Stanford Visit Review
The comments are a combination of my experience and my reflection on conversations and experiences while at Stanford. I will preface these comments by again saying: I am in general a positive person, and acknowledge that I may be looking at law schools through rose-tinted glasses. Your mileage may vary on how true my comments actually hold, as they are only based off 3 days at Stanford. Also worth nothing is that I definitely want an intense intellectual experience in law school, a focus on interdisciplinary learning, as well as a small, tight knit community. I am writing this a week after the experience, so apologies if my memory is not quite crystal clear. Apologies if it is a bit rambling and not all that well written, I just sat down and let this flow from my fingertips.
While I do not plan on writing anything up comprehensively on these other visits, I went from my home (in the midwest) to Duke, then to Harvard, before visiting Stanford. It was 80 degrees and beautiful at Duke, but unfortunately I did not really connect with the school. Everyone there was very nice, but I don’t think it is the right school for me. Harvard was cool, and it was cool visiting there with my friend who attends there for undergrad. It felt very history-laden and elite, built upon decades and decades of its prior accomplishments. The students there were nice and the class was fun to sit in on, I left not feeling not really any connection to the school. I'll admit that this may be because I am still waiting to hear back from them...
I will note this one particular incident because I found it to be similar to a "stereotypical" HLS student. My friend (a senior at Harvard now) is deciding between Harvard and Yale, and one of the current 1Ls at HLS commented that, “that’s an easy choice, come to Harvard. The only thing Yale is good for is putting you into academia.” I was amused by the student’s attitude. Of course, there were some genuinely nice people whom I met at HLS, but this student stuck out in particular in my memory.
Anyways, I left from Boston and arrived at SFO to 60 degree weather. For someone raised in the Midwest, this was obviously entrancing to me! I made it onto campus and met up with Kretzy, since I crashed at his apt in Munger for Thursday night. I immediately headed out to a seminar where I had a meeting scheduled with the director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program before attending her seminar. I met a few students, who were all super nice! The seminar itself was awesome–a mix of law students, grad students and undergrads. The topic was super interesting to me–how the political process is essential to understand and address in changing or creating environmental laws. They essentially meet once a week, listen to a guest lecturer, and write some reflection papers on it and get credit!
After that class, I booked it over to Role of the Modern General Counsel
. This class was definitely the highlight of my class visits of this cycle so far. It is an upper level class with both business and law students, and is taught by one SLS professor and two current General Counsels. It’s graded on a couple group projects. It just so happened on that day that one of the speakers was Mark Chandler (LinkRemoved), General Counsel of Cisco Systems. Honestly, I still can’t get over how awesome this class was. He gave a brief presentation about how Cisco manages when to use in-house counsel and when to use firms for all the legal problems they deal with. For the last bit of class, there was just a discussion between all the students, Mark, and the professors. I felt knowing 100x more about an “in-house” lawyer than I did before, and am definitely considering it as a career I might want to take on someday. (It seems like this is a very common thing for SLS grads to do, judging by their placement in all the big tech firms.)
Following this class, I met up again with Kretzy to grab some buffalo burgers and sweet potato fries then head out to Bar Review. The night was a bit of a blur, but it involved Mario Kart, Whisky, Beer Pong, and a couple British accents. I was seriously blown away by the current SLS students. The things they had done before coming there made me wonder how I was admitted, but at the same time, they were the most friendly, outgoing, personable students that I had met at any law school. Virtually everyone was interested in talking to me, and I felt like I was treated as an equal, rather than as a “prospective” student. Their attitude was different than at the other schools. They made it very clear that SLS is a special place, but it that might not be for everyone, and there are legitimate reasons why to pick another school. They were more concerned with showing me why they loved it than with telling my SLS was me only option.
The next morning I sat in on a property class. It was not significantly different from the classes I sat in on at UChicago and HLS, besides it being about half as big. From what Kretzy tells me, during the first two quarters each of the 30 person sections have class with all the other 30 person sections, so SLS students get to know pretty much everyone, even if only by facial recognition. He also told me a bit more about the quarter system, and I personally think it sounds awesome. You get to pick one class during winter quarter, then all of your classes during spring quarter. It doesn’t really interfere much with jobs, as his start date at his sick summer gig works with spring quarter’s end time. The more I hear about clinics, the more I want to do one eventually, and SLS’s really stand out–having a full quarter to devote to it with no other classes sounds about as immersive as it can be. Even taking a full quarter for one still allows you to take a full set of courses during the other two quarters. Also on the academic side, the interdisciplinary options sound awesome. At Duke, they said I could one class outside of the law school, and petition for a second. At SLS, I could take 10 courses outside the law school, all for credit. For me, that is really attractive.
