|Rankings and Top 100 Profiles 3rd and 4th Tier Profiles Dean Interviews Discuss Your School TLS Stats TLS Programs International Profiles Law School Articles|
The University of Southern California School of Law (Gould)
Published September 2007, last updated August 2011
Tracing its roots to 1896, the University of Southern California Gould School of Law has been offering one of the finest legal educations on the West Coast for over a century. Each year, thousands of applicants are drawn to USC Law by its national reputation and Los Angeles location. Southern Cal’s most attractive features include a small student body, near-perfect weather, and a famously tight-knit alumni network.
As might be expected of a top-20 law school in one of America’s most popular cities, USC attracts a ton of applicants. The number of applications (and the competitiveness of the applicant pools) has increased in recent years, although law school applications across the board seem to have leveled off in the Class of 2014 cycle.
Undergraduate grade-point average and LSAT score rule the roost in law school admissions, so medians and quartiles are the best measures to help a potential applicant to gauge his competitiveness. Still, USC Law admits people – not numbers – and the admissions committee looks to form a class with more than just measurable smarts. In an interview with TLS, Dean Robert Rasmussen explains:
At USC, we enroll students from a variety of backgrounds who are united by their intelligence and passion. We look for a broad range of students who will bring very different life experiences to our intellectual community….and a variety of perspectives to the classroom….We therefore take pride in building a student body as diverse, complex and interesting as our city and our country.[iii]
While numbers are important, Southern Cal reviews each applicant’s entire file, including personal statements and letters of recommendation. Candidates should apply through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), which aggregates application forms, transcripts, and other supplemental materials and sends them to law schools. There is a $75 non-refundable application fee, waived for USC students and alumni, Teach for America participants, and candidates in extreme financial need. Merit-based fee waivers are also available for those whose LSAT scores and GPAs exceed the previous year’s medians.[iv]
Applications are due by February 1. Decisions and notifications are made on a rolling basis, starting in mid-December and continuing until the beginning of May. USC Law does not have an Early Decision or Early Action program.
Personal Statements and Optional Essays
USC requires a short personal statement that allows applicants a chance to display their personalities, reasons for studying law, and writing styles. In addition, the application gives candidates the choice of writing two supplemental essays: one answering the question “Do you believe you were raised in an economically disadvantaged household?” and the other for those who do not believe that their “LSAT score[s] and/or college transcript[s] accurately reflect past performance or future promise.” Applicants can also submit diversity statements. Dean Rasmussen notes that these statements can be important, and are not just for traditionally under-represented racial minorities. The application lists sexual orientation, economic disadvantage, family adversity, military service, educational background, and unusual extracurricular involvement as other possible diversity statement topics.
Letters of Recommendation
USC’s application does not break the mold on letters of recommendation: two are required, with at least one coming from “a professor who knows you well and can evaluate your academic performance” whenever possible.[v] Recommendations from employers or other supervisors are acceptable, but the law school stresses that academic letters “carry the most weight with the admissions committee.”[vi] Southern Cal will also accept up to two of LSAC’s new, more quantitative CAS Evaluations in addition to, but not in place of, letters.
Transfers and Waitlists
USC accepts a number of transfer applicants each year – students who have completed their 1L years at other ABA-approved law schools and would like to finish their degrees at USC. Aside from the timeline (the application window runs from May 5 to July 1), the process is similar to that of regular J.D. admissions. Applicants use the LSAC Credentials Assembly Service and provide many of the same materials. However, an applicant’s performance at his current law school is most important: in fact, only those in the top 20% of their classes are eligible to apply.[vii] A letter of recommendation from a law professor is also weighed heavily. In 2009, USC accepted 19 transfer students, while 4 transferred from USC to other schools.[viii]
Some applicants are placed on a waitlist until USC knows how many accepted students will attend. Interested candidates who are waitlisted should stay in contact with the admissions department, and often choose to do so through a “letter of continued interest.”
