July 08, 2004

Paralyzing Indecision

by PG

In two weeks, I need to pay fall semester tuition to a law school. Unfortunately, I still don't know which school it should be: the University of Texas or Georgetown. Every time I think I've settled on one, I start thinking about the other. Ambivalent doesn't even cover it.

Friends who have exhausted the "go with your gut" cliche (my gut keeps me balanced on this fence) are now down to recommending that I get all the paperwork complete for both, flip a coin, write the check and mail it. Heads Georgetown, tails UT.

I can't quite bring myself to make a decision on that basis, so I'm hoping to get input for the schools that will make one of them a clearer choice. My eternal gratitude goes to any De Novo readers who can push me past eenie-meenie.

July 8, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack

If you want to be a DC person, go to Georgetown. Otherwise, Texas hands down. I know lots of people who go to both and Texas people are happier. Sixth street partying beats Georgetown bars any day of the week. Top 10 schmop 10.

Posted by: Centrist at July 7, 2004 11:01 PM

It's a simple choice really. If you intend to practice in Texas after you graduate, pull out Martindale as check how many partners in top firms you would like to work for are from either school. Also, contact any partners from those two schools (pick up a phone, tell their personal secretary the reason for your call) at top firms. Ask them what they think. What's the worst that could happen? They won't take your call?

If you don't intend to practice in Texas, go to Georgetown.

Posted by: adaplant at July 7, 2004 11:01 PM

You will regret it if you choose not to go to Georgetown. Mark my words.


Posted by: willy t at July 7, 2004 11:08 PM

Both schools are TTTs.

But seriously, it's tough to give out advice without knowing what you want. In fact, the whole idea is so absurd that I'm going to refuse to give any advice on principle.

So I'll never be an Ann Landers. I console myself with the knowledge that I'll never be a Dr. Laura, either.

Posted by: Carey at July 7, 2004 11:27 PM

I have a co-clerk this summer who goes to Texas and a good friend from high school who recently graduated from G-town. They both loved their school.

That's no answer, but I think it adds to the last two commenters' points that you have to decide. Unless someone with your background, interests, and goals has attended both schools for law school, then no one can help you very much more than just praising one of the schools or cities or dissing the other school or city.

As I have said before though, I love D.C. and I don't think I'd ever want to live in Texas. ;-)

Posted by: Chris Geidner at July 7, 2004 11:34 PM

I recently discovered that we have almost as many DC employers interviewing on campus here as we do employers from Dallas or Houston. I don't really care, because all I want is to stay in Austin for the rest of eternity. But I think you'll find that job prospects for grads from either school are similiarly mediocre once you get away from DC/Texas.

But for quality of law school life--city, professor teaching quality, extra-curriculars insanely hot undergrads walking around in perpetually warm weather and never talking to me ever--UT is pretty hard to beat. And it's cheaper.

But either way, isn't this like really, really late to be holding out? DECIDE ALREADY!!!!!

Posted by: wingsandvodka at July 8, 2004 01:03 AM

Georgetown has been great for me, but both are excellent schools. If you have specific questions about Georgetown, feel free to drop me a line. Congrats on having the choice to make.

Posted by: buddha at July 8, 2004 02:17 AM

My vote is Georgetown, but strangely all of the people I know at both schools seem to be happy with their choice.

The best tiebreaker is either the coin flip or whether you would rather hang around in Austin or DC for the next 3 years. Neither one has harsh winters. Political junkies or cowboy boots?

I don't think you can go wrong either way. Congratulations and good luck.

Posted by: Farnsworth at July 8, 2004 08:33 AM

I know far too many G-Town graduates who said that the atmosphere was not conducive to building personal relationships with other students because people were just too damn competitive. I only know one guy from UT and he seems to be a happy sort (I went to UVa which is my number one rec.)

Posted by: Me at July 8, 2004 08:59 AM


Of the ten or so schools that I applied to, I was also accepted by Texas and Georgetown (and a couple of other schools). I went to UT. For me, cost was the deciding factor.

Even with a substantial scholarship offer from Georgetown, UT was far less costly. I also think that the cost of living is likely to be far better in Austin than D.C. and its environs, if my one summer in D.C. is any indication.

