txadv11 wrote:Let me ask you Tech people this.
Compare STCL to Tech--assume for a minute that tuition is EQUAL, with a slightly higher cost of living in Houston. Where/how do Tech's grads place? Dallas? Houston? West TX?
Tech is tier 3 with more of a "ring" in the name to the average public, while STCL is tier 4 (whats the real difference) seems to have a higher pull for criminal lawyers and judges, but probably strictly in "south" Texas
A Tech "person" doesn't necessarily have to answer this question—it is primarily a question of statistics.
Tech grads place well in Texas, however there are fewer Tech grads in Houston compared to other areas. Importantly, Dean Fortney just released the nine-month employment rate for the Class of 2010: 97.26%, which is up approximately 8% over the Class of 2009. A lot of credit should also go to Tech's Career Services department, which is excellent.
A relevant site to look at demographic data per county is here: http://www.texasbar.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Demographic_and_Economic_Trends. When looking at this data, keep in mind that South Texas is the largest law school in Texas (per student population), while Tech is one of the smallest.
That said, South Texas has a very good reputation in Houston and the surrounding areas. This is especially pertinent because Houston is such a large legal market. Also, South Texas has an excellent reputation among all law schools for trial advocacy. Last school year, South Texas was ranked first in the nation for performance in advocacy competitions. At the same time, Texas Tech has an excellent reputation among all law schools for trial advocacy, and last year, Tech was ranked third in the nation for performance in advocacy competitions. So far this school year, Tech has won three national championships (including the prestigious National Moot Court Competition) and three regional championships.
Now, taking out the salient factor of total cost of eduction (which includes tuition and cost of living), one should look at bar passage rates, percentage of grads employed after nine months, clinical programs, dual degree programs and foreign exchange programs (if these are important to you), and reputation in the area you want to work. Maybe also (if important to you), look at Order of the Coif distinction, and what percentage of professors are members of the ALI. There may be some other factors I haven't listed.
Another difference that comes to mind is that South Texas is independent from a university and is therefore self-sustaining financially. The fact that Texas Tech's law school is connected to a large university allows leverage in financing for the law school—this can be especially important when hiring professors or making improvements to the facilities.
When looking at regional law schools (those outside the T14), the USNWR is practically meaningless. Schools in their respective regions are evaluated based on their reputations in those regions (and sometimes these are in narrow local areas—this is the case with South Texas in the Houston area).
If you want to work in Houston or the surrounding areas, South Texas is an excellent choice. If you want to work in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio, or West Texas, Texas Tech is a great choice; South Texas won't "break" into these markets as well as Tech.
In any event, before attending law school, I highly recommend visiting the schools you are considering before making a final decision.
For disclosure, I am currently a law student at Texas Tech and have never attended South Texas.