Berkeley vs. Penn

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Berkeley vs. Penn

Berkeley
66
69%
Penn
30
31%
 
Total votes: 96

aredhello
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Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby aredhello » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:57 am

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Last edited by aredhello on Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Veyron
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Veyron » Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:10 am

aredhello wrote:Hi all --

So it's down to decision time for me and would be grateful for your advice. Am committed to pursuing public interest law and have been fortunate enough to have been offered sizable scholarships to both schools (Penn's package is a bit larger than Berkeley's, however). Would be happy to move to the Bay Area -- have a number of friends currently at Boalt as well as other friends in the area -- but wouldn't mind Philadelphia for 3 years either. I fully recognize that this is in many ways a East Coast vs. West Coast thing, but would love to hear your thoughts on the general merits of both schools rather than their locations. I am particularly concerned about finding a community of peers with similar interests and of course, post-graduation opportunities.

Thanks in advance for your input...


East coast Penn

West coast Berk

it doesn't get any easier than this.

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koalatriste
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby koalatriste » Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:12 am

aredhello wrote:Hi all --

So it's down to decision time for me and would be grateful for your advice. Am committed to pursuing public interest law and have been fortunate enough to have been offered sizable scholarships to both schools (Penn's package is a bit larger than Berkeley's, however). Would be happy to move to the Bay Area -- have a number of friends currently at Boalt as well as other friends in the area -- but wouldn't mind Philadelphia for 3 years either. I fully recognize that this is in many ways a East Coast vs. West Coast thing, but would love to hear your thoughts on the general merits of both schools rather than their locations. I am particularly concerned about finding a community of peers with similar interests and of course, post-graduation opportunities.

Thanks in advance for your input...


size queen

lakerfanimal
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby lakerfanimal » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:28 am

aredhello wrote:Hi all --

So it's down to decision time for me and would be grateful for your advice. Am committed to pursuing public interest law and have been fortunate enough to have been offered sizable scholarships to both schools (Penn's package is a bit larger than Berkeley's, however). Would be happy to move to the Bay Area -- have a number of friends currently at Boalt as well as other friends in the area -- but wouldn't mind Philadelphia for 3 years either. I fully recognize that this is in many ways a East Coast vs. West Coast thing, but would love to hear your thoughts on the general merits of both schools rather than their locations. I am particularly concerned about finding a community of peers with similar interests and of course, post-graduation opportunities.

Thanks in advance for your input...


I think Berkeley is one of the best places for this, especially when you say you want to find a community of peers with similar interests. It seems like Penn is definitely more of a big-law feeder than Berkeley is.

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Lawquacious
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Lawquacious » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:33 am

Veyron wrote:
aredhello wrote:Hi all --

So it's down to decision time for me and would be grateful for your advice. Am committed to pursuing public interest law and have been fortunate enough to have been offered sizable scholarships to both schools (Penn's package is a bit larger than Berkeley's, however). Would be happy to move to the Bay Area -- have a number of friends currently at Boalt as well as other friends in the area -- but wouldn't mind Philadelphia for 3 years either. I fully recognize that this is in many ways a East Coast vs. West Coast thing, but would love to hear your thoughts on the general merits of both schools rather than their locations. I am particularly concerned about finding a community of peers with similar interests and of course, post-graduation opportunities.

Thanks in advance for your input...


East coast Penn

West coast Berk

it doesn't get any easier than this.


+1. And surprised so far the poll is in favor of Berkeley. OP said he got a bigger scholly at PENN and didn't indicate clear regional preference (though did mention friends in CA, so maybe it was implied if not stated).

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Veyron
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Veyron » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:34 am

lakerfanimal wrote:
aredhello wrote:Hi all --

So it's down to decision time for me and would be grateful for your advice. Am committed to pursuing public interest law and have been fortunate enough to have been offered sizable scholarships to both schools (Penn's package is a bit larger than Berkeley's, however). Would be happy to move to the Bay Area -- have a number of friends currently at Boalt as well as other friends in the area -- but wouldn't mind Philadelphia for 3 years either. I fully recognize that this is in many ways a East Coast vs. West Coast thing, but would love to hear your thoughts on the general merits of both schools rather than their locations. I am particularly concerned about finding a community of peers with similar interests and of course, post-graduation opportunities.

