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Messages - loki13

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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.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Need help making a decision
« on: March 24, 2015, 06:47:59 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. ;)

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.

"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?

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