Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

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jumbo.shrimp
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Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jumbo.shrimp » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:14 pm

Hey Forum! I need your advice on choosing law school (retaking or becoming a monk is not an option; not going at all is an option if going = suicide). I may get some help from my parents (not settled yet), so I am listing two options (with and without parental contribution).

Goal: West Coast BigLaw for 3-5 years, then either government service (ideally international law related) or in-house also preferably on the West Coast.

Schools and Total Cost of Attendance:

Option 1 (with parental contribution):
Columbia – $120,000
Berkeley - $70,000
USC - $0

Option 2 (paying with loans):
Columbia – $220,000
Berkeley - $170,000
USC - $50,000

Thanks for your input!

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jbagelboy
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jbagelboy » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:23 pm

I think Columbia is the best school for your goals by a decent margin, but $220K is a lot of cheddar. Still probably has my vote, since with option 1, you're in an okay spot at $120k, and option two, you're kind of debtfucked regardless unless you go to UsC, which will admittedly limit your options in the career track you've identified.

Also I realize some posters will jump at "but West Coast!" but see, thing is, government + int'l service really means NY or DC (state, L, large international private practice, ect). So this isn't about CA anyway.

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SupCutie
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby SupCutie » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:29 pm

How is it not about CA when OP said he wants West coast biglaw and West coast in-house?

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MistakenGenius
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Postby MistakenGenius » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:33 pm

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jumbo.shrimp
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jumbo.shrimp » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:33 pm

I most definitely want West Coast for BigLaw. I am originally from NY, and I can't take it here anymore. As far as government jobs go, I understand that there aren't many opportunities in CA, which totally sucks for me. I would consider D.C. as an option if the job is right, but CA is where I would want to be.

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rpupkin
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby rpupkin » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:35 pm

Berkeley.

ETA: I don't agree with MistakenGenuis that CLS is better than Berkeley for California.

If the COA was the same, and if the OP wanted to live in NYC for three years, then it would be fine to pick CLS, which places well in California. But Berkeley is cheaper, the OP is sick of NYC, an the OP wants to work in California. I don't think this one is hard.
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MistakenGenius
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Postby MistakenGenius » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:37 pm

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Clemenceau
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby Clemenceau » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:39 pm

Parents either contributing $100k or nothing at all?

Yeah you're probably gonna want to get this figured out soon

jumbo.shrimp
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jumbo.shrimp » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:47 pm

Clemenceau wrote:Parents either contributing $100k or nothing at all?

Yeah you're probably gonna want to get this figured out soon


Parents will be selling property/investments worth about $100,000 to help out. It may take some time or may not go through at all, but to make things easier, let's assume they will go through with it. So, USC at $0, Berkeley at $70k, and Columbia at $120.

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AreJay711
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby AreJay711 » Thu Apr 02, 2015 3:53 pm

CLS either way. If you didn't want biglaw, then I'd see it differently. PAYE is a beautiful thing.

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MistakenGenius
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Postby MistakenGenius » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:03 pm

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AreJay711
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby AreJay711 » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:15 pm

MistakenGenius wrote:
AreJay711 wrote:CLS either way. If you didn't want biglaw, then I'd see it differently. PAYE is a beautiful thing.


Wrong. In that case, Berkeley or USC. Columbia does wonderful in Biglaw, but you will need better grades to get to California. If you said you'd live in NYC, my answer would be different.


So median at Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw? Interesting. I don't have any knowledge otherwise. What about bottom 1/3?

My point was more about minimizing the chances of not getting CA biglaw. Even if Columbia requires better grades across the board, Columbia --> NYC Biglaw --> CA Biglaw is always an option.

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jbagelboy
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jbagelboy » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:16 pm

jumbo.shrimp wrote:
Clemenceau wrote:Parents either contributing $100k or nothing at all?

