Law School Discussion

Deciding Where to Go => Choosing the Right Law School => Topic started by: LawOwl on December 12, 2013, 07:21:21 AM

Title: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 12, 2013, 07:21:21 AM
Hello all. So I am facing a tough dilemma on deciding where to go to law school. I am a South Florida resident and want to stay in the region so going to school down is a must. I currently have 4 offers on the table: U of Miami (No scholarship), FIU (No scholarship), Nova Southeastern University (half tuition scholarship) or St. Thomas University (full ride). I am heavily leaning towards attending Miami because I truly believe that if one wishes to practice in a certain market, one must go to the most prestigious/reputable school in said market to take advantages of resources as best as possible (alumni base, internships/externship, ettc) and Miami is TOP DOG in all those aspects down here. However, the thought of graduating with a six figure debt is very daunting and I don't know if I'm ready to take on that kind of debt. Thankfully, I graduated from college without any debt so I do have more leeway in that regard than others and working in the public sector is something that has always interested me so perhaps i can take advantage of IBR and the PSLF loan forgiveness program. Additionally, I will not be retaking the LSAT due to personal reasons that will make it nearly impossible to give 100 percent of my effort. So I'd like to get your guys opinion on this: Is U of Miami a good enough law school to justify taking on all that debt or should I settle for the cheaper options and have bleaker employment prospects come graduation. Any insight is appreciated. Thanks!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Miami88 on December 13, 2013, 06:18:13 PM
Honestly, unless you are offered a full ride from UM, I'd prefer FIU. They have stronger bar passage rates, good employment numbers, are sky rocketing in reputation and ranking, and their students are humble and helpful. I am sure within the next 5-10 years, FIU will have just as much rep. in south florida, if not more, as UM. Unless you are in the top percentile of UM's class, the nominal boost of UM's rank is not going to help you out that much... If you really are skeptical, ask hiring lawyers at firms/sectors what they think.

I'd also visit UM law and meet as many students as possible. My experience with the environment of UM law is mixed.

Finally, note that you may be able to use the scholarship offers to get money out of higher ranked schools. First, you'll have to wait and see what FIU offers (you should hear back around Feb., but ask them). I'd then use the St. thomas offer to get more money from Nova and FIU. If UM really is a top choice for you, it wouldn't hurt to negotiate $ using a scholarship from FIU, and worse case, St. Thomas/Nova.

Good luck! You are certainly in a good position as is, so, congrats!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 13, 2013, 07:21:06 PM
Interesting you say that. I know FIU is on the rise but from the attorneys I've talked to down here, UM is still regarded as a powerhouse in the region. I also have an interest in working for a government entity so even if I do rack up a lot of debt, I can take advantage of generous repayment options such as PSLF after 10 years and IBR. Basically, if I don't end up top ten percent and don't get a shot at biglaw after 1L then I'll probably gun for a public sector job. Thanks for your insight!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Citylaw on December 15, 2013, 09:57:21 PM
I am a lawyer in California not Florida, but I can tell you when I was a 0L I believed the rankings meant something, but the bottom line is once you pass the bar your a lawyer.

Having gone through law school I think any potential student should consider what law school to attend based on the following factors in this order. (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about the School (4) Understanding the Reality of Legal Education (5) Last and certainly least rankings.

An brief analysis of each factor is below.

1) Location
Looks like you have this figured out I cannot tell you how many 0L's myself included believe going to the best "ranked" school they can attend regardless of location is the right decision. That is incredibly stupid because if you want to live in Florida attend law school in Florida don't attend Seattle University if you want to live in Florida at graduation. It sounds like you have that aspect figure out so your ahead of the game.

2. Cost
For your purposes this is what you need to consider.

FIU Tution = 16,000 per year x 3= 48,000 for an FIU J.D.

UM= 39,000 per year x 3= 117,000 fir a UM J.D.


NOVA & St. Thomas : Scholarships are great, but what are the CONDITIONS . Often the conditions will be something like a 3.0 GPA requirement and I'm sure you think that will come easy anyone offered a law school scholarship got a 3.0 in undergrad without breaking a sweat, but law school is much different and typically only 35% of the class can have a 3.0 GPA at the end of first year meaning there is a 65% chance you will lose your scholarship for years 2 & 3, which can result in substantial costs.

NOVA = 33,000 per year (1L= 16,500 and depending on conditions 66,000 for 2L & 3L = 82,000

St. Thomas= 1L Free (68,000 years 2 & 3 again all depending on scholarship conditions.

You have to ask yourself is UM worth and additional 65,000 and I assume your taking out loans, which will be at approximately 8% interest and resulting in the interest for the UM degree being around 9,300 per year post grad while FIU will be around 3,800 per year post grad.

