Please ignore my low post count in considering my opinions. I'm a former LSD addict, not merely a Chapman booster, although I have recently finished 1L at Chapman. Guess I should change my screenname.
Anyway. I do highly recommend Chapman. It was very much what I hoped and thought it would be.
The things that attracted me to Chapman were location, facility,faculty, atmosphere, and of course scholarship money.
How did these things measure up?
Location -- I knew this. But you may not. Chapman is located smack in the middle of Orange County. It is about 8 miles from the beach -- Newport is the closest. It is a couple blocks from the "Orange Circle" which is a sort of Main Street America plaza surrounded by antique stores, a few restaurants, etc. I can't speak to the experience of Chapman undergrad, but the undergrad campus is very nice. Chapman is growing rapidly. In the last 18 months or so -- a new four-story library and a new interfaith chapel. A brand new building 3-story building specifically for the Film School will open this year followed by an athletic complex within another year or so. BTW, these things will come with lots of new parking spots which will alleviate the parking situation which is not a huge problem but can be annoying if you come after about 10 a.m. and are running late.
Facility -- Beautiful law school building. Plenty of places to study. I've read on this board that we don't have as many volumes as other schools. I have no idea if this is true, but since you will be doing almost all your research online, as far as I can tell that's of little if any consequence.
Faculty -- Well, generally I can only speak about the professors on my track and the few I've otherwise interacted with. I had six professors in my first year. Without naming them, a quick description of each.
Prof #1 -- Has been teaching the same subject matter for about three decades. Extremely knowledgeable. To the chagrin of some, he teaches how politics and history play into some decisions. The only "old-school" professor I've had -- and maybe the only one in the school -- he plays "hide-the-ball". But, those who do the work will learn alot.
Prof #2 -- A teacher's teacher. This guy was one of California's top young litigators before he came to Chapman. Extremely well prepared for each class session. Already a top-notch teacher, he will only get better with experience.
Professor #3 -- Again, very knowledgeable. Something of a Rennaissance Man, he has a wide variety of interests. Brings some educational fun into the classroom. FUNNY! Some have found him to be lacking in tact on occasion.
Professor #4 -- Brilliant among the brilliant. Had 3 or 4 Law Review Articles published just this year.But unlike #3, his knowledge seems to be more limited to the law. And unlike #2, he is not always super-prepared. I don't think he would mind my saying he's a loveable nerd.
Professor #5 -- This one I will identify as my Legal Research and Writing (LRW) teacher. First-year teacher, she was diligent, accessible, and hardworking. Beyond her control, I think our LRW program stinks, but this is apparently a nationwide phenomonon. My brother, who went to a Top Ten law school, said he and everybody he knows and works with feel the same way. I will say that I do know a few people who really enjoyed LRW. Of course, IMHO, there must be something terribly wrong with these people.
Professor #6 -- Sweet guy. But honestly a little boring, at least in the beginning. However, very straightforward and his class is outstanding Bar Prep.
Overall, I would say that you would be hard-pressed to find a better group of 1L professors anywhere.
As for 2L and 3L profs, we have three profs who have served as clerks to Supreme Court Justices. I don't know this for a fact, but I'll bet that's more than any other Tier 4 school in the country. Expect the faculty to become increasingly prestigious.
Scholarship -- There is a lot of scholarship money available. If you got a scholarhip upon entry, and you work hard
, you should be able to maintain it. If you didn't, or you want to increase your scholarship, and you are around the middle of the pack in terms of undergrad grades/LSAT, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to earn at least a 30% scholarship. 2L and 3L scholarships at Chapman are based soley on class rank.
Atmosphere -- With what I've just told you about the competition for scholarship money as well as the usual law school competition for Law Review, etc., you would think a very competitive atmosphere would emerge,b ut it hasn't. This was one of the crucial reasons I chose Chapman over some of my other options. It felt positive. And I was dead right about this. I am completely unaware of any incident in which anybody ever was nasty to any of his/her classmates in an academic sense. I readily lent notes and other materials to anyone who asked and occasionally went out of my way to help others who seemed to be struggling with a class. Although I think I was more proactive in this sense than most, everyone else I knew (well one exception, but by no means nasty, just a reluctance to share) was ready and willing to help his colleagues. This is in stark contrast to the feeling -- granted not based on a 1L experience -- that I got at some of the other SoCal schools.
If you have the opportunity to go to a T1 law school in the area you want to practice, and you're interested in BigLaw or other pursuits that may require a degree from a prestigious institution, you should go there. If you plan to practice in Orange County (or to a degree anywhere in CA) and are looking for an excellent education and a great law school experience, Chapman is a great choice.
P.S. If you think this was too much to read, you may not be ready for law school.