Yeah you're probably gonna want to get this figured out soon


Parents will be selling property/investments worth about $100,000 to help out. It may take some time or may not go through at all, but to make things easier, let's assume they will go through with it. So, USC at $0, Berkeley at $70k, and Columbia at $120.


whoa okay hold up there, selling investments as in, random stocks they've held for a while that are only part of an extensive portfolio, or selling investments as in, re-mortgaging the only home and liquidating the 401k? Just don't let your family bankrupt itself so you can get a cheaper JD.

I may have been overly dismissive of the California element given how strongly OP subsequently indicated their preference for west coast. When I see "international" + "government," I think about where the jobs actually are that will position you for that type of career (as a sidenote, "international government" and "inhouse" don't overlap much in career trajectory). There are a handful of LA firms with international arbitration & litigation practices (e.g. Gibson), but it's sparse. If OP wants to just work any large firm in CA for a few years and then apply to work in gov't or for an int'l agency, sure -- but as they'll come to appreciate when they are applying for these kinds of jobs, it's not that simple.

Since CA biglaw -> inhouse is a more realistic goal than State or OLC anyway, I think Berkeley would be a good choice.
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jbagelboy
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jbagelboy » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:18 pm

AreJay711 wrote:
MistakenGenius wrote:
AreJay711 wrote:CLS either way. If you didn't want biglaw, then I'd see it differently. PAYE is a beautiful thing.


Wrong. In that case, Berkeley or USC. Columbia does wonderful in Biglaw, but you will need better grades to get to California. If you said you'd live in NYC, my answer would be different.


So median at Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw? Interesting. I don't have any knowledge otherwise. What about bottom 1/3?

My point was more about minimizing the chances of not getting CA biglaw. Even if Columbia requires better grades across the board, Columbia --> NYC Biglaw --> CA Biglaw is always an option.


MistakenGenius has not been through firm recruiting in CA. You don't need better grades at CLS to get to California than another school**, Stanford aside. I don't know where that misinformation comes from, maybe something someone said on this forum. Even bottom 1/3 at CLS can get california firm work with the proper ties. The problems will come if you're 1) bidding selective firms, 2) not from California/can't develop a narrative, or 3) generally unlikable. Grades won't be *the problem* (although, of course, it helps to have better grades at any school)

**maybe I misread and he meant better grades to get a firm job in LA than in NY from CLS, all else equal, not compared to another school. That's probably true. But I don't see how it bears on this situation.

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rpupkin
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby rpupkin » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:37 pm

AreJay711 wrote:So median at Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw? Interesting. I don't have any knowledge otherwise. What about bottom 1/3?

We don't have data on this so we can only speculate. I've worked at two law firms in California. At both firms, we had the same cut-offs for Berkeley and CLS. I think the schools are viewed pretty equally out here. If anything, the firms showed more willingness to make exceptions (e.g., dip below normal grade cut-offs) for Berkeley applicants. I guess that makes sense when you consider that there are way more Boalt attorneys than CLS attorneys at the firms.

So, yeah, I'd say that "Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw." Not sure about bottom third. You of course don't want to be bottom third at either school. However, to the extent that maybe a few firms are less familiar with CLS's grading system (because they see fewer CLS apps), I suppose the obscurity could work to CLS's advantage. Not sure about that, though.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby Tiago Splitter » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:59 pm

jumbo.shrimp wrote:I am originally from NY, and I can't take it here anymore.

What kind of ties do you have to California?

Big Dog
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby Big Dog » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:16 pm

I think Columbia is the best school for your goals by a decent margin,


Not without ties to the Left Coast.

OTOH, CLS for 'international PI...' (assuming special snowflake)

jumbo.shrimp
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jumbo.shrimp » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:46 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:
jumbo.shrimp wrote:I am originally from NY, and I can't take it here anymore.

What kind of ties do you have to California?