Thanks in advance for your input...


I think Berkeley is one of the best places for this, especially when you say you want to find a community of peers with similar interests. It seems like Penn is definitely more of a big-law feeder than Berkeley is.


Yes. On the other hand, we have a lot more money to support you silly do-gooders.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:12 am

You can apply for a matching scholarship at Berkeley. Every T14 except Texas and Northwestern are eligible, so you'll probably get your Penn money at Berkeley

I don't know enough about either school beyond this, and the fact that Penn is BigLaw focused to a level that makes Berkeley more likely to be TCR

aredhello
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby aredhello » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:12 pm

Thanks everyone for the responses. At the risk of outing myself...the final scholarships at both schools are 90K at Berkeley and around 120K at Penn (Toll).

Really have my heart set on Berkeley, but am wondering if it would be foolish to turn down Penn. Only have until tomorrow to decide!

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Excellence = a Habit
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:35 pm

I am also very interested in public interest work after law school, and recently attended both Penn's and Boalt's ASWs. (I'll assume you did as well?) Without a shadow of a doubt, the student body's interest in and support for PI is ginormously stronger at Boalt. Something like 20-25% (anecdotal number, not solid stat - sorry) go into PI. An interest in social justice and related issues permeated the school, its forums and lectures and the conversations going on in the hall. At Penn, by contrast, I heard from multiple students that if you're interested in PI, you need to make an effort to seek out the PI career services person periodically and have him/her talk you down from the ledge of Big Law that you will creep closer to as time goes by and all of your peers start structuring their lives around OCI and firm competition. Even if you're not worried about being swayed away from a PI career, this sounds kind of lonely.

That said, it sounds like you'd have access to Penn's Toll Center resources in a way that I wouldn't, and that might change the degree to which you feel supported by the community in pursuing PI. And yes, as Veyron said, I did get the impression that there are greater resources for each PI student because there are so few. In comparing Penn's and Boalt's LRAPs, it's unclear to me which comes out on top, but Penn's allows you the option of the school's paying down your debt aggressively in the years after graduation, rather than using the slow pay-down (or negative pay-down) of IBR, followed by full forgiveness after ten years. On the face of it, this does sound significant.

Good luck with this choice. I voted Boalt because I think their student body will better satisfy your desire for a community with similar interests.

Edit: From Law School Transparency:

Penn 2008 graduates: 2.8% into public interest, 0% into gov't
Boalt 2008 graduates: 9.9% into public interest, 5% into gov't

aredhello
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby aredhello » Wed Apr 13, 2011 12:53 am

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Last edited by aredhello on Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Shaggier1
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Shaggier1 » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:25 am

Don't know how the LRAP's compare - but something to consider for whatever remainder your end up paying.

If you have any questions about life at Boalt, feel free to send a PM. Good luck deciding and congrats on having such great options.

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Excellence = a Habit
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:45 am

aredhello wrote:Thanks for the detailed response Habit. Any idea where you'll end up this fall?


Not Penn. And honestly, I'm leaning against Boalt as well. The school seems great, and the location seems great, but somehow it didn't feel right. Michigan felt right :) I'm still crunching the numbers though (meaning comparing the various offerings at each school - clinics, journals, certificates, etc.), and a last-minute scholarship of some kind from Boalt (however unlikely) could change things.

czelede
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby czelede » Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:51 am

Excellence = a Habit wrote:
aredhello wrote:Thanks for the detailed response Habit. Any idea where you'll end up this fall?


