Law School Discussion

Deciding Where to Go => Choosing the Right Law School => Topic started by: Mdw426 on March 09, 2015, 07:03:49 AM

Title: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Mdw426 on March 09, 2015, 07:03:49 AM
Hello,

As we all know, we are quickly approaching the deadline for law school seat deposits (April 15). But I'm still conflicted on where to go. Here are my choices: Dickinson on full scholarship, drexel on full scholarship, villanova on full scholarship, temple on 3/4 scholarship, or U Penn with no money offer (which I realize is long shot compared to the others). I've been hearing a lot of opinion, but only from my family and of course each law school admissions dept. but I'm looking for your opinions. I don't really have any specific type of law in mind in terms of a career path. What I'm wondering is, what is my best choice? Is temple worth 5,000/yr when compared to the others? Is Penn really worth it's full cost? Are there other schools I should look into? I will value any response, let me know if you need more info, thanks!
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 19, 2015, 06:48:07 AM
I will make this simple-

If you can afford it (loans, etc.) AND you really want to be a lawyer, and know that, and want to make the sacrifices to make that happen, go to UPenn. It is an investment. It's a T14 school. It's national. You are almost guaranteed to find a decent job (if you wish) afterwards. The debt will suck, and will haunt you for a long time. It wouldn't be worth it outside the T14 (at all!) But that degree can be a powerful signal.

Your last comment doesn't make any sense. At this point, how could you be looking into other schools?

Then, there's another issue. Are there any conditions on any of the scholarships? Not all scholarships are equal. Do any have GPA cutoffs (and what are they compared to the curve)? Unless there's some strings, I would take the money. Which means Dickinson (Penn. St.). Congratulations.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Mdw426 on March 20, 2015, 07:34:06 AM
Thanks for response! The only requirements for my scholarships are to "maintain good academic standing"- so either a 2.0 or 2.2 GPA. Also, I know job prospects are better for Penn graduates than for my other options, but would my job opportunities depend largely on my academic performance at the school rather than simply the name on the degree? For example, do straight As at Nova give me similar prospects to average grades at Penn?

Also with my question about applying to other schools, I just meant that, considering my present offers, is there potential for me to get a scholarship to a school ranked higher than Penn State, say Notre Dame or George Washington.? That is if the school's rep matters as much as many say it does. Thanks.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 20, 2015, 08:07:55 AM
I know this advice will seem simplistic, but it is true. I remember, a long time ago, when I was told these same things and I didn't believe them. I didn't want to believe them because I wanted to have more control over the process, and because the decision mattered so much to me. And to my life! But choosing a law school is a pretty simple business.

First, consider cost carefully. I would *not* pay full freight at any school outside of the T14, with the exception of some in-state schools. Now, some people are in different situations (for example, their parents are paying, and they have a guaranteed job after graduation because they come from a family of attorneys), but that's my opinion. The risk/reward just isn't worth it. Remember- everyone you are competing against, for the most part, did really, really well in undergraduate.

Second, don't believe what law schools are telling you. No law school outside of the T14 or so is "national". Heck, some of the schools in the T14 aren't that national. If you go to a school in the T50, expect to practice in that region. If you go to a school outside of the T50, expect to practice in that locality. Does that mean you will? No. But chances are, you will. Most school in the T100 can pull some examples of students that went to a BigLaw job at another coast, or got a clerkship with X federal judge... but they did that on their own, and because they finished at the very top of their class. This doesn't mean that these schools are bad... the good students at these schools are just as good as the good students at the best schools in the nation. But it's the way it is. So, when looking at schools outside of the T14, consider where you want to practice. Seriously. That doesn't mean that you're forever trapped there. But it does mean that if you dream of practicing in, say, Los Angeles, you probably shouldn't be looking at Dickinson.

Now, moving to your specific questions... it's hard to answer without having some idea of your goals. No one knows exactly what they want to do going into law school (no, you're not going to be a "Constitutional lawyer"). But going to a school like UPenn gives you a much better chance of working at a BigLaw job, or getting a clerkship with a federal judge, or a prestigious (but lower paying) government position than these other schools. Period. The alum network will be better. Is it Harvard, Yale, Stanford or Columbia? No. But it's going to be a powerful signal that will help you for a long time..... on the other hand, you'll be looking at, what, $200k in debt by the end? (Don't forget that you need to live, in addition to tuition). That debt *will* constrain your choices in the future, but it will can certainly be worth it (be aware that BigLaw, for example, is not for everyone.... I did my time, made my money, and I am now working my dream job).

Your questions about "straight As" at Nova, to me, are nonsensical. Never, ever, ever count on straight As. Right now, you have no idea if you'll do well in law school. If you'll make law review. If you'll get on moot court. *Every class your 1L year has a forced curve*. Do you know if you will do as well as your peers in contracts, crim law, con law, property, and torts (all of which are decidedly different)? Are you as good at timed essays as take-homes, open book as closed book, as good at multiple choice (my 1L year I have exams in all those formats)? Instead, assume that you'll do the average, and work to do better. Treat it like a job. Assume that if you go to a school like Villanova, you'll likely be working in that market. Remember- their connections, their alum, their OCI focus is in that area. I worked BigLaw in two markets, neither Philadelphia. I never met a Villanova grad, and I wouldn't know anything specific about that school.

