Law School Discussion

Full ride at Southwestern (3rd tier)- to UCLA, USC or Berkeley- Transfer???

I'm on a full ride at Southwestern and ranked second in my class. To transfer to UCLA, USC or Berkeley would cost 80k for the remaining two years.
UCLA, USC and Berkeley are all top 9-18 schools with a 90% bar passage rate, while Southwestern is at a mere 50%. Job prospects are also going to be much better. However, after transferring I am likely to be closer to the middle of the class, after competing with the top notch kids at a premium school.
 Because my class rank is so high at Southwestern, (provided I can maintain it for two more  years), is it worth it to transfer and pay the money (I may be able to avoid taking out student loans, via a loan from my parents- but it's still going to cost) in the hopes of getting that higher paying job, or will I do just as well having come from a third tier school, but at the top of it?
Another consideration: I have not yet applied to transfer to these schools, but any student who applies to transfer from Southwestern is forbidden from being on Law Review, even if they're not accepted to the new school- so I need to decide if I'll go if accepted before I apply.
Another (small) consideration is happiness for the remaining two years. I'm currently in a part time evening program, with people a little closer to my age (I'm 30), and I'm a night owl. I take 9 hours a semester, and don't have the grind of studying for 5 finals twice a year. I also wait tables to  pay my rent and I love my job, and if I transferred and took on a full load  I'd most likely have to quit (and take on that additional financial burden.)
I would be switching to a full time program but graduating in the same amount of time, an early morning trek to school, with people likely much younger than me, and a menacing finals load. I can suck it up for the remaining two years (I've made it this far, haven't I?) but it's just a small factor to consider.
So, to sum it up: Full ride top of the class third tier school, or 80k, middle of the class, but a top school?
If anyone has any insight as to my conundrum, I'd be eternally grateful.

I sympathize with the decision and situation.  I know it's a big decision.  However,  you haven't applied yet right?  So why not cross that bridge when you come to it.  Apply and see what happens (it will only be a few hundred dollars).  You may or may not get in (though I suspect you will being ranked so highly).  If you don't, your choice is simple, right?  If you do, then weight the pros and cons.  I was like you.  Though I didn't have a job, I took fewer credits at my first school.  Turns out studying for 5 finals isn't exactly that difficult.  You're not alone because all other classmates have the same workload.  If you had a successful work ethic at your first school, it will likely translate to a successful work ethic at the next school.    I feel that half the battle is work ethic.  I went from tier 4 to tier 2 and did just as well.  Honestly though, I would bet you would be better than middle of the class at any other school.  I know being ranked highly in a class is of great value to employers, but big firms seem to like to see big name law schools rather than high ranks at lower ranked law schools.  It depends a lot on what you want to do after graduation. 

That being said, happiness is a very high price to pay for a mere chance at switching schools.  If you  are truly happy where you are, why fix what's not broken?  Two years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but two years being miserable seems much longer. 

Just my 2 cents. 

*Edit*  One of the schools you mentioned is Berkeley, but you also mentioned an earlier trek to school if you transferred.  Southwestern to Berkeley isn't an earlier trek, it's a move.  I'm sure you're aware that they aren't even remotely close to each other.  I'm not sure about your personal life (family, etc), but moving cities like that isn't a decision to be taken lightly. 

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response!
Just to clarify, the reason I'm mulling this over now, is because if I EVEN apply to transfer, Southwestern disqualifies me from Law Review and Law Journal, even I decide to stay, or don't get in to the schools I want. And as of now, I'm automatically eligible. And yes, I could suck it up and move to Berkeley if I got in- it's a great great school, but I would be paying double what I do now for rent. But if I got in, I could find a way to make it happen.
One more factor I'm considering is the fact that I don't want a huge firm, meat grinder, 100 hour week, suck out your soul job. I know these kind of employers want people only from the best schools, but what about the smaller firms? I haven't been able to lock down an answer from anyone on that.
But thank you so much for responding.. my nerves are a mess!

I hear ya.  Never an easy choice. 

I guess it depends on how much you want to do law review.  Big firms love law review, but it seems like this isn't what you want.  From my limited experience, small firms don't care so much about law review.  I transferred and couldn't do law review because of strange rules like that.  I feel that had I done law review, I'd be better situated.  However, I still get interviews without it.  I don't think it's quite "make or break" for small firms as many make it out to be.  Their biggest concern is the school.  It seems to me that small firms love to hire from the schools they attended.  Of course, others may have different opinions, especially in other locales. 

Full time programs at the schools you mention do not accept transfers from part time programs.  You gpa as a part timer is not a good indicator of how you will perform in a full time program at a 1st tier school, and it's likely that for this reason, they will not consider your application. You can, however, transfer to other part time programs at T1 schools (Georgetown, George Washington, Fordham)