Not Penn. And honestly, I'm leaning against Boalt as well. The school seems great, and the location seems great, but somehow it didn't feel right. Michigan felt right :) I'm still crunching the numbers though (meaning comparing the various offerings at each school - clinics, journals, certificates, etc.), and a last-minute scholarship of some kind from Boalt (however unlikely) could change things.


Can I ask you about your overall impressions (PI aside, that is) of Boalt vs. Penn from the ASWs? I'm making this decision as well but was unable to attend either ASW, so would be very interested in hearing more thoughts on other merits and pitfalls of each school.

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Excellence = a Habit
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:00 am

czelede wrote:
Excellence = a Habit wrote:
aredhello wrote:Thanks for the detailed response Habit. Any idea where you'll end up this fall?


Not Penn. And honestly, I'm leaning against Boalt as well. The school seems great, and the location seems great, but somehow it didn't feel right. Michigan felt right :) I'm still crunching the numbers though (meaning comparing the various offerings at each school - clinics, journals, certificates, etc.), and a last-minute scholarship of some kind from Boalt (however unlikely) could change things.


Can I ask you about your overall impressions (PI aside, that is) of Boalt vs. Penn from the ASWs? I'm making this decision as well but was unable to attend either ASW, so would be very interested in hearing more thoughts on other merits and pitfalls of each school.


Oooh, sure. That will be a pretty long discouse for me, so I'll write it up and post it here later. I'll also be comparing Boalt and Mich (elsewhere) since that is the more pertinent choice for me.

czelede
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby czelede » Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:04 am

Excellence = a Habit wrote:
czelede wrote:
Excellence = a Habit wrote:
aredhello wrote:Thanks for the detailed response Habit. Any idea where you'll end up this fall?


Not Penn. And honestly, I'm leaning against Boalt as well. The school seems great, and the location seems great, but somehow it didn't feel right. Michigan felt right :) I'm still crunching the numbers though (meaning comparing the various offerings at each school - clinics, journals, certificates, etc.), and a last-minute scholarship of some kind from Boalt (however unlikely) could change things.


Can I ask you about your overall impressions (PI aside, that is) of Boalt vs. Penn from the ASWs? I'm making this decision as well but was unable to attend either ASW, so would be very interested in hearing more thoughts on other merits and pitfalls of each school.


Oooh, sure. That will be a pretty long discouse for me, so I'll write it up and post it here later. I'll also be comparing Boalt and Mich (elsewhere) since that is the more pertinent choice for me.


Thanks! I'll be keeping an eye out :)

kellyg1234
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby kellyg1234 » Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:40 am

Can I ask you about your overall impressions (PI aside, that is) of Boalt vs. Penn from the ASWs? I'm making this decision as well but was unable to attend either ASW, so would be very interested in hearing more thoughts on other merits and pitfalls of each school.


Oooh, sure. That will be a pretty long discouse for me, so I'll write it up and post it here later. I'll also be comparing Boalt and Mich (elsewhere) since that is the more pertinent choice for me.


I'm interested in hearing this too. I went to Berkeley undergrad, so pretty much know my way around that, but I missed Penn's ASW and I'm pretty sure that's where I'm going to go. (I toured the campus independently with a current 3L, but it would have been nice to meet some 1Ls, 0Ls). So thanks and let me know if you have Berkeley questions.

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absolutazn87
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby absolutazn87 » Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:58 am

kellyg1234 wrote:
Can I ask you about your overall impressions (PI aside, that is) of Boalt vs. Penn from the ASWs? I'm making this decision as well but was unable to attend either ASW, so would be very interested in hearing more thoughts on other merits and pitfalls of each school.


Oooh, sure. That will be a pretty long discouse for me, so I'll write it up and post it here later. I'll also be comparing Boalt and Mich (elsewhere) since that is the more pertinent choice for me.


I'm interested in hearing this too. I went to Berkeley undergrad, so pretty much know my way around that, but I missed Penn's ASW and I'm pretty sure that's where I'm going to go. (I toured the campus independently with a current 3L, but it would have been nice to meet some 1Ls, 0Ls). So thanks and let me know if you have Berkeley questions.

