Law School Discussion

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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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301
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Drexel or Loyola LA
« on: March 18, 2013, 01:06:47 PM »
I can't really tell you what to do, per se, because where you choose to attend law school is a highly personal choice. Nonetheless, I live in LA, went to law school here, and worked in the entertainment industry for a while. Perhaps I can offer some insight on the local market.

Generally, you should go to law school in the area in which you want to live, unless you have the opportunity to  attend a highly prestigious national school. It is much easier to obtain internships, clerkships, and other positions locally. If you have the reputation of an elite national school behind you, like Harvard, well, that's different. But if you attend a local/regional school like Drexel it might be very tough to land entertainment related internships in LA. Conversely, if you want to live in Philly, it might be difficult to make connections if you attend an LA school. 

Even in a big metropolitan areas like LA and Philly, law can be a very local, insular business. I've seen tons of examples of students from small, locally reputable (but not nationally known) schools easily beating out applicants from higher ranked out of state schools. The ability to make connections and to network is highly valuable, and it's tough to do that from three thousand miles away.

Loyola and Pepperdine both have good reputations in CA, with an advantage to Loyola, in my opinion. Lots of attorneys in the entertainment field are Loyola and Southwestern grads, as well as UCLA/USC and Pepperdine. All of these schools offer various internship opportunities and alumni connections with the studios or firms, and offer courses in entertainment law. If you attend school in Philly, you will have to find a way to compete against the local talent from these schools, which may be difficult.

Your uncle is right, in that attending Drexel will by no means permanently prevent you from practicing elsewhere. Drexel is ABA approved, and qualifies you to take the bar in any state. The question is simply one of difficulty. No matter what city we're talking about, whether its LA, Philly, Dallas, whatever, it is very difficult to show up after graduation in a new city in which you have no connections and to compete for jobs against local students who have had three years to develop a network and gain experience. This is especially true if you are not graduating from a prestigious national school, as you won't be able to rely on your pedigree alone to open doors. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but be realistic about the obstacles you may face.   

Additionally, if you really are interested in entertainment, you will need to pass the CA bar exam. This is no small task, as it's considered the toughest in the nation. Take a look at the CA bar pass rates from out of state schools, and take that into account.   


302
Law School Applications / Re: Prestige of UG
« on: March 16, 2013, 12:20:10 PM »
If you look at the matriculation profiles of elite schools (not just the so-called T14, but more like the top 5-10) there does seem to be a preference for peer institutions. At other schools, I think it matters a lot less. Law school admission is primarily a numbers game, and your GPA/LSAT will dominate the process regardless of where you went to college.

However, when you're talking about elite schools, they have so many well qualified applicants that they can afford to take undergrad prestige into account. If you look at the entering students' profiles of elite schools, you'll see that a large percentage of students come from other Ivy League universities, elite liberal arts colleges, and highly regarded public universities (Berkeley, Michigan, etc). That said, people absolutely do get admitted from less prestigious institutions, but the numbers are smaller. The thing to understand is that admission to these schools is highly competitive, and lots of factors that wouldn't matter too much at other schools can matter within this context. 

At the vast majority of law schools the prestige of your undergrad degree will not matter much at all. You won't get dinged for attending a non-prestigious school. I know people who went to UCLA and Berkeley and who graduated from commuter state schools. However, even at lower ranked schools, I think a degree from a well known school can help. I attended a highly regarded university for undergrad, and one of the scholarship offers I received specifically mentioned the reputation of my undergrad institution. I got the impression that it was a soft factor, probably on par with extracurricular experience. Not a big deal, but a boost.


303
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Suffolk Law
« on: March 12, 2013, 02:33:40 PM »
First, employers do care about the rankings.  Why do they care? Because they believe the highest ranked schools attract, on average, the most intelligent, hardest working students. 

I agree. If an employer sees Yale on your resume they're going to assume that you're very smart, and very hardworking. Not bad.

Do you think the same holds true for specialty rankings, though? Based on nothing more than my own anecdotal experience, I've never seen an employer get excited over the fact that an otherwise unremarkable school is ranked high in some random subcategory.