A University of Southern California J.D. is not cheap, so financial aid informs many prospective students’ decisions. Just under half (48%) of students receive scholarships, which are awarded on a combination of merit and financial need. Merit – as measured by GPA and LSAT – seems to be the primary determining factor, as TLS members attest:
Of course, there is no magic equation, but based on my anecdotal evidence [and] LSN [LawSchoolNumbers.com] it seems like if you were over medians you would be offered somewhere in the 30-60k range. Over the 75th percentiles, you would get 75-90K. Based on my sense of the awards, they seem to be almost exclusively awarded on a merit basis, as opposed to need-based, which seems to make sense given that there are very few people who can pay $45k/yr without batting an eye. URM [Under-Represented Minority] status also probably influences the amount offered. They also seem to be somewhat willing to negotiate (they did for me), so it's worth a shot if you have competitive offers from peer schools. Also, note that they tend to be fairly slow in awarding scholarships.[ix]
The median grant amount awarded to the Class of 2013 was $20,000, with actual amounts ranging from $5,000 to full-tuition.[x] Unlike some schools that set GPA stipulations to retain a scholarship, USC’s awards are generally renewable as long as students remain in good standing.
Three-quarters of the most recent entering class took out loans to pay for law school. The average Class of 2008 graduate who borrowed money graduated with about $120,000 of debt – one of the highest figures among all reporting law schools.[xi] Prospective students should keep in mind that a high salary will be needed to pay off six-figure debts without resorting to options like extended repayment plans or federal Income-Based Repayment, which dramatically increase the total amount of interest paid.
Public Interest Funding
USC Law offers a limited number of Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) stipends to students pursuing summer public interest fellowships. Per the school’s website, PILF distributes about 25 Summer Grants per year through a selective process in which students must have contributed at least 25 hours of pro bono service to be eligible. First-year students receive $5,000 for the summer, while 2L recipients get $6,500.[xii]
Loan Repayment Assistance Program
USC also maintains a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) to help committed students pursue public interest careers with fewer financial worries. A description of the program (including a downloadable copy of the program description and application) can be found here; a detailed TLS breakdown may also be useful.
Essentially, recent USC grads working for qualifying employers – government agencies or tax-exempt non-profit organizations – receive loans to cover all or part of their educational loan repayments. Income levels determine graduates’ expected contributions: those making less than $40,000 are not expected to contribute anything; those making between $40,000 and $60,000 contribute one-third of their incomes above $40,000; those making above $60,000 contribute $6,600 plus 70% of income above $60,000. Adjustments are made for spousal income, dependent children, and cities with especially high costs of living. These loans are completely forgiven for graduates who stay in qualifying employment for at least five years, and partially forgiven for those who leave qualifying employment sooner. Southern Cal’s LRAP assumes participation in federal Income Based Repayment, and will take into account any other forms of loan repayment assistance when calculating awards. The program is somewhat complicated and exact LRAP loan amounts are contingent upon the availability of funds from year to hear, so interested applicants should explore the above links for themselves.
Law School Culture
The famous “Trojan Network” solidifies early, as current students enjoy spending time with their colleagues in class, at bar reviews, and everywhere in between. During 1L year, many students become closest with those in their sections of about 20 people, with whom they take all of their classes. Through larger groupings for doctrinal classes and myriad social events, however, most quickly get to know people from all over the law school, fostering a congenial atmosphere. One student simply says:
The people at the school are fantastic. There is very little competitiveness – so long as you make an effort to be social, you will find that everyone is warm and friendly.[xiii]
I consider almost everyone in my classes a friend, and everyone is seriously helpful/supportive. I don't know if the "collegial" thing is something USC just tries to sell you on that actually exists at all schools, but I can tell you that here we share everything: people will give you notes without hesitation if you miss class, [and] several people have offered to give me their outlines without me asking just because I mentioned I was a little behind.[xiv]
USC students and administrators often cite the school’s relatively small class size as encouraging a welcoming atmosphere: the most recent entering class of 220 students is 90 smaller than rival UCLA’s, and less than half the size of entering classes at large schools like NYU or Georgetown. Den Rasmussen highlights the effects of this feature:
Large schools and small schools have different feels to them. I have taught at both a large law school (Michigan) and smaller ones (USC, Chicago and Vanderbilt). Students at small law schools tend to know almost everyone in their class. This common connection supports an ethos of collegiality and cooperation rather than competition. Not only does this make for a healthier learning environment, but it also provides a lesson in teamwork, which is an essential and too often overlooked skill of a successful lawyer. Moreover, small law schools make it easier for students to form professional relationships with their professors. Such a relationship both enriches a student’s education and provides a foundation for meaningful faculty career advice and references for the student seeking employment later.
