Law Schools, Politics, Rankings, Reader Polls

The Decision: The Conservative Choice

File this one under #firstworldproblems. Today we have a guy who got into the University of Chicago Law School and Duke Law School, and he’s getting money from both.

But he’s getting a little more money from Duke… which is about as close as you’ll ever get Duke to admitting that it’s not “the Harvard of the South” because Harvard wouldn’t give you a dime to draw you away from the UofC (no offense, Brian Leiter).

So what should this guy do, other than be happy and email ATL about his good fortune? Well, you probably need a little more information…

Our candidate has an interesting choice, but it’s probably going to work out for him either way:

I am a 0L undergrad trying to pick between to law school offers… Unless I get off wait lists which render this choice irrelevant, I have narrowed my decision down to Duke and UChicago.

Here are the specifics:

-Duke is offering me a little more than half tuition, UChicago a little less than half tuition.
-Ideally, I would like to work in DC or Southern California. I do not want to live or work in Chicago.
-I want to work in the public sector and probably not big law. My goal is to land a federal clerkship after graduation.
-I am very interested in National Security Law.

What would you do in my shoes?

I mean, me personally? I’d go to Penn because damned if I’m putting on shoes that would lead me south of the Mason-Dixon or all the way to the Mississippi. But I’m parochial like that.

I specifically asked this guy about his political leanings to help shape my advice. He said:

Right of center on most issues.

I’m of the opinion that the University of Chicago is a bad fit for liberals who maybe want to work in the government. It’s good for liberals looking to score clerkships with like-minded federal judges who might value the “sleeping with the enemy” aspect of your education. But eventually in your government career, you’re going to run up against a liberal appointee who says, “Yeah, why don’t you take your law and economics BS and shove it up your ass.”

But really, it’s not that UofC is bad for liberals, it’s just so much better for people who identify as “right of center.” There is a “right of center” network that Chicago just taps you into. And that network extends well beyond Chicago. If you are liberal, going to Chicago is like putting your cocaine in your coffee. It’ll work, but that’s not the preferred way of using it. If you are more conservative, the Chicago stuff comes with a pre-rolled hundred dollar bill.

Not that Duke is “bad” for conservatives either. It’s not Yale. And going to Duke will save this guy some money as he pursues his career in “Oh Sh*t, Nobody Told Me They Don’t Pay For This” Law. But I think Chicago, with a significant national presence and a judicial feeder system to die for, is worth the slightly higher price. If Duke were free, that would be different; the schools aren’t far apart in the current ATL law school rankings (note that we’re about to release the 2014 rankings). But “a little less than half” versus “a little more than half” is what, maybe $30K over three years in the context of nearly $100K of debt anyway?

Put it like this: if this guy really doesn’t want to work in Biglaw and is hoping to get a right-of-center clerkship and then work for the government, I’d say that Chicago at half price is probably a better bet than wherever he’s hoping he gets into off the wait-list at full price.

Chicago is a very good school. Getting it at close to half off would be the right decision for almost anybody. Not me of course, but I’m not known for applying rational economic decision making to my own life. I would never have fit in at Chicago.

This 0L should go to:

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The ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings 2013

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