Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Why Stanford Law (as opposed to Harvard, Yale, NYU, Columbia, etc.)
It is that time of year again for law school decisions to be made, so here is my plug for Stanford. To start with, here are the reasons why NOT to come here:
(1) You got a ton of money someplace else that is comparable in reputation
(2) You don't want to be on the West Coast
(3) You want the absolute highest chance of being a legal academic
(4) You need to be at the most politically conservative law school
(5) You want the advantages of a large school - such as widest possible range of classes to choose from, larger alum network, and more anonymity during law school
(6) You need to go to school in the middle of a big city

That being said, here are the reasons to come here:
(1) You want a degree with a reputation that is in reality second to none: Looking at the only portion of US News worth counting - the reputational surveys - Stanford is only a tenth of a point behind the leader, Harvard. Keep in mind that with gaming of the rankings (i.e. lawyers/judges marginally subconsciously lowering the scores of rivals to their alma matter) more likely to adversely affect the smaller schools, this difference is probably non-existent.
(2) You want to enjoy your three years in law school as much as possible: In terms of quality of life, Stanford is tops. The natural beauty is amazing - I am looking at mountains from my university-owned studio while typing this - and the weather is unbeatable. During my three years here I (a) Went skiing over ten times at nearby Tahoe (for those who need to have a winter) (b) Studied for exams by sunset at the beach (c) Never wore more than a light jacket (d) Went hiking in some of the best parks in the country (e) Swam in the Stanford outdoor pool multiple times per week even in January (f) Relieved occasional stress by taking walks in the mountains behind the school that are easily accessible
(3) A name not a number: One of the biggest reasons why I think students at law school become so unhappy is that law school is the first experience where they fail to make their mark. Unless you are at the top of your class (which the odds of are slim), you will most likely not be remembered (rightly or wrongly) for your intellectual wit. At the bigger schools, that is your only chance to feel like your presence actually even matters in your latter years, because the professors are inaccessible. This is not true at Stanford. The smaller size makes it easier to be known, and the institutional memory of the school - its staff and professors - go out of their way to get to know the student body.
(4) You want excellent job placement: Some say Stanford does not have enough partners at top 10 law firms. This is because those firms are concentrated in New York, which students here often make a conscious choice to avoid. Plus, with fewer Stanford students to compete for relative to Harvard/Columbia/NYU students, those who are interested may be in increased demand
(5) You want to be with the most laid back student body possible at a top law school: Students who get into Stanford get into other schools that provide equal job opportunities. The ones who choose to come here make a conscious choice to prefer a laid back experience to the downsides of the school listed above. In the aggregate, this adds up to a relatively more laid back experience than other top schools (which students who have transferred here largely seem to agree with)
(6) If you want to be an academic you don't believe the hype that Yale is the only path to the legal academy: Stanford places quite well in the legal academic world. Although I am not interested in academia myself, my friends who are and chose Stanford over Yale on this point did so because they felt the margin that Yale has over Stanford on academic placement is due to self selection. Per Capita, we are ahead of everybody else based on the information from that link.
(7) Access to the Big City: In case you HAVE to be in a big city, many students do choose to live in San Francisco and commute down for class.

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