Despite this small and collegial feel, USC is still located in the middle of Los Angeles. Those looking for non-law school friends and niches will most likely be able to find them.
USC Law often touts its diversity, and has the numbers to back it up: in the most recent U.S. News and World Report diversity index, USC ranked 7th overall and first among top-tier schools. In the Class of 2013, 40% identify as “students of color.” 45% are female, and the average age for entering 1Ls is 24.[xv] Although a majority of students are still white and Asian-Americans are the largest minority group, Dean Rasmussen says, “The mix of students from many different backgrounds means that there is no real majority culture at USC.” This diversity extends beyond racial and ethnic lines to varying socioeconomic statuses and life experiences, so that students may end up learning as much from each other as they do from their professors.
The first-year curriculum developed at Harvard Law School in the 19th century – based on case studies covering wide doctrinal areas of law – has not changed much since being adopted by essentially all American law schools. USC 1Ls take Torts, [Civil] Procedure, and Contracts in the fall semester; they continue with Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, and Property in the spring. Second-semester 1Ls also take Legal Profession, a three-credit course that considers the societal role of attorneys and explores ethical and career issues. Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy spans both semesters (three credits in the first term; two in the second), and progresses from drafting internal memos in the fall to full briefs in the spring. Though Legal Research and Writing is ungraded or curved differently at many law schools, USC’s version is graded on the same numeric curve as other courses.[xvi]
A unique component of USC’s 1L curriculum is Law, Language and Values, which introduces theoretical concerns behind legal reasoning. A current 1L describes the two-credit course:
The class covers statutory interpretation and adjudication theory: basically, how to go about piecing together an answer to “hard” legal questions (e.g., does selling a gun to buy drugs constitute a violation of a statute attaching greater penalties if a drug dealer “uses” a gun during a drug transaction?). The class itself has a fair number of (ungraded) papers, and a lot of reading, most of which is very esoteric. The general feeling about this class is very mixed – some people really dislike it, but others find it valuable. I personally thought the class was a good addition to the core 1L curriculum…[it] does a solid job of introducing you to “general legal theory,” and teaching you a solid framework for raising legal arguments (which becomes especially valuable during finals). My professor also really impressed me – it is really hard to corral Socratic discussion when the concepts are so broad, but he managed to get the point across.[xvii]
Upper-division students have almost complete freedom to choose their classes, although the law school recommends taking several foundational courses useful for bar examinations and general legal practice, such as Business Organizations, Criminal Procedure, Community Property, and Evidence. USC’s Student Handbook and faculty also provide recommendations on course sequences for those interested in varying legal careers. The most popular electives are offered each semester, while others may be offered once a year or less frequently.[xviii]
A USC J.D. requires 88 total credits over six semesters. Southern Cal students must satisfy both an Upper-Division Writing Requirement and a Practical Skills Course Requirement.[xix]
USC’s grading system offers plenty of feedback: numerical grades from 1.9 to 4.4 correspond with letter grades from F to A+, with the numbers giving professors latitude to make fine distinctions between students (e.g., teachers can hand out a 3.5, 3.6, or 3.7 instead of just an A-). Like most law schools, Southern Cal strictly curves 1L classes, while some upper-division classes give professors more discretion. First-year classes are curved to a 3.3 (B+), with other grades falling in an approximately normal distribution around this median.
First-year students are not officially ranked – just told whether or not they are in the top 10% of the class. Still, since the median is published, employers can get a general idea of where students fall.
