Yukos wrote:Since this thread seems dead, I'm a Stanford 1L entering winter quarter happy to take questions (if there's any interest).
I'm currently debating between HLS and SLS. I'm originally from the northeast, but the idea of relocating to California is just as appealing as staying back east, so I'm really open to both schools at this point. My decision, like one of the posters above, seems to be coming down to quality of life.
Do you have any thoughts on student life at Stanford? Do you like the small size of the student body, or can the social scene get tiring? What about Palo Alto? It generally seems to be a much less exciting area to live in than Cambridge. On the other hand, I'm into skiing/the outdoors so having Tahoe within driving distance might make up for the fact that it's in suburbia.
I had the exact same choice and I can tell you honestly I am soooo happy I chose Stanford. Obviously any comparison you'll hear is one sided because (with a couple exceptions, I guess) everyone only attends one or the other, but I can tell you I love it here.
Everything starts with the small size. I know almost everyone by name and can go to any social function and be sure that there's a decent group of people I know well to talk to. At the same time, everyone has extremely different backgrounds so conversations are almost always really interesting. I got along great with people at HLS's ASW but it seemed to tilt towards overachieving K-JDs, whereas Stanford is almost all people who have been out in the world at least a year and done something really cool (intelligence officer, IDF liaison, Jeopardy contestant, TMNJ episode writer, undocumented farm workers organizer, to name a few).
The small size also means that we have crazy access to our professors. For example, Pamela Karlan, who has been mentioned as a potential SCOTUS justice and who will be running the DOJ's post-Shelby voting rights strategy took every person in her class out to lunch (and I talked with her personally many times). If you have any interest in clerkships or doing research with professors, I think Stanford is a much better place because of this access. Also, our writing class is only 30 students (first quarter, second and third quarters it drops down to 18), and I think Harvard's is 80 (which I just can't imagine--legal writing is hard enough as it is). Finally, I've heard many clinics are hard to get into at Harvard but you can almost always get the clinic you want here (the exception being the Supreme Court Clinic, for obvious reasons).
Based on the one night I spent there, I think Cambridge has a much better bar scene than Palo Alto, but we get out to the bars almost every week and it's still pretty fun. San Francisco is surprisingly hard to get to, and I don't think 1Ls spend much time out there (2Ls and 3Ls do, though, and many 3Ls live there). I don't mind being out here at all (and I don't even have a car) but if you really want an urban school or your social life revolves around bars (as opposed to my preference, house parties) than Harvard will probably be better for you. As an aside, Stanford is an open-container campus, which is really fun.
I imagine all the outdoors stuff is better here. Skiing in Tahoe is much better than East Coast skiing, and there's tons of great hiking around Stanford (including on campus). Also, don't underestimate the weather. Today is the coldest day this week and the high is 61. The high in Cambridge today is 21. You will be crushed with work the last couple weeks of fall quarter and it is so
important to be able to go outside, run, bike, whatever because the sun is out and it's in the low-60s. This isn't LA or Florida--it's not warm every day--but the vast majority of the time it's the equivalent of an April or May day on the East Coast.
Some other things to consider: housing on-campus here is 1000000x nicer than at Harvard, our grading system is more forgiving (no GPA, no LP), I think we get electives earlier (could be wrong though), much easier to get Law Review here (similar number of slots, 1/3 as much competition), quarters are hectic but allow you to cycle through a lot of classes, clinics are full-time here, our first year is longer than HLS's (I don't mind so far but in June this might bother me). Obviously tons of brilliant people go to HLS every year, do great and love it. But again, choosing Stanford was one of the best decisions of my life and literally every day I think about how great my life is here (despite the stress and work that naturally comes with 1L).