Georgetown Law School
Key Reasons To Go (or Not)
Georgetown Law School (more formally known as Georgetown University Law Center or GULC) is a great law school and in our Nation's Capital.
You already know the school's US News rank (currently #10), and other dry facts.
You might be considering a million factors.
But decisions don't come from crunching a million factors. What you need is a concise, concrete list of reasons you should go to Georgetown Law School (and, implicitly, a list of reasons why you might not go to school here).
You especially need a list that presents the practical merits and drawbacks of going to law school here. Which I provide below:
Georgetown Law School: Four reasons to go
- Prestige - This is a T14 school - a major, national law school. This means if you do well here, you can do anything and go anywhere with your law degree - work at and become a partner at any big law firm, clerk for prestigious judges (including the Supreme Court, but you have to be #1, basically), get the most selective federal government and public interest jobs, and even teach law.
- BUT: It is a lower-T14 school, meaning that if you get into a top-6 law school (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago or NYU) you should absolutely go to one of those places instead UNLESS none of the T6 law schools offers you money and Georgetown offers you a full tuition scholarship or significant money. Then it is a toss-up. In the past, before the Great Legal Job Apocalypse of 2008, I would have told you to go straight to a T6 firm. But I know from personal experience (tutoring students) that even a T6 school is no guarantee anymore. Weigh your own appetite for risk and passion for the law; if you have both, go to the T6. If you have less of each, go to Georgetown on a full ride.
- ALSO: Michigan, Berkeley and Virginia, are also generally considered somewhat more prestigious that GULC. In some circles, UPenn and Cornell law schools are somewhat more prestigious, but I think there isn't much difference, practically speaking. The decision to go to one of those instead of Georgetown Law School is not a no-brainer (assuming Georgetown does not offer you more money). If you want to stay in D.C. and practice, Georgetown law school is probably a better choice rather than the "big three" elite state law schools (although Virginia sends many grads to the District of Columbia).
- The most prestigious law school with an evening division (night school!). Georgetown law school has an evening division. You can work full time and go to law school (and promptly die of exhaustion as well). No other T14 law school, or even T20 I believe, offers a program that lets you study law at night.
- This is a major consideration in terms of financing your education. Why? If you can work full time during the day, even if you don't get a good law school scholarship, you might graduate with very few law school loans if any if you have the right job.
- Decent job prospects. This is not too different than the prestige point. Georgetown law school does well in job placements with big law firms, mainly within the beltway. In one recent study, about 1/3rd of GULC graduates were hired directly by a NLJ 250 law firm (one of the 250 largest law firms by). This figure does appear to be low relative to the rest of the T14. It may be because Georgetown has the largest class, or it may be because more Georgetown law school students opt to go into the federal government or other prestigious, competitive jobs.
- **HUGE CAVEAT: This is a relative advantage compared to other law schools that are not as highly ranked. You still need to do well -- i.e., get excellent grades -- especially given the size of every class at Georgetown (see below). Mere attendance at Georgetown law school will not guarantee you anything.
- Awesome Urban Location. You are in Washington, D.C. You are not in the most fun area (near the courts, actually), but you are not far from Chinatown and the Metro so you can get somewhere else interesting (like DuPont Circle, U Street, etc.) fast. I lived in D.C. for a year, and even in comparison to great cities I've lived in, Washington compared well. Lots of fun things to do and places to go and things to see, in short.
- More importantly, you have access to fantastic internships. Not only is the District of Columbia a hub to excellent law firms, but it is where all of the federal branches of government have offices, and all of the administrative agencies. And don't forget a plethora of public interest law organizations, international NGOs, and the like. They are buzzing with lawyers and need interns.
Reasons not to go to Georgetown law school
Here is a short list of other factors that really should not drive your decision but give you some sense of the personality of the school.
- Size. Size, uh, does matter. There are about 650 students in every entering class at Georgetown law school, making it by far the largest of any U.S. law school (Harvard comes in second with 550 per year). Size is not a bad thing in and of itself, but if you are shy you can get lost easily. If you prefer a more intimate setting, then of comparable schools, Northwestern law school may be a good choice.
- Separate from main campus. Georgetown University as a whole is a world-class research facility, well-known (undergraduate) alma mater of Bill Clinton, and all-around fun and prestigious school. The main campus is, however, in Georgetown, which is in the western part of Washington, DC. Georgetown law school is on a separate campus in downtown Washington, DC, near the Capitol and the Supreme Court. This makes accessing Georgetown Unversity itself -- whether you wanted to take classes at another part of Georgetown, or just wanted to meet good-looking undergraduates -- more difficult.
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