Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

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spqr
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Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby spqr » Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:38 pm

Hi everyone - I was hoping I could get some help and inputs on how you guys would decide between American University's Washington College of Law and the University of Wisconsin law school.

I've visited both schools and I really liked both of them, and I don't really have a "gut feeling" on which school I'd rather be at. While I know I can be happy at either school, I also feel like both choices come with some hesitation for me. I am interested in going into international human rights law and so WCL is perfect for that - and I would love to study in DC. My only concern is that I would have trouble competing with other DC schools like Georgetown and GW (along with all the schools in Virginia and MD). Wisconsin seems to enjoy a better reputation overall as a school, but it doesn't have as comprehensive of a human rights/international law focus, and it would also mean giving up a chance to study in DC.

Any thoughts?

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webbylu87
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby webbylu87 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:49 pm

These were my exact options last year. I picked Wisconsin because I was afraid of the AU debt and the crowded legal market despite the fact that I love DC. I also have family in Wisconsin. In the end I decided to withdraw from Wisconsin and reapply this cycle. I personally wasn't ready to commit to living in Wisconsin after graduation. I also didn't feel Wisconsin offered a sufficient justification for full out of state tuition. Not saying they don't, just that my career goals didn't really match up. I have better opportunities this time around (in terms of rank, money, career prospects, etc...) and feel it was a good decision for me. This was just my instance though.

I think it depends on your overall situation. If you want international law, obviously AU is the way to go. That was certainly where I originally wanted to be. However, just understand that international law is a weird practice area. I don't think it's necessarily a great idea to plan around a hopeful career in international law unless you're at an elite school. The opportunities are few and far between. Just be cautious.

These are only my .02.

spqr
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby spqr » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:31 pm

thanks! it's always good to hear from someone who faced the same choices! may I ask what were the career goals you felt didn't line up with Wisconsin?

Oh and in terms of "elite school," do you mean T14? I know American is ranked really high for international law (4th in the US or something) - do you know if that counts for anything?

jetlagz28
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby jetlagz28 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:40 pm

1L at WCL.

I'm Biased but so is TLS.

Go WCL.

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webbylu87
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby webbylu87 » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:55 pm

spqr wrote:thanks! it's always good to hear from someone who faced the same choices! may I ask what were the career goals you felt didn't line up with Wisconsin?

Oh and in terms of "elite school," do you mean T14? I know American is ranked really high for international law (4th in the US or something) - do you know if that counts for anything?


I felt that the debt at Wisconsin was too large for the career prospects it offered. It didn't necessarily have to do with any specific practice area (although at the time I wanted to international/public interest work) as I'm pretty open to discovering which area I enjoy most. Geographically, I wanted to be in a larger city after graduation and at the time I was looking at Chicago. I knew I didn't want to stay in Wisconsin at least in the near future. It didn't seem to me that Wisconsin was a big enough name in the Chicago market for me to get where I wanted to be. I remember thinking that I would have gone to Wisconsin if I would've been guaranteed a career in Madison but really it's such a small legal market it was too big of a risk for me. I don't doubt that Wisconsin is a great school and that it can get people to a bigger Midwest city, it just wasn't strong enough in that area for me to feel comfortable. If you don't mind staying in Wisconsin, it's a great choice.

I also think to a certain extent I hadn't come to terms with the degree of debt law school would land me in. I wasn't prepared to pay full OOS tuition at a school ranked in the 30s with the limited career prospects I was looking for. I freaked out last minute and decided to take a year off and reapply. For me it was a good, albeit frustrating choice.

As far as elite goes I guess I would say T14 with a few exceptions. I would perhaps even go a little farther and say T6. But I suppose this depends on how prestigious a career in international law you're looking for (i.e. UN work vs. simple immigration law) so there would be some variation. I ended up deciding this wasn't an area I felt I could pursue financially so I didn't do a whole lot of research. There are probably better people out there to answer this question.

The specialty rankings I think are useful but I wouldn't pick American solely based on that. If you have a great scholarship there, are interested in international law, and are picking between another school with very little scholarship and a lower ranking in international law, then it's probably useful. Otherwise I'd just say they point to strengths. With that said though, American is very well known for international and if you're determined to do it, you'd be wise to pick it over Wisconsin which has little to no prestige with international law. I'd just be wary of the debt required for AU in such a saturated legal market. If you can swing it with a decent scholarship I think it's a good option though. If you're looking for a traditional legal career and you don't mind Wisconsin or the Midwest, Wisconsin is probably the correct choice if it's cheaper.

Like I said before though, this is only my .02.

tesoro
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby tesoro » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:00 pm

spqr wrote:thanks! it's always good to hear from someone who faced the same choices! may I ask what were the career goals you felt didn't line up with Wisconsin?

Oh and in terms of "elite school," do you mean T14? I know American is ranked really high for international law (4th in the US or something) - do you know if that counts for anything?


Last year, Santa Clara was ranked #6 in the "Intellectual Property" specialty rankings.

This year, it didn't make the ranked specialty program.

Don't bank on specialty rankings, because if next April during your 1L year this happens to AU, you've been duped by the most transient part of the USNWR ranking system.

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GordonBombay
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby GordonBombay » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:06 pm

FWIW whenever mentioning specialty programs Ive been told its a very very secondary concern.


It's only worth considering if say you were really intereseted in IP and trying to decide between Berkley and Michigan....ya know? You need to do well at a good school first and foremost.


Note: Ive been drinking and that's probably a terrible example but my point is, if you couldn't decide between two schools of similar cost/ quality etc it could be more of a factor. Id say location trumps specialty rankings regarding what you'd like to do.

spqr
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Re: Help please! AU: WCL vs. U of Wisconsin

Postby spqr » Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:16 am

thanks everyone for all your input - it's been really helpful

@jetlagz28 - what do you think of WCL after being there for a year? i was really afraid that there wouldn't be a sense of community within the student body since the entering class is so huge. how big are the sections that they divide you into?

@webbylu87 - thanks! what you said makes a lot of sense, especially because i'm coming from a similar context: i'm not from Wisconsin so i'd have to pay OOS tuition too, i also have no intention on staying in wisconsin whatsoever.

on a related note with what i asked jetlagz28, how important is the entering class size? it seems like for some schools the student-faculty ratios are still comparable despite one having a way larger class size than the other (WCL and Wisconsin are both around 13:1, supposedly?) Does anyone have experiences or thoughts on how the entering class size affect your 1L year or your law school career in general?




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