Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

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chicagopi

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Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby chicagopi » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:06 pm

(This is the third straight thread in a row on this forum about wanting to work in the Chicago market. Weird.)

As the title says, I'm dead-set on wanting to work public interest when I'm done with law school and would want to work in Chicago. I have no tie to the area, however. I grew up in New York and want to live in a major metropolitan city again, but I also want to stay in the midwest so it will be easier to visit my family (no other city in the midwest really appeals to me). I've also stayed in Chicago numerous times (including one extended period of time as a teenager when a close family friend briefly worked there. They have since passed away.) and fell in love with the city all the times I've been there.

Because of my lack of ties to the area, I'm thinking Northwestern should be an easy choice, but because of my PI interests, I'm thinking maybe Michigan might have the edge? From what I've researched, they're a bit more PI focused and have a better LRAP. I get that Michigan has no main market, and its two main areas are New York/California, but Illinois typically ranks third for employed graduates in most years.All costs about equal, would it be worth going to school 4 hours away from my target market in exchange for what I believe would be a more PI-focused approach?

QContinuum

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:16 pm

First, it sounds like you do have ties to Chicago. You used to live there, even after living there you've visited frequently, and you've long wanted to return. Further, your family is in the Midwest. It doesn't get much better than that for ties.

Second, you can certainly do Chicago PI from any T13, and you should apply broadly. You're also right that Mich in particular is well-known for its PI prowess - I'd place it third in the country, behind Yale and NYU. So I think Mich would certainly be a great choice. But again, don't limit yourself to only applying to UofC, NW, and Mich. Blanket the T13 and see which offer makes the most sense financially.

chicagopi

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby chicagopi » Wed Dec 05, 2018 1:52 am

First, it sounds like you do have ties to Chicago. You used to live there, even after living there you've visited frequently, and you've long wanted to return. Further, your family is in the Midwest. It doesn't get much better than that for ties.


"Used to live there" is putting it very generously. What I meant when I stayed there several times was just that one of my close family friends (who has since passed away) briefly worked there (in a totally different industry) and we spent 2 couple week visits there.

And while my family is in the midwest, they're on the opposite side of it. It's still a pretty considerable distance between them and Chicago (let's say about 6 hours), but still closer than if I was to go back to the East Coast.

I guess I'm just wondering: if these very weak ties count as sufficient connections to Chicago, then what the hell is stopping people from just making random shit up when Chicago firms ask them about ties?

chicagopi

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby chicagopi » Wed Dec 05, 2018 1:56 am

Also, I think I would prefer the culture of Michigan over Northwestern. I get that Northwestern is in the city I want to permanently settle in, but I prefer larger state schools over private schools (I went to a tiny private for undergrad and it felt just like high school again, pretty much. No thanks.)

How much should this weigh in my decision though? I figured it was a pretty silly thing to base my choice on, but several people have told me that liking the campus culture correlates heavily with performance, and truth be told, when I went to my small, private undergrad, there were a few times I felt miserable because of the general feel of the school.

lj6711297

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby lj6711297 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:08 pm

QContinuum wrote:First, it sounds like you do have ties to Chicago. You used to live there, even after living there you've visited frequently, and you've long wanted to return. Further, your family is in the Midwest. It doesn't get much better than that for ties.

Second, you can certainly do Chicago PI from any T13, and you should apply broadly. You're also right that Mich in particular is well-known for its PI prowess - I'd place it third in the country, behind Yale and NYU. So I think Mich would certainly be a great choice. But again, don't limit yourself to only applying to UofC, NW, and Mich. Blanket the T13 and see which offer makes the most sense financially.



I agree with his breakdown of it. I just have one thing to add.