There is no right or wrong, but really consider cost when choosing your school law school rankings change drastically every year, but the debt you accrue does not.

3) Personal Feelings About the School

This factor is very important for your situation as well. When I was a 0L I visited a number of schools and while in law school I competed in mock trial competitions and visited many more schools some I liked others I hated, but those were my personal opinions.

I recommend you visit all these schools talk to professors, students, admins, walk around the campus, etc and see what feels right. Listen to your gut you will like one of the schools more than the other and listen to your gut feeling when visiting these schools there is a right fit for everybody and each school has their own culture make sure you choose the one that fits YOU.

4. Reality of Legal Education

No matter what law school you attend you will learn the same exact thing. Your first year will consist of Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Legal Writing and Civil Procedure. In these courses you will read Supreme Court cases and the Supreme Court does not write seperate opinions for different law schools and more importantly the law is the same no matter what school you attend. Roe v. Wade applies the same to Harvard Grads as it does to Cooley Grads.

Additionally, at the end of your three years of law school you will then take BarBri or Kaplan and be in a room with law students from across the Country stressing out and then you will be in a room with thousands of law students taken the Bar Exam if you pass that exam your a lawyer if you don't your not regardless of the school you attended.

5. Rankings
It is important to realize U.S. News is nothing more than a magazine offering an opinion and they rank more than law schools. According to U.S. News Alburqerque, New Mexico is the best place to live . That is great, but I don't imagine your going to move to New Mexico because U.S. News said it is the best that would be ridiculous, but for some reason law students make life altering decision based on this magazine and it is a terrible idea.

On top of that law school rankings change year by year you can see Miami has been as high as 60 in the last 5 years and as low as 77 what changed during those 5 years nothing I am sure, but the methodology used by U.S. News is far from full proof and it doesn't need to be they are a magazine offering an opinion and if you want to make a life altering choice based on a magazine go ahead, but I would use law school rankings as a tiebreaker nothing more.

There is no right choice all four schools will give you a solid legal education, but you want to watch your debt if St. Thomas is offering a full ride with attainable conditions then that might be something to consider, but you have to ask about the conditions etc.

Also as I mentioned visit the schools see what feels right and go with it.

Good luck in your decision.

Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 16, 2013, 05:54:24 PM
That was a very informative response. Thank you! I think Miami is what feels right as of now and I am already speaking to alumni and students who have nothing but good things to say about the U. One alum even offered to mentor me and I haven't even started school yet so I can already feel the prestige factor in UM in this region. The stipulations on St. Thomas scholarship are pretty ridiculous as in must be top 35 percent ridiculous. Nova stips aren't as bad but still not the best. FIU is an up and comer but I really didnt like the campus or what I heard from the faculty, students and I have not found one alum in the areas that interest me.
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Citylaw on December 16, 2013, 09:57:08 PM
Glad it was informative and it sounds like UM is a fit for you, but don't let them know it yet. Something you should really consider is negotiating for scholarship money. Tell UM you have a Full Ride at St. Thomas and Half tuition at Nova and are really considering attending to save money. They are unlikely to match the scholarships, but they might throw in 5-10k.

Also tell Nova your considering Miami and try to get more out of them. Additionally, negotiate better conditions with St. Thomas.

Remember as a 0L you have all the bargaining power law schools need to fill seats and your a qualified candidate, but once you enrolled your bargaining power is gone.   

However, listen to your gut if Miami feels right then it is right, but try to negotiate some sort of scholarship deal before you enroll.

Good luck!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 17, 2013, 05:52:42 AM
I have been trying to negotiate pretty furiously but both attempts were turned down due to my low lsat score. Is possible to maybe just request a a set amount such as $7500 even though they've already told me that it doesn't look like I'd be eligible for anything?
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: livinglegend on December 17, 2013, 07:39:35 AM
Have you tried negotiating with the other schools? If Nova gives you a full ride and you bring that back they might take you more seriously or maybe you will become more serious about Nova.
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 27, 2013, 06:37:27 PM
Looks like I won't be getting any scholarship money from U of Miami after another round of negotiations. A six figure debt at graduation seems so daunting but is it really something that I should be that concerned about? Miami has a nice trend placing grads in the public sector and placed about a third of their graduating class this past year in the public sector. I'm really close to just going there even though it's going to be very expensive. Any thoughts you guys may have?
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Miami88 on December 27, 2013, 07:17:48 PM
I think you have already made up your mind. At this point, go with your gut. You know the pros and cons.

Also, there are tons of outside scholarships that you can apply for. Even if you just snag a few k... something is something. I also know quite a few people that worked during law school at UM. All that combined with living well within your means can help keep your debt as low as possible.

