Thanks for the response. I visited NU a few months ago and loved the feel of the campus. That said, I'm debt-averse enough to strongly consider GULC if they were to miraculously give me some $. I'm principally interested in international corporate law and also the legal issues surrounding social entrepreneurship (currently working abroad in the microfinance sector). As for where I'd like to work, I fell in love with California a while ago but with virtually no ties I know it's a long-shot. More likely NYC, where I have family and friends, or perhaps Chicago if I go the NU route.
FWIW, NU places stronger in Cali, so maybe if you get good grades you could have a shot there? (bk187, rayiner or somebody want to jump in here?) NU also has an entrepreneurship clinic, so that might have some neat opportunities for you.
As for biglaw placement in general, NU is measurably stronger than GULC, so I don't think it would be worth it to take a small amount of money at GULC unless you liked the culture or location better or something.
A very large portion of NU's student body is from the West Coast, which is probably what contributes to its strength in California, not so much the school itself. Without ties, California is going to be a pretty fucking hard market to break into (I'm an 0L though, so this is just based on what I've heard from others).
Agreed RE: biglaw placement between NU and GULC, though. If you're interested in doing gov't work or working in DC, GULC might be better, but if you just want a big firm job in Chi or NY, NU is the way to go.