Southwestern Law

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
Danteshek
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Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:41 am

I'm a 1L at Southwestern. Post questions if you have them.

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:45 am

I'm not aiming for Southwestern, but I do find the 2 yr program interesting. How insane is that program? Also, what are the job prospects for PI/Govt there.

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:09 pm

ejjones wrote:I'm not aiming for Southwestern, but I do find the 2 yr program interesting. How insane is that program? Also, what are the job prospects for PI/Govt there.


I almost did SCALE. I decided against it at the last moment so I could fully engage with all aspects of my education.

Southwestern dominates the extern hiring at the LA County DA's office: http://www.swlaw.edu/news/overview/newsr.7gV.WB.lkM . That is indicative of SW's strength in govt hiring. Plenty of students go work for Cal. Attorney General and other state and federal placements.

Re: public interest, SW has a very strong program. The Street Law clinic and General Relief Advocacy project (GRAP) with Public Counsel are two examples. Yesterday I went to an open house at Public Counsel's offices less than a mile away from SW. They gave presentations of all the projects and gave us the opportunity to apply for internship positions. I will probably work in the Federal Pro Se Clinic downtown that is part of Public Counsel's appellate law project. I am also going to be involved in GRAP.

SW has exceeded my expectations in every way. My property (fagundes) and contracts (hart) professors are amazing.

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:23 pm

Danteshek wrote:
ejjones wrote:I'm not aiming for Southwestern, but I do find the 2 yr program interesting. How insane is that program? Also, what are the job prospects for PI/Govt there.


I almost did SCALE. I decided against it at the last moment so I could fully engage with all aspects of my education.

Southwestern dominates the extern hiring at the LA County DA's office: http://www.swlaw.edu/news/overview/newsr.7gV.WB.lkM . That is indicative of SW's strength in govt hiring. Plenty of students go work for Cal. Attorney General and other state and federal placements.

Re: public interest, SW has a very strong program. The Street Law clinic and General Relief Advocacy project (GRAP) with Public Counsel are two examples. Yesterday I went to an open house at Public Counsel's offices less than a mile away from SW. They gave presentations of all the projects and gave us the opportunity to apply for internship positions. I will probably work in the Federal Pro Se Clinic downtown that is part of Public Counsel's appellate law project. I am also going to be involved in GRAP.

SW has exceeded my expectations in every way. My property (fagundes) and contracts (hart) professors are amazing.


So are you telling me that SW beats out Loyola, UCLA, and USC for those jobs? Everyone on here claims that, due to the decrease in firm OCI, that students who once would not even consider govt, pi, etc, are going to go for these jobs, thus pushing out regional T2/3s that might have otherwise done relatively well. Is this not the case in LA/SW?

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:03 pm

ejjones wrote:
Danteshek wrote:
ejjones wrote:I'm not aiming for Southwestern, but I do find the 2 yr program interesting. How insane is that program? Also, what are the job prospects for PI/Govt there.


I almost did SCALE. I decided against it at the last moment so I could fully engage with all aspects of my education.

Southwestern dominates the extern hiring at the LA County DA's office: http://www.swlaw.edu/news/overview/newsr.7gV.WB.lkM . That is indicative of SW's strength in govt hiring. Plenty of students go work for Cal. Attorney General and other state and federal placements.

Re: public interest, SW has a very strong program. The Street Law clinic and General Relief Advocacy project (GRAP) with Public Counsel are two examples. Yesterday I went to an open house at Public Counsel's offices less than a mile away from SW. They gave presentations of all the projects and gave us the opportunity to apply for internship positions. I will probably work in the Federal Pro Se Clinic downtown that is part of Public Counsel's appellate law project. I am also going to be involved in GRAP.

SW has exceeded my expectations in every way. My property (fagundes) and contracts (hart) professors are amazing.


So are you telling me that SW beats out Loyola, UCLA, and USC for those jobs? Everyone on here claims that, due to the decrease in firm OCI, that students who once would not even consider govt, pi, etc, are going to go for these jobs, thus pushing out regional T2/3s that might have otherwise done relatively well. Is this not the case in LA/SW?


SW does very well with the DA's office and various public interest organizations. This year SW placed more externs with the DA than any other school. In general SW students are more interested in government and public interest than students at other schools.

