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Which Law School? I have the option to attend Albany Law (no scholarship costs $35k a year, but is a Tier 3 law school), Western New England Law (Scholarship money will make my out of pocket cost $15k a year but it is a Tier 4 law school located in Springfield Mass) or New England Law School (cost per year will be $25k, advantage of being in Boston, also a Tier 4 law school).
Since none of these schools are top 50 law schools (where competition is greatest and "name recognition" and contacts can help you with nationwide jobs) there are two questions: (1) Where do you want to practice? and (2) What do you want to do? Tier 3/4 schools can be great, but what it usually means is that you're geographically restricted to the locale in which they are located (or any sporradic pockets where alums are located). So, if you want to practice in washington (especially in washington government), then Albany will be your best choice. If you want to practice in New England, then choose one of the others. I hear that the Boston legal market is REALLY hard to crack, with all of the good schools nearby. I don't know what sort of reach New England or W. New England has in Boston -- you should ask those questions. Second, what do you want to do? Do you want to work at a larger firm? Then cost doesn't matter that much; you'll be making 6 figures right away (provided you graduate in the top 10% of your class) and can pay back your loans. But if you spend $125,000 on law school, realize that big law firm life is about the ONLY thing you can do. Now, if you only have $40,000 in debt, your options are wider open. You can work for the government (~$40-50,000 starting), you can work as a district attorney (~$25-50,000 starting), with loan repayment assitance, you may be able to work at a nonprofit or public interest job (sometimes $20,000 or less...) Good luck.
I agree with the answers above insofar as, once you get out of the top fifty or so schools the difference between one school and another from a reputation standpoint becomes less important. I go to a bottom Tier 2 law school, and there is a Tier 4 law school in my state, and I doubt that many local employers would care much between those two. If, like me, you are not a prestige law school applicant / student, I would look first at the school's bar pass rate. Then try to find some students who are candid about the quality of the school. Also, look at the school's retention rate. My school dismissed a lot of people - my undergrad school did not do that so I had never contemplated that would happen to people who worked hard and just didn't catch on fast enough. I wouldn't bother thinking about where the school is from a "living" standpoint because during law school you aren't going to have any time to enjoy it. I'd say the geography is only important if it impacts where people will employ you. On the other hand, the conventional wisdom is that "regional" law schools only place regionally, but I think this is mostly because people at these schools want to work locally. IMHO, those cost differences you cite probably shouldn't make that much of a difference, because ultimately your education is a lot more important that 60K. It's a lot of money, but it's your career. If the typical attorney makes, say between 80-110K a year with experience, over 30 years 60K is not going to be as important as your education. Then again, if the schools are virtually equal to you, save 60K. One final thing: don't go to a school that is not ABA accredited. Many states will not let you take their bar exam, and most employers frown on it.
If you are considering art school then the only viable career is advertising / marketing. Reason being very few artists less than 1% can make a living as an artist and most fund their art by taking jobs that usually pay about minimum wage due to the fact art degrees are not employable. Law school will open up a lot of opportunities for you but it will take 7 years of you life studying. Since you are not passionate about law then it really is not worth pursuing.
Professionally, I don't think it's going to matter. The rankings really don't matter once you are out of the Top tier. This is what is going to matter: What kind of law do you want to practice and how is each school's curriculum in that area? Also, if you are planning to go into public service via a government job or legal aid, you'll want the smallest debt possible. WHERE do you want to practice? Stay near there because you might do internships and clerkships in that area which may lead to a job offer. What is the career center like? How is their job placement program? Check those figures out. That's more important than what tier they are in. Good luck!
Think about where you want to go...in terms of employment it is easier to get hired in Boston when going to school in Boston....and once you hti 3rd tier there is little difference interms of prestige and employment than from a 4th tier school...so Consider the cheaper choices as student loans will kick you in the behind ...especially when you consider living expenses as you are not aloowed to work full time while in school.
Just so you know, being a lawyer sucks @ss..... .