Chicago or Virginia?

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soullesswonder
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Chicago or Virginia?

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:01 am

Okay, I've put this off about as long as I can. I have not visited Chicago yet, but by the time I visit there will be only a few days left to decide, so I thought I'd start this thread now.

I have been offered a greater-than-half tuition scholarship at both schools (equal amounts of money). My ideal job would be AUSA, with a midlaw or biglaw job in the Southeast as my backup. If I can get into the USAO I don't really care where I live. I am not an East Coast person, but I think that if I had to live outside the Southeast long-term Chicago would be my first choice.

I'm a little concerned about Chicago's social reputation, so if any current UChi students could speak in their school's defense I'd really appreciate it. The weather obviously sucks and I would have a much greater geographical adjustment period (Central VA feels very familiar to me). There's also the issue that I'm not crazy about Biglaw and obviously UVA gives me much easier access to Southern firms. If I went to Chicago I would have to send out a lot of resumes and really make a strong case as why I want to work at the SE firms (I think I can, but still).

That said, I'm more than a little sick of the Southern brosephs, and while everyone I met at UVA seemed nice I'm wary of the former frat boys banding together and making a nuisance of themselves. I also like Chicago's reputation for no-holds-barred intellectual debate, and I'm particularly excited about taking classes outside the Law School to pursue an interest that might make me a more effective AUSA down the road and give me more of a "hook" in the DOJ interview process. If I went to Chicago I could also probably spend 1L summer in the City working with a prosecutor's office, instead of having to search for work outside the small city of Charlottesville

For those of you who aren't already in "TLDR" mode, here's where my knowledge gets a little fuzzy. The conventional wisdom is that Chicago is great for clerkships (three separate professors have told me that I should be working towards a clerkship if I want to be a AUSA) and better for Biglaw than UVA. The most recent placement stats, however, don't bear that out. UVA was basically dead even for NLJ 250 placement and beat Chicago in Art. III clerks. Now I'm starting to think that I might actually have a bigger cushion in terms of class rank at Virginia than Chicago, particularly when factoring in firms outside the 250 that OCI at UVA but not at Chicago.

The short-form question for this post: are my perceptions about clerkship and firm placement accurate, or am I missing something?

The long-form question: Which school seems to be the better option?

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Consigliere
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby Consigliere » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:21 am

With the caveat that im likely going to Chicago next year, just got back from ASW, and havent even looked at UVA, id say you should definately go Chicago.

Smaller schools means you'll be competing with fewer people from your own school for those positions. You will also have a lot more access to your professors (some 2L's were talking to us about how they've had scotch at their professors house or went to a baseball game with them). You'll have a much easier time getting a good rec out of a good professor at Chicago, which is essential for a clerkship. A number of Chicago faculty are sitting judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If your from the Southeast you wont have a hard time explaining why you want to work there in your letters. Checkout the Chicago Class of 2013 thread in regards to the reputation of "where fun goes to die". The consensus from those that went to ASW was that clearly wasnt the case.

jimmyd11011
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby jimmyd11011 » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:25 am

sounds like you've made up your mind on virginia

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soullesswonder
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:37 am

Consigliere wrote:Smaller schools means you'll be competing with fewer people from your own school for those positions. You will also have a lot more access to your professors (some 2L's were talking to us about how they've had scotch at their professors house or went to a baseball game with them). You'll have a much easier time getting a good rec out of a good professor at Chicago, which is essential for a clerkship. A number of Chicago faculty are sitting judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If your from the Southeast you wont have a hard time explaining why you want to work there in your letters. Checkout the Chicago Class of 2013 thread in regards to the reputation of "where fun goes to die". The consensus from those that went to ASW was that clearly wasnt the case.


I have read the reactions from the ASW, and they were encouraging, but while I have heard the arguments in favor of smaller schools that does not explain Chicago's relatively poor performance in Art. III clerkships. I saw some speculation on the clerkships thread that UVA benefits from the larger size of the 4th circuit and the reduced competition relative to the 7th. What I really want to know, though, is why Chicago looked so bad that year and whether that was self-selection (difficult to imagine given Chicago's reputation) or something else.