And that's the real issue. There's a trend in your schools. Do you want to work in the Philly market? If so, I would go to a full scholarship school like the ones you have listed. Probably Dickinson. Because once you go out of the T14, you need to think of law schools like real estate- location, location, location. You are not doomed to where you went to school, but it is more likely that you will end up practicing in that area. And remember that lawyers, moreso than almost any other profession, have a lack of portability due to state bar requirements and the differences in state laws. Once you start practicing in one state, it is no easy task to suddenly move to another (yes, some states and groups of states now have reciprocity allowances... but others don't).

TLDR- Penn is an investment if you are sure, otherwise take the free ride. Whatever you do, don't count on finishing with straight As or at the top of your class. You very well might, but remember that the majority of your class mates feel the same way.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 20, 2015, 09:03:56 AM
So maybe this will help. Look at a BigLaw firm like Reed Smith (they are big in the Philly market). Do a search for different law schools. You'll find the following:
4 Villanova associates (all Philly).
4 Drexel associates (3 Philly, 1 DC).
6 Dickinson associates, 11 partners (Philly, Pittsburgh)
43 U Penn Law grads, from Silicon Valley to London.

Now, do the same search for a well-known big law firm not prevalent in the Philly market (say, Quinn Emanuel).
Many U Penn grads (from NY to LA)
No Villanova.
No Drexel.
One Dickinson grad who built up his practice, and then lateraled in as a partner.

This is what I'm trying to get at. It's about risk-reward. UPenn will give you options, but it will cost you. The other schools are a free lottery ticket- and I would seriously consider them. But that's a choice you have to make. But what it comes down to is this; if you're willing to take the risk, I'd go to UPenn; if not, go to the best school in the location you want to practice in that is giving you a free ride.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Miami88 on March 20, 2015, 04:07:33 PM
Yeah... this really is a non-question. Go to UPenn and be done with it. That said, this is assuming you don't already have a job lined up right now come graduation. In other words, if you are planning on working in your dad's firm for the rest of your life and you are just going to law school so you can practice... save yourself the money and go to the cheapest school possible. Basically any other life scenario... for goodness sake, go to UPenn.

For so many reasons... check out:

http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/pennstate/2013/
http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/villanova/2013/
http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/temple/2013/
http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/penn/2013/


UPenn places approx. 3/4 of their class in literally the most competitive (and high paying) jobs at graduation. Yes, you are looking at about $250k of debt on graduation. You will be able to pay that off well within 5 years of graduation working in BigLaw (starting salaries at $160k plus some bonuses and raises). And from there, you will basically be free to transition into any area of law: partner in big law; mid law or small law; in-house; flipping burgers at burger king...

All these other schools, you are looking at about $80-90k of debt (cost of living!). You would HAVE to graduate in the top 5-10% of your class in order to have a shot at big law. Realisitcally, you would be working in a small law firm or for the government (if you can find a job at all) making $60k. It will take you 10-20 years (if that) to get out of debt and you will be bottlenecked to work only in those legal sectors (lateraling up from a small firm to big law could happen, but so could winning the lottery).

Granted, the above is a bit blunt - but not that far off from average (in other words, it is not a best case/worst case thing).

Those are all the quantitative reasons for UPenn. Qualitatively, you will be challenged intellectually more so at UPenn than the other schools. Yes, you will end up learning the same things and reading the same cases. But the real difference will be what you take away from your peers. The average intellectual caliber at a school like UPenn is undoubtably higher than the average at these other schools. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying UPenn kids are smarter than Temple kids. I am saying that it is far more likely the kids that did really well on the LSAT and did really well in undergrad (read: were motived to study hard) will, on average, be the kind of people that will push you intellectually in a far high degree than at the other schools. This is seemingly a trivial factor, but when you are living and breathing off of 80+ other law students' thoughts for 5+ hours a day for three years... it becomes much more important than you would think.


Finally, have you tried asking UPenn for scholarship money? You might be able to squeeze something out of them using the other offers (and by begging). Worst case, they say no.

Good luck and congrats!
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on March 23, 2015, 10:18:03 AM
In most situations I think people should just take the cheapest degree possible. However, most people don't have the chance to attend a nationally recognized school like Penn.

This is one of the few times when I would at least seriously consider attending a certain school, even if it involves debt accrual. Penn is one a very limited number of schools whose reputation alone really can open doors throughout the country. This may (or may not) be worth the debt depending on what you want to do with the degree.

If you want to hang your own shingle and do family law, or become a local prosecutor, then I'd go for the free degree in a heartbeat. But if you are inclined towards Biglaw, federal jobs, or just aren't sure what you want to do yet, then Penn may be worth the investment. Keep in mind, however, that even as a Penn graduate you will still have to compete for the top jobs. Plenty of students from Harvard/Yale/Georgetown, etc are also after those positions.

Congrats! 
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on March 23, 2015, 10:32:22 AM
Second, don't believe what law schools are telling you. No law school outside of the T14 or so is "national". Heck, some of the schools in the T14 aren't that national. If you go to a school in the T50, expect to practice in that region. If you go to a school outside of the T50, expect to practice in that locality. Does that mean you will? No. But chances are, you will.

Yep.

I live and work in the Los Angeles area and I cannot tell you how many times I've seen students pass up the opportunity to attend a solid local school on a 50% scholarship in order to attend a non-elite (but higher ranked) out of state school. They have been so imbued with the notion that rankings are infallible, that they cannot fathom that law firms in LA won't give a crap that you attended the #52 school vs the #67 school.

