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GW v. UCI

commonlaw
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I’m deliberating between GW @ $31,790/y and UCI @ $20,000/y (plus subsidized grad housing, which would save me approx. $20k over three years--other COL about the same). I'll also note that I have about $50k saved in an education fund.

I'm interested in working soft-IP/technology, preferably, I think, doing transactional or non-litigation work. I've been in Los Angeles for the past 15 years and would be happy to live in D.C. and maybe even work on the East Coast after graduation, but I suspect that I will want to return to California eventually, especially since California probably has better markets for media/tech law. That being said, if GW offers substantially better job prospects in its respective market in these practice areas, then I'm not totally against staying out there.

In terms of job prospects, based on LST's 2017 data, GW and UCI seem to be comparable in terms of job prospects in their respective markets. However, for the preceding years, UCI only placed about half as many grads in big law and did GW (approx. 15% v. 28%). UCI did place many more judicial clerks in recent years (8-12% in recent years, compared to GW's 3.5-4.0%), which seems to even things out a bit, insofar as judicial clerkships are a proxy for big law employment under the principle that most of those who can obtain clerkships can ostensibly obtain a big law gig.

According to law professors I've spoken with at GW and UCLA, the UCI IP faculty is definitely on par with GW. There is a really cool public interest IP/technology clinic (GW doesn't have any IP related clinics--not that I'd go to a school just for a particular clinic). There are, on the other hand, many great soft-IP externship possibilities in D.C., such as positions at NPR or the patent and trademark office.

Based on my perception from preview day--I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this--UCI students don't seem as high caliber as GW students. By this, I don't mean that the people I spoke to at UCI lacked raw intellect or that they were not chill. It was more a sense that they didn't know as much about the law, the legal industry, or their reasons for wanting to go to law school. It also seemed that UCI admits/students came from less prestigious universities and/or held less prestigious jobs before starting law school. With the risk of sounding arrogant, I believe that the qualities of my future peers do matter and should be given some weight in deciding where to attend law school. For all I know, everyone I met at both schools thought that I was a complete dope. But from my perspective, it seems like I would benefit more from my peers at GW. I realize law school is about getting a degree and then a job. Still, the caliber of my future peers seems important to consider.

My assessment of UCI student, which I readily admit is only grounded in first impression, is nonetheless supported by objective standards: UCI's GPA/LSAT mediums are lower than GW's by a few points. I bring this up because I heard that some law firms will look at the GPA and LSAT profile of where you went to law school because they want to determine how well you did against the competition. I can't remember where I heard this--I think it was only the Thinking Like a Lawyer Podcast--can anyone confirm or deny? Is this something I should take into account?

One more factor, in favor of UCI, is that I'm waitlisted at UCLA and USC. A last-minute change of plans to either of those schools would be much easier from UCI than GW, as I wouldn't have to worry about a subleasing an apartment from the other side of the country while starting law school.

I would greatly appreciate any insights and comments re whether my comparisons and presumptions are valid or anything I may have overlooked. Thanks!
Last edited by commonlaw on Thu Apr 18, 2019 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dave Killoran
PowerScore Staff
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Hey common,

Thanks for the post! I wanted to provide some comments in reply, so I've quoted you below followed by my thoughts. But first, congrats on the great offers!

commonlaw wrote:I’m deliberating between GW @ $31,790/y and UCI @ $20,000/y (plus subsidized grad housing, which would save me approx. $20k over three years--other COL about the same). I'll also note that I have about $50k saved in an education fund.

I'm interested in working soft-IP/technology, preferably, I think, doing transactional or non-litigation work. I've been in Los Angeles for the past 15 years and would be happy to live in D.C. and maybe even work on the East Coast after graduation, but I suspect that I will want to return to California eventually, especially since California probably has better markets for media/tech law. That being said, if GW offers substantially better job prospects in its respective market in these practice areas, then I'm not totally against staying out there.

As I'll argue below, I don't think GW will offer substantially better opportunities, and that's especially so if you want to return to California as the majority of GW grads stay in the DC/Virginia area (as expected). But the GW name doesn't have national drawing power at this time.

As an aside, I've lived in both LA and DC, and the one thing about UCI that might give me pause is Irvine itself. It's certainly a nice area (hey OC!), but DC is an amazing city imho, and the federal government does provide a lot of opportunities related to IP work/internships, etc





commonlaw wrote:In terms of job prospects, based on LST's 2017 data, GW and UCI seem to be comparable in terms of job prospects in their respective markets. However, for the preceding years, UCI only placed about half as many grads in big law and did GW (approx. 15% v. 28%). UCI did place many more judicial clerks in recent years (8-12% in recent years, compared to GW's 3.5-4.0%), which seems to even things out a bit, insofar as judicial clerkships are a proxy for big law employment under the principle that most of those who can obtain clerkships can ostensibly obtain a big law gig.