USC has a strong faculty, typically ranking about on par with its USNWR ranking in scholarly reputation surveys. Edward McCaffery is one of the nation’s foremost experts in tax law, ranking as the third-most cited tax professor in a recent Brian Leiter survey. Other oft-cited scholars include Christopher Stone (Environmental Law) and Mary Dudziak (Legal History). [xx] Southern Cal has a student-faculty ratio of about 15:1, which is slightly higher than most top-tier schools.
Clinics and Externships
Law schools are placing increased emphasis on clinical programs to attract students who want flashier and more experiential law school curricula and to make their graduates more marketable to employers demanding more “ready to work” young lawyers. USC offers six clinics: Immigration, Intellectual Property and Technology Law, International Human Rights, Mediation, Small Business, and the Post-Conviction Justice Project. Clinics combine classroom instruction and simulated experiences with real-life advocacy (or third-party counseling, in the case of the Mediation Clinic!) and client interaction. Each of these clinics provides students with the opportunity to learn about an area of interest while providing services to clients who might not otherwise be able to afford legal services.
First-year students are not eligible for clinics, but many apply to work a (paid) clinical position that begins the summer after 1L year and continues through the school year. Academic-year-only clinics for upper-division students are easier to get into because of decreased competition. USC Law students tend to enjoy clinics, says one TLS poster:
They are supposed to be amazing experiences -- a lot of really good hands-on experience…. Everyone I have talked to who has been a part of a clinic has said it was one of their favorite things they did during their time in law school. My one piece of advice…is to figure out who the managing faculty is for that clinic, and go talk and make yourself known to them during your 1L year.[xxi]
USC Law students can also get course credit by “externing” with a judge or non-profit organization. The school’s website lists agencies at which students have earned credit in the past.
Southern Cal offers certificates in two of the most popular career interests of USC students: Business Law and Entertainment Law. The Business Law certificate for J.D. students entails six mandatory courses as well as a choice of approved electives, totaling 27 credits. A few of these courses are offered through the Marshall School of Business. The Entertainment Law certificate requires just 21 credits, including four mandatory courses. Several eligible electives are taught at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
For obvious reasons, USC is one of the most popular schools for people looking to break into the entertainment industry on the legal side. John Schulman, who left private practice in the early 1980s to begin a multi-decade stint as Warner Bros. Entertainment’s Vice President and General Counsel, brings his considerable experience to the entertainment law program. USC’s proximity to Hollywood and the range of prominent speakers brought in by the school confer significant insider advantages to interested students.
Interdisciplinary Focus and Dual Degrees
“Interdisciplinary” is one of the hottest buzz words in legal education: more and more law schools are emphasizing classes that integrate unique perspectives and allowing students to take courses at other graduate departments; increasing numbers of newly hired law professors hold advanced degrees in non-legal fields. USC has embraced this movement with several interdisciplinary centers that combine the law with areas such as communications, economics, health policy, and philosophy.
For those that want to maximize their exposure to another discipline, USC offers several dual degree programs. For Masters degrees, USC students are typically able to shave a year of coursework: for example, a J.D. candidate can earn a Master of Arts in Economics, which usually takes one year of post-college study, and still graduate law school in the usual three years. A combined J.D./M.B.A., on the other hand, takes four years of study. More time-consuming J.D./Ph.D. programs are also available in conjunction with Cal Tech’s social sciences departments, the USC School of Pharmacy, and occasionally on an ad-hoc basis.
Upper-division students can satisfy their wanderlust with one of five study abroad programs. In the United Kingdom, USC Law students can spend their third years at the prestigious London School of Economics and earn both a USC J.D. and an LSE LL.M. Trojans can also spend a semester taking English-language classes in Hong Kong (University of Hong Kong), Milan, France (Bocconi University), Lyon, Italy (University Jean Moulin Lyon 3), or Queensland, Australia (Bond University).