I lived and worked there for a few years after high school and before college. So, I have lots of friends both in SoCal and SF area. Plus, some extended family there as well. I understand that job opportunities are better on the East Coast, but family-wise/having children etc, I think CA is the best.

jumbo.shrimp
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby jumbo.shrimp » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:47 pm

rpupkin wrote:
AreJay711 wrote:So median at Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw? Interesting. I don't have any knowledge otherwise. What about bottom 1/3?

We don't have data on this so we can only speculate. I've worked at two law firms in California. At both firms, we had the same cut-offs for Berkeley and CLS. I think the schools are viewed pretty equally out here. If anything, the firms showed more willingness to make exceptions (e.g., dip below normal grade cut-offs) for Berkeley applicants. I guess that makes sense when you consider that there are way more Boalt attorneys than CLS attorneys at the firms.

So, yeah, I'd say that "Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw." Not sure about bottom third. You of course don't want to be bottom third at either school. However, to the extent that maybe a few firms are less familiar with CLS's grading system (because they see fewer CLS apps), I suppose the obscurity could work to CLS's advantage. Not sure about that, though.


How do the cut-offs work given that Berkeley doesn't have grades and 60% get a pass? If I am not mistaken, Berkeley doesn't release percentiles either. Thanks for the info! This is super helpful!

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby Tiago Splitter » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:49 pm

At CLS the bottom 40% get a B and we don't get ranked either. Employers can still figure things out whether you call it HH-H-P or A/A-/B+/B.

This one is tricky but I think Berkeley makes a little more sense. If you're like I was and would prefer CA but would be fine starting in NYC and then working your way back to CA I'd go with Columbia.

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rpupkin
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby rpupkin » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:29 pm

jumbo.shrimp wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
AreJay711 wrote:So median at Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw? Interesting. I don't have any knowledge otherwise. What about bottom 1/3?

We don't have data on this so we can only speculate. I've worked at two law firms in California. At both firms, we had the same cut-offs for Berkeley and CLS. I think the schools are viewed pretty equally out here. If anything, the firms showed more willingness to make exceptions (e.g., dip below normal grade cut-offs) for Berkeley applicants. I guess that makes sense when you consider that there are way more Boalt attorneys than CLS attorneys at the firms.

So, yeah, I'd say that "Berkeley has the same or better shot as median at Columbia for CA biglaw." Not sure about bottom third. You of course don't want to be bottom third at either school. However, to the extent that maybe a few firms are less familiar with CLS's grading system (because they see fewer CLS apps), I suppose the obscurity could work to CLS's advantage. Not sure about that, though.

How do the cut-offs work given that Berkeley doesn't have grades and 60% get a pass? If I am not mistaken, Berkeley doesn't release percentiles either. Thanks for the info! This is super helpful!

Law firms (especially California law firms) know how to read a Boalt transcript. We know that a particular distribution of HH/H/P grades roughly correlates to a given rank. As Tiago just said, it's not that different for CLS. Median is mushy at both schools, but it's not that hard to roughly estimate top 10% and top 25%.

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BiglawAssociate
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby BiglawAssociate » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:16 pm

How rich are your parents? If they are going to struggle just to pay for LOL school, then I wouldn't take their money.

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BiglawAssociate
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby BiglawAssociate » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:17 pm

jumbo.shrimp wrote:
Clemenceau wrote:Parents either contributing $100k or nothing at all?

Yeah you're probably gonna want to get this figured out soon


Parents will be selling property/investments worth about $100,000 to help out. It may take some time or may not go through at all, but to make things easier, let's assume they will go through with it. So, USC at $0, Berkeley at $70k, and Columbia at $120.


So they aren't even rich....WTF dude. Why are you screwing them over? Chances are you won't even like being a lawyer.

Honestly, I'd probably do USC at 50k loans. Biglaw sucks anyway.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:20 pm

What are your numbers ? Seems like you don't really have any great options.

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BiglawAssociate
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Re: Columbia v Berkeley v USC sanity check

Postby BiglawAssociate » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:33 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:What are your numbers ? Seems like you don't really have any great options.


He's better off taking that 100k and opening a 7-11....




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