According to the Internet Legal Research Group (ILRG), Southwestern graduates rank in the top 10 of all U.S. law schools by median salary in public practice. (Wikipedia).

I do not know whether a drop in law firm hiring at other schools will impact SW's influence in this area. Honestly I doubt it will. I can answer questions about Southwestern. I will not speculate about other schools.

This is a new program to further stimulate public interest among students at SW:

http://www.swlaw.edu/news/overview/newsr.7gV.auD6oB

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:12 pm

I wasn't asking you to speculate about other schools, sorry if I wasn't clear. The consensus on TLS, granted there's reality and there's TLS, is that with the decrease in firm hiring JD's from higher ranked schools would naturally seek employment elsewhere, such as the govt/pi sector because they aren't having any luck in the private sector. That's all. Are people at SW not freaking out about this, because it seems like everyone is, regardless of rank or tier?

I'm concerned about the externship component. I think that's great experience, but I wonder how it ultimately translates into job prospects. Does the PD/DA office have OCI, do the people that get jobs do so through the externship program. At the DA's office I worked at, a lot of the young attorney's that got jobs were externs/interns, no OCI at all. How recent was the data from the IRLG by the way? Any recent data for employment upon graduation for SW 2009 class yet?

A quick glance at the LA DA's on the CA Bar Attorney Search showed 10 out of the 72 went to SW about the same as USD. Seemed like Loyola and Pepperdine showed up the most. It's kinda interesting to see where the various govt agencies hire from: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/state/calbar/calbar_home.jsp.

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:02 pm

I honestly think hiring at places like the DA and PD depends much more on the person than the school. SW does well probably because there are so many students here interested in criminal law. Those students generally take advanced classes like Death Penalty Seminar and Advanced Criminal Procedure and do relevant externships. Generally these students have an advantage over students who didn't take these classes and didn't do those externships, regardless of school. DA as far as I know is on hiring freeze right now. So basically the kids that know the deputies through their externships are first in line once the freeze is over. I'm pretty sure DA and PD from LA and other counties interview at SW fairly regularly, but I don't think they necessarily come every year. Several of the highest ranking deputies are SW alums.

SW is not only about PI and Govt work. SW also has great connections with the entertainment field. Further, if you finish near the top of the class you will have the opportunity to interview with OMM and the like (which is the way it should be... top firms should not, imo, take average students from the top schools).

To answer your questions: I have no idea how old the data is. You could probably find that out for yourself. Top deputies at the DA make about 140k with 90 % pension after 10 or so years. And no, we are not freaking out

FYI that's a small sample size. I think there are about 1000 attorneys at LA DA. I think something like 150-200 are SW alums (very rough guesstimate). Public information about attorneys in public practice is very sparse. They are not included in the main databases (martindale hubble etc).

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:40 pm

Danteshek wrote:I honestly think hiring at places like the DA and PD depends much more on the person than the school. SW does well probably because there are so many students here interested in criminal law. Those students generally take advanced classes like Death Penalty Seminar and Advanced Criminal Procedure and do relevant externships. Generally these students have an advantage over students who didn't take these classes and didn't do those externships, regardless of school. DA as far as I know is on hiring freeze right now. So basically the kids that know the deputies through their externships are first in line once the freeze is over. I'm pretty sure DA and PD from LA and other counties interview at SW fairly regularly, but I don't think they necessarily come every year. Several of the highest ranking deputies are SW alums.

SW is not only about PI and Govt work. SW also has great connections with the entertainment field. Further, if you finish near the top of the class you will have the opportunity to interview with OMM and the like (which is the way it should be... top firms should not, imo, take average students from the top schools).

To answer your questions: I have no idea how old the data is. You could probably find that out for yourself. Top deputies at the DA make about 140k with 90 % pension after 10 or so years. And no, we are not freaking out

FYI that's a small sample size. I think there are about 1000 attorneys at LA DA. I think something like 150-200 are SW alums (very rough guesstimate). Public information about attorneys in public practice is very sparse. They are not included in the main databases (martindale hubble etc).