USC offers a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program for internationally trained lawyers interested in learning about the American common law system. Applicants must have earned a first law degree in another country. Although the LSAT is not required, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is, along with traditional application materials like transcripts and letters of recommendation. It is difficult for foreign-trained lawyers to actually find work or gain bar admission in most states; however, LL.M. graduates have a relatively easy time sitting for the bar in California and New York. Foreign lawyers who have already earned an LL.M. can study for a Master of Comparative Law, which also takes two semesters. Tuition, fees, and expenses for both graduate programs are roughly the same as those for J.D. students.
USC students share common interests and affinities through over 30 student organizations, which range from the Federalist Society to an a cappella group. In addition, many students vie for spots on the Honors programs detailed below.
Membership on legal journals – which involves editing and cite-checking scholarly articles and occasionally writing student notes for publication – is valued by employers as a noteworthy credential and valuable experience. USC publishes three journals: the flagship Southern California Law Review, the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, and the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal. Members are generally selected on the basis of first-year grades or performance in a writing competition held at the end of 1L year. A student cannot participate in both a journal and the Hale Moot Court Honors Program in the same year.
As part of Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy, all first-years draft appellate briefs and present oral arguments. The top performers are invited to participate in the intramural Hale Moot Court Honors Program during their second years. Out of these participants, the best performers can continue with moot court in 3L year by competing on USC’s national moot court team or sitting on the Executive Board of the Hale competition. [xxii]
The Gould School of Law sits near the South border of USC’s main University Park campus in South Los Angeles. Southern Cal’s campus is self-contained (no through traffic is allowed) and heavily patrolled by campus security. Many consider it one of the prettiest urban campuses in America. Consensus holds that the Musick Law Building – which houses essentially all law school facilities, including classrooms, offices, and a café – is not the most breathtaking building on campus, but current students seem fine with the interior:
The building isn't pretty to look at on the outside, though the rest of the USC campus is gorgeous (if not a bit bourgeois). But inside it is more than adequate with huge rooms, plenty of study space, and a great library that never really has space issues….There is also free Westlaw and LexisNexis printing for cases which is great because they can be really long.[xxiii]
Another TLS user offers a defense of the law school area:
The law school is actually in my favorite part of campus. The building itself is kind of plain, but a lot of the buildings around there are some of the oldest ones on campus….Also, the law library is actually kind of nice if you want the stereotypical green lamp, academic feel.[xxiv]
The Asa V. Call Law Library has over 380,000 volumes as well as extensive access to electronic resources. In addition to stacks and reading areas, the library includes multiple computer labs and a Lexis/Westlaw lab.
Career prospects for USC Law grads have traditionally been strong, especially for those who want to work in Southern California. As the oldest law school in the Southwestern United States, Southern Cal’s regional roots run deep, creating a “Trojan Network” that some affiliates hold in near-mythical respect. One student claims:
USC is like an uber-regional -- incredibly well-respected and well-connected within the SoCal legal community. I have been able to meet with partners at nearly all the major firms here in SoCal as a 1L, nearly all of whom are alumni.[xxv]
Rabid alumni base aside, these are tough times at almost any law school. The most recent recession hit legal hiring hard, and while there are some signs of recovery, many believe that the economic downturn exposed or aggravated fundamental flaws in the business models of large law firms. Summer associate class sizes show little prospect of returning to their mid-2000s peaks, and all kinds of employers have become more selective on grades or other credentials. Although current statistics are hard to come by, one Trojan writing in April of 2011 cautions law school hopefuls to temper their expectations:
A bunch of 3Ls in my class were asked what they were planning on doing next year and if they had jobs lined up. Only 1 out of 5 3Ls said he had a job lined up (the one who did had a big firm job)...Another 3L told me the other day that she heard estimates that 30% of 3Ls don't have a job lined up yet, though she thought that might be underestimating the actual figure…USC is a great school and we do really well in Los Angeles, but the possibility of having no job upon graduation is very real. I don't want prospective students to think that the worst that could happen is that they get a job doing something they're not fond of.[xxvi]
The chart below reflects available employment data for the last three graduating classes. For a more detailed breakdown, including an analysis of self-reported salary data, visit Law School Transparency.