I've tried to explain that once you get away from truly elite schools (not just "good" schools), cost and geography should drive the decision  making process. Frankly, many of them are oppositional to the information. Oh well. They'll learn the hard way that a $150k debt is a far bigger obstacle to their success than the arbitrary nuances of law school rankings.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 23, 2015, 11:26:05 AM
" that they cannot fathom that law firms in LA won't give a crap that you attended the #52 school vs the #67 school"

This. A thousand times over. I cannot emphasize this enough. You think the difference between a, say, "Emory" (#19!) and a UC Hastings (#59) is huge? Let me explain this- if you want to practice in Atlanta, or the South, go to Emory. If you want to practice in Los Angeles, or Seattle, people will have no idea what an "Emory" is. Even that giant disparity doesn't matter as much as location.

Going back to the original post, the only reason that I wasn't quite as full-throated in my support of UPenn as Maintain and Miami (both post, btw, that I absolutely agree with) is for the following reasons:
1. I don't know enough of your background. You have listed a number of Philly-area schools; do you live in the area? Can you minimize living expenses, etc? Do you plan on practicing there? Are your connections there? If so, then the full-ride schools might be a decent option.
2. I think that UPenn should be a slamdunk decision. But it is still a risk-reward scenario. I have had friends who can't hack BigLaw. Who burn out after one or two years (which can be a lot of due diligence / doc review type tasks, depending on your litigation/transactional slant). It's said that the law is a lot like a pie eating contest, where the prize is that you get to eat more pie. Go to UPenn, and you will have a career, but you'll need to plan around that debt (with the benefit being that UPenn is one of the very few schools that graduates people to jobs that can take care of the debt). OTOH, go to another school *and you may never have that BigLaw job or clerkship you dream of*. But if you find out that what you really wanted was to be a public defender, or some other job that doesn't provide great remuneration, then you have a very manageable debt load. Of course, there's the possibility you can't find a job if you don't do well (something that is exceedingly unlikely if you go to UPenn).

But if I were in your shoes, I would go to UPenn.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Miami88 on March 23, 2015, 12:30:55 PM
2. I think that UPenn should be a slamdunk decision. But it is still a risk-reward scenario. I have had friends who can't hack BigLaw. Who burn out after one or two years (which can be a lot of due diligence / doc review type tasks, depending on your litigation/transactional slant). It's said that the law is a lot like a pie eating contest, where the prize is that you get to eat more pie. Go to UPenn, and you will have a career, but you'll need to plan around that debt (with the benefit being that UPenn is one of the very few schools that graduates people to jobs that can take care of the debt). OTOH, go to another school *and you may never have that BigLaw job or clerkship you dream of*. But if you find out that what you really wanted was to be a public defender, or some other job that doesn't provide great remuneration, then you have a very manageable debt load. Of course, there's the possibility you can't find a job if you don't do well (something that is exceedingly unlikely if you go to UPenn).

But if I were in your shoes, I would go to UPenn.

yes.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 24, 2015, 10:06:42 AM
First and foremost realize that anything you read on this board or others mine included comes from anonymous internet posters and should be taken with a grain of salt. There are some valid posts above, but the law school you choose is a highly personal decision and the reality is any ABA school will provide you with a quality legal education and the opportunity to obtain a license to practice law.  If you pass the bar and become a licensed lawyer whether you succeed or not will have a lot more to do with you than the school you attended.

With that intro I think any incoming law student should consider the following five factors in this order when choosing a law school. (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal feelings about the school; (4) Understanding the reality of legal education; (5) Last and least U.S. News ranking.  Here is a good article summarizing these factors and I rambled on about them below as well. http://www.legalmatch.com/choose-the-right-law-school.html

Location:
It looks like you want to be in Pennsylvania so you are looking at the right schools, but I am unfamiliar with Pennsylvania and don't know if these schools are in vastly different areas. The neighborhood your school is in will be where you spend three years of your life so it is something to consider.

Cost
Getting out of law school debt free would be awesome. However, has another poster suggested be careful of the conditions it sounds like it is only a 2.0 at most schools, which is fair, but don't assume the law school will do you any favors be very certain you understand the conditions. This New York Times Article explains how law school scholarships work better than I can. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?_r=0

However, getting out of law school with little or no debt will give you more freedom down the road, which is something to consider.

Personal Feelings about School:
Each school has a culture to it and whether you like that culture is a question only you can answer.

UPenn is an Ivy League School, which is great, but maybe your not an Ivy League type person. One of my friends went to Harvard Law School, but hated every minute of it. He is from the inner city and not exactly a preppy person and would have been happier going to  a school that had more scrappy people in it. He got a Biglaw job offer, but hated that environment and then started his own firm and is a solo practitioner hustling, but he loves it. He could have had full scholarships to numerous other schools, but now the Harvard debt is impacting him. The point is he was not a fit at Harvard, but there are certainly plenty of people that are.

So the point of that story is really look at yourself and what you like and don't like. No magazine, internet poster, etc can possibly know what fits you best. I encourage you to visit each school, talk to students, alumni, professors, walk around the neighborhood and determine, which school feels right. UPenn might be the perfect fit, but it might be a terrible fit as well, but this is a question only you can answer and the only way to answer this question is by visiting the schools and talking to people in person.

4) Reality of Legal Education
Any of these schools will provide you with a great education. At any ABA school you learn the same thing. Your first year courses will consist of  Torts; Contracts; Civil Procedure; Property; Legal Writing & Research; and then Crim Law/Con Law/ or Crim Pro these switch between schools for 1L and 2L, but you will take all of those courses. In those courses you will read Supreme Court cases and the Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for different law schools nor does the law change if you attend a different law school. 