I agree that the school or rank, don't matter quite as much in the govt sector, based on what I've experienced in N. CA. The T3 in this area has a pretty good stronghold on the region. However, their employment upon graduation was 35% this year, down 25% from a few years ago that's why I was curious about the data. This T3 mainly competing with one other school for the most part. That's why I was wondering how SW was doing considering all the competition in the LA area. I am considering SW as a safetyish school though so thanks for the information.

Also, I don't know what exactly what type of information you're referring to regarding public service attorney's, but I'm pretty sure all attorney's have their info available to the public on the CA State Bar website, if they didn't they could lie about their credentials. Judges are the exception, they don't show where they went to UG/LS. I haven't had any trouble looking up govt attorney's on there. Also, you can actually look up CA State govt attorney's salaries and place of work here: http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries or --LinkRemoved--. It's all pretty much out in the open.

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:51 pm

SW's at graduation employment rate has held pretty steady at 85%, which I think is pretty good. I don't think it's changed significantly because of recession. SW in general is less affected than the schools that rely more on big firm hiring..

In general, SW does a better job than most schools at preparing you for practice. This tends to be true of lower ranked schools in general but is especially true at SW. SW is basically a skills school. There is much more emphasis here on getting real world experience and learning practical skills. This is the real difference between SW and some of the higher ranked schools.

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:59 pm

Danteshek wrote:SW's at graduation employment rate has held pretty steady at 85%, which I think is pretty good. I don't think it's changed significantly because of recession. SW in general is less affected than the schools that rely more on big firm hiring..

In general, SW does a better job than most schools at preparing you for practice. This tends to be true of lower ranked schools in general but is especially true at SW. SW is basically a skills school. There is much more emphasis here on getting real world experience and learning practical skills. This is the real difference between SW and some of the higher ranked schools.


Where did you find that number?

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GATORTIM
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby GATORTIM » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:59 pm

Is Jerry O'Connell a "gunner"

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:10 pm

ejjones wrote:
Danteshek wrote:SW's at graduation employment rate has held pretty steady at 85%, which I think is pretty good. I don't think it's changed significantly because of recession. SW in general is less affected than the schools that rely more on big firm hiring..

In general, SW does a better job than most schools at preparing you for practice. This tends to be true of lower ranked schools in general but is especially true at SW. SW is basically a skills school. There is much more emphasis here on getting real world experience and learning practical skills. This is the real difference between SW and some of the higher ranked schools.


Where did you find that number?


US News and World. Also confirmed by the dean. Our dip to T4 two years ago was attributable to that number falling by a fraction of a % point.

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:12 pm

GATORTIM wrote:Is Jerry O'Connell a "gunner"


I haven't met him yet. He's in the evening program.

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:25 pm

Did you check out the govt salaries? What did you mean by public information for govt attorney's was sparse?

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:57 pm

ejjones wrote:Did you check out the govt salaries? What did you mean by public information for govt attorney's was sparse?


Starting at DA is about 60k. A senior deputy with 10 years exp. told me she was making 140k and had 90% pension after 20 years. There is no database to my knowledge that lists all the deputies.

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Fri Sep 25, 2009 12:03 am

Danteshek wrote:
ejjones wrote:Did you check out the govt salaries? What did you mean by public information for govt attorney's was sparse?


Starting at DA is about 60k. A senior deputy with 10 years exp. told me she was making 140k and had 90% pension after 20 years. There is no database to my knowledge that lists all the deputies.


For county salaries you can look up the pay scales for all county jobs in the county resolution(as it's called here.) I wasn't really referring to salaries originally, rather schools various attorney's went to, which can be looked up on the CA State Bar(by name, firm, school, etc) and salary/employer for state and city attorney's can be looked up using those links. We pay their salaries and all that information is public. Here's the pay info for LA http://cao.lacounty.gov/PDF/alpha.pdf pg 18. A database that lists all the DDA's in every county by name and salary might not exist to my knowledge, but all state attorney salaries and occupations can be found, all attorney's school's can be looked up and the county's attorney pay scale is public.

So there's quite a bit of public information out there on these publicly employed attorney's. I was just trying to let you know that there's a lot of info out there if you wan to get an idea about the various jobs and salaries in the public sector.

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Sun Sep 27, 2009 5:44 pm

Thanks. I repeat though that it is hard to get a handle on who is working where within the government.

