Wow. I never said that the experience of Harvard Law is ALWAYS going to be worth 100k more than Columbia. I only said that there are circumstances in which it will be and people for whom it will be. Different people place different values on their experiences. How much do you value getting a chance to work on a Supreme Court brief? What if the case you're working on is the ACA case? How much do you value taking classes with a future Supreme Court justice? Hell, how much do you value getting to drop the "H" bomb. Everyone's number for these things is different. For some it may approach 0. For others it may approach a very large sum. The fact that YOU don't think it should, doesn't change that fact that for others it WILL. Maybe you think that it shouldn't (and there are many others who think that your purely career-based outlook is the stupid one), but that's a different question. And sure, this number will depend somewhat on how desperately you need the cash now, and sure, it will partially depend on whether you're talking about 0 versus 100k in loans or you're talking about 200k versus 300k in loans. My point is not that Harvard is worth 100k more than Columbia to everyone based on the experience alone. My point is that for most students there will be experiential advantages to going to HYS over CCN, and that in making the decision between the schools, you should attempt to assign some value to those advantages. If you read this and you say "that's stupid, this isn't worth more than a couple hundred bucks to me" -- fine. Your decision should probably come down to the monetary difference compared to the value of the professional advantages. But that is not the only perspective that can (or does or, hell, should) exist among prospective students.
Regarding relative class quality, I agree that MOST of Harvard students are pretty interchangeable with MOST of Columbia students. But pretty interchangeable /= completely interchangeable, most /= all, and Harvard:Columbia /:: Yale:NYU. The backgrounds and experiences of your fellow students at Yale/Stanford (and probably Harvard) are going to be different than they will be at NYU/Columbia/Chicago. The difference between the typical student at YS and CCN is more than just .05 GPA and 2 points on the LSAT. But the real difference comes at the top of the class--you will find far, far fewer Rhodes scholars, nationally published authors, Microsoft VPs, etc at NYU than you will at Yale. I suppose there's probably no way to back this up other than via anecdotes, but without revealing too much about myself, I am pretty sure that I have a much more personal perspective of what a CCN student looks like versus what a YS student looks like than probably all but a couple on this board and there really is a huge difference at the top of the class. Maybe you go to Columbia now and you're thinking "no way, man, our class is every bit as good as Harvard's." And maybe you're at Harvard and thinking "I'm not convinced my class is anything special." But without having experienced the other (as I have), it's pretty impossible for you to really know that. I'm also willing to acknowledge that it's possible that the two schools off HYS and CCN I have experience with are outliers. But I can pretty confidently vouch for there being a very real difference between at least one of HYS and at least one of CCN.
Once again, you can decide how much this is worth to you. Some marginal increase in the probability of having one of your classmates discuss in class her experience being deposed by Eliot Spitzer may be worth very little -- or it may be worth a great deal. That's going to be a personal decision. But to argue there's no difference in the probability of experiences like this between CCN and YS (and probably H) misses a great deal about what distinguishes the student bodies at these schools.
Note also that I don't mean to exclude the possibility of experiential differences between these schools other than tied to the quality of the schools and the students. For some, the value of living in NYC instead of New Haven may be substantial. And Yale's whole head-in-the-clouds academia thing might be a turn-off to many. These, too, should factor into valuing this sort of decision.
Regarding Chicago and DC, my sources are, respectively, a DC managing partner and a DC hiring partner (at different firms). Those who are median at Chicago will sometimes get callbacks at even the more competitive DC firms. I am sure there is some small handful of students in that boat who even get offers every year. But the fact that some students are able to clear that hurdle is not evidence of the lack of a hurdle. I suppose the word "competitive" may be defined in many ways, but as I define it -- your grades/school are a neutral-to-positive factor in the hiring -- median at Chicago is not competitive for the more selective DC firms.
Last edited by abl
on Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.