Good luck!!!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 29, 2013, 09:04:49 AM
Thanks! For the final round of negotiations I asked St. Thomas to drop the stipulations on my full ride offer completely.  If they do that, that will probably change my mind a lot considering I can probably keep my debt load under $25k for the entire 3 years combined. However, almost half of St. Thomas' graduating class did not get legal jobs this past year so I'm going to have to do a lot of networking/externships
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Miami88 on December 29, 2013, 09:25:34 AM
Did you ever negotiate with FIU? I'm sure if St. Thomas and Nova offered you $$, you can get something from FIU. That, plus the fact that FIU is so cheap for Florida Residents, would make it pretty enticing.

Good luck! :)
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on December 29, 2013, 10:17:35 AM
I really do not like FIU. I took a tour and the faculty and students just seemed so out of touch with the reality of the legal market. It's just not for me. I enjoyed my visit to St. Thomas very much and Miami even more so I would probably be picking between those two. Nova was alright when I took my visit but something about St. Thomas stood out a little more.
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Miami88 on December 29, 2013, 11:50:34 AM
Gotcha. Vibe is huge in decisions like these. Well, it looks like you will have a difficult decision ahead of you, but thats certainly a good problem to have. :)

Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on January 04, 2014, 07:16:27 AM
Just submitted two more applications to Mercer (they're sending someone down here on behalf of the scholarship committee) and FSU. I just realized how cheap FSU would be for me due to in state tuition (about $30k a year total with COL included) do you guys think I have a shot at FSU with my 3.8/154?
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: tampadave on January 07, 2014, 08:30:26 AM
I'm a lawyer in Washington, DC.  My daughter has a Dec '13 LSAT score of 157 and a 3.17 GPA from Ohio State.  She is moving to Miami this month and hopes to attend law school at St. Thomas, FIU, or Miami.  Clearly, her numbers stack up well with St. Thomas. Based on her LSAT/GPA, is she fairly competitive at FIU and Miami?
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on January 07, 2014, 11:05:27 AM
FIU is probably more of a realistic scenario. Her lsat is median and her gpa is at 25th percentile at Miami so she might have a shot  to get in there and as a South Florida resident, I would urge you to stay away from the dumpster fire that is St. Thomas as they do not have a strong alumni base or reputation down here. I was considering going there but they refused to drop the ridiculous stipulations that came with my scholarship offer. I would suggest looking at and looking at applicants from this cycle and last cycle to see where she stacks up. Good luck!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Citylaw on January 14, 2014, 08:40:28 PM will give you a fairly good idea of what her options are.

If your daughter can attain residency FIU is defiently the best bet from a financial standpoint with in-state tuition it is only about 14k per year opposed Miami, St. Thomas, etc which cost around 35-40k per year. Over a three year period it ads up to 42k per year over 120k.

Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: tampadave on February 12, 2014, 06:00:34 AM
Update:  my daughter was accepted at UM and FIU ($47k scholarship).  I was quite surprised at the quick turnaround on both applications. UM went from "file complete" to "admitted" in six days.  FIU took one day.
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: livinglegend on February 12, 2014, 07:46:24 AM
That is great news! However, one thing to look at with law school scholarships are the conditions. Usually a merit scholarship will be contingent on maintaing a certain GPA or class rank. i.e the scholarship will be 16,000 per year contingent on a 3.0 GPA the first year is guaranteed money, but if she falls below a 3.0 the scholarship is lost for 2l and 3l.

Maintaining a 3.0 sounds easy since anyone attending an ABA law school achieved that quite easily in undergrad. However, law school is different it is full of smart, hard working, motivated people and the way most schools work is that only 35% of first year students can achieve a 3.0, which means there is 65% chance the incoming student will not keep their scholarship year two and three.

Each school is slightly different, but really read the conditions on the scholarship. If they sound burdensome negotiate for better ones and also don't be afraid to ask for scholarship money from Miami.

Your daughter has good options and should be proud of her accomplishments, but many people don't understand the scholarship system so I like to inform incoming law students.
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on February 12, 2014, 07:19:37 PM
Hi Tampadave,

First off, I'm not a Florida lawyer and I don't have any personal experience with the market, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

That said, if I were in your daughter's position I would seriously consider the FIU at a discount over UM at full price. UM does have a reputational advantage over FIU, but it's not exactly an elite school, either. So the question is, does the reputational advantage justify the additional cost?

My guess is that a top student from UM (law review, etc.) probably has a better shot at big firms in Miami than a top student from FIU, but that mid-low ranked students from both schools probably face similar job prospects. If your daughter ends up competing for jobs at small and midsized firms, the lower debt from FIU can allow more flexibility.

