The time quickly approaches where I’ll have to start making decisions about law school. Given my current acceptances, it seems to be a race between William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA) and the University of Washington (Seattle, WA). They are similarly ranked and comparable in size, but are very different schools in terms of location, curricular offerings, general atmosphere, and job markets. I’ll be visiting both during their admitted students weekends over the coming weeks.
UW is attractive both because of its location (closer to Claire, closer to the geography where I’d like to eventually end up practicing, and not as far to move) and because of its more developed offerings in intellectual property law. They have a dedicated specialization in IP, as well as a journal and clinic focusing on intellectual property and technology. The Seattle location is also not too shabby for access to businesses and firms that specialize in technology or IP law. Likewise, Seattle is generally a more happening place than small-town, colonial Williamsburg. That could be both a bonus in terms of good breaks from law school rigor, but also a potential distraction as well.
William & Mary feels right. From my interactions with current students, faculty, and alumni, it appears to me to be the “Davidson” of law schools insomuch as it is well ranked and well regarded by those who know it, but that it just barely slips under the “Ivy League” radar. It is the oldest law school in the country, and is dedicated to producing the best all-purpose, well-rounded lawyers in the country. They have a unique “citizen lawyer” approach to teaching the law, emphasizing the role of attorneys not only in business but also in public service and community life. They also have a rigorous two-year legal skills program, where students are placed into “firms” of sixteen led by faculty and 3L “partners.” In that setting, students learn the ins and outs of quotidian law practice: client interviews, memo writing, argument formation, etc. They have fairly good offerings in IP, but no dedicated journal or clinic. There is, however, the Center for Legal and Court Technology, one of the most advanced courtroom labs in the world.
Right now, I am leaning towards William & Mary. Even though there is a shortage of IP courses, I have been advised by both faculty and alums that deep exposure to IP in law school is not as important as it seems. It is important to take the survey courses, and to show interest in IP through participation in student groups or summer work in that field. But beyond that, it’s not as important, for two reasons: there’s not a whole lot of time to take many specialized courses after you’re done with your core requirements, and it’s probably more important getting a broader education in the law so that I have a diverse skill set to draw from in practice. Another person suggested that it might be more fruitful to take the “big fish in a small pond” approach, trying to become a leader and standout IP student in a school with less focus in that area, rather than getting lost in a crowd of IP all-stars.
But I’m keeping an open mind to both schools, as they are both really great choices and deserve full and unbiased consideration. I’m also waitlisted at four schools: Duke, Vanderbilt, George Washington, and Boston University. In such a tough admissions year I’m not counting on any of them, though it will be a nice surprise if one of them lets me in. I am still waiting to hear from Emory, University of Southern California, and U.C. Hastings. I’m not sure how an offer at any of those would affect my current decision making process.