I have some ties with a an attorney that went to UMich and she said she enjoyed UMich and she placed well in the Chicago market. But she did add (since she did both summers in Chicago) that it was kinda difficult for her to go back and forth to set up her internships and if she were to do it again, she would have probably picked a school in Chicago. This attorney did IP, not PI, so if Michigan is a T3 school in that area (I am unaware of PI programs), it still might be worth it go there. But then again, you can't really go wrong with Northwestern/UChi. Definitely play it out and see if you can get some money.

QContinuum

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby QContinuum » Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:43 pm

chicagopi wrote:
QContinuum wrote:First, it sounds like you do have ties to Chicago. You used to live there, even after living there you've visited frequently, and you've long wanted to return. Further, your family is in the Midwest. It doesn't get much better than that for ties.


"Used to live there" is putting it very generously. What I meant when I stayed there several times was just that one of my close family friends (who has since passed away) briefly worked there (in a totally different industry) and we spent 2 couple week visits there.

And while my family is in the midwest, they're on the opposite side of it. It's still a pretty considerable distance between them and Chicago (let's say about 6 hours), but still closer than if I was to go back to the East Coast.

Well, your initial post put things a bit differently:
chicagopi wrote:I've also stayed in Chicago numerous times (including one extended period of time as a teenager when a close family friend briefly worked there.

I assumed by "extended period of time," you actually meant "extended period of time," not two one-week visits as you later stated.

But again, I think you still have a decent ties story. Just say that you love the city, you've always wanted to return and work there, and your family's in the Midwest so you want to be in the same region. Chicago's a pretty big market, so it isn't as finicky as very small secondary markets like, I dunno, Omaha or St. Louis or something. The firms just don't want to hire someone who'll flee back to New York or California in short order after being unable to adapt to life in the Midwest.

chicagopi wrote:I guess I'm just wondering: if these very weak ties count as sufficient connections to Chicago, then what the hell is stopping people from just making random shit up when Chicago firms ask them about ties?

As you will hear frequently in law school, law is a largely self-regulating profession. The expectation is that attorneys - and law students - will be honest and won't "mak[e] random shit up" about their background.

criminaltheory

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby criminaltheory » Wed Dec 05, 2018 1:54 pm

I think it depends on what you mean by you want to work in Chicago. If there really is no other city you can/would consider, I'd go to NU. If you really want Chicago but can see yourself ending up somewhere else in three years, all else being equal it's pretty much your call. As your Mich-alum friend says, it's easier to do Chicago summers and/or semester internships if you're in the city; but if during law school you show interest in Chicago, it won't be exceptionally difficult to land a PI job here from Michigan.

RedPurpleBlue

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby RedPurpleBlue » Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:28 am

I'll say a few things as a 2L at Northwestern.

1) PI funding at Northwestern is the best in the nation, hands down. For 20 hours of public interest work, you get $8,000 in funding. If you do it through a certain organization on campus, you can get another $1,000-$2,000. I think students who did their 20 hours the student organization got $9,500 combined last year for their PI/gov't jobs. The only PI/gov't jobs that doesn't qualify for the $8,000 are judicial externships. If you, for some reason, wanted to spend 1L summer internationally, I think there are a few $1,500 grants that you can apply for too, so you could potentially have $11,000 for a PI summer. I wanted to end up back in Chicago and have lived here my whole life, but, for fun, I took the $8,000 and spent my summer somewhere that I'd never been before basically across the U.S. (think VT, AK, HI).

At Michigan, I believe the funding is $4,000 1L, but I think you have to pay it back as a loan if you take big law your 2L summer. You can compete 1L to get $6,000, but I think only about 20 people get those a year. There are about 350 students in a class every year at Michigan, and probably 315 or so do PI/Gov't work, so your odds of getting the $6,000 aren't great. I know for 2L they guarantee $5,000 of summer funding.

2) It is really nice to be in Chicago from an externship perspective. I know a lot of classmates who are working at various federal agencies, plaintiff-side firms, or traditional public interest organizations in addition to their coursework. I'm sure some opportunities exist in Ann Arbor, but you're going to get a lot more opportunities in Chicago.

