Hopeful, can you explain why you would take UCLA over Duke, ceteris paribus? I'm looking for excuses to like this school more than I already do. My impression was that, placement-wise, it was significantly behind MVPDNC and even Gtown.
There are a variety of reasons:
1. I am from California, but I attended both college and graduate school in the Midwest. I miss the Pacific Ocean, palm trees, and the sun.
2. In-state tuition = automatic $10,000 scholarship, renewable for three years.
3. I want to work on the West Coast. Here, we can get into specifics, but I'm not going to follow the statistics as if they are sacrosanct. My impression is that UCLA Law has an incredibly strong reputation in California, which is most certainly equal to Duke's, if not better.
4. I'm done with the stuffy elite private school culture. I know that UCLA will probably expose me to the stuffy elite public school culture, but I can handle that. It has a better flavor to it - a bit more ironic, a twinge more cynical, just more enjoyable.
5. UCLA is better than Georgetown! I don't care what the rankings say right now. In 10 years, UCLA will be ranked higher than Georgetown. Mark my words. As far as national reputation goes, true, Georgetown carries more weight right now, but wait and see.
6. There are a handful of specific programs at UCLA that I am interested in.
7. My family is scattered throughout California. I miss them dearly and want to return to the flock.
The list could go on and on, but it's a little silly to elaborate here... Bottom line is: If you know you want to establish your career on the West Coast, go to Stanford, Berkeley, or UCLA Law. Those are really some of your best options (along with Yale and Harvard of course).
Good luck with your decision. You can't go wrong with Duke, well, unless you are interviewing against a bunch of talented UCLA students in Southern California. Honestly, UCLA is going to give you the edge there - certeris paribus.