This board was entertaining and even educational last year while I was deciding where to go, so I thought I'd share some thoughts after a year of law school for the possible edification of next year's applicants.
One of the debates on here every year is whether to go to the "best" school that accepts you or to take the $$$ at a "TTT." Obviously, "best" and "TTT" vary for each of us, but that's the general choice a number of people are making. I turned down "T5" schools in Manhattan for a full ride at a "second tier" school in the market where I live and want to practice. After a year, here are the ups and downs.
(1) Budgeting is not as big an issue because you have more money.
I am not rich, but I did work for several years before law school and it was very different to not get a pay check. Much more different than I thought it would be actually. After working and having money, it is strange to go to the grocery store and think about whether or not you can afford to buy something. I can see how this would have stressed me out a lot more if I had borrowed three or four times as much money.
(2) If you get a full ride, it means you are starting with the lead in an event that is graded on a curve.
While school is work, and you should never take anything for granted, they spend a lot of money developing the LSAT and there is a reason that UGPA+LSAT (work ethic + talent) is the best predictor of first year success. It is fun to get A's and A+'s, I admit it.
(3) If you are already in the market you want to practice in, you can invest more time in your housing situation, your networking and your community.
Many people have talked about the advantages of networking, but there are also advantages to just being someplace that is really your home, not just somewhere you happen to be going to school for three years. I find it easier to invest time in building relationships with neighbors, friends, random people, etc. I am more involved with my church than I would be if I were living somewhere I just went for school.
(1) The rest of the students, and some of the professors, will occasionally frustrate you.
If you do not have patience with people who may not pick things up as quickly, you may find yourself thinking uncharitable things about your classmates and you may wish that the professor stopped calling on them. (Hint: resist the temptation to make up for their confusion with your brilliance; under the radar is a very nice place to be in law school and nobody needs to know why you are there) Some of the professors may seem dim. I had two professors who just weren't capable of challenging me, though they were very nice. I also had two professors who really kept me on my toes and made me think, which was great.
(2) You will wonder if you would have done as well in "the big pond."
Getting A+'s is fun, but getting them at better schools is probably more fun. I wonder if I could have done as well, and sometimes feel like all I am doing is getting A+'s at the kid's table.
(3) Your job options will be limited.
I have a paying law clerk job in my 1L summer, but I am making $20/hour, not $2000/week. My job is one of the "plum" ones available and a hundred other students would gladly take my place. I may or may not get OCI offers (touch wood), but only in this market and only with regional firms paying less than $100K. Only 10 or 12 people in my class will, but only 7 or 8 got full rides, and I assume there will be a lot of overlap. I know that at least three of us are in the top 10 of our class.
All this is fine for me, but if you want big bucks and big law you are not going to do it from here no matter how many A+'s you get.
Well, not sure that adds anything, but hey, it's honest. I think I made the right decision for me - saved $200,000 and was able to buy a house with a nice yard to live in during school and have a chance at the same firms I would be looking at from Manhattan - but I would be lying if I said there weren't several times during the year I cursed myself and wished I was in a high-faluting Ivory tower in NYC, hanging out with smarter, more driven, more successful people.
Hope this helps someone. Hope all the people I "met" year before last had great first years and are doing wonderful fun things this summer. Stanley, Red, John Gault - hope you are kicking some Ivy League keister!
Peace out all.