Monday, April 14, 2008

The Decision Draws Nigh

Well, I've been being coy about the play out of the law school admissions tournament, but I feel like I can share a little now. Sharing point one: I'm going to law school, not grad school. Sharing point two: I've narrowed my decision down to two schools: Columbia, and Chicago. The decision is due at the start of May, so I figure if any of y'all have insight to share, now is the time.

I'll lay out the advantages of each place as best as I can figure. Ideally, I'd do this after I visit the schools, but I won't make it to Columbia until just a few days before the deadline, so by then this post would be too late. Anyway, here we go.


* Faculty match! This is the big one for Columbia. I want to do CRT, and Columbia has both Patricia Williams and Kimberle Crenshaw (part-time, in the latter case). Chicago has -- well, I'm not sure they have anyone doing CRT specifically. The closest person I'd guess is Martha Nussbaum. She's awesome, don't get me wrong, but that's still a good hop, skip, and jump away from CRT. As I get more interested in pragmatism, Richard Posner intrigues me more and more, but I can't imagine he actually has time to meet with students (I don't know how he has time to eat).

* It's closer to home. I don't mind being in the mid-west, really, but I'm starting to weary of the long trips back and forth. I can take the train from NYC back to Washington. I love trains.

* Higher US News ranking. I don't really put much stock in that (particularly when we're talking about consensus top-10 schools), but there it is.


* I want to be a law professor, and Chicago is known as a law professor training ground (to more of a degree than Columbia).

* It's a smaller school. I didn't really think about this until recently, but that could be an issue. After all, I attended a small liberal arts college. I've still never had a class with more than 30 people in it. I have no idea how I'll respond to a big, anonymous lecture course. Even if the difference is a 30 person intro class at Chicago versus 50 at Columbia, that could be significant for me.

* Relatedly, I've been told that Chicago's small size mixed with its lack of many CRTers could redound to my advantage, as I'll stand out and be more able to attract faculty attention. Even if I don't quite buy that the small CRT population is actually a good thing, I do think it may be true that I'll be more likely to be able to actually catch a glimpse of my professors beyond the podium at UC than at CU, and that'd be nice.

* It's not in New York. I don't have any strong feeling either way about Chicago. I do possess an irrational dislike of New York. I say irrational not because it's totally groundless -- I've been to NYC before -- but because it's not grounded in any particular bad experiences I've had there. I just find New York to be a bit grimy, a bit shadowed, and a bit gruff -- particularly for someone who's spent the last four years in the land of open friendliness that is Minnesota.

* Money: Chicago gave me an award, Columbia didn't. Again, not really a huge consideration, given that the size of the award is rather insignificant, and that for a variety of reasons I'm not all that worried about paying student loans, but for completeness sake, there it is.


So basically, Columbia's got faculty match, and Chicago has the size and the institutional identity as an academic training ground. I have an inclination, but that inclination has switched before (in fact, it's shifted from one to the other and back again several times now). We'll see how the visits go. Any advice would be appreciated.


Stentor said...

Interesting that you hate NYC for the opposite reason I do -- my impression of it is that it's too ritzy and stuck up. But that may be because I lived for four years in the Main South neighborhood of Worcester (which sets the bar for gritty pretty high), whereas my most recent trip to NY was to attend some friends' wedding at Rockefeller Center.

PG said...

- If you're feeling a little short on money for the train from NYC to DC, there are some nice bus services, including some with free internet, for less than $20 each way.

- I agree that Columbia has less of a professor training ground *rep* than Chicago, but the CLS faculty is very interested in fostering interest in an academic career. I would say that you will have fewer classmates who are interested in becoming professors, but you will have a lot more attention from professors who want to help you do so. (I think this is a much better thing with regard to career goal than to area of academic interest -- having other people to talk to about your area of interest is important, whereas not having to compete with other classmates for professor attention in your career goals is good.)

- Morningside Heights is not a gritty part of NYC. It's got a little grit around it (Harlem to the north, Spanish Harlem for the brief span of 96th-110th before you hit the liberal yuppie oasis of the Upper West Side), but is itself reasonably clean, well-lit and friendly (Spanish Harlem also is friendly and a great place to live if you are on a budget; regular Harlem is a bit grumpy about getting gentrified).

- I think the size of the class at CLS is a little bigger than optimal, but certainly much better than the Harvard monstrosities. And a large class size means that there's a great range of people and organizations. E.g., both ACS and Fed Soc are highly active.

- I had no trouble getting close to profs in my specific area of greatest interest (antitrust). Indeed, I had two professors lobby for me to get a job with the FTC when I was applying and gave special attention to introducing me when they had anyone from the FTC visiting.

I would warn you off Columbia a bit if you wanted to work in public interest (though then I would tell you to go to NYU, certainly not Chicago), but I think Columbia would be a great place to launch an academic career. There are lots of journals in which to publish, including JLSP, which publishes only student-written notes. I honestly can't think of a serious downside to Columbia for someone who wants to be a law prof.