Berkeley vs Penn

(Rankings, Profiles, Tuition, Student Life, . . . )

Berkeley or Penn?

Berkeley
21
38%
Penn
34
62%
 
Total votes: 55

quintessence
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Berkeley vs Penn

Postby quintessence » Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:31 pm

Hey everyone, it's down to the wire for me now. I got an extension on my Berkeley final choice, and Penn admitted me off the waitlist, so the deposit deadline is very soon. No scholarship money in play, unfortunately. For a while I was set on (and really happy about) going to Berkeley, but the Penn admission threw me off a bit.

Either way, I'm interested in working back on the east coast. I don't have any particular attachment to IP or PI, but I've flirted with the idea of academia, where Berkeley seems to have a clear edge. I'll probably end up going the firm route—at least at first. I feel like Penn would be better in terms of general east coast job prospects and alumni network, clerkships, being closer to my SO and family, and isn't part of CA's underfunded public system. It seems like Berkeley has a bit more volatility in that sense. On the other hand, I really like Berkeley's grading system, the legendary uncompetitive student body, and general Bay area goodness might be a shame to pass up in favor of a more competitive Penn with real grades.

Anyone else make a similar decision?

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Dignan
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby Dignan » Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:02 pm

I'm at Berkeley and love it here, so what follows might be biased.

You write that Berkeley has the edge over Penn in academia. I'd be wary of making a decision based on this kind of consideration. Check out Brian Lieter's chart on the top producers of law teachers at the leading law schools since 1995:

http://leiterrankings.com/new/2011_LawTeachers.shtml

Yes, Berkeley has, compared to Penn, placed six times as many graduates per capita into positions in legal academia at top schools. But we're talking about tiny numbers here. You've essentially got less than a 1% chance of academia coming out of either school. It's the same deal with clerkships. Berkeley has done a better job than Penn at placing students into elite COA and U.S. Supreme Court clerkships, but these opportunities are mostly limited to students in the top 1-2% of their classes.

As for job prospects, I've noticed that Berkeley students who target firms in NY and DC do very well. In fact, they seem to have more success than the students who target SF and LA. Still, Penn is probably a safer bet if you want a job in NY. If I were below median and wanted a NY firm job, I'd rather be at Penn than Berkeley (though I know below-median students at Berkeley who landed jobs with good firms in NY).

Finally, I wouldn't worry about CA's underfunded public school system. For better or for worse, the law school has essentially privatized itself. (This explains the skyrocketing tuition over the past five years; these increases were planned before the California budget crisis of 2008-12). Unlike the undergraduate programs, the law school is mostly insulated from the health of the state budget.

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Indebted
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby Indebted » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:27 am

Go to Berkeley so there's room for me at Penn :mrgreen:

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Doorkeeper
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby Doorkeeper » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:39 am

The list of pros is much bigger at Penn. Academia comparison isn't a fair one since Penn has risen in the rankings in the past 10-20 years, which helps to explain its lower production of academics who are now at law schools.

Either way, firm job on East Coast, plus family/SO on east coast = Penn.

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bk1
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby bk1 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:58 am

If you want the east coast take Penn.
If you want the west coast take Berkeley.

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jtemp320
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby jtemp320 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:46 am

bk1 wrote:If you want the east coast take Penn.
If you want the west coast take Berkeley.


I'd agree this makes sense but either school can get you big law on either coast (though it seems like ties matter for CA big law) so I'd decide on where you think you'll be happier and do better academically for the next three years. A few points:

1. Academia

From Boalt or Penn you'll need top of the class grades and probably law review (this is true nearly everywhere but Yale) - no one can be realistically confident about that result before stepping into a law school classroom. Its not like undergrad - at top schools everyone is smart, everyone works very hard, its an alien discipline taught through unfamiliar (and somewhat bizarre) pedagogical methods. In addition exam grading is at least somewhat random at the margins. If do you achieve those credentials Boalt or Penn are both just fine for academia. I go to Boalt we have Professors who went to Penn and Professors who went to Boalt - the main thing they have in common is lot of academic awards at their respective schools. I wouldn't even factor that in.