In Torts you will read Palsgraff to learn about proximate cause; Pennoyer v. Neff in Civ Pro to learn about notice; Hadley v. Baxendale in contracts to learn about remedies. So on and so on.

After three years at any of these schools you will then need to take the bar exam. You will sign up for either BarBri or Kaplan and then be completely stressed out for 3 months then pack yourself in a room of thousands of people where students from all of these schools will be taking the bar exam. If you pass the bar your a licensed lawyer if you don't your not. None of these schools guarantee you will pass and whether you pass the bar or not will have a lot more to do with you than the school you attend.

5) U.S. News Ranking:
Remember that U.S. News is nothing more than a for-profit unregulated magazine offering an opinion. U.S. News is doing nothing wrong by offering it's opinion, but there is no science behind it. U.S. News ranks everything from hospitals to best places to live and Alberqueue, New Mexico is the #1 place to live according to U.S. News http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/best-places-to-live

I imagine you are not going to apply to New Mexico law school, because U.S. News said New Mexico is the best place to live. Use the same logic when choosing a law school, you can certainly consider it, but a magazines opinion should not be the basis of one of the biggest decisions of your life.

Conclusion:
I know nothing about you or your situation and certainly do not know what is best for you. The only person that can really answer the question is yourself, but use the factors above to assist in your decision. I also guarantee you now matter what you choose you will wonder "what if". I was accepted to numerous schools and even paid deposits at three. Part of me always wonders what if I had chosen school X over school Y, but you can only choose one and make the best of your decision.

Good luck and congratulations on all your acceptances.

Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 24, 2015, 10:26:10 AM
"There are some valid posts above, but the law school you choose is a highly personal decision and the reality is any ABA school will provide you with a quality legal education and the opportunity to obtain a license to practice law."

To the extent this statement is true, this is misleading. While your post is largely correct, it is also largely the type of drivel you see from most admissions offices. The vast majority of people are going to law school to practice law, which means that they are looking to get a job. This is an outcome-oriented business, and people are paying a great deal of money (investing) for their outcome. Sure, a graduate from Tom Cooley is just as able to pass the bar as a graduate from Yale. But the likely expected outcomes are vastly different. And people rarely can get a good feel for a school just by visiting, not to mention that many of the things that people believe to be important at the outset will have little relevance when they graduate (give me a dime for every 0L who said they wanted to be either a "Constitutional Lawyer" or a "M&A Lawyer" and I wouldn't have had to do BigLaw to pay off my student debt). In short, do you really expect 0Ls who already know so little that they pay credence to the difference in 5 ranking spots in US News and World Reports to truly understand what makes law school different, especially when law schools offer a largely undifferentiated product?

This is not the complicated business you make it out to be. While the US News and Worlds Ranking are hardly a good guide, they can at least serve to alert a smart 0L to what schools are national in their ambitions (say, Cornell and up). These are schools that are "worth" full tuition in terms of likely job outcomes. *As soon as you move out of that sphere*, it becomes a much dicier proposition, and cost should be a major concern. Why? Because a 0L could take the money they would spend on law school tuition, and go to business school. Buy a house. Get started in a different career.

I agree that location is extremely important after you get out of the T14 (or so). A person should expect to practice in the region or locality that they go to school. And sometimes, there are special factors (I often cite the UMaine example- I would never go there, unless I was planning on practicing in Maine).

But I disagree about placing location over cost. Graduate with a degree in a location you want to live in, but be saddled with no job prospects and a ton of debt? Awesome! And that has happened to far too many people. We already have too many attorneys, too few jobs, and too many law schools (which the market has started to correct)- the wise person, at this point, needs to view this in terms of cost-benefit. Sure, don't go to a school with a free ride if you'd never want to practice in that area. But if that's your best option, perhaps revisiting the entire law school idea is preferable to paying full freight?
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 24, 2015, 04:30:50 PM
Plenty of people do rely on U.S. News, but I am not one of them. Of course a Harvard degree can open doors, but not everybody wants that many choices. If someone wants to be a public defender in Lansing, Michigan then Cooley is a better choice than Harvard.

Of course you cannot know how it will go based on a visit or any amount of research. It will either work out or not and if we any of us could know how things would turn out these decisions would be pretty easy. I think the best people to talk to our alumni from schools in your area, but certainly visits are helpful.

To the OP neither I, Loki13, or any other poster really knows what is best for you. For all you know I could be a tweaker in a public library or the Dean of Harvard Law School. These boards and items such as U.S. News can be used as tools to assist in your decision, but don't make a life altering decision based on an anonymous internet posters opinion.

In my experience the name of a law school does not matter that much.  There are thousands of successful lawyers from every school and maybe in three ways the firm you really want to work at will love Penn Grads or maybe they will hate them. It is frankly a crapshoot and my anonymous internet poster opinion is that whether you succeed or not will have far more to do with you as an individual than the name of the school on your diploma. However, no matter school you attend the debt will be real and my two cents is try and avoid it, but there are plenty of reasonable people that will disagree with that advice.

However, remember this is your three year, $100,000+, life altering commitment and nobody knows what is best for you better than yourself.

Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 24, 2015, 06:40:09 PM
I am going to write again because I strenuously disagree with what Citylaw is serving up.

"Of course a Harvard degree can open doors, but not everybody wants that many choices."