There's a lot of good comments and writeups of the Penn ASW in this thread starting at page 5 or so. viewtopic.php?f=8&t=147253&start=100

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Veyron
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Veyron » Wed Apr 13, 2011 4:46 pm

Excellence = a Habit wrote:
aredhello wrote:Thanks for the detailed response Habit. Any idea where you'll end up this fall?


Not Penn. And honestly, I'm leaning against Boalt as well. The school seems great, and the location seems great, but somehow it didn't feel right. Michigan felt right :) I'm still crunching the numbers though (meaning comparing the various offerings at each school - clinics, journals, certificates, etc.), and a last-minute scholarship of some kind from Boalt (however unlikely) could change things.


Good! I'd hate to have our shiny new building soiled with the foul stench of hippie.

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Excellence = a Habit
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:15 pm

Veyron wrote:
Excellence = a Habit wrote:
aredhello wrote:Thanks for the detailed response Habit. Any idea where you'll end up this fall?


Not Penn. And honestly, I'm leaning against Boalt as well. The school seems great, and the location seems great, but somehow it didn't feel right. Michigan felt right :) I'm still crunching the numbers though (meaning comparing the various offerings at each school - clinics, journals, certificates, etc.), and a last-minute scholarship of some kind from Boalt (however unlikely) could change things.


Good! I'd hate to have our shiny new building soiled with the foul stench of hippie.


<3

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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:08 am

At the risk of scaring everybody, I've written a long stream of consciousness comparing Boalt and Penn (the aspects that I found pertinent). Some of it relates to the ASWs/my impressions of the student body, and some of it compares the more tangible academic and extracurricular opportunities. If you don't want to read something really long, please just skip this. If you have questions about any of it, I'm sure I have more to say about all of it :roll:


Okay, comparing Boalt and Penn. This should be relatively easy because there are a lot of differences between the two, at least from my perspective.

First, of the three ASWs I went to, Penn’s was by far the most organized and comprehensive, and Boalt’s was by far the least. I really appreciated that Penn offered so many panels and that they were all offered multiple times so that I was able to attend every session that I was interested in. At Boalt I was disappointed that I had to choose between learning about the LRAP and learning about clinical programs. It’s true that, to some degree, you can get all this info online, but there are distinct advantages to hearing it directly from a person and being able to ask as many questions as you want. You could further argue that the level of organization at an ASW should have no bearing on your decision, and this could be true, but I did think it was a little weird that Boalt didn’t put a higher priority on admitted students’ exploring all of these subjects to the greatest possible extent. Further, their LRAP program was explained pretty poorly, and I wondered why they would choose someone to explain the program who doesn’t do a good job. Granted, Penn didn’t do a stellar job either, but Michigan did, so I know it’s possible (and Boalt’s explanation was 8 times more confusing than Penn’s). Also, Boalt offered individual financial aid counseling appts throughout the day, which led a lot of people to forgo the general financial aid (not LRAP) panel in favor of more interesting ones – but the line for the counseling turned out to be so long that a lot of people gave up or never made it in. If they wanted to offer the individual appts, they should have had enough people working that everyone could get in without missing lunch or other activities.

Overall, my impression from Boalt’s ASW was that emphasis was purposely placed on social events rather than information about academics. There were only a few events that involved faculty and administration, and overall I felt like no one was trying to sell me on Boalt by talking up the classes, the journals, the certificates or dual degree programs, the international opportunities, etc. Instead, there were 2.5 days of social events with the students. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all. At Boalt “social events” was more or less another way of talking about student organizations, clinics and journals, because all the events were structured around these institutions. For instance, there were a bunch of dinners on the first night sponsored by different groups based on ethnicities; the next day there were happy hours with the kids from various journals and clinics. I learned that Boalt is definitely a very social school – the people I talked to, who were admittedly the self-selected social ones, go out 4-5 nights a week – and that one’s social events would be determined largely by the groups one joined. This seemed to be a major factor in the groups students decided to join. For instance, when I asked why a student had joined the international journal, the answer was, “they have the best social events, including an annual trip to Tahoe.” On the one hand, I really liked that the groups were forums for making friends and having fun as well as for learning and honing a particular interest; on the other hand, it seemed a little random.

