A Tour of the Northwest
What the Pacific Northwest Needs...
is a top law school. Trust me, it has everything else! Magnificent scenery. Mountains and more mountains, bays, lakes and rivers, deserts, mesas, forests, breathtaking views, great cities -- oh, and volcanoes. I spent a week looking around, and could easily have spent two more. And if you know how jaded I am, that's saying a lot!
U.W. is the top ranked law school in the region. Sadly, it gives a strong preference to residents. More sadly, it has a very small class size, so nonresidents have to be very competitive to be admitted. And saddest yet, I really dislike their building. Even the Gates money wasn't enough to take away the anonymous, institutional feel of the new building. But then I dislike our new main library, too. Maybe green glass and orange brick are just too cold for me.
Seattle U. is the total urban campus. The facilities are within blocks of Capital Hill, Seattle's DuPont Circle. And as you will in DC's DuPont, you'll be happier taking public transit. Parking is available only at a premium price. The law school is a bit too modern for my taste, but well-lit and spacious. If your gpa/LSAT are in the 3.0/157 range, and you're looking for a city on par with New York and Chicago for funky and diverse atmosphere with a good deal less traffic and crime, I heartily recommend it!
Seattle itself had everything I could ever ask for! It's a "real" city, by which I mean it has a core of turn-of-the century buildings for historians, every brand of ethnic food and culture imaginable (have you ever been to a Tibetan restaurant?) two different funky "Greenwich Village" neighborhoods (one near U. W. and one closer to downtown), a major skyline, a large, active and out gay and lesbian community, much more racial diversity than I expected, and great people! They talk to you! There are two or three pedestrian crosswalks on every block both downtown and at the U, and drivers actually stop at them! There's theater, there's music -- for a combination of urban excitement and natural beauty, Seattle is most definitely the place.
Oregon is as beautiful as Washington, although the cities there don't compare with Seattle. I can't give a full report on the natural beauties because there were so many to see that I ran out of time! I can report watching white-water rafting and paragliding, visiting volcanic remains and awesome mountains, and passing a llama ranch. I can also report that all three law schools were interesting and at least adequate. I never even got to the beaches, but they are reported to be spectacular.
Portland/Lewis and Clark
Portland is a medium-sized city with more sprawl (perhaps because of fewer natural boundaries) and less diversity than Seattle. It feels more like Sacramento/Knoxville/Lexington (KY) than like a metropolis. Lewis and Clark was the least attractive of the three law schools in the state. It is built to blend into its natural environment -- i.e., it;'s trying to be invisible, and is therefore dull. The layout is a lot like McGeorge -- four small buildings around a nicely landscaped quad. Go to Lewis and Clark for the programs and the nature, not the facilities.
Salem is a smaller city; it's the state capital, and Willamette is across the street from the capital building -- great for legislative study and internships. the facilities are newly renovated, and the law school and the campus are quite beautiful. If you're looking for urban but not overwhelming, with a pretty campus and good facilities, Willamette should be on your list.
Eugene/U. of Oregon
Sadly, I didn't give this town the attention it deserves. I spent my time watching white-water rafting and beautiful mountain views instead of hurrying over to the town. By reputation and from the few hours I spent there, it feels a lot like Ithaca (home of Cornell): liberal and eclectic, but definitely not urban. U. of O. was the nicest of the law schools I visited, and for good reason -- the new building opened in August '99. Everything was spacious, well-lit, and state-of-the-art.
Oregon has less of a resident preference than many other state schools, and I recommend it if you like hiking, camping, beach combing, etc. If you prefer sidewalk cafes and night life, this won't be the place for you.