Law School Discussion

Whittier Law or Cal Western in SD

Whittier Law or Cal Western in SD
« on: March 31, 2015, 09:52:08 PM »
Ok so I've been accepted to both schools but I am still awaiting acceptances from various other law schools including USD which is my first choice, but just in case I get rejected from the other schools i've applied to and I am stuck with choosing between these two schools which one would be a better choice?

With Whittier I have received a 30,000 scholarship for the first year.
For Cal western I have received a scholarship that will cover 50% of my tuition.

I love the idea of attending law school in SD but I also would not mind attending law school in Orange County.
I've also heard that the legal market is much more smaller in SD than it is in LA, but its also much more exclusive and i've been told by practicing attorneys in LA that its much more harder to land a job in SD if they are going against a candidate who graduated from law school in SD. As of now my gut is telling me to go with Cal Western but im also a little hesitant because Whittier is offering me more money! Any input or suggestions will be highly appreciated, thank you!

Re: Whittier Law or Cal Western in SD
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2015, 10:41:13 PM »
First and foremost realize that anything you read on this board or others comes from anonymous internet posters so anything you read my post included should be taken with a grain of salt.

With that out of the way congrats on your acceptances.

Now to answer your question. I believe any law student should consider the following five factors in this order. (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about the school; (4) Understanding the reality of legal education and (5) last and least U.S. News rankings. Here is a good article explaining the factors to consider.

Below is a brief application of those factors to your scenario.

You are on the right track with Southern California schools both Whittier and Cal Western will give you opportunities in Southern California, but obviously Cal Western will give you more opportunities in San Diego. Whittier will open doors in Whittier/L.A.

However, ask yourself what City you like more. L.A. and San Diego are not drastically different cities, but they are not the same either. Whichever, school you attend is where you will spend a minimum of three years of your life so make sure it is the City you want to be in.

2. Cost
Congrats on the scholarship at Whittier, but one thing to consider are the scholarship conditions. I imagine the conditions are a 3.0, which sounds easy, but in law school it is very difficult to get a 3.0. At most schools only 35% of students can get a 3.0, which means there is a 65% chance you will not get your scholarship years 2 & 3.

You can also negotiate scholarship money with Cal Western. Tell them Cal Western is your first choice, but Whittier is offering you $30,000 a year so they might give you $15,000 or so a year. You have everything and nothing to lose by asking for money.

3. Personal Feelings About School:
I strongly encourage you to visit both schools and walk around talk to people etc. Each school has a culture to it and whether you like the culture or not is a highly personal decision.

4. Reality of Legal Education
Whether you attend Whitter, Cal Western, etc you will learn the same thing. You will be reading Supreme Court Cases and the Supreme Court does not write different opinions for different schools. At the end of graduation you will then take BarBri or Kaplan for Barprep and pack into a room with thousands of other law students taking the bar exam. Whether you pass the bar or not has a lot more to do with you than the school you attend.

5. U.S. News Ranking:

This is a for-profit unregulated magazine offering an opinion. U.S. News is doing nothing wrong by offering their opinion, but it should not be the basis of a life altering decision.

I know nothing about you and cannot possibly tell you what school is best for you. Also, no matter what you choose you will never have a for sure decision and you will have second thoughts.

Congrats again on your acceptance and good luck on your pursuit of a legal education.


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Re: Whittier Law or Cal Western in SD
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2015, 06:34:42 AM »
My thoughts, briefly-

1. Review the terms of the scholarships. Some require you to maintain a certain a GPA. Law school GPA is not the same as uGPA (undergrad GPA). Law schools grade on a curve, set by the particular school. I don't know the curves at these schools, but, for example, some schools in the past have been known to set their curves below 3.0, offer scholarships that require maintenance of, say, a 3.2 at all times relevant, and then depend on incoming students 1) believing that it will be easy because of their knowledge of grade inflation and uGPA, and 2) they can induce students to commit to the school on scholarship, yank the scholarship, and the student is then committed to the school at full freight. I'm not saying that's what is happening here, and this is less common than it was in the bubble, but make sure you understand the terms (OTOH, a "good standing" or 2.0 is common and acceptable).
2. Don't go to Whittier. I've written a fair amount about this on other threads, but don't do it. Even if the scholarship is good for the first year, it doesn't cover the full tuition and fees, and it won't touch your living expenses in the OC. In addition, you're committed to Whittier, and Whittier has absolutely cruddy Bar Passage rates and job numbers. Short version- if you go to Whittier, you are very unlikely to be a practicing attorney.

3. CalWestern is.... marginally better. I would not recommend that school, either. You should look at websites like lawschooltransparency to get an idea of actual costs and likelihood of jobs, as well as trends.

4. USD is solid. I wouldn't recommend it at full freight. But it's a good choice. As I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the other two, I would wait to see what other schools accept you.

Re: the markets. I worked in the LA market. One of my fellow associates was from San Diego. One of my classmates worked in the San Diego market (he was from out of state, but worked connections because he passed the patent bar, which seems unlikely for you?). What you wrote is pretty accurate. San Diego is a big small city. LA has a lot of people from outside. San Diego- not so much.

Re: Whittier Law or Cal Western in SD
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2015, 04:41:51 PM »
My general thoughts are that I would not pay full price for any of these schools, USD included.

That said, USD and CW will give you a better shot at employment in SD than Whittier. Conversely, Whittier's location will offer better access to internships and networking in the LA/OC markets. When you are attending a non-elite, local reputation school, knowledge of the local market and the ability to network and make meaningful connections is paramount. If you attend any of these schools your ability to get hired will depend more on your personal networking and experience-building skills than on the school's ranking.

Outside of SD, I don't really think any of the three schools will be viewed all that differently. Yes, I know that SD is ranked higher but it's not the kind of school that will get you an interview based on pedigree alone (at least not outside of SD). Within San Diego, USD is considered the top school. Both USD and CW, however, face competition from the numerous LA area schools (especially for the higher paying jobs).

For me personally, cost would be at least as important as location. You really need to look at the scholarship stipulations. If you need a 3.0 GPA to retain the scholarship, that's very difficult and you will likely lose it. If you only need to maintain "good standing", that's much better.

Remember that even with a scholarship you will accrue living expenses unless you can stay with family. Thus, even a 50% scholarship to CW could still result in a 100k debt.

Like I said before, I personally would not be willing to accrue that kind of debt for any of these schools. I think it's difficult for a 0L to imagine just how crippling that kind of debt can be when you are NOT able to land one of the few high paying jobs that go to graduates of local schools.

BTW, I'm not a rankings snob. I graduated from an ABA school with a good local reputation, but that's probably unknown outside of the immediate region. I went there because I had a very good LSAT score and they offered me a huge scholarship. For me, taking the most money was the right decision. It may or may not be the right decision for you, but I would urge you to carefully consider the long term ramifications of a huge debt combined with a non-elite degree.