This is true. If someone states that they want to practice in Maine, and they have a job lined up post-graduation, then, by all means, go to UMaine! The vast majority of people do not have that luxury, and the reason they are asking questions is because they don't know (if they did, they wouldn't be asking).

"If someone wants to be a public defender in Lansing, Michigan then Cooley is a better choice than Harvard."

This is false. There is never a conceivable situation where Cooley is a better choice than Harvard. Even if a person believes they will be PD in Lansing. Cooley is, quite literally, the worst, and have been notorious for their terrible policies vis-a-vis students. Simply put, if Cooley is your best option, seriously reconsider going to law school.

"For all you know I could be a tweaker in a public library or the Dean of Harvard Law School."

This is true. I could have been running the "long con" by posting here starting in 2006. That would be a lot of effort! But to recap- I went to law school (so I'm familiar with that). Graduated and worked BigLaw after summering as a 2L. Now that I've done my time and made my money, I'm working the job that I've always wanted. But no, I'm not the Dean of Harvard Law School. I have been in practice for some time, and hired attorneys, and I am active with my school's alum and administration.

"In my experience the name of a law school does not matter that much."

This is 100%, verifiably false. Sure, after you've been in practice for a while and built up a book of business, you do what you want. But do you want to work BigLaw? Do you want a federal clerkship? Maybe dream of the academic track? Do you want a very powerful alum group? Yes, there are limited cases where the best option might not be a T14 school (you want to enter state politics, so the state law school could be a very good choice), but the name matters for the very top law schools. What people don't understand is that it doesn't matter after that. So, again, there are really only three groups of law schools. The T14 (or so). The next T50-100 (which are, at best, regional). And the rest (which are extremely local, sometimes even to the city).

"However, no matter school you attend the debt will be real and my two cents is try and avoid it, but there are plenty of reasonable people that will disagree with that advice. "

No. No reasonable person, at this stage, and considering the lessons learned in the last six years, disagree that a student shouldn't avoid debt. The risks are too real, and there are far too many horror stories. Outside of a very few schools that have realistic possibilities of putting large numbers of their students in top jobs, the simple fact is that most law schools do not graduate students into positions that allow them to easily pay off their debts.

"nobody knows what is best for you better than yourself."

I would agree with this, with the caveat that many people have unrealistic expectations. People listen to the advice of, inter alia, Citylaw, and believe that they can go to a school, graduate, pass the bar, and good things will happen (the "any school will give you the tools to be licensed attorney" theory). They don't, for many people. There are far too many un- and under-employed attorneys out there for this to be an accurate representation.

The two biggest shocks I had in my life were my first year of law school, and my first year of practice. My first year of law school taught me that everything I thought I knew about the law before I entered law school was either wrong or inadequate. My first year of practice taught me that law school (even my summer experience and clerking) poorly prepared me for actual practice. Which is a fancy way of saying that getting that first job in the law is so important, and, unfortunately, the *where* you went to law school (and, especially outside of the T14, how you performed, law review, moot court, etc.) can determined your career path. Definitely? No. But sometimes hard truths are better than positive generalities.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Miami88 on March 25, 2015, 02:39:55 PM
But no, I'm not the Dean of Harvard Law School.

... precisely what the Dean of Harvard Law School WOULD SAY, MARTHA MINOW!!!
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 25, 2015, 07:07:03 PM
Feel to disagree with me.

All I can say to the OP is remember this will be one of the biggest life choices you ever make. You can listen to internet posters or go out and talk directly to real people.  There is no bad advice on this thread, but talk to people in person and you can judge their credibility first hand.

This is a very big decision and there is no absolute. There are scenarios where Cooley is better than Harvard. This is few and far between and 99% of the time not the case and if you want to go the Clerk-Big Law etc path it is 100% not true. However, not everyone wants the Big-Law clerkship path and if you want to work for a solo attorney in Lansing Michigan they will be more likely to hire someone from Lansing law school than flying a Harvard Grad out.

If you want the traditional law school path then Penn will open the most doors, but I do not know you or anything about you. If your goal is to open your own firm right out of law school get out with as little debt as possible. Frankly the possibilities are endless and having never met you or knowing the first thing about OP I will not tell him/her that X school is the absolute right choice. Use the factors I mentioned as well as the other posts on this board as preliminary info, but the best information comes from people you can talk with face to face.  You cannot do with that with myself, Miami88, or Loki13. For all you know we are all using the same screen name and hired by Law School Discussion to disagree to generate content. That is not the case, but maybe it is there is nothing wrong with saying anything you want on this board or others.



Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Miami88 on March 25, 2015, 08:00:07 PM
For all you know we are all using the same screen name and hired by Law School Discussion to disagree to generate content.

...exactly what a Law School Discussion employee would say.... MARTHA MINOW!!!!
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 26, 2015, 07:49:48 AM
"There are scenarios where Cooley is better than Harvard. This is few and far between and 99% of the time not the case and if you want to go the Clerk-Big Law etc path it is 100% not true. However, not everyone wants the Big-Law clerkship path and if you want to work for a solo attorney in Lansing Michigan they will be more likely to hire someone from Lansing law school than flying a Harvard Grad out."

I agree. Judge credibility of people. Let's take this bon mot. Cooley, for example, places less than half of its graduates in long-term employment. It places less than 1/3 (22.9%) of its graduates in employment that requires a JD... that's any job. Public defender. Sole practitioner. Anything. Combined, it places less than 1% of its class in any sort of clerkship of BigLaw job. Think about that for a second. But wait, there's more!   And the graduates of the Cooley are the lucky ones (maybe?). Because Cooley is notorious for failing out students in its first and second year, and their conditional scholarships.

