Says the HYS student whose domain is being dismantled by dat financial analysis.
Are you that impressed by people throwing around important-sounding phrases like "option pricing"? I can unequivocally overstate information through erudite elaboration if such overly intellectual exposition induces your agreement. Or, you know, I can fucking speak English. Very little irritates me more than people whose main persuasion tool is "look, I sound like an economist, trust me".
So, since I claim to favor substance, have some substance. I'm not too familiar with Stanford, but I can easily highlight the "value-adding" differences between H/Y and CLS:
1) H/Y offer legitimate need-based aid to already-admitted students. CLS does not. If you can get a scholarship to CLS, then financially that's much better (and outside the scope of our discussion of sticker-vs-sticker). If you go to CLS without pre-awarded merit aid, you will pay sticker, period. If you attend H/Y your need status will be considered, post-enrollment, and I can personally attest that the awards can be substantial. Someone with a financial background similar to mine, who chose from HLS or CLS "at sticker", could end up actually realistically paying $40-60K less at HLS over three years, and possibly get more.
2) Employment options are better at H/Y. Your odds of getting jobs are slightly higher; I guess you could call the difference "within the margin of error" if you didn't know what a margin of error was. In an individual year, you could argue the difference was so small as to not likely indicate anything. The problem is that historically, in both good years and bad, there has been a small but real gap in placement numbers. Consistent year-over-year data is what you use to show data points for individual years, which might each on their own have a wider margin of error, do actually represent a long-term tangible difference. And sure, by itself, it's not a huge difference, but it's also rarely the sole reason given in real discussions like these.
3) Long-term employment opportunities are different. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit. Jokes about Obama and SCOTUS aside, HYS absolutely dominate in academia, in places like the DOJ, and at many of the top law firms nationwide. And pedigree is becoming more markedly important as the hiring market has shrunk. CLS has strength, maybe even equal strength in NYC itself, but good luck anywhere else. In a place like Texas, for example, HYS are well-known and well-respected, but otherwise the vast majority of lawyers there are from UVA, UT, or other Southern schools. You have a bigger network down there to tap into, and your name is worth much more when billing you out to clients, if you're from HYS.
And don't try to tell me CLS makes up for it by being "stronger" in NYC. Anyone believes that, I've got a bridge to sell you.
4) H/Y have massive endowments, which translates to substantially stronger LRAPs than other schools. The safety net you get is incredibly bigger than at a school like CLS.
To tell you something right away about CLS' LRAP, their website refers to it as "LRAP for Public Interest Lawyers". And they very heavily push people into IBR to reduce their own costs. By just paying your IBR payment for you, they leave you carrying the balance until the federal government forgives your loan. For most public interest lawyers, IBR payments won't even cover interest, so you keep carrying your full principal. This actually means you're trapped in public service for 10 years; if you went private for any reason before then, you'd still be on the hook for the full $200K.
H/Y aren't so limited; they'll cover loans for people in any
legal employment, public or private, below the eligibility threshold. They'll even cover some non-legal public service employment. And HLS LIPP deals with your loans by making your standard
monthly payment for you, whacking both interest and principal over 10 years. Want to leave LRAP-eligible employment after 7-8 years? At H/Y, the majority of your loan principal will have been repaid. At CLS, you'll leave with $200K still owed to Sallie Mae.
Like I said, massively better safety net.Conclusion:
Are the small but tangible differences in initial employment prospects enough, by themselves, to justify H/Y over CLS? Yes. Are they enough, by themselves, to justify "HYS or bust"? Maybe, if you have no $$ waiting at CLS. When added with everything else, though, the differences between schools is larger and more obvious. H/Y is potentially less expensive, has better short and long term employment prospects, and has a far better safety net if you don't get a salary that'll pay off your loans. If someone is rationally risk-averse and debt-averse, then yes, "HYS or don't go" could be TCR.
(I'm not saying this as someone who doesn't respect CLS. It's a perfectly fine school full of brilliant young minds. I'm saying it as someone who thinks you'd have to be fucking crazy to go to law school with anything but the best possible shot right now.)