Say I'm looking at two resumes.  Author of Resume A went to an out of state school ranked 40, was ranked just outside the top 20%.  Author of Resume B went to an out of state school ranked T4, was ranked just outside the top 20%.  Assume I don't have a personal preference on the schools and I don't know either person.   

I agree that if an employer has nothing else to go on they'll probably make the decision based on rankings. But how realistic is this scenario? Typically an employer is not limited to choosing between two out of state, relatively unknown applicants.

I agree with you that rankings do indeed matter, but I think the degree to which they matter dramatically decreases the farther down the list you go. At the offices I've worked at, a local T4 grad with personal connections would have a much better chance than an unknown out of state grad from a random top 50 school. I'm not saying that the ranking would be completely disregarded, but I'm not sure that it would be sufficient to overcome a lack of experience or personal connections, either.

I've seen people from T4 schools get hired over T1 grads because they worked at the office as an intern and did a great job. They were a known quantity, and the hiring attorneys felt comfortable with them. I've also seen resumes from candidates who attended higher-ranked, but not exactly prestigious, law schools summarily dismissed. Why? Because they were unknown quantities, and lawyers can be very risk adverse. 

Now, if we include graduates from elite schools, the entire analysis changes. A Stanford grad will always get an interview, and probably get hired, based on pedigree alone.

304
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Suffolk Law
« on: March 11, 2013, 08:26:28 PM »
Why is the employment prospect bad for Suffolk if the US News ranks the programs nationally pretty high?

This is a good example of why I'm skeptical of specialty rankings. In my experience, they really don't matter. Suffolk, for example, may have a good local reputation for dispute resolution in the Northeast (as Pepperdine does in California), and has been given a high specialty ranking by USNWR.

For whatever reason, however, these programmatic rankings never seem to generate better overall reputational/employment dividends. It seems that law schools have a general reputation based on their history, alumni success, and admission selectivity. Getting ranked in a specific, narrow field never seems to have much impact on that general reputation (positive or negative). Part of the issue is probably that most students are only able to take three or four classes within a given concentration. Therefore, while a few specific classes may be considered "ranked", the majority of the J.D. program isn't.

Here's an example. Lewis & Clark has one of the highest ranked environmnetal law programs in the country, ranked higher than Harvard. Does that mean that a huge firm in NYC is more willing to hire an L&C grad than a Harvard grad for its Enviro/Natural Resources section? I have no doubt that L&C is a fine school, but the big firms back east still want nationally recognized names. 

Im just confsued as to why so many people are attending unranked schools? Is it because they are known regionally? If so, wouldnt the job prospect employment score be higher?

People attend unranked schools for all sorts of reasons, its difficult to generalize. I graduated from T3 because (1) I needed a part-time evening program, (2) I didn't have time to commute (the school was only ten minutes away), and (3) they offered me a 75% scholarship. Some people were there for similar reasons, others just didn't get in anywhere else.

As far as employment prospects, the numbers are down for all schools right now. Some T3/T4s have employment prospects that are equivalent to many T2s and even some T1s, others are very low. It just depends. Many T3/T4s have decent local reputations and produce lots of local judges, DAs, and Main Street lawyers. Especially if the school is geographically isolated, the employment prospects might be alright. You really need to look at specific local conditions and parallel competition in order to evaluate whether a particular unranked school is a good choice. 

305
I agree with most of your points. I'm recent law school grad, and much of the "advice" out there is amateurish claptrap from 0Ls and law students who have no clue what they're talking about. They simply ape what they've heard elswhere, or regurgitate the USNWR rankings.

When I was a 0L, I too made assumptions about the legal market based on the uninformed opinions of others. Since working at a firm and a government office, however, I see now that although some of my assumptions were correct, others were completely wrong.

(3) If you do go to law school, I would starting thinking about a career path outside of an AM LAW 200 firm RIGHT NOW.  I have friends that have started their own practice and they love it.  While the first year to a year and a half were rough, they now make about the same amount as I do.

This is a great point, and should be taken to heart by anyone considering law school. I'm convinced that much of the hand-wringing and high unemployment stats we see are the direct result of 1) unrealistic expectations, and 2) people having no clue how to actually get hired.

