Northwestern Law School:
Key reasons to go
You already know that Northwestern Law School (more formally, Northwestern University School of Law) is a great law school.
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 Northwestern 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:
Northwestern 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 offers you money and Northwestern offers you a full tuition scholarship. 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 Northwestern on a full ride.
- ALSO: Michigan, Berkeley and Virginia are also generally considered more prestigious, but the decision to go to one of those instead of Northwestern Law School is not a no-brainer (assuming Northwestern does not offer you more money). If you have connections to Chicago and Illinois and know you are going to stay and practice there, you might well consider going to Northwestern instead of the somewhat more prestigious elite state law schools. U Chicago and Northwestern law school alums are the predominant at the prestigious Chicago law firms and government offices, so your Northwestern pedigree may be worth more there.
- Great job prospects. This is not much different than the prestige point, except for the fact that even relative to other T14 law schools, Northwestern law school does well in job placements with big law firms. In one recent study, Northwestern law school ranked second for sending the most law students (per capita at the law school) directly to the biggest and most prestigious law firms, the National Law Journal 250. The study is skewed a bit by the fact that students at higher-ranked schools tend to clerk for a prestigious judge first and then go to a big law firm.
- **HUGE CAVEAT: This is a relative advantage compared to other law schools. You need to do well -- i.e., get excellent grades -- . Mere attendance at Northwestern will not guarantee you anything.
- Awesome Urban Location. You are right in downtown Chicago, right in the Loop, one of the best places to go to law school period, much less amongst the top national schools it is compared to. As an urban location perhaps only NYU law school beats Northwestern. Plus, downtown Chicago where Northwestern is located is, in terms of cost of living much, much cheaper than Greenwich Village in New York where NYU is.
- You can go anywhere and do anything. This may interfere with your studying, but honestly, in my experience, good students did not party that much less than less good students. Live it up in a famously fun town.
- Also, it is gorgeous. Great architecture. And great views. I visited a friend who was at Northwestern law school; he had an impossibly beautiful view of Lake Michigan that looked like he lived on the beach. Amazing.
- BUT: If you don't like the cold, don't come here. Seriously, you will die. The Windy City is so so so cold and a totally misleading name for a city that is famously, painfully cold in the winter.
- Kellogg - Not the cereal brand, the business school. Kellogg is a top 4 business school. If you are interested in a career in commercial law, or are even thinking about doing something in business, Kellogg is a great resource. My sister-in-law who studied at Northwestern law school took classes at Kellogg at well. She loved those classes and found them helpful to this day in a way many of her law school classes were not. No one tells you that you need to know business if you are going to be a law firm, but you do. Kellogg is a great place to help you get started on that aspect of your education.
Northwestern Law School: Other reasons to go
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.
- Cool professors: Northwestern law school has many interesting law professors who do crazy things.
- Professor Anthony D'Amato - He defended real war criminals before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in a wig and gown. He is otherwise a groundbreaking theorist concerning complicated issues in public international law, known as customary international law.
- Cool alumni:
- Retired Justice John Paul Stevens. One of the elite. With his departure from the Supreme Court, all of the members of the current members of the Supreme Court attended only Yale or Harvard law schools (Justice Ginsberg started at Harvard and graduated from Columbia; her husband kept her down.). An intelligence officer during World War II and valedictorian of his Northwestern law school class, a class act. Any school would be proud of an alum like him.
- Jerry Springer. How many of the top ranked law schools had an alum even appear in Dancing with the Stars, much less survive later rounds? Hard to imagine someone from Harvard Law School thinking this would be fun. Of course, only Northwestern law school would produce a man so interested in starting and then trying to stop fist fights on his show.
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