By contrast, Penn’s ASW was heavy on information about academic opportunities. They squeezed a ton of panels into the first day and, like I said, arranged the schedule so that most people could probably attend everything they were interested in. I definitely came away with a very favorable impression of Penn’s international opportunities, a clearer (and again, favorable) understanding of what it means for Penn to place such emphasis on interdisciplinariness, and a familiarity with Penn’s LRAP, public interest opportunities, and clerkship opportunities. By contrast, I felt like I learned hardly any of this at Boalt, because the panels overlapped/they didn’t offer panels on some of these topics. I came home and looked on the website for this info, and found it in some cases, not in others.

And in turn, I got much less of a view of Penn’s social life. Generally, the impression I got is that the students are not nearly as close as a Boalt. This is not to say they’re strangers – the class is smaller, and I assume that counts for something. And the students on Penn’s student life panel assured us that they see quite enough of each other. But I did not feel nearly as much community there as I did at Boalt. I think that Philly being how it is detracts from the sense of community somewhat, both because there are a ton of different places to live (more than Berkeley? I’m not sure, since lots of Boalt kids lived in Oakland and SF) and because Philly has easy access to both NYC and DC by train. A fair number of students mentioned traveling to these cities either on the weekends for fun or on weekdays for externships. Moreover, though, Penn just didn’t hold a lot of events where I really got to see students interact with each other on a close level. There were two happy hours but they were populated mainly by admits. At the Boalt parties, you saw kids interacting in a way that made it clear they were genuinely close and spent a lot of time together.

Beyond the fact that Boalt is more social, the other main impression I got is that it’s very practical and career-oriented. This is actually not a comment on Penn at all – obviously Penn is this way as well, but at Boalt it really blew me away. The message I got from most students and even faculty was, “This school thing is pretty stupid, especially the waste of time they call 1L year, but we’ve got to go through the motions so we can get to the good stuff.” The aspect of school that students were most excited about, it seemed, was their clinics (almost everyone does one), because they were actually doing something, not just sitting in a classroom. Moreover, almost everyone I spoke to seemed to have had really impressive work experience prior to law school and to have a decent idea of what they wanted to do afterwards. The funny thing is, I thought this would really appeal to me, but I ended up feeling like, “wait, don’t you guys like learning in the abstract at all? Do you like wrestling with theory or at least mastering the basics of law?” (I mean, I know 1L year isn’t supposed to be fun and riveting, but at other schools I at least heard more enthusiasm for 2L and 3L classes.) I actually asked this question of a couple people, and they assured me that Berkeley is an extremely rigorous place academically, which I guess was somewhat what I was asking, but not quite.

I can’t really draw a counterpoint here with Penn, except to say that I guess I felt it struck a good balance between academics and more hands-on practice. The clinics offered at Penn seemed really appealing, but you can’t pursue most of them until your fourth semester (some are available earlier, but I forget whether “earlier” means starting in your first year or in your third semester). By contrast, Boalt lets you enroll in clinics starting a few weeks into your 1L year (technically, the ones you can join as a 1L are called student initiated legal something somethings, but they are the same as clinics). This is a demonstration of how much emphasis Boalt places on the practical, and its tendency to attract students who are more interested in hands-on work than theoretical work. On a related point, I enjoyed both Penn’s and Boalt’s mock class, but they were fairly different. Penn’s was, I think, closer to what an actual 1L class would be like, and the professor was really good – gentle on students, and had a sense of humor, but did a lot of cold calling, and asked some tough questions that involved analysis. The reading was something like 10-15 pages and the case was one that seemed rather typical. Boalt’s class was based on a three-page reading of a very sensational case, and the professor used a powerpoint that involved cartoons (along with serious slides). Boalt’s prof was also really good, but different – her questions were less analytical and more opinion-based (this sort of made sense because the case had less to analyze, but still, she picked the case, so it seemed to mean something) – at points it felt like an undergrad into to ethics class – “Okay, so most students by a show of hands think they wouldn’t eat someone else if they were starving – but what if I throw in this shocker point of view and make you all reconsider your entire values system!” Boalt’s class gave us a sexier, more fun view of law scholarship than is realistic, while Penn’s challenged us to get out our fine-tooth combs and prepare to examine minute, boring questions for the next three years while remaining intellectually engaged.