2. Big Law placement

From what I've seen Boalt places fine in DC/NY and Penn will do fine on the West Coast (if you have California ties). Both are national schools but place a little better on their own coast (though it depends...some firms like the diversity of having someone from the other coast) but if you have a clear preference go with that.

3: The SO

Honestly, I'd avoid factoring in your SO at all (I didn't listen to this advice but you should). You don't want to regret this decision, the first year is hard enough without wondering if the place you really wanted to go would have been better for you. Making this decision based on someone else puts pressure on a relationship that isn't fair to yourself or the other person. I hated it when people told me this but only do that if you and your spouse are definitely going to get married (or otherwise long-term committed).

4. Decide Based on Where You'll Be Happier and Have a Better Chance to Do Well

All that said, I'd advise you not to decide based on where you want to work (though thats a sensible factor) - not to assume top of the class grades (and thus think about academia) or bottom of the class grades (and worry about not getting back to the market you want to be in) a better market or a worse one. All of that is out of your control.

Also the California budget stuff really doesn't effect Boalt that much...for better or worse most of the funds for Boalt has come from donations and tuition for quite a while. The building was just completely redone, the school is expanding the faculty and class sizes remain small and tuition basically is pegged to Boalt's peers (like Penn) and will rise at basically the same rate they do so that it will be a little more expensive for out of state and a little less for in-state.

In the end these are two equivalent but very different law schools - you have to decide where you want to be. Boalt has a more relaxed culture, Penn will probably feel more self-consciously prestigious (Ivies tend to be that way). Boalt will probably have stronger offerings in IP, Environmental Law and public interest topics, Penn in corporate and business law (though Boalt has some great law faculty in that an area). Berkeley is a college town - its near SF which is a great city and some students live there but you'll spend at least your first year there, Penn is in a real city. The Bay Area has a lot of natural beauty and great weather, Philly less so. I went through a similar decision and my best advice would be think hard about your visits and where you think you'll be able to do your best the next three years and where you are most excited about going and then go there.

Good luck with your decision and with your first year next year wherever you choose to go.

Real Madrid
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby Real Madrid » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:09 am

Doorkeeper wrote:The list of pros is much bigger at Penn. Academia comparison isn't a fair one since Penn has risen in the rankings in the past 10-20 years, which helps to explain its lower production of academics who are now at law schools.

Either way, firm job on East Coast, plus family/SO on east coast = Penn.


Other than big law placement, could you please list this "much bigger" list of pros?

HeavenWood
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby HeavenWood » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:20 am

bk1 wrote:If you want the east coast take Penn.
If you want the west coast take Berkeley.


Also: Penn isn't that competitive, and from what I hear, Boalt's grading system hurts their students more than it helps then.

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PennBull
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby PennBull » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:36 am

quintessence wrote:I really like Berkeley's grading system, the legendary uncompetitive student body, and general Bay area goodness might be a shame to pass up in favor of a more competitive Penn with real grades.


I don't know who you've been talking to, but Penn also has a reputation for a very low/nonexistent level of competitiveness. Everyone pretty much drinks the "collegiality" kool-aid and it's amazing.

I've never heard of Berkeley's "legendary uncompetitive student body." I don't know if it is or not, but I sure as hell haven't heard of it.

Also, real grades or not, employers will know where you are in the class. Penn doesn't rank or disclose grades pre-interview, so it's not like Penn is out to cut everyone's throats. If you choose a school based on a grading system you're gonna have a bad time.

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bk1
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Re: Berkeley vs Penn

Postby bk1 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:11 pm

jtemp320 wrote:I'd agree this makes sense but either school can get you big law on either coast (though it seems like ties matter for CA big law) so I'd decide on where you think you'll be happier and do better academically for the next three years.


They can get you either coast but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to handicap yourself for some mythical "well I'll be happier" bs that most people can't accurately predict in advance.




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