Stig's review of the Day in the Life Program on the 18tg
So a couple people asked for a review, so here it is! Don't worry, I got my other homework done last night before I left
So I will preface these comments by saying that I am in general a positive person, and acknowledge that I may be looking at law schools through rose-tinted glasses. Your mileage may vary on how true my comments actually hold, as they are only based off a single day at Chicago. Also worth nothing is that I definitely want an intense intellectual experience in law school, a focus on interdisciplinary learning, as well as a small, tight knit community. Also, I wrote this on my iPhone in an airport/on a plane, so please forgive any typos/subpar writing style.
The day in the life program began early on Friday morning with a flight into midway. I only mention this because I got 3 hours of sleep because of the early flight, so I did not ask as many questions as I would have liked. Taking the bus from midway to uchicago definitely showed why it has a reputation for being in a rough neighborhood. It reminded me of Detroit, but with more people (many parts of detroit are eerily deserted). UChicago seemed to just pop up out of nowhere on the bus route, so I am guessing not many students wonder south/southwest of the law school (already on the south side of campus).
Based off some previous discussions, I was not expecting to like the aesthetic of the law building itself. In real life, it is actually much less unpleasant looking than in many of the pictures. The interior is really nice, if a bit utilitarian, and it is clear that it was renovated 5 years ago. The glass exterior makes the library wonderful as there was plenty of sunlight streaming in. I could definitely see myself studying there without being too miserable. One of the coolest results of this setup is that a lot of the professor's offices are in the library, which seems to foster a better community. One of the student to whom I talked mentioned that she has had professors stop by and say hi while she was studying in the library since their office was so close.
First up was a financial aid info session with Karla Vargas, who was super nice and helpful. Apparently their lrap gets a tough rap, but she said it was actually great when you do the calculations. To be honest, I am biglaw or bust right now due to a variety of factors, so I won't comment on it. She did say they just redid public service grants for 5k for both summer (when previously they were loans). Cool beans; also worth mentioning is that they are revamping their lrap program right now and they will be announcing the new program soon.
We then sat in on a 1h40m crim law class. The only other class I have sat in on is a Michigan torts class, so these comments are mostly a comparison between them. Chicago's professor seems liked the quirky genius type, he was intense but with a great sense of humor (we learned about intoxication and insanity defenses). Overall the level of thought seemed to be just a bit higher than at Michigan. Almost all the students were taking notes on their computers, with only a couple (out of 100) not paying attention. At Michigan, it seemed like 50 percent of the class was simply listening and not actively taking notes. Maybe I am just a gunner and don't realize it, but this seemed weird to me considering grading curves and today's economy. The prof used Socratic method, and I was impressed with most of the students' dialogue, with the exception of one student who just read from some online case brief, and clearly did not read/remember/understand the case. What differed the most from Michigan was at umich there was more of prof-student interaction, while at Chicago there was interaction between the students. It seemed like more learning from other students happening at Chicago. Again, I acknowledge that my sample size is limited. Overall, the class was fascinating, I liked the Socratic method, the level of intensity was high, and it made me excited for law school! It is worth mentioning that this was an extra large class with half the 1Ls in it.
After class I had lunch with a two student. I was paired with two really great 2Ls, one from NYC and the other from the bay area. One is going to work at S&C this summer in NYC, but I can't remember what the other is doing. This interaction was probably the most valuable part of the trip. Their description of the school pretty much fit what I expected. Everyone takes their schooling seriously, for example, for the snowtorious BIG cancelled days of classes, the students in one class voted to have make up sessions on a saturday and Sunday morning and almost everyone showed up. I personally really liked that, as (gunner alert) I am a bit disappointed that more people in my undergrad don't take school all that seriously. They took me on a tour, and the school's facilities were really impressive. We talked about the community/experience, and they said that almost all people live in Hyde park during their first year and spends a lot of time at the school. They recognize pretty much everyone in their class-I could tell that it was a close community. They said this can get weary and consequently a lot of people move downtown to the south loop for 2/3L. I have mixed feelings about this, as I love living very close to work, as I cannot do work efficiently at home, so spend a ton of time in the library. I would rather not have to be stuck on a commuting schedule for 2 years. Downtown Chicago is awesome (I spent Saturday just bopping around) so I could definitely see myself living there, but as a lawyer, not a student...
The students talked a bit about grades and competition. They said that it really isn't competitive between students, as gpa is not calculated until graduation, and no one ever talks about grades. It really does seem that students are competing again themselves to do as well as they can. Self selection was cited as a part of this, as non-competitive people don't come to Chicago.
After lunch we had some brief talks about OCS/clinics/public interest. At this point my energy was fading fast. OCS seemed awesome, they have an appointment with 1Ls during both semesters, and really work with the students to help them achieve their career goals. I'm not in a position to judge this, but here it does seem that a smaller school can do this better. The relatively new dean apparently started pushing a new focus on PI, and while I don't see myself doing it as a career, it looks like the future is bright for pursuing PI from Chicago. If you do some searching, you can see the who worked where sheet from the class of 2009 to see how it placed.
All in all, Chicago was awesome. They were very straightforward with what they are all about, and really wanted to make sure students will fit well at the school. For me, it looks like a great fit, and it is one of my top choices (with SLS and CLS). I hope you all find this review helpful, feel free to post some questions as I will be traveling this week and spending lots of time on TLS while I am in the airport.
ETA: My one piece of advice-visit Chicago! From my description I might sound like a gunner liking a competitive school, but really you need to see it in person to know if it is right for you!