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Consigliere
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby Consigliere » Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:29 am

I havent seen the breakdown of clerkships your referring to, could you post that?

fortissimo
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby fortissimo » Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:36 am

Consigliere wrote:I havent seen the breakdown of clerkships your referring to, could you post that?


I think OP is referring to this.
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=75513

Chicago places a higher proportion than other schools into COA over fed district clerkships, but I honestly don't get why people talk about Chicago as if it were a clerkship placing mania, because historically it places fewer percentage-wise into Article III clerkships than other top 14s. I know you have to take into account self-selection out of clerkships (in the past at least, now more people from all schools want them and numbers will probably increase at many schools), but I don't get where the idea that Chicago places a lot into clerkships comes from since none of the recent stats suggest this.

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holydonkey
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby holydonkey » Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:44 am

soullesswonder wrote:The short-form question for this post: are my perceptions about clerkship and firm placement accurate, or am I missing something?

The long-form question: Which school seems to be the better option?
I think your overall perception of clerkship and nlj firm placement is accurate, but the nlj figures do not distinguish between firms. Chicago places more grads at better firms (V10 - for a dated example see http://lawfirmaddict2007.blogspot.com/) within the nlj 250.

I think Chicago wins, but UVA is a perfectly reasonable choice.

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soullesswonder
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:51 am

holydonkey wrote:
soullesswonder wrote:The short-form question for this post: are my perceptions about clerkship and firm placement accurate, or am I missing something?

The long-form question: Which school seems to be the better option?
I think your overall perception of clerkship and nlj firm placement is accurate, but the nlj figures do not distinguish between firms. Chicago places more grads at better firms (V10 - for a dated example see http://lawfirmaddict2007.blogspot.com/) within the nlj 250.

I think Chicago wins, but UVA is a perfectly reasonable choice.


I would agree that Chicago does better with the most prestigious firms, but what about depth? I want to think that even if I end up below median at UVA, my willingness to be an SA with a regional firm outside the v100 will help me get a job. Will those firms be willing to hire a slightly below median Chicago student who they don't get to interview on campus?

EDIT: One other concern: Even adjusted for class size Chicago appears to have less in the way of clinics and journals. Is that a potential disadvantage for UChi students who can't find something to put on their resume?

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Consigliere
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby Consigliere » Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:09 pm

soullesswonder wrote:EDIT: One other concern: Even adjusted for class size Chicago appears to have less in the way of clinics and journals. Is that a potential disadvantage for UChi students who can't find something to put on their resume?


Chicago does have fewer clinics, they spoke during ASW about expanding the number of clinics. That being said, it sounded like students didnt necessarily get their first choice of clinic, but that everyone who wanted to get a clinic got one.

Journals, Chicago does have only three. Spoke with a student who said almost 30 people get on Chicago Law Review a year, and 20 each for the other two. If his numbers were accurate thats 70 students a year out of 200. I would definately try to confirm those numbers though since they seem high.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:36 pm

Okay, rather than address one school or the other as a better means toward your goal, I'm going to address your goal and the reality of it. You talk about AUSA as your ideal job and a law firm job as your "backup". This makes me concerned that you need a reality check.

The DOJ hires directly out of law school only through the Honors Program. I just spoke to someone who does hiring at the DOJ about this a couple weeks ago, and if I remember them right, only two AUSA offices in the entire country took anyone at all through the Honors Program. AUSAs don't like taking inexperienced lawyers. It's nearly impossible to become an AUSA directly out of law school.

It's incredibly hard to do it even straight out of a clerkship, which does count as 1 year of legal work experience. That satisfies the minimum for many AUSA postings, but you're still going to lose to someone with a clerkship and real work experience on top of it. Many people hired as AUSAs are hired after a few years of either 1) BigLaw experience in a litigation department or 2) prominent prosecution/defense experience (with, I suspect, a bias in many offices toward prosecutors). Usually people who get hired as an AUSA have 3-4 years of experience (more is certainly acceptable, but 3-4 years seems to be a commonly acceptable range and when many people start being successful at transitioning over).

