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Messages - Thane Messinger

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General Off-Topic Board / Re: Student v. School
« on: January 14, 2011, 12:56:44 PM »
I agree with everything you said, but I don't think you understood my point. I think there is no question you should go to a T14 if you have the chance period. There are varying degrees of schools, but considering there are 200 ABA schools and only 25% of them are tier 1 it leaves 75% of law students in the tier 2,3,4 range. Many students will take on 80k more in debt or move across the country to go to a tier 3 instead of a tier 4. That is just not smart and 75% of incoming students will be facing this same dilemma in the next few months. I was going to go to Michigan State and pay 60k more in tuition and live in a state where I have no connections and have no desire to live. The only reason I was going to go was because it was tier 3 wow. Nobody would have cared Michigan State was tier 3. Maybe it does fine in Michigan, but I have no desire to live there and from what I understand Michigan is really not doing to hot. On the other hand I have a million friends in San Francisco and my fiance's family had a house I could live in rent free. There was no logical reason for me to go to Michigan, but in my idiotic mind I thought going to a tier 3 was worth taking on 60k more in tuition god knows how much more I would have had to take out in living expenses considering I am living rent free right now. Not to mention I would have been in freaking Michigan in subzero temperatures I am a California kid and the weather alone would have killed me.

Quite right, bigs, and an important point for anyone considering law school.  Below the top schools (top 14 really, more than just top tier), for most employers anything outside their normal hiring pattern (i.e., their feeder schools) becomes a blob. 

Thus, it is crucial to consider factors beyond the rankings.  (I do disagree, somewhat, with the on-going criticisms of rankings.  They...the rankings...are valid.  But they're not useful in the way many use them.)  Ah, humans.

= :   )

PS:  Juan Doria made just this point in his at-times hilarious book, Slacker's Guide to Law School.  I believe it was someone from Alabama going to Iowa, 'cause they had sent him a pretty brochure.  (Before anyone gets mad, Iowa has an excellent program.)

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Student v. School
« on: January 13, 2011, 08:39:59 PM »
If you are going to an ELITE school you worrying about the debt probably does not matter much. If you are going to a the 98th best school or something the odds of a Biglaw coming your way are minimal. I believe for those who actually get hired the average salary might be somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70k. That 70k is going to get taxed and you are going to have bills to pay rent, food, transportation, etc. If you have a 160k loan hovering over your head that is accruing 8% interest you are going to be paying for a piece of paper the same way you would a house. It might take you 25 years to pay off and if you are going through all that to go the 98th best school instead of the 112th then it probably is not a smart decision. At a T14 school the opportunities for Big Law and getting a lucrative job are much higher and maybe the extra cost is worth it.

Bigs & All -

The caution is not whether school x is good or bad, right or wrong, cheap or not. As you state, there are a number of variables to cost-effectiveness, the school and first-year performance chief among them.  The danger is that we don't often truly focus on the "cost" part of that equation, especially in the unreal world of student loans.

The caution is that nearly all law schools are expensive, and going to any law school is extremely so.  This calculus applies to all.  Not that we shouldn't go--as most of us should--but there are many for whom law school is a default "choice."  If mom and dad are paying (which was certainly not the case for me), congratulations!  But it can still be the wrong choice.

The options for an inexpensive education pretty much involve a state school or scholarships (which often involve a trade-off itself), plus free housing and maybe even free food.  (See "mom and dad," above.)  Even a relative bargain such as UT, in-state, is now at a cost that I could not then have afforded, were the rates today (even adjusted for inflation) applied then. 

The University of Michigan led the way, discovering that setting its tuition at the rate of its Ivy-covered brethren and plowing that money into building a world-class program . . . worked.  Everyone else learned this lesson too, which with ABA mandates has raised the tuition bar everywhere.

So, it seems a bit dangerous to assume that the option is between Top 14 at a very high cost or somewhere below at a modest cost.  There really isn't any such thing.  Even the economical MSL is more expensive than I paid (again even adjusting for inflation).  I wonder whether I would have considered my options differently had I not had the option of a nearly-free education (with scholarships in years 2-3).

Even at a public school, in-state with scholarships but also factoring in opportunity costs and living expenses (whether frugal or extravagant) and you're WELL over $50,000.  Opportunity costs alone--hidden but no less real--add at least another $100,000 . . . above and beyond tuition.  (Yes, that's redundant, but if I were looking at law school today I'd hope there would be someone to nag me a bit about such things.  = :  )


General Off-Topic Board / Re: Student v. School
« on: January 13, 2011, 02:33:57 PM »
I'm pretty sure I spent about 250k+ to go to law school.  Some was loans, some was earnings, some savings.  I didn't live well at all.  Figure $50k/yr for tuition+ fees, 21,000/yr for a crappy, tiny apartment near school, $6k/yr for a crappy, tiny apartment near the summer job, $3k/yr for travel expenses (flying to interviews, going from school city to job city etc) and you are up to ~$80k x 3 = $240,000 before you buy any food, books, local transport, clothes, etc.