Harvard graduates 87% of its students into jobs that require a JD (some, supposedly, take their Harvard JD into other positions, like my friend who then went to DC). 73% (!!??!!) go to clerkships or BigLaw. If you want it, you'll get it. And if you really want to be a PD in Lansing after Harvard- guess what, you can have that, too! Which is certainly aren't guaranteed if you decided to attend Cooley (see above).

What about costs and fees? Harvard costs 10k more per year. So that's 30k over three years. That's called an investment. In not getting totally screwed by a nearly worthless degree.

Go to websites like lawschooltransparency, and see what the real numbers are. Treating this as some sort of mystical decision does students a disservice. Like any investment in your future, this is a decision that should be fact-based, not made up because you liked one admission department's dog and pony show better than another's, or because you talked to a grumpy 2L at one place who was editing a cruddy law review article on a non-bagel day and a sunny 3L at another place who was blowing off their "Law & Pottery" class.

And this gets to the heart of my disagreement with Citylaw. It's not that his advice is necessarily bad (yes, location and cost are the two most important factors, and USNWR ranking are, mostly, useless, other than identifying the general groupings of schools). It's that it's so general as to be both useless and misleading.

Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on March 26, 2015, 10:49:50 AM
I have a lot of respect for the above posters, both offer good advice.

However, when the discussion devolves into Cooley vs. Harvard we enter the theater of the absurd. How many students are actually faced with such a stark choice? Is anyone who has been accepted to Harvard actually contemplating Cooley, or any other school outside of the T14? Surely there are a handful of such cases, but it seems rather pointless to make such comparisons.

Personally, I think anyone who gets accepted to Harvard would be crazy to turn down the opportunity unless it was to take advantage of a full ride at another well known school. If you've read any of my previous posts then you know that I am VERY skeptical of the rankings and encourage people to examine all facets of their available options.

Nonetheless, a degree from Harvard/Yale/Stanford is so instantly recognizable as badass that it will be a boon to the job applicant regardless of geographic location. Even if your goal is to be a PD in Maine or Lansing, the Harvard degree will help. The debt is another issue.

A far more realistic scenario (and one which has the potential to adversely affect many more prospective students), is when someone is debating between Low Ranked School at Discount vs. Mid-Ranked School at Full Price. This is where the rubber hits the road.

How many of us know people who wanted to work as attorneys in say, California, but turned down a scholarship to the local T4 in order to attend a non-elite, out of state school because it was ranked higher? Huge mistake, IMO.

So, do rankings matter? Yes, especially at the top. But as others have stated, once you get into the great blurry mass of the other 190 or so schools that are not elite, you better prioritize cost and location over rankings.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 26, 2015, 12:16:44 PM
Solid posts above, but my overall advice is for each individual person to take their own feelings into account. All four people that have chimed in on this thread attended law school and are working as lawyers, and none of us are in complete agreement. In all likelihood the four of us have very little common with the OP.

For all I know OP is a Transvestite and a Transvestite student might have a harder time fitting in at Harvard or Yale than a school in San Francisco.  Although, BYU is a great school I would not recommend Provo, Utah. There can be a lot more to choosing a school than prestige. For the typical white male/female straight out of undergrad sure Harvard, Yale, Stanford if those doors are open go for it.

Another example would be if we are talking about a 44 year old non-traditional student with a family. That person should not attend Harvard, Yale, or Stanford.  First making your family move to attend law school is probably not a good idea. Even if there is no family consideration very few big law firms are hiring 47 year old associates and that student would be better off going to a regional school getting out with as little debt as possible and opening their own firm.

Again, location does matter as well. I am a City Attorney and we have had Harvard, Yale, graduates apply for positions with us, but we are in California and government agencies don't have budgets to fly people across the country for interviews nor are we going to offer someone a job that doesn't live locally.  In politics, which attorney work many cities want people from the area not some person out of nowhere.

Would I as a typical white male with few family connections chosen  Harvard, Yale, Stanford over any other school? Yes I would have, but there are plenty of people with different goals, expectations and wants. Of course use common sense, but each persons law school experience is highly personal and I strongly believe whether someone succeeds as a lawyer has a lot more to do with them than the school they attended. However, there are plenty of lawyers out there that believe credentials are the most important.

To the original question it looks like OP wants to be in Pennsylvania, and I strongly believe any of these schools will give you the opportunity to succeed. If you are not that entrepreneurial and want the clerkship/big law route then Penn will open the most doors for jobs.

If you are more of a hustler and really just want to start your own firm then getting out with as little debt as possible is a good option.

Also, if possible try to negotiate a scholarship with Penn tell them you are very impressed, but X school is offering you a full ride they might throw $5,000-$10,000 a year your way. Worst thing they say is  no and your in the same position your in now.

Good luck. 



Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 27, 2015, 09:23:57 AM
"So, do rankings matter? Yes, especially at the top. But as others have stated, once you get into the great blurry mass of the other 190 or so schools that are not elite, you better prioritize cost and location over rankings."

I completely agree with this. At this point, I'm continuing the thread because it's better than Russian spam. :)

A few points I would like to emphasize- when I worked in BigLaw, I looked at my incoming class of associates. In all the offices, there were four (four!) associates from outside the T14. One from UCLA (in the LA office). One from George Washington. Two (including myself) from other top 50 schools.