If you really seriously want to be an AUSA, your goal needs to be to go to a school that will get you a prestigious federal clerkship, and then place you into a prestigious law firm or prosecutor's office for a few years. This "midlaw or biglaw job as a backup" stuff is nonsense, prestigious biglaw work is one of a few competitive and difficult paths to get where you're going.

To that end, if you don't want to do BigLaw, I'd suggest going to Chicago and trying to make as many connections to the Cook County DA's office as possible while you're there. DA's offices, especially competitive big-city ones like Cook County, like to see dedication to the cause and that you're not using it as just a backup to BigLaw, so you can really prove yourself by doing pro bono work or clinics while you're in law school, and build yourself a road in there when you graduate. Getting a job as a prosecutor there would make a good goal for you that would give you experience appropriate to becoming an AUSA down the line.

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Kohinoor
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby Kohinoor » Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:43 pm

Consigliere wrote:Smaller schools means you'll be competing with fewer people from your own school for those positions.
wat

You will also have a lot more access to your professors. You'll have a much easier time getting a good rec out of a good professor at Chicago, which is essential for a clerkship.
That sounds like something you made up!

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soullesswonder
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:56 pm

vanwinkle wrote:Okay, rather than address one school or the other as a better means toward your goal, I'm going to address your goal and the reality of it. You talk about AUSA as your ideal job and a law firm job as your "backup". This makes me concerned that you need a reality check.

The DOJ hires directly out of law school only through the Honors Program. I just spoke to someone who does hiring at the DOJ about this a couple weeks ago, and if I remember them right, only two AUSA offices in the entire country took anyone at all through the Honors Program. AUSAs don't like taking inexperienced lawyers. It's nearly impossible to become an AUSA directly out of law school.

It's incredibly hard to do it even straight out of a clerkship, which does count as 1 year of legal work experience. That satisfies the minimum for many AUSA postings, but you're still going to lose to someone with a clerkship and real work experience on top of it. Many people hired as AUSAs are hired after a few years of either 1) BigLaw experience in a litigation department or 2) prominent prosecution/defense experience (with, I suspect, a bias in many offices toward prosecutors). Usually people who get hired as an AUSA have 3-4 years of experience (more is certainly acceptable, but 3-4 years seems to be a commonly acceptable range and when many people start being successful at transitioning over).

If you really seriously want to be an AUSA, your goal needs to be to go to a school that will get you a prestigious federal clerkship, and then place you into a prestigious law firm or prosecutor's office for a few years. This "midlaw or biglaw job as a backup" stuff is nonsense, prestigious biglaw work is one of a few competitive and difficult paths to get where you're going.

To that end, if you don't want to do BigLaw, I'd suggest going to Chicago and trying to make as many connections to the Cook County DA's office as possible while you're there. DA's offices, especially competitive big-city ones like Cook County, like to see dedication to the cause and that you're not using it as just a backup to BigLaw, so you can really prove yourself by doing pro bono work or clinics while you're in law school, and build yourself a road in there when you graduate. Getting a job as a prosecutor there would make a good goal for you that would give you experience appropriate to becoming an AUSA down the line.


I appreciate the intent, but I already know how difficult that road is. My statement that Biglaw/Midlaw was "a backup" was not meant to imply that I thought my chances were great or that I anticipated going directly to USAO from law school - it was simply a statement of my next most preferred outcome - say, 4 years out. My OP was already long enough without including all the obligatory ass-covering about USAO, Article III clerkships, and the like.

