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Messages - loki13

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Here's the thing- LA is a completely, totally, bizarre city. I lived near the LACMA(technically, West Hollywood area). If you talk to most people in Los Angeles, they'll tell you that it is a car city, and they won't be wrong. But it is also one of the most amazingly walkable cities I have ever lived in.

Okay, let me explain. "LA" isn't so much a single city, but a bunch of sprawling, urban neighborhoods. With the (usually) wonderful weather, and the sidewalks that are everywhere, it can be a much more walkable city than many others (such as cites in the South, which are gawdawful hot and often don't have sidewalks in many areas, or the NE, which have that whole Winter thing). But very few people walk, because it's not in the zeitgeist. When I worked downtown, people would (seriously) drive if it was more than a five minute walk. It was crazy to me.

LA also has a great subway system. Unfortunately, it doesn't go very far. But I loved it.

Finally, when I was there, I often took advantage of the buses. You have to understand the differences (the express v. the locals) but they could take you everywhere. Clearly, they weren't as convenient as a car, but the system was amazing! And a TAP card (for public transit) was so cheap.

So... here's the thing. It really was a cultural thing there. Poor people took the public transit. My firm reimbursed the cost of parking / public transit. AFAIK, I was the *only* attorney to take the public trasit reimbursement. Repeat- the only one. I had a car, I just didn't feel like driving it unless I had a court date somewhere out of the city.

But to answer your question- LA's public transit was, IMO, pretty amazing. The only reason I had even considered it is because I had previously lived in NE cities and used public transit (subways). If you keep your smartphone and google maps with you, and/or the LA Transit website loaded (maybe they have an app now?) it can take you where you need to go. That said, if you are taking a bus, remember that they also go on the roads, just like cars. Occasionally they get delayed. Try and make sure to be near an express stop (those are the big red buses)- the locals can, sometimes, take forever. Get a TAP card first thing. The subway system there is pretty awesome as well, but very limited; it also shut down early, and very occasionally would shut down at weird hours or at weird stations to shoot a film (look closely at many films and you'll see that the subway station in question is, in fact, LA's subway).

Finally, while you didn't ask it- neighborhoods really matter in LA. It's not a homogenous city.... at all. I loved where I lived. I could walk one way and end up at the Chinese Theater and the Grove. I could walk the other way and end up in Little Ethiopia for a great meal.

Hope this helps.

(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.)


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.

I should add something- you don't seem very positive on the "where" you're going to move to part. LA is NOT Santa Monica is NOT Long Beach. And, um, you might have heard that LA occasionally has traffic issues.

RE: public transportation, LA has a great bus system, and a very limited subway. Once you understand the bus systems (differences between express and local, for instance) it is extremely easy to use and pretty reliable.

That said, LA is definitely a car city. I can't add anything about taxis, since I never took one when I lived there (it was recently, but pre-Uber).

Good luck. And don't stress too much. I took the LSAT in a place that was an hour and a half from where I was living, and it was no big deal.

The bar, on the other hand...

It may be a bit outdated, but check out this thread:

It appears that the consensus is Southwestern, although some like USC (but not during football season).

I didn't take the LSAT in LA, but I lived there for a while. Southwestern is near the Wilshire/Vermont subway (for mass transit). Not the most scenic area, but still.

"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.


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?

"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.

"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.

Where should I go next fall? / Re: Need help making a decision
« on: March 24, 2015, 08:47:59 PM »
I completely agree with Citylaw regarding the last point- do not, whatever you do, go to a particular law school thinking you will transfer. There are two reasons for this:
1) You do not know how you will do. Everyone goes in thinking they will be above average, the star of the class. Now, most people go to law school because they're not good math. But you have to be pretty terrible at math to not understand why everyone can't finish in the top 10%.
2) If you do finish at the top of your class, so that you can transfer, you probably did well enough to get on law review and/or moot court. And you're likely giving that up. Maybe a scholarship too. And your network of 1Ls that you bonded with (and will be your friends for the rest of your life). This is no small thing. Transferring is almost always better in theory than it is practice, when it's even a possibility.

TLDR- do not base your decision on the possibility of a transfer to UT.

Do not be concerned with rank, at all. Outside of the T14, rank doesn't matter. None of the schools you have listed matters, other than the location. None of them are national. None of those names will carry you outside of their region.

If you ave your heart set on Texas, if that is where you want to live, where you want to practice, if you would be unhappy anywhere else... then go to UH. Personally, I would take the free ride, but (as an attorney) I am a little more risk averse, and I don't care much for Texas. ;)

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