There were 14 Harvard grads. That means that Harvard, alone, placed more than three times as many graduates into my BigLaw firm as associates as did every other school from 15 on.

Next, regarding the City Attorney position raised by CityLaw; I agree that know local government will fly you out to interview; on the other hand, your chances of getting hired increase exponentially if you are Harvard grad. One of my friends (Harvard Grad) couldn't hack BigLaw, and left after a year. She went on to work cases in the local city government. Her pedigree, as opposed to accomplishments to date, got her the job. That's neither right nor wrong, but rather a fact of life. Sure, once you have proven yourself in practice, your law school will fade away (except for the academic track if you want to be a professor). But that takes a while. A T14 degree will open a lot of doors.

I am not sure what to make of the transvestite/gay comment re: HYS, as it appears based on somewhat outdated stereotypes. Harvard, to use one example, is among the most progressive schools in the nation, with an active LGBT community (at least, it was according to the people I knew who were a part of it).

I do agree with the second career bit from Citylaw; if you're much past the age of 30, it will be much harder to get the type of job to help you pay down the debt that a T14 school will give you. That goes to the question of whether it's a sound investment, but I would also question why someone would want to attend law school at 44 unless they are already financially secure  and this is more of an intellectual exploration / desire to explore a second career that they can take or leave.

Finally, I would ask that Citylaw post some more thoughts about hanging out the shingle (becoming a sole practitioner). One of the ongoing issues in legal practice is how difficult it is for new attorneys to begin practice without experience, as law school is not a great way to gain experience... this has been an ongoing topic of conversation in my state bar. Simply put, absent a close network of people that you can rely on for advice, as well as community connections that you have prior to law school (clients!), and an entrepreneurial spirit, I would never recommend hanging out your shingle to begin with, but instead working, for at least a year or two, with a small practice or as a prosecutor/PD (litigation experience). Had I hung out my shingle to start with, I know I would have been committing malpractice. But, again, I am risk adverse, and I know that various state bars are trying to help with this problem.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 27, 2015, 11:17:46 AM
Solid post Loki.

The Transvestite post was not towards Harvard, I imagine Boston and Harvard to be very accepting places. I was mentioning a situation such as a Transvestite student at BYU not being a good fit or a bible thumping Christian from Alabama struggling to fit in at Berkeley. Those are extreme scenarios, but although Boalt is a great school I would not recommend someone that is highly conservative attending school in the Bay Area. I would also not recommend a highly liberal transvestite attending a Mormon school. Not to say either school would deliberatley do anything bad, but I think it would be very difficult for either of those students to fit in.

As for the hanging out your own shingle again for the typical straight out of undergrad to law school student hanging out your own shingle would be a bad idea. However, to go back to the age aspect if someone has 10 years of business experience before going to law school they could probably handle operating their own law firm right out of law school. However, I imagine both you and I had similar paths with minimal work experience prior to law school. I would have been a disaster hanging out my own shingle right out of law school as well, but I was 27 years old with some minor paralegal experience.

I had classmates older classmates that had started their own businesses before law school and business backgrounds and started their own firms out of law school that did quite well.





Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 27, 2015, 11:36:37 AM
Citylaw,

Well, I was a non-trad in law school (and the oldest person in my associate class). My concern was not just the business side of starting your own firm (which is considerable, and is fraught with not only the typical concerns of starting a going concern, but also perils that only exist for law firms, such as client accounts), but also the more mundane issue of experience.

Which is to say, even having clerked, worked before, worked as a RA in law school, summered for a BigLaw firm, *and* worked for a local firm while in law school, I was still woefully underprepared for actual practice. Law school lays down a great foundation, but I would have had no idea how to the following straight out of law school:
1) Prepare a will (really) that was anything beyond the most simple of wills.
2) Draft a contact that was solid.
3) Prepare a trust (actually, I still can't do that).
4) Litigate in state court.
5) Litigate in federal court. Well, now I'm an old hand at this one, but I know a lot of practicing attorneys that are still terrified to litigate in federal court.
...and so on. There are so many small intricacies that are either formal rules (does your state have a specialized system or requirements for certain types of suits that you waive if you don't comply?) or are norms (how do you really conduct discovery) that are learned through practice, and it can be very hard to pick those things up on your own.

I know that some people can start practices out of law school, but in the last two decades or so, it has been my experience that this avenue has become much harder. Thoughts?
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 27, 2015, 12:01:14 PM
Agreed and it certainly is not easy to start your own firm out of law school and for most recent graduates it is not likely. However, there certainly are graduates that have enough confidence right out of law school to do the things you mentioned, but it is rare. As you know most of the law is simply having the confidence to think your right, but that is not easy to obtain. Some people are born with that decisiveness and confidence while others are not.  The confidence and decisiveness can also backfire if it is wrong, but having clerked etc I imagine you saw many lawyers that you could have done better than.

Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 27, 2015, 12:06:29 PM
"The confidence and decisiveness can also backfire if it is wrong, but having clerked etc I imagine you saw many lawyers that you could have done better than. "

Heh. Maybe that's the problem. I've gradually gained confidence from seeing so much terrible, terrible lawyering. So I know that at least I'm not as bad as what I'm usually litigating against.