*Sector percentages represent ratios of those reported as employed (i.e., sectors add to roughly 100% excluding unemployed graduates). USC reported 97.6% of 2010 graduates employed at nine months. Prospective students should be aware that some temporary jobs qualify as full-time employment. Salary percentiles are based on voluntary survey responses, and thus may not reflect true parameters. **This should not be interpreted as 4% of graduates entering legal academia straight from law school, as this would be unlikely rare even from a very elite school. While those on academic fellowships would qualify, the “not applicable” reported salary suggests that most if not all of these graduates are pursuing graduate degrees.
A USC J.D. is most powerful in the Southern California area, especially Los Angeles. Much of this is self-selection: the school attracts applicants who want to practice locally, and California’s charms doubtlessly hook many who had planned on relocating after graduation. Still, the fact that the vast majority of graduates stay in California means that the alumni network and other career resources are not as robust for Trojans who want to work in other parts of the country. USC does participate in off-campus interview programs for New York City and Washington, D.C.
In both 2008 and 2009, about 86% of graduates stayed in California. 7% went to the Middle Atlantic region (presumably, most of these went to New York City). A smattering of graduates took jobs in other markets, as detailed below. In 2008, USC grads found work in thirteen states; in 2009, nine.
Career Services Office
USC’s Career Services Office helps Trojans research and find employment from their 1L years to graduation and beyond. Three career counselors help students explore legal jobs, perfect résumés and cover letters, and hone interview skills. Still, finding a good job requires legwork, especially in today’s economy. Says one student:
Our CSO is quite good, and they are always willing to help you out, but they tend to be more formalized in their help – they will critique your résumés, hold mock interviews, notify you of job postings in your target interests, and speak generally about the process [of finding a job]. A better resource for "insider" information is your fellow students. I have grabbed lunch and talked with everyone who goes here that has worked at or will be working at my summer employer, and they were all very helpful. Upperclassmen here are very friendly, and seem willing to help out in any way they can.[xxx]
The CSO also organizes an on-campus interview program, the traditional path to a summer associate position with a large firm. OCI interviews are assigned by a pure lottery system, meaning that employers cannot “pre-screen” candidates based on GPA, journal membership, or other criteria. A lottery system also means that highly qualified students may sometimes have to contact firms directly after getting shut out of a lottery interview with that firm. In order to help students decide at which firms they are competitive, USC provides the GPAs of past students that have been hired by each employer.
Most law school grads take first jobs at firms; before the recent recession, almost four-fifths of USC grads landed in private practice. In good years, students with solid grades stood good chances of securing Biglaw employment through OCI, and many found jobs with small or midsized firms.
While the majority of Trojans (three-fifths of employed graduates) still go to work for firms, the outlook for private practice hiring is not as rosy as in yesteryear. Each year, the National Legal Journal publishes the percentage of graduates from top-tier schools hired by the country’s 250 biggest law firms. This list is not a perfect indicator of law firm employment opportunities: it does not account for self-selection into smaller firms or other careers, and does not include federal judicial clerks who will likely move to large firms after their clerkships. Nevertheless, it is a useful metric. The table below lists USC’s NLJ250 placement over the last four years, with the percentage of graduates placed by the #1 ranking school given as a reference point.
Prior to the economic downturn, USC performed admirably, keeping pace with some traditional “top-14” schools and out-placing regional rival UCLA (a study by Brian Leiter suggests that UCLA places more graduates with the most elite firms). Southern Cal’s location in a large legal market helps, as scores of NLJ 250 firms have LA offices. The recession has hurt schools across the board, and while USC has slipped slightly relative to similar schools (see the above table’s National Rank row), its placement is still in line with traditional peers.
The decline in Biglaw hiring makes taking out large loans to attend USC Law a riskier proposition than in years past, and those considering law school as a ticket to financial security should reconsider. Though the legal hiring market has stabilized and shown some signs of recovery this year, a new reality calls for prospective students to carefully evaluate career goals and likely outcomes, and for current students to utilize nontraditional resources to find job opportunities.