3) Northwestern is on the smaller side of the top law schools, but it's by no means the smallest (Yale, Cornell, Stanford, and Chicago are all smaller). As someone who attended a small liberal arts college, the difference between 800 law students at Northwestern and 1,050 or so at Michigan is pretty much unnoticeable. When you're at any place below like 2,000, it's pretty easy to know everyone through at least a second degree connection, especially if you're remotely social. I wouldn't factor this size difference into the equation at all.

laliforevar

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Re: Michigan vs Northwestern for Chicago PI?

Postby laliforevar » Wed Jan 02, 2019 11:17 am

chicagopi wrote:Also, I think I would prefer the culture of Michigan over Northwestern. I get that Northwestern is in the city I want to permanently settle in, but I prefer larger state schools over private schools (I went to a tiny private for undergrad and it felt just like high school again, pretty much. No thanks.)

How much should this weigh in my decision though? I figured it was a pretty silly thing to base my choice on, but several people have told me that liking the campus culture correlates heavily with performance, and truth be told, when I went to my small, private undergrad, there were a few times I felt miserable because of the general feel of the school.


3L at Michigan, actually working at a civil rights firm in Chicago next summer (graduating Dec 2019), and also committed to doing public interest long-term. Happy to chat if you have specific questions, feel free to PM me. I would say a few things:

1) I think culture matters a TON personally. When I got down to really choosing between schools, at the point that all things were mostly equal in terms of financial aid, status of the school and education that I would get, that IS how I made my decision. To me, you have to spend three years with people - and they are also your peers and colleagues for the long haul. Law school is tough enough and you want to be in a place where you'll be happy. Certainly go to ASWs and test your theory, but if you feel drawn to one culture over another, that's no small thing. I will warn that law school no matter where you go, given the size of our classes, is a little like high school :) But you can get away from that at Mlaw to some extent, I think.

2) Unless I missed it, it doesn't seem as though you are interested in working at a firm at any point, in which case I would argue that 'ties' are WAY less important to public interest employers as compared to demonstrated interest in the work area, involvement with pro bonos, clinics, etc. "I want to end up in Chicago for XYZ reasons" is plenty IMO based on the now two rounds of public interest job interviews I've done - more often than not, they don't even ask you about the city.

3) Re: funding, @RedPurpleBlue is basically correct - $4k for sure or $6k that you can apply for 1L, guaranteed $5k 2L. I will say that even though most 1Ls are doing some sort of PI/govt summer, the VAST majority are not planning on doing PI long term, and the SFF $6k Grant is meant only for those committed to PI. They really stress it in the application process and you have to be able to show it in your essays. So most people don't apply. I am not sure the exact numbers but it is definitely not 300+ people applying for 20 - probably more like 60-80 tops? And again, if you're not working BigLaw your second summer, the guaranteed $4k loan essentially becomes a grant that you don't have to pay back. Aside from these sources of funding, there are bunches of others that you can apply for.

I guess I don't see the whole "difficult to arrange" thing between Chicago and Michigan - it's a pretty reasonable train or car ride, and I'm not sure what is being "arranged" at any rate especially for a 1L summer. Very few PI places if any are going to ask for an in-person interview.

I love the PI community at Michigan and my fellow PIers are a huge part of my joy at school. This is not to say you won't find that at NU - note that my post is 90% about Michigan because obviously, that's what I know :) But I think you can absolutely do what you want from here - you know what your goals are, and that's honestly more than half the battle. You'll be exposed to a huge variety of PI people, paths, professors who do incredible work in the field, and also have a ton of really active pro bono projects that you can get involved with to start showing that demonstrated interest (and start becoming a better advocate!) even for your 1L interviews. We've also got a clinic that 1Ls can do in the spring.

TL;DR I am confident you can do Chicago PI from Michigan. Figure out what schools are your best options in an all-rounded way and go from there!



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