Decisions, Decisions

William & Mary

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.

Tick tock.