Judges of many types hire clerks to assist with research, proofreading, and organizational tasks. Responsibilities vary widely with the type of court and judge’s personality, but many clerks write bench memos and even first drafts of opinions. Most clerkships offer valuable learning experiences, and some carry significant cachet. Clerkships have always been competitive, but have become increasingly so as lucrative private sector jobs dry up and greater numbers of experienced lawyers apply.
In the past few years, about 5% of USC graduates have gone on to clerkships, with nearly all of these grads working for federal Article III judges.
Government and Public Interest
A small but steady fraction of Trojans eschew firm life to work for public interest organizations. From 2009 to 2010, the percentage of USC grads entering government employment rose from 5 to 13, possibly as a result of the economy. Those pursuing government and public interest careers need to be more creative and diligent on the job search, since hiring is less streamlined than in the OCI-dominated world of private practice.
Living in Los Angeles has its upsides and downsides, and expensive housing and long commutes are decidedly among the latter. The area around the West Adams campus has a less than stellar reputation, and many want to live relatively far from school to take advantage of some of LA’s most exciting neighborhoods.
USC offers some graduate housing. The most popular option for law students is the Terrace, which reserves two floors for Gould students and is located off the north side of campus. Rent is $995 per person to split a two bedroom apartment. One Trojan shares his opinion of the facility:
You get a spacious bedroom, which you can have to yourself, and your own bathroom. You share a kitchen and a living room. It's not the best deal you can find, but you can do a lot worse. People who live there do it for the built-in social network, because you're surrounded (for better or worse) by people going through the same things you are. The crowd is also younger: I'd say most of Terrace went straight through from undergrad. They take care of everything for you, so it's convenient, and it's located close to school.[xxxii]
Most students live off-campus, which can get pricey. USC’s website advises that “studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom apartments average $800, $1000 and $1300, respectively,” though especially nice accommodations or desirable neighborhoods can run much higher.[xxxiii] A TLS member who went to USC for college breaks down the local housing market:
If you want to live really close to campus, you'll have to pay for the privilege. Studios are basically non-existent, and one-bedrooms tend to run somewhere in the $1000-$2000 range, minimum. If you can find a roommate or two and split a larger, multi-room apartment or rent a house, you can get by more cheaply, but the minimum you'll pay for your own room is in the $700 range. Rates are slightly cheaper to the west of campus (past Vermont Street), which is also a more dangerous area, but as long as you don't act like an idiot, you'll be fine. Lots of students live on Ellendale, Menlo, and 30th, which are convenient, but also expensive. The cheapest place around is City Park Apartments, on 30th, but be warned: it's nicknamed Shitty Park for a reason. Some people never have a problem, but I'm in the middle of suing them, and everyone complains about the crappy plumbing and just overall shoddy work. The management is also a nightmare. If you're willing to commute a short way to campus (and pay through the nose for on-campus parking or deal with metered parking around the school), you can get much cheaper rents to the North, especially around Alvarado Place. If you're willing to live as far away as Los Feliz or Silverlake (15-20min commute) or other east Hollywood neighborhoods, you can get a lot more for your money.[xxxiv]
Students warn that apartments closest to campus tend to be overpriced and shabbily maintained. They also recommend that apartment hunters look at newspaper classified ads and Craigslist, or consider going through a rental agency like Westside Rentals.
