I want to talk a bit about how your life is going to change. I know you’ve thought about this already, and I don’t intend to be patronizing, but you really, really need to think about it in terms of safety. I don’t know what type of law firm you’ll be working for (top tier, Radio Shack, lifestyle), but I would assume from your current location that you’re going to a top tier – 2000 billables minimum. That really means work weeks between 60 and 80 hours to begin, and the hours will at first be entirely unpredictable. You could think you’re going to have a normal day, then all hell will break loose, and the next thing you know, it will be 2 o’clock in the morning before you can go home. It will not be like when you were a summer.
This means two things: you need to consider, carefully, whether public transportation is really an option for you. Not only do the buses/trains stop running at some point, if they are still running, they run abbreviated schedules. You don’t want to be standing on the corner of Crackhead and Mugging at 2:15 in the morning waiting for the 3am bus to come. Your firm may not pop for taxis home for you as a routine matter – they may expect that you will have your own car.
It also means that you need to think about where your home is in relation to your bus/train stop. If that’s an area you plan to walk through at 2 o’clock in the morning, you darn well better do some scouting first to make sure you’ll feel safe.
When I went into this, I thought I knew what the hours would be like, and, truthfully, I did. But only intellectually. After your first few months, it’s much easier because you kind of accept the fact that you just don’t know at 4 o’clock what you’re going to be doing at 6 o’clock. And as you get more senior, you get more control over your schedule. But please, please be careful before you rent somewhere that you’re going to regret.
I took a look at craigslist, and I think that some of the places that are running at the lower end are likely farther out than you’d want (the Valley or the Inland Empire, for example). In addition to craigslist, you should consider Westside Rentals. They’re a bit pricey ($60 for a 60 day membership), but several coworkers and my brother have had major success finding places quickly with them. They let you do searches as a guest, so you can get a feel for what their listings are like. I do think you can find a place for under $1500, but it will take some looking for a place that is clean, decent-sized, has good parking, feels safe, and is close to stuff (including transport). Even if it’s only for a weekend, I really suggest you come out to scout.
All would be great places for you, I think. As far as proximity to downtown, a general rule of thumb is to take the number of miles between where you’re looking and double it – that’s the number of minutes it will take without traffic. With traffic, the distance between any two points in Los Angeles will take you about an hour.
Good luck. Email me if you’d like.