A few interesting facts about SW:

- SW's library is the 2nd largest law library in California, after Boalt Hall

- SW is the 2nd oldest law school in Los Angeles, after USC

- Final scene in the movie "Ghostbusters" was shot on the top of the Bullocks Wilshire Building

- Jesse Jackson came to speak at SW two weeks ago

starky259
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby starky259 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:17 am

Jerry O'Connell held the door for me the other day. Very polite, and well-dressed too!

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:58 pm

starky259 wrote:Jerry O'Connell held the door for me the other day. Very polite, and well-dressed too!


His legal writing paper has been hanging on a faculty door on the 5th floor of Westmoreland for the past week

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faceman9000
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby faceman9000 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:15 pm

Can you scan it and post it on TLS??

Don't mess with Sliders

Image

articulably suspect
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby articulably suspect » Wed Oct 07, 2009 1:14 am

Danteshek wrote:
starky259 wrote:Jerry O'Connell held the door for me the other day. Very polite, and well-dressed too!


His legal writing paper has been hanging on a faculty door on the 5th floor of Westmoreland for the past week


Why?

vvoc
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby vvoc » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:05 pm

so the job market for SW grads isn't too bad? What does it depend on specifically, need to be in the top 10%? Need to build good connections? How is the competition in the job market with other LA schools (specifically Tier 2/3/4 schools)?

So the general route most SW grads take is working for the DA? How difficult is it to obtain a job with the DA? and what is the typical average starting salary (im trying to search on google for this but can't seem to find anything)? thanks

Pearalegal
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Pearalegal » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:07 pm

ejjones wrote:
Danteshek wrote:
starky259 wrote:Jerry O'Connell held the door for me the other day. Very polite, and well-dressed too!


His legal writing paper has been hanging on a faculty door on the 5th floor of Westmoreland for the past week


Why?


+1

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Oct 22, 2009 7:40 pm

vvoc wrote:so the job market for SW grads isn't too bad? What does it depend on specifically, need to be in the top 10%? Need to build good connections? How is the competition in the job market with other LA schools (specifically Tier 2/3/4 schools)?

So the general route most SW grads take is working for the DA? How difficult is it to obtain a job with the DA? and what is the typical average starting salary (im trying to search on google for this but can't seem to find anything)? thanks


There is no "general route." There are several well worn paths. In no particular order these are 1) criminal generally (DA, PD); 2) Entertainment law (studios, labels etc); 3) Law firms.

There are over 10,000 SW grads and only about 250 of them work for the LA County DA (just over 1/5th of all DDA's in LA county). I just went to a talk a SW DA alum gave today. He said first years make 60k, and second years make 70k. DDA's get a 8% raise every year for first five years. There are DDA1s through DDA5s. There are only about 50 DDA5s of about 1050 DDAs in LA County. DDA5s usually run a division or a branch of the DA's office. DDA4s make about 135k after about 10 years. That is the end of the road for most DDAs. DDA5s make 160k. Some DDAs become judges (10 last year from DA's office) and they make about 180k. DDA's are entitled to 80% pension benefit guaranteed by the state.

Interview process: 1st interview - short quiz on criminal law. 2nd interview - regular interview with DDA. 3rd interview - meet the boss (Steve Cooley). About 1/2 of candidates making it to third round will get offers. You must have bar card to start working as a DDA.

There are three levels of externships. 1st level: Volunteer Law Clerk (1st or 2nd year) 2nd level: Certified Law Clerk (2nd or 3rd year) 3rd Level: Senior Law Clerk (law grads before taking the bar). Info about becoming certified is available at State Bar web page.

Other interesting stuff: Three strikes statute (CPC Sec. 667) requires first two strikes to be serious or violent but third strike can be any felony. LA County DA policy is to only charge third strike if it is a serious or violent felony under the CPC.

I'm done answering questions about DA stuff. My knowledge is limited on this subject since I haven't done an externship there yet. I'll be happy to take questions on other subjects.
Last edited by Danteshek on Thu Oct 22, 2009 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Danteshek
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Re: Southwestern Law

Postby Danteshek » Thu Oct 22, 2009 7:56 pm

Random private response for those who care:

Reply 1:

Southwestern has exceeded my expectations in every way. I too was thinking about the part time program but ended up in the traditional day program. I had similar numbers as you 157/3.06. I also worked for 4 years before coming to Southwestern. I went to _______ University, a liberal arts college on the east coast.