If you are paying your own way, you really cannot underestimate the significance of cost. The amount of debt you carry coming out of law school can significantly limit your employment options. So if you are interested in doing something other than working for a big firm after graduation, going to the cost-effective school is your best bet.

In tandem with the foregoing point, it helps to remember that, for some time now, UT and Georgetown have been ranked as more or less equivalent schools. So by opting for Georgetown, you would just be agreeing to pay a higher price for the same product. Thus, unless you can come up with some overriding rationale for going to Georgetown (e.g., wanting to work in D.C. or the surrounding areas after graduation), UT is the more commonsensical option.

Of course, when you attend a top school, you are not really limited to the school's immediate surroundings employment-wise, but it is easier by far to arrange and attend interviews if you are already in the area. That having been said, multiple classmates of mine pursued and received job offers out-of-Texas. In other words, neither school will limit you employment-wise, but each will enable you to interview in their respective legal markets with greater ease.

Posted by: The Curmudgeonly Clerk at July 8, 2004 10:34 AM

Oh, good heavens, go to UT because Austin is so very very much fun, and when you want to get away from lawyers you can do so with real folks and musicians, not politicians and wonks as would dominate the social scene in DC.

Posted by: Scheherazade at July 8, 2004 01:14 PM

If you have any interest in Washington, the east coast, or big city life, go to Georgetown. I moved out here for college and I don't regret it one bit.

Posted by: Ryan at July 8, 2004 09:08 PM

If you're interested at all in government and the intersection between law and politics, then by all means head to G-Town. I will hate you, of course, as a recent GW grad, but that's okay :) DC is a fantastic city to learn and practice the law, with so many opportunities that wouldn't be available at Texas, an extraordinary school in its own right. But here in DC you can intern for a semester at DOJ, or the DC Public Defenders Office, or for a judge, or on the Hill, or wherever -- and still attend classes. You can watch the Senate debate a judicial confirmation. You can watch the Supremes grill legal legends down the street. You can walk downtown and watch the President fly over in a helicopter. You can hang with Tom Jefferson at night and see his reflection in the Tidal Basin. It's a fantastic town -- I would never think of going to law school anywhere else.

Posted by: Scott at July 8, 2004 11:09 PM

Hear, hear, to the comments of The Curmudgeonly Clerk above. The in-state tuition of UT is *less than half* of what it costs to go to Georgetown, even though they are both ranked practically on top of each other. As the Clerk said, the amount of debt you have after school significantly influences the choices you will make about employment when you graduate.

Plus, although D.C. has lots of federal government opportunities, you can't forget that Austin is also a state capital and there are plenty of opportunities for government work at UT, too.

Posted by: Esther at July 9, 2004 10:06 AM


It might help underscore my point by looking at the actual numbers. A FULL YEAR at Texas would cost $15,084 for a state resident and $26,224 for a non-resident in tuition and fees. A single SEMESTER at Georgetown will cost you $16,527.50 in tuition alone. So, even at out-of-state rates, over three years this adds up to a $20,493 difference. It may also be useful to run some calculations regarding the monthly re-payment amount that each alternative will generate.

Posted by: The Curmudgeonly Clerk at July 9, 2004 11:35 AM

Curmudgeon and Esther: If I were paying my own way, I'd be at UT in a flash. (Un?)Fortunately, my parents promise to pay tuition wherever I go, so the cost difference is a somewhat theoretical issue: Am I getting enough benefit from G'town to justify the price tag? rather than, Will I ever pay off my loans?

As for the respective advantages of Austin and DC, it's more a matter of deciding whether I should become a normal 20-something or descend further into law/politics geekdom. Some of my friends argue for the former, "Everyone loves Austin!"; some for the latter, "DC is your kind of place!"

Everyone, thanks for the commentary so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had convinced me for UT. Now I'm reconsidering Georgetown. Maybe I'll get lucky and a tornado will remove one from contention.

Posted by: PG at July 9, 2004 11:52 AM

Although Leiter is certainly interested, I'd still say that he is a useful resource. In case you haven't seen it . . .