Although I have done some research in the last few days on the aspects of Boalt that I didn’t learn much about at ASW (the full range of clinics available, international opportunities, interdisciplinariness, etc.) I don’t feel fully qualified to compare those aspects to Penn’s, because Berkeley’s website doesn’t seem very informative – it’s hard to find the info you’re looking for and when you find it, it seems incomplete. I’ll take a brief stab at it:

- Clinics: Berkeley has about 18 options, if you count the 1L student-initiated projects and the multiple projects that you can choose within the East Bay Community Law Center Clinic. (All of this information is especially poorly organized on Boalt’s website, which make it look like they only have about 5.) Of those 18, about 8 were immediately appealing to me (based on the name alone); I bet anyone could find a number that appeal based on whatever interests you have. Penn has ten (unless they have some layered clinics-within-clinics that I didn’t note), of which seven stood out to me. Penn’s location gives it a couple of unique clinic opportunities – the Supreme Court clinic partners with an appellate firm in DC, and the Legislative Clinic lets you work on U.S. Congressional committees two days per week. Obviously Berkeley can’t offer clinics on federal government stuff like that, but instead they excel at direct services clinics – just a few that caught my eye are the California Asylum Representation Clinic, Advocates for Youth Justice and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Clinic. I should mention that Penn obviously has direct services clinics too, and Berkeley lets you do an externship semester in DC, so you can do either thing at either school – it’s a matter of the emphasis.
- Interdisciplinariness: At Penn you can take up to four courses in other graduate departments. At Berkeley it was “8 or 9 credits.” Penn has 9 certificate programs. I could not find a central page on Boalt’s website about certificate programs, but I know they offer them because I’ve heard about the new Clean Energy Certificate. Both schools offer a number of joint degrees – I didn’t look into them at all because I’m not considering one. Overall, Penn articulated well (via faculty members at a panel) why being interdisciplinary is important and what it means, while Berkeley did not focus on this issue at all, as far as I saw.
- Penn’s international opportunities bowled me over. They offer summer public interest fellowships abroad with a variety of organizations (including an international human rights summer fellowship), an international internship program for those who prefer corporate law (during the school year and maybe in the summer too?), a study abroad program with schools in 7 foreign countries (or you can directly enroll anywhere). The Lauder Program (at Wharton) lets law students develop business language skills. Penn is one of seven universities outside India that is certified to enable graduates to take the bar in India (overall they mentioned a lot of different opportunities in India, which was exciting because of all the legal questions being explored there). Berkeley’s international opportunities – again, it was just hard to find info on the website, and they did not even offer a panel on the subject (it may have been discussed within the panel on careers or another one that I couldn’t attend). What I could find on the website: You can find your own field placement abroad for externships; they have a long track record of students working at the Hague – I talked to a kid who had done this and it sounded like a great experience. I really couldn’t find any structured programs to work or study abroad, but this doesn’t mean they’re not there, just that if they do exist they’re not easy to find.
- Grading and competition: Both schools talked a lot about collegiality (actually Penn used that annoying buzzword far more often), but Boalt was clearly the less competitive school. The most important factor is probably Boalt’s grading system – 60% get Pass, 30% get Honors and 10% get High Honors. The idea is that because so much of the class gets a P, there’s no stigma attached to it and there’s less pressure to avoid Ps. NPs (Not Pass, or something) are almost non-existent; you would have to, say, not show up to the final to get one. While I appreciate that this would lead to less animosity among students, I think I would also get annoyed to work hard in a class and end up with the same grade as someone who did little other than show up to the exam. According to everyone I talked to, it’s hard to predict whether you’ll get a P, an H or an HH based on the amount of effort you put into the class (or how well you think you’ve mastered it), and this also sounds frustrating; though I’m sure that is true to some degree at every school, the effect may be pronounced at Boalt because there are fewer grade options than elsewhere. Because of this unusual grading system, employers rely heavily on the extracurriculars that Boalt students choose (and prior WE) in determining hires. In addition to the unusual grading system, Boalt kids never learn their class rank unless they apply for clerkships, in which case they are sworn to secrecy. All in all, it was obvious that this took a lot of pressure off of students to compete for grades, and let them put more effort into the less academics aspects of law school. For info on Penn’s grading policy, I will refer you here: http://www.law.upenn.edu/cpp/employer/a ... grading%22, because I do not recall much discussion on this subject at ASW. Due to the difference in grading system, obviously it is a somewhat more competitive atmosphere, despite all the protestations about collegiality.

