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Messages - sergei33

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Here is my Cooley experience, for what it is worth.  I had mediocore grades and a good LSAT - a 3.2 from Michigan and a 169.  My decision was geographical, however: I was only looking at law schools in the State of Michigan (at the time there were 5).  I was waitlisted at Michigan (my undergrad), accepted at DCL w/ no scholarship offer, and accepted at Cooley with a 50% scholarship (the same grades/LSAT would be full ride today).  I chose Cooley rather than waiting for Michigan.  My first hint at an anti-Cooley animus was when I was told that choosing Cooley over Michigan meant I "must be on crack."  I was in part going by the ABA study which indicated that for the first two years of laws school there is virtually no difference in the quality of education you receive from any ABA-approved school.  I found Cooley to be a bit bipolar - on one hand they have an expansive admissions policy; on the other the classes are very hard.  In my entire career there I had one exam that allowed any kind of outline or book in the exam.  I am told that most of the 1st-tier schools allow such materials.  Not only is the subject material difficult to grasp (every law school is largely self-taught) but the format of any law school is unlike anything most people have tried before - one test per class, and that is your only grade.  I got good at it, earning 11 book awards, serving on the law review, and having a research paper of my own published. I clerked twice during my tenure and graduated 2nd in my class.  Based on those credentials, I felt confident about my Cooley experience and confident about my job prospects.  I was mistaken.  Not necessarily about Cooley, but about the legal industry itself.  To step back a bit, one should consider what the legal business is really like.  According to the ABA more than 60% of lawyers still practice in small or solo firms.  To over simplify a bit, there are two kinds of places you might work (assuming private practice): a small firm or a big firm.  A small firm will only hire when it has a specific need, and then can rarely afford to hire a new graduate - they need someone to immediately generate income.  Large firms virtually only hire one way: seasonally, and out of the pool of their summer associates.  Given that framework, here is what I found as the (almost) universal mindset of lawyers looking to hire recent graduates: the most important criteria (in this order) are (1) your grades, (2) where you went to school, (3) any experience you have.  Note that only the last has any direct application to your ability to do the work; these criteria make it easier on the decision maker.  Thus good grades are the first layer of no-brainer filtering; school reputation is the second layer.  To get back to my experience, I had a lot of interviews with some of the best and biggest firms in Detroit, none of which led to offers.  The only job I was able to find, after more than 2 years of looking (I started while early in 3L) came about literally by dumb luck and good salesmanship - with a small firm.  The cold fact is that Cooley has a poor reputation - regardless of whether it is deserved.  I believed at the time that I could be a good lawyer; I know now that I am.  Very few people were willing to take the chance, however, solely because of unthinking criteria.  As a caveat, I suspect this is the case for any "4th tier" school, although I cannot say from personal experience.  If a lot of Cooley grads are working for the government, bear in mind that one should not conclude that is the only place they work nor that they stay in those jobs: your first job is just that, a first job.  I am now 1/2 of a two-person firm, representing some of the biggest land developers in the state.  My peers and clients respect my work, I am making good money, and my quality of life is more than I had hopedfor this early in my career.  To a certain extent it is because of Cooley; to a certain extent it is despite Cooley.  If I had to do it over again, I don't know that I would choose Cooley again, but I still hang that massive diploma above my desk, and my State Bar card is the same shape and size as every other lawyer's in Michigan.

Sorry for the length of the post, but that's what you get for asking. ;D

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