From http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/001587.html#001587

Georgetown University Law Center (circa 80)
Gone: Richard A. Gordon, Douglas L. Parker, Warren F. Schwartz, Lynn A.Stout, Don R. Wallace, Jr.
New: William Wilson Bratton III, Michael R. Diamond, James Forman, Jr., G. Mitu Gulati, John Mikhail, Daniel K. Tarullo, John R. Thomas, Ethan Yale.
Score: 0

University of Texas School of Law (circa 60)
Gone: Hans Baade (still part-time), Joseph M. Dodge, Thomas Evans, James S. Fishkin, Robert W. Hamilton, J. Patrick Hazel, Neil W. Netanel, Jack Ratliff, Steven Ratner, Thomas Russell, Russell Weintraub (still part-time).
New: Bernard S. Black, Oren Bracha, John Deigh (joint), Jane M. Cohen, Karen Engle, Leslie J. Green (part-time), Kate Litvak, Ronald J. Mann, Robert Peroni, H.W. Perry (joint), Mary Rose (joint), Lawrence G. Sager, Jane Stapleton (part-time), Mark G. Yudof.
Score: +2

Posted by: Craig at July 9, 2004 01:05 PM

Georgetown costs a fortune. Can't dispute that. But I don't regret my decision to go there over less expensive schools. (Though my attempts to encourage you to join me may well be aimed at rationalizing my own decision!) Disclosure: Texas didn't admit me, and I would have considered it very seriously had they done so. As I said above, congratulations again for getting to choose.

Most of the negative comments about GULC posted here are hearsay... a friend of a friend says this. I go there. I like it a lot. I wasn't going to weigh in on this further, but changed my mind. My perspective is only valuable to the extent you look for the same things I do or that you recognize the differences, so keep that in mind. But I hope it helps.

If you want to live in Texas after school, UT is probably the better choice all around. If you don't, or if you're not sure, GULC will provide you more opportunities nationwide and even worldwide. The number and variety of employers recruiting on campus is simply staggering. I knew at the outset that I wanted to live in California, but probably would not attend a California school, so I looked very closely at Career Services info before making my own decision. Though Georgetown places incredibly well in D.C., it travels very well, likely better than U.T. (Interestingly, BW&V says above that neither travels, and the Clerk says both travel equally. Obviously, it's hard to say for sure. I based my opinion on last year's recruiting season though).

The competitive nature at Georgetown is overblown. I've truly never understood where GULC got that reputation. In a class of 500 students, there are competitive assholes, but there are also people of every other imaginable stripe. You will find far more people who mock the competitive folk than who join them. You will find people like you, if mockery isn't your thing. Competitive people don't all do well, and you don't have to be competitive to succeed at GULC.

Like Scott, I think D.C. is an unbelievable place to go to law school. I attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court three times as a 1L, and it truly brought Con Law to life in a way that nothing else could. I've also attended the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit, and it's simply not the same. If the law itself excites you, if you are passionate about the subject rather than merely the profession, D.C. offers an environment like no other.

At the same time, D.C. offers this, but doesn't force it. You can be a normal 20-something there, and thrive doing so.

GULC takes advantage of its location by having an excellent group of adjunct professors (not included in Leiter's discussion, to be sure) that probably are not available together at any one school outside the District. The size of the school and the faculty create opportunities for a lot of very specialized classes as well.

Leiter's stats are worth a half a grain of salt, but come without the popcorn to enjoy it. Those names and numbers are irrelevant unless the professors gained or lost are ones that matter to your interests. Leiter of all people should recognize that not all professors are equal. For example, when it comes to Patent Law, GULC's gain of John Thomas is huge. Professor Thomas is a rockstar in the field and a great teacher. If the +2 include the top profs in PG Law, then that's for you.

I hear nothing but good things about Austin. Texas is a great school. But please don't let your decision on something like this come down to "for some time now, UT and Georgetown have been ranked as more or less equivalent schools." If the Clerk is telling you to ignore the rankings, great. If that's a way of saying you're getting the same thing for half the cost at UT, it's false. Better or worse for you is up to you to decide, but the two are extremely different and U.S. News numbers don't begin to explain that.

My offer to answer specific questions my email remains open. Wherever you choose, good luck.

Posted by: buddha at July 10, 2004 04:41 PM

Wow... longwinded on my part. Just following up to say that I re-read the Leiter post and realized I gave it short-shrift earlier because I misinterpreted it. The +2 is a subjective evaluation, not a numbers thing. My apologies. As it's subjective, I stand by my assertion that for it to be relevant at all, you have to look at the specific profs.

Posted by: buddha at July 10, 2004 05:10 PM
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