You are totally right about clerkships being a proxy for biglaw, so that has to be figured into these numbers. Also consider that UCI is a very young law school, but that it immediately established itself with a fairly high ranking (it opened at #30, and has moved up since). So, those employment numbers from prior years are, in my opinion, less relevant than the more recent ones due to the newness of the school and it's place in the legal employment market. They are just getting started, and I see a bright future for UCI.

So, when we look at the most recent year (which is here, for anyone reading: https://www.lstreports.com/compare/irvine/gw/), we can see that UCI overall performed better than GW, and I'd expect that to continue into the future, with the gap possibly widening as UCI becomes more established.





commonlaw wrote:According to law professors I've spoken with at GW and UCLA, the UCI IP faculty is definitely on par with GW. There is a really cool public interest IP/technology clinic (GW doesn't have any IP related clinics--not that I'd go to a school just for a particular clinic). There are, on the other hand, many great soft-IP externship possibilities in D.C., such as positions at NPR or the patent and trademark office.

Based on my perception from preview day--I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this--UCI students don't seem as high caliber as GW students. By this, I don't mean that the people I spoke to at UCI lacked raw intellect or that they where not chill. It was more a sense that they didn't know as much about the law, the legal industry, or their reasons for wanting to go to law school. It also seemed that UCI admits/students came from less prestigious universities and/or held less prestigious jobs before starting law school. With the risk of sounding arrogant, I believe that the qualities of my future peers do matter and should be given some weight in deciding where to attend law school. For all I know, everyone I met at both schools thought that I was a complete dope. But from my perspective, it seems like I would benefit more from my peers at GW. I realize law school is about getting a degree and then a job. Still, the caliber of my future peers seems important to consider.

No reason to apologize for your impressions—that's how you felt, and it's fair to express that! I do think you have to be careful about drawing a broad conclusion from a limited sample, however. For example, how many students at each school did you speak to? Was it 10% of each class? 20%? Even at a fairly high percentage (and 20% would be surprising, esp at GW given its size), you aren't talking to a majority of your possible classmates, and so I think you have to temper your impressions with that fact.

Side note: Even though UCI is growing, GW is still a much larger school than UCI, and there can be multiple trickle-down effects from that in terms of class sizes, time with professors, competition, OCI opps, hiring resources, etc. It's a point worth exploring.





commonlaw wrote:My assessment of UCI student, which I readily admit is only grounded in first impression, is nonetheless supported by objective standards: UCI's GPA/LSAT mediums are lower than GW's by a few points. I bring this up because I heard that some law firms will look at the GPA and LSAT profile of where you went to law school because they want to determine how well you did against the competition. I can't remember where I heard this--I think it was only the Thinking Like a Lawyer Podcast--can anyone confirm or deny? Is this something I should take into account?

I don't recall hearing that, and maybe it is true. However, these two schools are pretty close, and UCI actually has the better 25% numbers, meaning the lower end of the class is supposedly slight better (I say supposedly because when numbers are this close, statistically the difference is meaningless, which is also true at the top end as LSAC would tell you that 165 and 166 can't be used for differentiation).





commonlaw wrote:One more factor, in favor of UCI, is that I'm waitlisted at UCLA and USC. A last-minute change of plans to either of those schools would be much easier from UCI than GW, as I wouldn't have to worry about a subleasing an apartment from the other side of the country while starting law school.

I would greatly appreciate any insights and comments re whether my comparisons and presumptions are valid or anything I may have overlooked. Thanks!

Given the cost factors above (and factoring in that I'm debt averse) as well as the current numbers, I'd personally lean towards UCI in this comparison. But, it's not me making the choice, and you have to go with the choice that you think gives you the best opportunity to perform well. No matter which school you choose, if you don't post good grades then it won't matter.
Dave Killoran
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commonlaw
LSAT Apprentice
 
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Thanks so much Dave!!! I was leaning towards UCI (despite the "Irvine factor") and your response helped cement that decision.
Jay Donnell
PowerScore Staff
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Hi commonlaw!

Just to jump in here after Dave's wonderful response, I am PowerScore's Orange County LSAT instructor and I teach at UCI. Despite the overwhelming...sterility... of Irvine itself, it brings a big plus of safety and peace of mind, but you are just minutes away from the beach and all kinds of other exciting things to get into! That is, if you ever find the time outside of the campus library next year :ras:

Congratulations and welcome to the neighborhood!