I had coffee with another student on Friday (with whom I stayed on Friday and Saturday). Again, just an awesome dude who seems to be really enjoying SLS. He lives with a friend at Escondido Village, which is about a 5 minute walk from the law school. It is the more typical grad housing, so they essentially have a duplex with a backyard, etc. It wasn’t as nice as Munger, but still beyond anything my campus currently offers as on-campus housing. Afterwards, I took an official tour of the university (where I took a ton of pictures), and was just mesmerized by the campus. It is seriously like a resort. I think people discount the environment of a school too much. I know at my school, I am most energized at the very beginning and very end of the year, when tons of students are outside chatting, studying, whatever. Once it gets cold, everyone goes into hibernation pretty much. At Stanford in general, everyone is outside. The energy coming from all the students (whether undergrad or grad) was palpable.
We out on Friday to a diner in Palo Alto, then to a bar for some mojitos. Again, everyone I met was so smart, insightful, helpful, friendly, funny, etc. At the same time, they were each different in their personality. It was really cool to see such a diverse group of people (personality/background/wise) hanging out–at my undergrad people pretty much self-select into groups made up of like people. I got a glimpse into their lives on a Friday a week before finals–nothing too wild and crazy, but enough to relax before hitting the books the next day.
On Saturday I hiked up to the Dish for a nice view around the bay. Again, the weather was perfect, and it was energizing to see people doing things outdoors. For the first time in a very long time, I felt myself pulled to get outside and exercise. I then visited the library to do some reading for class the next week. It is a great space, very nice lighting and acceptable noise levels. I think I read somewhere that SLS almost has enough seats for every student, and I don’t doubt it–maybe half the seats were full on the Saturday before exams in a week.
I talked to a few people about jobs, and a source said they placed essentially 100 percent of people at the Fall OCI. I hung out with mostly 1Ls, but they consistently had cool gigs lined up for the summer, and were either shockingly not stressed or doing a really good job at hiding the stress. Pretty much everyone said that first quarter is stressful, but everyone relaxes a ton when they realize that they will all get jobs pretty easily, so this second quarter has been noticeably more relaxed than the first. I was recently reading the SLS v HLS for NYC biglaw, and it was sad to see the thread devolve. I don’t know about HLS with its size, but arguing about placement statistics seems unfruitful to me–just pick the school you like best, enjoy your time and get better grades because of it.
Saturday night we went to see The King’s Speech, and again I got to meet a handful of other students. Same story as before–just an awesome group of people. We played some bizarre game of charades afterwards, and it was really fun! Overall, I think I experiences a nice selection of social activities at SLS. I had a ton of fun, and it really felt like I was part of the SLS community. I highly recommend visiting schools before ASW and staying with students, as I think you get a much better perspective then you do at an organized venue. At the Duke and UChicago days, I didn’t get as close of a feel for the actual school as I did with SLS, simply because all my interaction was scheduled and not really that casual. Maybe this is why I left feeling like I could see myself as part of the SLS community but didn’t have the same experience at other schools?
I think what made me most excited about SLS over my visit was the people. Everyone, whether a professor, administrative official or a student, was so nice, confident, and more than anything, happy. I ran into students I had met at bar review (BioEBear2010!) on Thursday by the law school on Saturday afternoon, and they remembered me and stopped to chat! From my short experience, it really does seem to be a close-knit community. If I didn’t visit SLS, I would have thought that the students at other schools were happy and enjoying there time, but SLS's happiness quotient was just off the charts (and keep in mind that this is one week before finals!).
Apologies for the epic length of the review, I hope some of you find it helpful. If one can visit schools, I think it is absolutely imperative that you do. If one can’t, I really hope that one reaches out to students and faculty members to try to get a sense of the type of people that exist at each school. If anyone have any questions or comments on the review, please feel free to post them and I will answer them as best as I can! Kretzy/BioEBear2010 are awesome and can answer SLS questions better than me, so of course I defer to them on actual student life. Also, I will fix those photobucket pics soon, I promise.
I had no idea how long this was going to be...3 pages single spaced? woah...and sorry that it sounds like a 5th grader's "What I did this summer" paper...this wasn't my finest piece of literary work