My biggest apprehension in agreeing to take an assignment about my law school decision-making process was what I would think of the article three years from now. It is difficult for me to picture myself as a third year law student—or perhaps a bum on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach (that, however, is yet to be determined). Will I be intrinsically the same as I am now, or will my thoughts, ideas, and point of view have fundamentally changed? Will I still want to practice family law? Will I have a job waiting for me upon graduation?
It’s impossible to know where the next three years of my life will take me. And, to tell you the truth, I’m no expert on law school comparisons. So when deciding where to go, I did my research. I found out which schools had programs for the practice areas I’m interested in. I checked in with good old U.S. News & World Report. I consulted with family, friends, and even random family law attorneys at law firms in the San Diego area. I gave into the urge and opened a forum account on both Above the Law and Top Law Schools. I would say, now, that I am a fairly well-educated person in the area of ABA-approved law schools. When push comes to shove, though, I think that as a college graduate and an all-around (I like to tell myself) intelligent person, it is my responsibility to keep in the forefront of my mind six very important words:
Money, Money, Money, Location, Location, Location
In all the research I’ve done, these seem to be the prevailing factors that we 0Ls are told to consider. Apparently, we need only ask ourselves two simple questions: 1) How much are we willing to pay? and 2) Where do we want to live?
These are some pretty heavy questions, if I do say so myself. So in the end, after all of the research, all of the time spent poring over books and newspaper articles about how to make this decision, it comes down to how much I want to pay and where I want to live. Well, I think I can answer the first question pretty simply: as little as possible. Luckily, USD has been accommodating in that respect—the school is generous with scholarship money and helpful with financial aid. The second question, I think, is a bit more complicated.
You see, I’m from New York. As much as I love New York, I have to be honest here. It’s dirty. It’s crowded. Every time I get on the subway to go to work in the morning, I am somehow squished like a sardine between a 300-pound man who hasn’t showered since the Mets won their last World Series, and a mother with four children trying her best not to scream. Also, it’s cold. We had more snow this past January than San Diego has total precipitation, on average, in an entire year. What sort of crazy person wants to live in a place like that? I know that San Diegans tend to defend their city against newcomers. They say we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into. Well, I’ve never lived in California, but I assure you I won’t be complaining about studying outside in the sun, on my patio, in mid-December.
“Well, Marisa,” you say, “there has to be more to your decision-making process than just money and location!” Why yes, USD Law Student, of course there is. Academics are important. I want to know that my professors are passionate about what they teach. The administration should be welcoming and accommodating to its students. The job prospects should be great, and summer employment plentiful. These are all hugely important factors in a decision one would make about any sort of higher education.
When choosing between my final two schools (UC-Hastings and USD), however, I have to say that from every angle these things seemed nearly equal. I heard amazing things from students at both schools, saying they loved their professors, that the administration is always helpful and available, and that job prospects weren’t looking great anywhere. Is this last part discouraging? Of course. The fact is, though, that students who are working hard are still getting jobs. Clearly, the market is not what it once was. That applies to any law school, though, and I think that if you’re one hundred percent sure you want to be an attorney, you need to just sort of go for it. I plan to work my ass off and hope for the best—I don’t think there’s anything more that someone who is intent on practicing law can do.
USD is an amazing school. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the gorgeous campus or the beautiful weather, but I am also excited to begin the journey of higher education that will be the next three years for the Class of 2014. Call me an eternal optimist, but I can’t wait to become a lawyer. And I can’t wait to begin my time at the University of San Diego School of Law.