Where should I go next fall? / Re: Dear Current Students who took Money over Prestige...Please Help!« on: June 29, 2008, 11:30:16 PM »
If you don't have any idea what you want to do, you should give serious consideration to going the prestige school so that you don't foreclose any opportunities.
I think it's the other way: if you know you want biglaw, then go with higher ranked; otherwise, take the scholarship to keep your options open.
It's a trade off. Higher ranking makes you a more attractive candidate for all employers. Lower debt makes more employers more attractive to you.
This is probably the best advice I've heard on this board so far. Take the money if you feel you want to practice in the area of the lower ranked school. If not, go for the biggest name. Lower tier schools do not necessarily limit your career options, but they do create detours. For instance, if you have a liberal arts undergrad degree and no substantive work experience, BigLaw will not be impressed with your JD from a lower ranked school. If you have some work experience, a marketable undergrad degree (i.e. accounting, finance, marketing), or are the top of your class, you will have something to distinguish you from other applicants. However, even if you can't get into BigLaw right off the bat, you can always lat-move up to BigLaw after a few years of working for a boutique firm (especially if you get some strong litigation experience).
I think people focus too much on where they start their career. No matter where you start your career, you are not limited by that. I live in Las Vegas. From my experience with the legal market here (I'm an accountant, so I work with many tax, securities, and corporate attorneys), most did not go to top schools. In fact, the majority attended T3/T4 schools, and they are not worse for it. If you want to practice in NYC, LA, SF, DC, then you will need the pedigree. However, you can find jobs in many smaller markets without a "T14" (whatever that means, since they change every year) on your resume.