Indiana v. UST
The general rule is to go to the school in the region or market where you want to practice. Given that money is fairly equal in this situation, a higher ranked school would look better on your resume. You won't find a lot of Indiana alums in the cities and you won't find a lot of Minneapolis firms traveling to Indiana to interview law students. This is the disadvantage you'll have at Indiana. I personally would visit both schools and choose the school based on where I feel comfortable, which school is someplace I wouldn't mind attending for three years, which city would I rather live in for three years, and which school do I see myself placing the best in my relative class. These are all factors only you can answer.
Do you think firm hiring will pick up significantly over the next few years?
Firm hiring has already picked up. The big Minneapolis firms are back to larger class sizes this summer. Associates are busy and demand is up for new attorneys.
Did you take the bar in minnesota? If so, any general impressions?I took the bar in Minnesota. It is one of the easiest states to take. Don't worry about it. Definitely take the Bar-Bri course and study hard, but you don't need to worry about it until after law school graduation.
I've heard that MN firms tend to hire fewer people than their peers in Chi or NY, but that it's easier to make partner. Any truth to this?
This is partially true and partially false. Minnesota firms hire less people than the firms in New York and Chicago. However, they are built on different models. The coastal firm (New York, Boston, San Fran, D.C., etc.) generally handles very high end legal work, usually "bet the company" type deals where you need the best of the best. Typically, these are your vault 50 or so firms. They are very large, with a pyramid structure in hierarchy. They have a few partners at the top, a few more in the class of non-equity partners, more in the class of senior associates, more in the class of mid-associates, and a significant class of junior associates. With this structure, the hierarchy looks like a pyramid. Most of the juniors and midlevel associates will self-select out of the firm (typically moving home to places like Minneapolis, where they grew up, etc.). Another group will be let-go. Slowly the size of the class depletes, but the class size fits the firm model.
With this business model, it is difficult to become partner, but you will gain more experience and can move to a middle market firm afterwards, as you've now garnered marketable experience.
In Minneapolis, most firms do routine type work for big clients, or high-end work for small companies. Dorsey/Faegre/Robins, etc. will always have work, but they'll never get the biggest litigation or the biggest deal. Instead, these firms operate on a lower-cost model where their competitive advantage with the coastal firms is to offer similar services at a cheaper cost. With this business model, the firm doesn't want or need the excess in junior level associates billing for hours. Instead, these firms must operate more efficiently for their more cost-sensitive clients.
Becoming partner is easier than at the big coastal firms, but you have the disadvantage of the east coast attorneys lateralling in and taking partnership spots. This puts you at a disadvantage when someone laterals in with a big coastal firm name on their resume and well known trials/litigation under their belt (not to mention clerkships, connections, etc.).
Any idea why WM is fairing less well lately? Supposedly Mitchell has the most extensive alumni network in the state, so I was surprised when you mentioned that your firm doesn't take Mitchell graduates. I know a few Mitchell grads who work in Biglaw, one of whom is a partner in litigation at a biglaw firm in M/SP, though he graduated in the 70's. Most of the attorneys I talk to seem to think it's fairly competetive with the U. Should I be disillusioned?
I am not sure why you would think WM is comparative to the U. It is a good school, but no attorney, especially a BigLaw attorney, thinks of it as comparable to the U.
I have always respected WM, as I think any attorney should. A few things hurt WM. It is not well known outside of Minneapolis. It does not have a university affiliation, which hurts its alumni network and its connections around the cities. UST has eaten into WM's placement statistics, leading to less WM grads becoming junior associates and later becoming midlevel hiring associates. This has lead to less WM grads hiring, leading to less WM students getting hired. It is a bit of a freakonomics argument.
When there were only really two schools in Minneapolis, things were good for WM. Things have changed now that there are four schools, two of which are well known and well respected local universities. It is hard for WM to compete against the large number of UST and Minnesota grads.
I think location also hurts both WM and Hamline, though not significantly. Local lawyers in Minneapolis often attend Minnesota and UST for seminars and presentations. This usually leads to local networking. MW and Hamline grads are often left out.
However, I have often said that if you receive a full-ride to WM, you should certainly attend. You will get a good education and, if you work hard at it, you can make good connections. I just think that an in-state tuition at the U or a full ride at UST may be better options. It all depends on what you are looking for. And as I said above, visiting the schools and seeing where you feel the most comfortable is the most important thing.