So a few people asked me to give my pros/cons of Hastings. I am a 1L in my second semester.
-Professors are top-notch, friendly, eager to help and take their classes very seriously
-Seems to have above average employment prospects for a school of its rank. Even this year, some of the top 15% at Hastings are landing V20 jobs. It is no longer top 33% = big or midlaw, but Hastings grads are still doing better than most in CA. If public interest is your thing, Hastings will set you up nicely. They are holding a HUGE public interest career fair on campus this week.
-The student body is great, contrary to rumors of ultra-competitiveness. I guess people who think Hastings is 'cutthroat' expect people to be arguing over who gets to talk next in class, hiding books, giving misinformation to classmates, etc. None of that has been the case. A lot of people speak up in class, but that is about as far as this stuff goes. I am sure that most law schools have their fair share of gunners. If you like a diverse student body, you will fit in fine at Hastings. There are a ton of international people doing both JD and LLM. Most of the student body comes from a UC school -- most of all Berkeley (around 30% I believe)-- but there are a good many students from other areas of the country as well.
-Lots of clubs, organizations, activities. They have all kinds of free classes you can take - yoga and dance classes come to mind. There is a nice gym at the Tower.
-facilities are aesthetically nice on the interior. Exterior - yeah its ugly 1950s gov't-brutalist, but the insides are quite nice. The 200 building (administrative offices + library) received a major overhaul from 2005-2007, so it feels like a brand new building once inside. The library in particular is very nicely done.
-TUITION. Seriously this is getting out of hand. Less than 10 years ago the tuition at Hastings was under 10k per year instate. Next year it will be 39k. If I were looking at law schools this year, the tuition alone might be enough to push me to attend another law school. I know that it is tempting to choose a T2 like Loyola or USD with huge scholarships, but keep in mind that those schools impose strict GPA requirements on their scholarships and they still provide far weaker employment prospects (eg - Hastings places over 3x more students in biglaw than Loyola). I could think of nothing worse than passing on Hastings, and ending up at median at Loyola with no scholarship. But if you don't have a strong attachment to CA, you might want to look to other regions. I almost chose the far cheaper University of Colorado over Hastings. But then again - keep in mind that a school like Colorado is unlikely to place you in CA if that is your desired region. Only the T20 + ND + UW are solid out of state bets if you want to work in CA.
-TENDERLOIN. This is the other big negative. Hastings adcoms and professors will stress its proximity to all levels of courts as a selling point. I don't really see the advantage, unless you are doing an externship or something. The TL is not dangerous -- most of the crime in the area is drug related, and there are a lot of robberies/stolen property. But it's not very comfortable walking over hobos and past crack dealers on your way to class. I've never felt myself in danger, and the Hastings police are quite good. If you need an escort to the BART they will walk with you (the BART is only about 5 min. walk away from Hastings). If you live within a 10 or 15 block radius they will drive you home too.
-OVERCROWDED. There are a TON of Hastings students. There are something like 1200 JD students and 150 LLM students at Hastings. The buildings seem very crowded at times. You will have to wait in line to enter your class rooms, and there will be lines of people on BOTH SIDES of the hallway waiting to enter their own class. The library feels overcrowded at times too. You won't find a private place to study in the common area of the library - you will have to use one of the many study rooms instead. There are a lot of group study rooms, but you might have to reserve them (I am not sure, never used them). I think if they are empty you can use them.
-FEW CONCENTRATIONS. There are only 5 or 6 concentrations that you can choose from at Hastings. I believe they are Public Interest, Tax, International, Health, Criminal, and Civil Litigation. I happen to be interested in none of these. I would like to see a Business or Corporate concentration similar to the one at Davis. Even though Hastings doesn't have a broad range of concentrations, it does have a huge selection of courses. For instance, there are a ton of courses in corporate law/m&a/securities, etc. I am not sure if employers really care about concentrations anyway. GPA is still the most important thing.
Nonissues that sometimes are considered issues:
-Hastings is administered separately from the UC Regents. This is true, but part of Hastings' charter is that the CA legislature cannot treat Hastings differently than the other UC law schools. Hence any cut to Hastings has to be made to all other UC law schools. If someone tells you "Hastings won't even be a UC school in 5 years" or "Hastings is about to lose all its state funding - dont go there" don't believe them. Well the 2nd point is true, but it is true of all other UC law schools: all of them will be privately funded within the next few years.
-Hastings students are cutthroat/hide books in library. Already been over this. Isn't true, isn't an issue.
-Hastings students are all politically liberal. Might be true for most Hastings students, but politics has not been an issue in any manner during my time there. If you are liberal, you will find groups that interest you, and if you are conservative you will find groups that interest you. There are also a diverse set of religious groups at Hastings if that is your thing, and an active LGBT scene.
-Hastings is dropping in the rankings while Davis is rising. I think its a stupid point...3 or 4 places is not a big deal, and the two schools trade places frequently. The employment prospects are virtually identical. The USNWR scores show that Davis is more highly regarded in the academic world, and Hastings is more highly regarded among judges and lawyers. Pick the one that suits your lifestyle, not the one you think USNWR would choose.
These are the high points. If anyone has any more specific questions, I am glad to try and answer them.