Degree: BSME, 3.3 gpa
Work experience: 3-4 years at large power generation engineering corporation
Georgetown vs. Northwestern vs. GW ($75K scholarship).
I want to work in DC. So I think I've narrowed it down to Georgetown and GW.
I really have no idea if I want to do prosecution or litigation. I'd like to have as many options as possible. But then again, $75K is a huge chunk of money.
I'm also considering working at either the patent office or at a firm, and going to school part-time. But for the sake of discussion, I do not want to consider this option as it is currently far from a sure possibility.
GW with 75k scholarship.
First location - obviously that rules out NU. As for the difference between Georgetown and GW, they will both place you equally well.
As for prestige between Georgetown and GW, Georgetown clearly comes up ahead. However, what many people forget is that Georgetown is a huge school with something on the order of 1000 students per class. While the law review, top 10% do fine, it is hard to succeed with that many competitors.
In any event, the prestige bump from Georgtown will only get you so far within DC. Especially with patent law, good grades at GW should place you well.
The money really makes this a no-brainer in my mind. If you have never paid for something that costs $75k (not merely purchased, but paid off), it is hard to appreciate how much money that really is. And remember, that would be $75k that would be accruing interest at 7.8 or 8.5% for 20 years. And whatever you think Georgetown will cost you, you should factor in at least another 10 grand, because you will need to account for all the silly fees, as well as Barbri. If a firm picks that up for you, that's great, but do not plan on it.
As for working, this may be where I get controversial - don't do it. Law school is tough enough. And your first semester (or first year) grades will determine what firm you interview at during fall 2L year, what firm you summer at between 2L and 3L and what firm you work at after graduation. In this economy, very few firms hire 3Ls, and rarely do so unless they summered at another firm. So devote yourself, and your first Thanksgiving, to law school that first year to maximize your chances. Then revisit the idea your second or third year.
However, my strongest recommendation to you now is to quit your job and work at a law firm before you start law school. Don't devote three years of your life and several thousands of dollars to a persuit you are not 100% sure on. I know at least a few people that made a huge mistake. Being a patent lawyer is pretty cool, but know what you are getting into, especially the long hours and adversarial nature if you are considering litigation. I know it sucks giving up a paying job, but you need to be 100% sure. If you aren't committed enough to volunteer somewhere for a summer, you should think long and hard as to whether you are committed to the practice of law, or whether you are looking at law school as an investment (for most people, it will be a bad investment). Especially as a MechE, jobs are more scarce.