And to think I was criticized for bringing up "a quarter of a million dollars!" as the wake-up prior to deciding whether or not to embark on law school and a legal career.   = :   )

Is it worth it?  Usually . . . for the right person and with the right approach in law school and then in practice.  It can be hugely lurative, whether or not one is a star (to start), but with the wrong (and distressingly common) approach it can also be depressingly bad, even without the inane qualities mentioned in the article.

Can it be done for less?  Sure.  But even then, with opportunity costs and the many risks, this is well worth pondering.

I did not see the Ivy League thing in the OP's statement. 3.2 is not to hot for an Ivy League school. 3.2 works fine for tier 2,3,4. Columbia not so much.

Hate to write it, but absent some extraordinary unmentioned favorables, BikePilot is quite correct.  And, while in public we don't like to be harsh, amongst admissions folks, see prior sentence.  (This is true even below the top schools.)

Also correct is the advice to retake the LSAT.  If law school is important, spend six months to study like, well, a law student, and see what you can do.  If your LSAT rises significantly, many committees are willing to give the benefit of the doubt, with a flawless application and strong softs.


Current Law Students / Re: Pass/Fail Grades
« on: January 11, 2011, 11:50:29 AM »
There always will be a focus on grades (or some other similar indicator) because the employers need a way to distinguish students.  The best indicator of legal ability for summer associates is their law school performance.  Employers put pressure on law schools to maintain a method whereby students can be distinguished, therefore, unless the schools can come up with a better system for indicating legal ability, the employers will not accept the change and the schools will not abandon the GPA system (schools will not risk alienating legal employers because (1) the employers can look elsewhere, and (2) the school risks taking a hit to its endowment).  Take Harvard, for example.  Although Harvard has moved to a "pass/fail" system, it is not a "pure" pass/fail system.  Harvard still has "high pass" (HP) and "low pass" (LP) grades.  Employers closely scrutinize how many HP or LP a student has, students within the same school focus on their performance relative to others in their law school class, and therefore, competition is virtually unaltered.  Even Yale doesn't have a "pure" P/F system: First-semester first-year students are graded on a pure P/F system, however, their remaining two and a half years are graded on an Honors/Pass/Low Pass/Fail system.

Good points.  There's an old saying: "The A's will teach, while the B's will work for the C's."  [And this saying was back when the "A" grade was for the top 4 percent of the class, not 10% or, for many undergraduate programs now, 25% or more.]

From employers' perspectives, YHS mean "honors."  To a lesser degree, so do the rest of the top schools, in (steeply) cascading groupings.  Within each batch, employers differentiate those who can accomplish their goals.  Those goals aren't "intellectual" (very much not), but they do require qualities: intelligence, diligence, thoroughness, and organization.  Grades reflect these qualities.

The higher the stakes (such as with clients at national firms), the more insistent employers will be.  Thus, while grade inflation certainly feels nice, in the end employers reset their standards.  And with pass/fail, other indicators come to the fore.


Current Law Students / Re: This Should be Required Pre-Law School Reading
« on: January 11, 2011, 11:12:56 AM »
Completely agree, he is an unsympathetic example on the one hand - but it still raises the question about the accountability of lenders and easy access to such horrendous debt.  At what point do these loans stop?  Lenders accountable for being stupid enough to grant these loans, this guy accountable for taking out the loans.  If so much money is readily available, what motivation is there for schools to "right-price" their product?  The tuition/loan system is feeding itself: raise tuition, increase loan amounts... and so on. 

True, but one of the dangers is that the incentives built into the system point in the opposite direction:  ever-higher mountains of debt.  This was all serviceable a long as the system works, which works until it doesn't.  When recessions hit, graduates are hit first and hardest.  And clients are increasingly unwilling to foot the bill for all of this.

Current Law Students / Re: This Should be Required Pre-Law School Reading
« on: January 11, 2011, 11:03:15 AM »
Thane, are you implying that you have to do work and take accountability for yourself to be a successful attorney? Keeping records and being organized might really keep me away from blogging on the internet or checking my face book.

= :   )

This would be funny if it weren't so sad.  And true.  Just yesterday I saw students guffawing over the latest clips.  Two points came to mind.  First, they were hee-hawing over clips of a child doing something crazy and very nearly suffering critical, potentially lifelong paralysis.  I like humor.  I like fun.  I really do.  That's what keeps life interesting and light.  But the only two things this told me was how unfunny it was, and how seriously disturbed these students were for thinking it was funny.