Quality of Life
Southern California has much to recommend it, including fantastic year-round weather for sunshine lovers: average monthly high temperatures do not dip below the mid-sixties, even in January. Los Angeles is the country’s second-biggest city, and a diversity of neighborhoods gives law students more than enough to do in their limited free time. A car is a near-necessity, and it may take some time for those new to the area to find their niche. Still, LA offers options few areas can boast, as one TLS member attests:
It's like NY, but with miles of sandy beaches that stay warm year round. And if you get tired of those sandy beaches, Mexico is a couple of hours away. And if you get tired of sandy beaches in general, just drive into the mountains and go snowboarding.[xxxv]
Other accessible entertainment destinations include Las Vegas (a few hours by car), the Bay Area (to which inexpensive shuttle flights run regularly), and Yosemite National Park. Closer to home, USC students enjoy a robust bar scene and one of America’s best cities for foodies. One Trojan writes with some gratitude, “Real estate in SoCal is very expensive – good food, however, is not.”[xxxvi] Though the Staples Center and Koreatown are nearby, many of LA’s best entertainment and nightlife options are significant drives from USC. The Southern Cal campus itself is extremely safe due to constant security patrols, but students and other LA locals caution those new to the area to be careful when walking around the surrounding area at night.
Although the university has raised its profile as a whole in recent years, Trojan athletics have garnered the school much of its fame. USC has won the third-most NCAA national titles of any Division I university, trailing only California rivals UCLA and Stanford. Many sporting events are free and even high-profile sports like football and basketball are relatively cheap for students. While recent scandals have put a damper on Southern Cal’s legendary athletics program, more than a few law students will welcome the chance to put off studying on a sunny California afternoon while catching a glimpse of the next Marcus Allen or Randy Johnson.
The University of Southern California School of Law offers a quality education and solid career prospects in an exciting and popular area. Although rising costs and sluggish legal hiring make choosing a law school a more difficult decision than ever, those who want to learn the law while living in a large city and enjoying a tight-knit university community should give USC Law a serious look.
USC Law Admissions
U.S. News Ranking: 18
[i] USC Law Class of 2013 Profile
Yale Law School
Stanford Law School
Harvard Law School
Columbia Law School
University of Chicago Law School
New York University Law School
Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall)
UPenn Law School
University of Virginia School of Law
Michigan Law School
Duke Law School
Northwestern Law School
Georgetown University Law Center
Cornell Law School
UCLA School of Law
The University of Texas School of Law
Vanderbilt University Law School
USC Gould School of Law
University of Minnesota Law School
The George Washington University Law School
University of Washington School of Law
University of Notre Dame Law School
Washington University Law
Emory University Law School
Washington and Lee University School of Law
The Arizona State University College of Law
Boston University School of Law
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Boston College Law School
Fordham Law School
The University of Alabama School of Law
UC Davis School of Law (King Hall)
The University of Iowa College of Law
The University of Georgia School of Law
William & Mary Law School
The University of Illinois College of Law
Wisconsin Law School
UNC School of Law
The Brigham Young University Law School
George Mason University School of Law
Moritz College of Law
University of Maryland School of Law
University of Arizona College of Law
UC Hastings Law School
The University of Colorado School of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law
The University of Utah College of Law
University of Florida Levin College of Law
American University College of Law
Pepperdine Law School
The Baylor University School of Law
The Florida State University College of Law
Loyola Law School
SMU Dedman School of Law
Tulane University Law School
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
University of Houston Law Center
Georgia State University College of Law
Lewis & Clark School of Law
Temple Law School
University of Richmond Law
Chicago-Kent College of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law
The University of Kentucky College of Law
Brooklyn Law School
University of San Diego School of Law
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Seton Hall University School of Law
The University of Cincinnati College of Law
The University of Denver Law School
University of Miami School of Law
University of New Mexico School of Law
The University of Pittsburgh School of Law
The University of Tennessee College of Law
Northeastern University School of Law
PSU School of Law
UNLV Law School
LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center
St. John's School of Law
Missouri - Columbia Law School
Columbus School of Law
Michigan State University College of Law
Rutgers-Newark School of Law
Buffalo Law School
The University of Oklahoma College of Law
Oregon School Of Law
Indiana University Indianapolis Law
The University of Arkansas School of Law
University of Kansas School of Law
University of Louisville School of Law
University of Nebraska College of Law
Marquette University Law School
Santa Clara Law School
Syracuse University College of Law
Rutgers Law - Camden
University of Tulsa College of Law
University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law
West Virginia University College of Law
South Carolina Law
Villanova Law School