Voldemort wrote:I apologize if my posts have came across cavalier or naive. I am fully aware I am going to have to bust my ass to get to where I want to be. However, is it so far-fetched that my main goal coming out of law school, second to becoming a lawyer and being well educated, is to have a job that lets me have a life? I tend to think a lot of the people posting on TLS have never worked full time jobs and 60 hour weeks, so assume that the OP hasn't either and doesn't fully understand what hard work a lawyer is going to be, as though they haven't already experienced hard work. Hard work in life is a given, I'm not looking for a cushy job, I am looking for a WORK life balance. PI, more than big law, would allow this. I am yet to see any evidence that it does not, and having worked at multiple think tanks, I can (anecdotally say), it does. I also understand PI is competitive, but when dollar amounts are not my sole goal, it is much less so, and if someone is going to school planning on working hard, is it again, so-far fetched of a goal? Is Berkeley not elite enough to provide the opportunities I'm looking for? (as well as a chance to pay off debt?)
Do you really need a JD for a think tank though? Even if you did, its not like you are going to get to go straight from law school to a think tank. Any think tank job that would require a JD would also probably require significant government experience first which is becoming increasingly hard to get without at least some biglaw experience under your belt. Most people don't go straight from law school to the sort of government jobs that lead to think tanks unless they went to Yale (and even then its hard). At each of the schools you mentioned getting the type of PI work you are thinking of is going to be extremely difficult, like clerkship level hard. For most people, at Berkeley or NYU, PI means either advocacy work or providing legal services to low-income people (which is also a ton of work, without nearly as much support as you have in a big law setting) neither of those are going to give you a good work-life balance. The point is that with few exceptions like good government gigs or think tank jobs (which basically require big law experience) most legal jobs that will give you LRAP/IBR or help you pay down your loans are not going to give you good work/life balance right out of law school. If work/life balance is your biggest concern, paying sticker to go to a fancy law school is probably not in your best interest.
That said, I would probably pick between Berkeley and NYU. If you are committed to this PI thing, they are going to be a lot more helpful than UCLA (which isn't offering enough to make up for it). If you change your mind you can still probably get a biglaw job from either. They are also going to be the only schools to give you a remote chance of getting the rare type of PI job that seem to want. There are compelling reasons for both, but at sticker, pick whichever one you like better. For PI they are about equal, for biglaw NYU has an edge, but not enough of one. Not having grades is probably nice.