The second point was that it was obvious that, to these students, it was class that was the distraction.

For anyone who'd like a sneak peek into the mind of your prof:  They have you pegged.  They'll never say it, but they'll know to an amazingly accurate degree just how far you'll go.

Have great fun, get smashed, have lots of sex, whatever.  But when you're in public, remember what your grandparent might have said.  You WILL be judged accordingly.  And these judgments WILL make a difference.

Sorry for sounding like someone's grandparent.  = :   )

Current Law Students / Re: This Should be Required Pre-Law School Reading
« on: January 10, 2011, 07:52:03 PM »
After reading this article again I started rethinking this. The guy is 250k in debt no law school is that expensive. The guy must have taken out private loans and gone far above what any school recommended.

The article states that he attended Thomas Jefferson and since the economy was good when he first started he borrowed a lot of money and nearly bought a home.  Fortunately, he backed out of the deal, but then the article states "Instead, Mr. Wallerstein rented a spacious apartment. He also spent a month studying in the South of France and a month in Prague all on borrowed money. There were cost-of-living loans, and tuition of about $33,000 a year. Later came a $15,000 loan to cover months of studying for the bar."

So there you go.  This article has a lot of interesting things to say about the obscene costs of law school, deceptive statistics used for ranking, poor job prospects and the decided ignorance of many prospective students, but Mr. Wallerstein was a poor choice of focus.  Clearly, he made a lot of mistakes, a lot more mistakes than can be blamed on law schools or the ABA.  Sadly, that kind of poor judgment is not going to make anyone sympathetic to the plight of law students in over their heads and is going to muddy the waters for those who might have actually learned something from the article.

Indeed not.  There's another quote in there that's an eye-opener, and important for all law students:

Im not really good at keeping records.

If so, he will be a lousy attorney, and a miserable one (if, indeed, he ever keeps a law job). 

One of the truths of the law that is not sufficiently well told, or heard, is that the law is intensely detail-oriented.  The law is all about keeping records.  Not in the same way that an accountant does, but paperwork, paperwork nonetheless.

To all, if you're not already a fan of keeping records, documentation, paperwork, and all their friends . . . now is the time to get extremely efficient about this.  It will help, and it will help your sanity.


Law School Admissions / Re: Thoughts on Multiple LSATs
« on: January 08, 2011, 10:42:23 PM »
I saw a 15 point jump in my LSAT, and so far my decisions have lined up with my higher score.  Of course, in my case there's a 4 year gap instead of a 6 month gap, but write a concise addendum explaining the jump and apply as if you have just the 165.  The only schools I know of that average are T14; most just take the highest.
You should have a good shot at most schools in the 20-30 range assuming the usual softs.

Quite right.  For reach schools, how this is addressed in your supporting documents will be key in whether they are willing to give more-than-averaging consideration to your higher score.  In many cases they are inclined to do so, but need a reasoned basis why.


Current Law Students / Re: Does effort even matter?
« on: January 08, 2011, 10:39:59 PM »
I've always been a decent law student;  I hover around the top third in class rank.  Well this semester (my second-to-last) I have a job and I work a lot, so I decided to not do anything school-related.  No reading, no listening in class, no notes.  A week before finals, I got some old outlines for my courses, indexed them and read through them a couple times.  I got straight A's.
I usually study my butt off and get a 3.3 gpa, so this is kind of a big deal to me.  It just makes me think that knowing how to take a test well and focusing on the highlights might be far more important than the hours spent on learning everything about the course (most of which won't be on the test).
It also makes me wonder how anyone could ever fail a law school exam.

J24 -

One of the aspects of law school that is hard to fathom, even for law graduates, is the [low] correlation between effort and result.  Most 0Ls would find it unbelievable . . . and, judging by some conversations and threads, do find it unbelievable (and are quite upset with folks such as I who attempt to tell them otherwise . . . that their brilliance, often mis-directed efforts, and cherished habits won't help them pull through.

What distinguishes a good exam from a mediocre one is not a knowledge of the law.  [!]  Rather, it is an ability to do something with a presumed knowledge of the law.  So, after first year, you see law reviewers doing just what you describe, and still acing their tests.  How?  They're not regurgitating stuff.  They're not attempting an "info dump," and are instead looking at the exam question and fashioning a cogent legal analysis.

To your point, however, this isn't about "knowing how to take a test" as in gaming the test.  That's the stuff of undergraduate, memorize-and-regurgitate, and multiple-guess fame.   Rather, it's the difference between knowing the law and using the law.


PS:  Yes, it is possible to fail a law exam.  It's not easy to do so, but it can be done.  = :  )

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