I was apprehensive at first about coming here, but the quality of the professors I have quickly disabused me of that notion. We have top notch teachers here, pretty much across the board. There are a few things you should be aware of about SW.

1. Student body is very diverse. About 1/2 of the entering students across all programs are 28 or older. There are way more older and experienced students here than at the top schools. About 40% of the students are non white. Almost 1/3 of the entering class in the traditional day program went to UCLA, and another good chunk from USC. That said, a surprising number came of students came from out of state (not sure how many).

2. SW used to be the "opportunity school" where they let in everybody and cut a large number of people after the first year. 15 years ago SW had over 1,800 students and was one of the biggest law schools in the country. Now there are just under a 1,000. There was a policy decision to make the school smaller and fail fewer people out after the 1st year. So, the rumors about 30% failing out are simply not true anymore. It's more like 7-8% with another 5% transferring.

3. SW, like other lower ranked schools, is very good at teaching you the real world skills you need for your law practice when you graduate. This is born of necessity. This is how we compete with the students at higher ranked schools that don't pay as much attention to teaching practical skills.

4. SW is very strong in 1) Criminal Law and 2) Entertainment Law. Other areas are strong as well but those are the two that are the strongest. SW had the largest number of students extern at the District Attorney's office last summer of any law school (38 I believe). Some very large number of SW alums are public defenders, prosecutors and judges. SW alums are ranked in the top 10 of all law schools in terms of the average salary of its alums in public practice. This is probably because we have comparatively more alums, and more experienced alums working in local government.

5. SW's externship program is probably the best of all the So. Cal. law schools. Something like 350 students at any one time is doing an externship of some kind. Every student has an allotment of 2 externships. Some externships, such as the ones with federal judges or in federal agencies, require top 10% to 20%.

6. Dean Garth has been at SW for about 5 years now. He is universally liked here (he used to be Dean at Indiana - Bloomington). He has implemented some important changes. In the past, SW was primarily a teaching school and scholarship was not emphasized. That led to SW not having the scholarship reputation and hurt its ranking. That has changed. Now there are higher expectations from the faculty in terms of scholarship. Dean Garth has also done an impressive job of attracting talented young faculty - one example is my Property professor - David Fagundes, who is about 33 and came to SW from Chicago and before that from Harvard where he did his undergrad and law degrees and was articles editor for the LR.

Another one of the Dean's initiatives is to build student housing. Student housing will drastically improve campus life and attract better students. This will be completed in 3-4 years.

7. To go to a big prestigious firm from SW you will need to be in the top 5-10% of your class. At Loyola you might get a slight break in terms of class rank (maybe top 20%). Students at USC and UCLA get an even bigger break. Other than this, for most other opportunities in Los Angeles, outside of the big firms, you are on a level playing field with students from the other law schools.

Basically, if you want to stay in Los Angeles, you should go to SW or Loyola. Go to the school you are most comfortable with and where you think you will be successful. Rank basically doesn't matter after the top 10-20 schools. After that point what matters is how well you do in law school.


Reply 2:


The only obvious negative is that the most prestigious firms, as a general rule, don't recruit here. There are some exceptions - for instance O'Melveney and Shepard Mullen do interview here and regularly take the best students. However, SW is relatively weak in terms of placing students into the top firms.

This means that the great majority of SW students who go into private practice wind up in small firms, oftentimes with other SW alums. This may be a blessing in disguise. Chances are those students will have more responsibility sooner (though they will make less money).
They develop "real lawyer skills" more quickly. For instance, they are more likely to get trial experience sooner in their careers than their counterparts at the big firms.

SW students who go into government also are given more responsibility sooner in their careers. For instance deputy DAs and public defenders are in court frequently from the beginning.

But it all comes down to expectations. If you come to SW with unrealistic expectations, you will be disappointed. Do your research and decide whether you would be happy with the types of opportunities you will have if you go to SW.

SW is a commuter school, but that doesn't mean there isn't a community. I live at Wilshire and La Brea - a 15 minute bus ride from campus. SW's location makes it really easy to commute on public transportation. Keep in mind that Loyola, also a commuter school, is not in a central location in terms of public transport.




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