Student body and general quality of life: The two student bodies seemed equally interested in drinking and I heard good things about the parties at both schools. I guess the most striking difference is the corporate/conservative (personally, not politically) feel at Penn versus the public interest/liberal (both personally and politically) feel at Boalt. This was definitely expressed in the two school’s career placement stats (Penn 2008 graduates: 2.8% into public interest, 0% into gov't; Boalt 2008 graduates: 9.9% into public interest, 5% into gov't), but I also felt it in other ways – the way they dressed (Penn students were more likely to wear dress shoes & brand name clothing); the number of LGBTQ students at each school (Berkeley appeared to have a far larger and/or more visible LGBTQ community); the number of conversations that touched on social justice issues (way greater at Berkeley).

Some students at Boalt seemed too political correct for my taste – it wasn’t clear to me that playing devil’s advocate, questioning liberal political views or just giving consideration to other points of view was usually welcomed. Some Penn students seemed too fratty or boring, and no one could tell me where the farmers market was. (As a typical environmentally conscious yuppie liberal with suppressed libertarian urges, I was turned off by both of these extremes.) Students at both schools seemed about equally happy with their schools and their fellow students - as I said earlier, though, Boalt students seemed like a tighter-knit community. A couple of Boalt kids had quite critical things to say about the priorities of the law school administration – though I didn’t always learn the specifics of this attitude, I think it was rooted largely in resistance to the direction in which Dean Edley has taken the law school – big expansions, lots of money spent, maybe sort of corporate-seeming – and, relatedly, in the absolutely gigantic tuition hikes that the students have seen. I think the Boalt students are more likely to be critical of the administration than the Penn students are just because of Berkeley’s tradition of agitation for student democratic rule.

Both school’s students seemed to like their cities a lot. Berkeley’s campus and surrounding area offers a lot more in the way of natural beauty, but if you care to seek it out at Penn, Fairmount park isn’t too far (I didn’t go, but I hear it’s quite nice). There’s also the matter of the weather difference… when I visited Berkeley, the temps ranged from 50s to high 60s or so; I was surprised to find that throughout my stay, even on the warmest day, I could go from being over-warm to very chilly within a minute’s time. There were people on the street wearing coats, and others wearing mini dresses; it was like no one knew how to dress for the variable weather. Spring on the East Coast is not like that, in my experience; the weird comfort variations put a small damper on my excitement about Bay Area weather. However, there’s just no arguing with the array of greenery all around you in Berkeley. I saw trees, flowers, birds I’d never seen. There is a real appeal to going to school in such an aesthetically pleasing place. For me personally, though, I think it would be more distracting than soothing. I found Philadelphia to be pretty neat. I liked the neighborhoods I saw and especially the fact that Philly is a “neighborhood city” where there’s a lot of variation from one area to another. Though Berkeley had a great preponderance of solid used bookstores, I was not crazy about the dirty hippies and street punks.