Best of Luck to her!
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: LawOwl on February 14, 2014, 05:06:37 AM
It really depends on what your daughter wants to do with her degree. If she is committed to private practice or is not sure what she wants to do with her degree after graduating, FIU is the safer bet because she won't rack up a lot of debt in the process. Be advised however, that almost every midsized and small firms will almost always take a UM  grad over any grad from another local school because the alumni base down here is that strong for UM. Like your daughter, I got in at both UM and FIU but will be attending UM at full price because I am committed to working in the public sector (I work at my local state attorneys office and have already been offered an internship after 1L) and plan to take advantage of pslf/ibr. FIU is too new of a law school to really have a strong alumni base that will get her a quality job. As a South Florida resident, I can tell you that networking is in some ways more important than grades and going to the king kahuna (UM) down here IS going to make a difference. But again, it all depends on what she wants to do with her degree
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Miami88 on February 14, 2014, 08:32:34 AM
From my experience down here in Miami (speaking with managing partners at big law firms, smaller law firms, businesses, and even ancillary legal organizations)....

1) The top top top top top kids from UM (think valedictorian) will have a (slight) shot at big law. Big law is not going to happen for any fiu kid (unless they already had the connections to begin with, i.e. their parents are hiring partners of the firm).

2) Generally speaking, UM has a slight edge in terms of reputation - however, almost every hiring lawyer has said that they are extremely impressed with FIU's program (even UM alum attorneys are saying this!). My bet is that within 10 years, FIU's program will at least be neck and neck in ranking with UM if not better.

3) From my impression, it seems that the only people who are really saying UM 100% are recent UM grads (within the past 10 years). The older folks down here (the ones actually hiring) are much more positive either way - and if anything are telling kids to strongly consider FIU given the cost.

If the costs are about the same (also factor in their loan repayment programs), I'd certainly go UM. If you are more than likely going to be the top of the class, I'd go UM (which, if you were a strong contender for the top of the class, you would have a serious scholarship and the prior consideration would take hold). In almost every other case, though, UM's slight ranking advantage does not make up for the cost difference. At some point, a law degree is a law degree is a law degree. If the employment stats were gravely different, then ok - but they aren't.

In sum, then...

Job Prospects: Both UM and FIU are about the same for the majority of students with maybe a slight edge given to UM
Bar Passage Rate: FIU's 90% beats UM's 80%
Employment Stats: FIU's 57% is statistically the same as UM's 59%
Reputation: UM nominally beats FIU, however, tides may be turning...
Location: Subjective... UM is in a posh neighborhood and the students tend to be from white middle and upper-class families. FIU is far from anything and the students tend to be from hispanic middle/low-middle class families. But both are in the greater Miami area! <3 Miami
Campus: I must admit, UM's general campus is far prettier, however, UM's law school is both old looking and feeling. FIU has an okay general campus, however, the law facilities are amazing (and new).
Cost of Attendance: FIU's 120k beats UM's 210k. This disparity is worse given you have scholarships from FIU and not from UM. So its more like FIU 70k and UM 210k...

So the big question... Is UM's nominal boost in reputation and lesser bar passage rate worth over $140,000 of extra debt?
Title: Re: South Florida law schools
Post by: Citylaw on February 17, 2014, 05:30:35 PM
I think the reality is that the law school you attend is given a lot more attention than it deserves. Miami is a fine school as is FIU and another ABA school. When I was in law school I was caught up in rankings, etc, but once I entered the real world I realized how trivial it all is. Obviously Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc will open doors, but I cannot imagine to many firms or agencies in Miami will simply a hand job to a someone from Miami instead of FIU.

The legal profession is a pretty much like anything else results matter. If you finish in the bottom of 25% of the class at Miami, have no internship experience, didn't participate in any activities, no professor relationships employers will not be knocking your door down. That same fact pattern goes for any law school.

If you finish in the top 10%, were a mock trial champion, law review, great relationships with professors, etc you will have a lot of doors open for you no matter what law school you attend.

However, even if you are top of the class etc you will have to open the doors and that means applying to jobs, dealing with some rejection etc. Very few firms or agencies simply say he went to X school hire him. Cravath and some of the major firms do that with Ivy League Gradus, but the Miami District Attorney will not say oh Miami Law School hire him/her.

I really think any student is better off getting out with as little debt as possible unless they are going to attend Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia or a school of that caliber that is nationally known. Otherwise don't pay $100,000 dollars more to attend the 47th opposed to the 74th best school nobody really cares.

Just some advice from an anonymous internet poster so take it for what it is worth.