I do wonder, though, if Biglaw litigation experience is necessary for USAOs that are in less demand (and yes, they're all competitive, but WDTN is noticeably different than SDNY). If someone applied to WDTN from the Memphis office of Baker Donelson (a NLJ 250 firm but certainly not most people's idea of "biglaw") with the same academic credentials as someone applying from a Chicago-based Biglaw firm, is the former really at a disadvantage? I would think that time spent in a high-profile local office where junior associates have more responsibility would mitigate the perceived "prestige gap".

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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:36 pm

soullesswonder wrote:I appreciate the intent, but I already know how difficult that road is. My statement that Biglaw/Midlaw was "a backup" was not meant to imply that I thought my chances were great or that I anticipated going directly to USAO from law school - it was simply a statement of my next most preferred outcome - say, 4 years out. My OP was already long enough without including all the obligatory ass-covering about USAO, Article III clerkships, and the like.

Okay, this is a fair response. I just wanted to make sure you were well-educated on that. The thing is, you're going to have to shoot for BigLaw if you want to go the private->AUSA route; the BigLaw hiring model of bringing in a bunch of associates and weeding them out doesn't really happen at smaller law firms, where they hire people who have experience (from being BigLaw associates) or just hire fewer people and focus on building them up more. Either way, this means far fewer spots at smaller firms and that they're harder to get into than BigLaw firms are.

soullesswonder wrote:I do wonder, though, if Biglaw litigation experience is necessary for USAOs that are in less demand (and yes, they're all competitive, but WDTN is noticeably different than SDNY). If someone applied to WDTN from the Memphis office of Baker Donelson (a NLJ 250 firm but certainly not most people's idea of "biglaw") with the same academic credentials as someone applying from a Chicago-based Biglaw firm, is the former really at a disadvantage? I would think that time spent in a high-profile local office where junior associates have more responsibility would mitigate the perceived "prestige gap".

I think any law firm that is on the NLJ250 is most definitely considered BigLaw. Also, I believe it's required that you live in the district you're being hired for (with a few exceptions) in order to get hired as an AUSA. Given that, the person working in Memphis is going to have a huge leg up over someone working in Chicago, unless the Chicago person is making a hell of a long daily commute.
Last edited by vanwinkle on Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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soullesswonder
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby soullesswonder » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:40 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
soullesswonder wrote:I appreciate the intent, but I already know how difficult that road is. My statement that Biglaw/Midlaw was "a backup" was not meant to imply that I thought my chances were great or that I anticipated going directly to USAO from law school - it was simply a statement of my next most preferred outcome - say, 4 years out. My OP was already long enough without including all the obligatory ass-covering about USAO, Article III clerkships, and the like.

Okay, this is a fair response. I just wanted to make sure you were well-educated on that. The thing is, you're going to have to shoot for BigLaw if you want to go the private->AUSA route; the BigLaw hiring model of bringing in a bunch of associates and weeding them out doesn't really happen at smaller law firms, where they hire people who have experience (from being BigLaw associates) or just hire fewer people and focus on building them up more. Either way, this means far fewer spots at smaller firms and that they're harder to get into than BigLaw firms are.

I think any law firm that is on the NLJ250 is most definitely considered BigLaw. Also, I believe it's required that you live in the district you're being hired for (with a few exceptions) in order to get hired as an AUSA. Given that, the person working in Memphis is going to have a huge leg up over someone working in Chicago, unless the Chicago person is making a hell of a long daily commute.


Well if you believe NLJ 250 = Biglaw, then I suppose we were just using different categorizations and I was shooting for Biglaw all along. I guess I've just absorbed too much of the East Coast bias about the "flyover" firms in the 250.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Chicago or Virginia?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:48 pm

soullesswonder wrote:Well if you believe NLJ 250 = Biglaw, then I suppose we were just using different categorizations and I was shooting for Biglaw all along. I guess I've just absorbed too much of the East Coast bias about the "flyover" firms in the 250.

The thing you need to keep in mind is that WDTN is not going to look at the best local law firms as "flyover" firms, they're going to look at them as the best local firms. The same people who see Memphis firms as "flyover" firms probably would also see federal work in Memphis as "flyover" work too.




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