In awkward conclusion, ultimately I didn't feel comfortable in either Penn's corporate-leaning environment or Boalt's politically correct environment. I think I could have been happy at either place because I'm pretty adaptable, but I felt at home at Michigan, and not either of these schools.

Okay, the end. I hope this is helpful for some of you making this decision!

jeremysen
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby jeremysen » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:11 am

Excellence = a Habit wrote:


I was chewing my food. Then I clicked this link. And then I stopped, mid-chew.


edit: But wow, kudos on a really in-depth post. On the last note about weather/environment, Berkeley's weather is seriously unmatched - you gottttaaa trust me on this, as I've been to both areas for prolonged periods of time.
Last edited by jeremysen on Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby re-applicant » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:28 am

Excellence = a Habit wrote:Overall, my impression from Boalt’s ASW was that emphasis was purposely placed on social events rather than information about academics. There were only a few events that involved faculty and administration, and overall I felt like no one was trying to sell me on Boalt by talking up the classes, the journals, the certificates or dual degree programs, the international opportunities, etc. Instead, there were 2.5 days of social events with the students. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all. At Boalt “social events” was more or less another way of talking about student organizations, clinics and journals, because all the events were structured around these institutions. For instance, there were a bunch of dinners on the first night sponsored by different groups based on ethnicities; the next day there were happy hours with the kids from various journals and clinics. I learned that Boalt is definitely a very social school – the people I talked to, who were admittedly the self-selected social ones, go out 4-5 nights a week – and that one’s social events would be determined largely by the groups one joined. This seemed to be a major factor in the groups students decided to join. For instance, when I asked why a student had joined the international journal, the answer was, “they have the best social events, including an annual trip to Tahoe.” On the one hand, I really liked that the groups were forums for making friends and having fun as well as for learning and honing a particular interest; on the other hand, it seemed a little random.


I didn't want to requote the whole thing, so I only selected this bit. The whole thing was good, though. I had basically the same impression of Berkeley as you did (didn't go to Penn's ASW).

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Excellence = a Habit
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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Excellence = a Habit » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:42 am

jeremysen wrote:
Excellence = a Habit wrote:


I was chewing my food. Then I clicked this link. And then I stopped, mid-chew.


edit: But wow, kudos on a really in-depth post. On the last note about weather/environment, Berkeley's weather is seriously unmatched - you gottttaaa trust me on this, as I've been to both areas for prolonged periods of time.


Thanks. I have a problem with concision. And okay, I guess I will trust you on the weather!

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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby Knock » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:47 am

Excellence = a Habit wrote:-


Read every single word of your write up. Thanks for a detailed write-up, I enjoyed reading it even though I'm not deciding between those schools. I'd also be interested in hearing your thoughts on Michigan!

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Re: Berkeley vs. Penn

Postby re-applicant » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:57 am

Excellence = a Habit wrote:
jeremysen wrote:
Excellence = a Habit wrote:


I was chewing my food. Then I clicked this link. And then I stopped, mid-chew.


edit: But wow, kudos on a really in-depth post. On the last note about weather/environment, Berkeley's weather is seriously unmatched - you gottttaaa trust me on this, as I've been to both areas for prolonged periods of time.


Thanks. I have a problem with concision. And okay, I guess I will trust you on the weather!


I think Berkeley's weather is unmatched amongst top schools (excluding UCLA/SC), but I think you're right about in-day temperature variations. Maybe it's the exposure to the bay? I'm pretty sure Palo Alto/Stanford, which is protected from the water by mountains, has better weather.

The variation of average temperatures through the year is much smaller than elsewhere, however (hence the Mark Twain quote about how the coldest winter he ever saw was summer in San Francisco). I think the other big plus is the lack of humidity. I'm not even sure what humidity is.




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