Unrealistic Expectations
Law students need to understand that the first few years out of school will likely be difficult, and they shouldn't expect to land their dream job at age 25. The people I knew in law school who expected to land great jobs and high salaries right out of the gate usually ended up disappointed and bitter. Those who focused on gaining lots of good experience in marketable fields of law, however, got employed.

Many law students are convinced that the only road to success is via large/mid-sized firms, and they're wrong. They consider small firm/solo practice as something to be shunned, but are clueless as to the potential for a good income. I met a guy recently who graduated from law school two years ago (a T4, no less) and has his own DUI solo practice. He charges 3K a pop, and brings in one or two cases a week. Even if you assume only four cases per month, that's 144k a year. Not exactly wealthy, but a helluva lot better than doc review. 

Getting Hired
If you're not graduating from an elite (or at least highly respected) law school, it's imperitive that you gain meaningful experience. The vast majority of law students will be competing for jobs at small and mid-sized firms, and perhaps local government offices. In my experience, personal connections and practical experience will often trump things like grades and school rank when it comes to landing these jobs.

Smaller offices don't have the time or money to spend hundreds of hours training a new associate. They need people who can hit the ground running. That doesn't mean they expect you to take a case to trial on day one, but they aren't interested in people who need lots of supervision, either. Most law students would be better served spending their days at a small firm writing motions and interviewing clients than by writing a law review article that no one cares about. If you can do both, so much the better.

I also think that part of the reason that the unemployment rate is so high is because people insist on applying for jobs for which they're simply not qualified. Law students must understand that you've got to make at least some effort to tailor your job search. Mass resume dumps don't work.

I worked at a firm that expanded quite a bit while I was there. When a position opened up, it was the typical story: we'd receive tons of resumes. But here's the thing, the vast majority of those applicants were completely unqualified. Not because they went to lower tiered schools or didn't have high grades, but because they lacked any relevant experience whatsoever. We were a civil litigation firm, and we'd get applicants whose sole experience was a one semester internship at the DA's office. Needless to say, those applicants didn't get interviewed. Keep this in mind when you're looking at unemployment rates. 

If you're smart, personable, and make a serious effort to gain experience and connections, you'll probably be alright no matter where you graduate from. If, on the other hand, you're immature and inexperienced, you're going to have a very tough time finding a job, grades and ranking not withstanding.



   

306
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Can any transfers help me??
« on: March 05, 2013, 04:55:49 PM »
Do not go to law school intending to transfer.

Agreed. Don't attend any law school that you aren't prepared to graduate from. Law school is nothing like undergrad, and its far more difficult to score high grades. You'll have to actuallly compete for your class rank in a way that you never had to do in college. Remember, the slackers never made it to law school. You'll be competing against other people just like you: smart, motivated, and aggressive.

I knew tons of people during 1L who talked about transferring to higher ranked schools (UCLA, Boalt, etc). Maybe 2-3% actually did it. Something to consider. 

307
I began law school thinking that civil litigation sounded good. I've been ableto gain some great civil experience at a busy government office and a firm. The problem is, I find it incredibly boring.  :-[

308
If your goal is to practice in TX, you'd be much better off attending law school in TX. You should consider reapplying to TX schools.

Once you get away from nationally recognized law schools, the field becomes dominated by local institutions. It's very important to make local contacts, gain experience with the local court system, and work at local internships. If you're graduating from a lower tier school, you're going to have to market yourself based on experience rather than pedigree. Attending an out of state school will place you at a disadvantage when you return to practice.

Based on the schools you've listed, you'd probably have a shot at places like St. Mary's, TX Tech, TX Wesleyan, etc. If you're already working as a paralegal then you should know something about the TX market. Be realistic about the potential limitations of a lower tier degree, gain as much experience as possible, and you'll probably be alright. 

309
As someone told me recently, "Big firms are like the dinosaurs: too dumb to realize they're going extinct."

310
Not sure how a transfer from an online school to a non online law school would work or if it is even possible?

I think some CBE schools will accept units from online schools that have at least some form of accreditation (probably DETC). ABA schools won't, that's for sure, but there might be a shot with the CBE schools.

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