1. Quarters are amazing. IMO, way worth the negatives (primarily impacting your summer). You'll get to take more classes, which is a huge bonus whether or not you're doing a dual degree program. Don't underestimate this; employers (and judges in particular) care about what classes you take, and the more chances you get to both take the basics and interesting electives, the better. I'd wager that 2 Ps in classes your employer is interested in are worth 1H that they're not, even, so having more overall classes really is a huge bonus. I'd automatically give schools with quarter systems--Stanford, Chicago, and Washington as far as I know--big leg-ups on schools with semester systems. More exams wasn't an issue for me or for pretty much anyone I knew in the current 2L class, and we were much more screwed with Fed Lit than you will be (obviously nobody likes exams, but it's very manageable).
2. There is good affordable off-campus housing if you look hard enough. Menlo Park and College Terrace in particular have a fair number of good affordable options and are within easy biking distance of the law school (and if you're lucky, sometimes even within walking distances). Things are surprisingly expensive, but I do think they're better than DC/NY, although it might require some patience and skill with craigslist to find the right places.
3. Palo Alto is so-so. That said, the Bay Area is amazing (hands down, one of the best regions in the country) and totally makes up for whatever Palo Alto is lacking. Also, law school's important, and as a 2L, my biggest advice to you is not to use the number of bars within walking distance or whatnot as a factor. There are so many MUCH more important things: the programs at the school, the reputation of the school, and how much you like the students at the school, for example. If you're making a quality of life decision that's not based on how much you like the students at one particular school, I'd advise you to think hard about weather; being able to run outside at lunch year-round, or even read outside, is pretty enormously wonderful, and even if you're not a summer person (I'm not), you'll find things that surprise you that you love about the warmer environment here. All of this is coming from someone who's never lived in California outside of going to Stanford and will not stay in California after graduation: I'm not one of those crazy CA boosters you'll run into.
4. Stanford has a ton of married students or students who are practically married. The predominant social scene is still single students who recently graduated from college, so if that's your thing you have nothing to worry about, but there's a very strong very active community of "settled" students as well.
5. This is more for the 1Ls than anyone else: I've never heard of someone getting a Book Prize who didn't also get honors. I was hopeful that this wasn't the case my 1L year, but I think that's how these things work. Profs don't use it as a "my fav student award." Rather, they use it to reward the top examine-scorer(s) in virtually all cases. Anyways, you shouldn't be thinking about this. Just know that nobody gets anything lower than a P, and everyone gets good jobs... so do your best, but don't stress!
6. I really think if you get into Stanford you'd be crazy not to come. From my experience as a 1L on the job market, and now as a 2L, the only school that seems comparable employment-wise is Yale--and maybe Harvard--and students at both schools appear nowhere near as happy with their experience.
Last edited by abl
on Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:47 am, edited 2 times in total.