon, or would you prefer Seattle?  UW is a very good deal though, with in-state tuition 2nd and 3rd year, it is a great bargain (in terms of law school).   Are you going into public interest, and thus will have a tougher time paying back loans?   I do think that UW has a lot to offer, and that the job prospects in the pacific northwest are very promising.   I would love to hear what the local attorneys tell you about their take on UW.  Let me know your thoughts throughout the process!
 

pass36

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Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2006, 09:41:11 AM »
Thanks for the comments Stuje!

(1) I grew up in the puget sound area, across the water from Seattle, and live in Oregon now, so the grey winters seem pretty normal to me.  It doesn't actually rain all that much, you just won't see the sun for a few weeks at a time and it freaks some people out. I don't think it should be a dealbreaker for anyone, just be prepared to deal with it.

(2) I would actually prefer to practice land use and water rights law in Portland, which you would think makes Lewis and Clark for free a no brainer, but that is a very small market segment in a market that is not big to start with.  U.W. offers more diversity and I feel like I would get a more rounded education.  I am also still having trouble turning down NYU because every couple of days I get something from one of their world-class profs or programs that makes me realize top schools really are that way for a reason!  But then I think about paying $160K to live in a dorm ...  It is a tough decision and I will keep going around and around through this weekend I am sure.

Re: My Review of U of Washington (Seattle)
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2006, 11:23:22 AM »
Pass36, Did you live on the Eastside?  That's where I grew up!  I spend the first 18 years of my life there until I moved to Seattle proper for school.

Regarding the rain, I didn't really realize how often it was cloudy/overcast until my friends pointed it out to me.  It's really different than here on the East Coast where it may be super cold, but at least the sun is shining.  Another reason why people get depressed in Seattle during the winters is because the days are super short.  Because it is so far up north, in the dead of winter it will be dark at 4:30 or 5.  I don't mind, but it might bother some people, so it's something you may want to keep in mind.  That said, the summer's are absolutely wonderful and worth suffering through the crappiness of winter.