On the other hand, part of being semi-smart is worrying that you're not right, because there's always more law, more issues, and more things to look at.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 27, 2015, 01:48:20 PM
Exactly, but there is always more research that can be done, but at some point you also have to pull the trigger and do a tangible task. Where that balance is of doing to much or to little research is a difficult thing to learn.  I know personally they have been times when I made something simple very complicated and other times I should have done more research.

I also wanted to make one comment about the number of Harvard associates in Biglaw.  Again, if Biglaw/Clerkship is the goal then there is no question that choosing a T14 school is the way to go.  Biglaw cares about credentials, but outside of that 1-5% of the legal market it matters much less.  There are many people that simply want to be D.A.'s or Public Defenders. If that is the goal do not go to Harvard or Yale get out with as little debt as possible.

Again, good posting it is nice to not have spammers on here.









Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 27, 2015, 02:09:26 PM
Citylaw,

The reason I take issue with your goal-based analysis is that, unfortunately, the vast majority of incoming 0Ls don't have a clear idea of what it is they want to do. I often joke about the 0L that wants to be a "Constitutional Lawyer" or an "M&A Attorney." In addition, most have an extremely unrealistic picture of what attorney's earn (average salary not being the same as the median salary, for instance). Simply put, there are a few high salary jobs, a few mid salary jobs, and a larger number of "starter" jobs. And if you're not certain, your best option is a T14. In addition to the BigLaw jobs, many offer various types of loan forgiveness that you just can't get at other schools if you go into public service-y type jobs (they can afford to, since so many of their grads are making money).

The factor I think you are ignoring is that many schools outside of the T14 can't place their students into jobs. They just can't. I know the market has improved somewhat, but I have seen the decimation that occurred from 2008 onwards. People in my class couldn't get jobs- and this from a well-respected school. People in the next year's class, top students, struggling. So many unemployed and never getting jobs. Let's take an example- Temple. Good school. Ranked #52. In the last three years, they have never been able to graduate even 60% (from 52-59%, including school-funded jobs) into a position that requires a JD.

And that's the difference. I am *not* a T14 snob, as my experience shows that you don't need a T14 degree to succeed. But I'm also quite aware that the cost/benefit ratio is very different when you leave the T14. I could not, in good conscience, recommend that anyone pay full freight to go to a law school outside of the T14, unless it was a state school (lower tuition) or their parents were paying for it. It's just not worth it from a cost/benefit analysis.

I do agree with you that if someone is comparing a T14 school with a free ride (and no onerous conditions on the scholarship) at a T50 school, then perhaps, depending on circumstances, they might choose otherwise. But if a poster does not provide circumstances otherwise, I can't, in good conscience, tell them to pursue their dream at a lower ranked school.
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: loki13 on March 27, 2015, 02:22:22 PM
(By the way, I'm not picking on Temple- I was using it as an example of *good* employment numbers. Bad numbers are at schools like Ave Maria, which place 30% of their grads in positions that require a JD. Something to think about. Good schools are in the 45% (Penn State) 60% (Temple), 66% (UF), 75% (UCLA) range. Great schools are in the 87% + range. Penn has a 90%+ rate.)
Title: Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
Post by: Citylaw on March 27, 2015, 11:33:13 PM
First I agree very few OL's have any idea what they want.

However, any law school can and does place students in jobs, but it is a long road. The 9 months after graduation stats are highly flawed. First off you honestly cannot even be employed as a lawyer until 7 months after graduation at least in California where bar results are released in November and very few firms will hire in November or December so realistically it is not until that January when you even have a chance of getting hired, which is 9 months after graduation and odds are many lawyers will do some b.s. thing the first year or two out of law school.

Education however, is a long term investment as you have mentioned in your post you just landed your dream job, but I imagine there was a lot of stress and uncertainty going down that path. Most lawyers however that have practiced that have been licensed for 5 or more years do pretty well for themselves, but getting that first job is a pain in the ass.

However, this is not uncommon to law school.

College grads not finding jobs.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/half-of-college-grads-cant-find-full-time-jobs/

MBA's a bad choice
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/top-5-reasons-an-mba-is-a-bad-investment/

Nursing grads can't find jobs
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/top-5-reasons-an-mba-is-a-bad-investment/

I could go on and on with articles saying X education is a bad investment. However, the truth is starting out in any profession is difficult. To the best of my knowledge I am not aware of some guaranteed $200k a year cush job waiting for 100% of graduates in any profession. If that exists let me please let me know.

Basically anything is a challenge and there is no easy route. Therefore, if you want to be a lawyer go to school and use common sense when choosing the school you choose.

Law school is a great investment for thousands of students and terrible one for thousands of others.  Then these blanket employment stats from schools have little merit to me.  Frankly, if your in the bottom 25% of your class at any school, no internships, no mock trial, no nothing then it will be hard to get a job out of law school and probably to even pass the bar.

At the same school another student can finish in the top  25%, have numerous internships, participates in mock trial, heads law review etc likely will find a job, which goes to my overall point that whether you succeed in the legal profession will have a lot more to do with the individual than the school.

I interview people and schools are great, but I look at references, experience, etc. If someone attended Berkeley and had a 2.6, never interned, participated in nothing and showed up 20 minutes late to the interview I am not hiring them.

If another student from Santa Clara comes in with a 3.6, numerous professor references, internship experience, participated in mock trial, comes prepared to the interview etc I am hiring them.

So that goes to the overall crux of OP's question choose the school that fits them best, but if Biglaw is their main goal then sure Penn opens more doors, but is it worth the cost? Maybe, that is for OP to decide, but don't choose anything without thinking of yourself first and foremost.