Law School Discussion

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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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301
Law school isn't like undergrad in the sense that you won't really major in a particular field of law. At most law schools the total number of classes you'll be able to take in a specialty area is maybe three or four. It's typically very limited. Even at a school that boasts a particular concentration, you're still probably only going to get a few classes and maybe a clinic or internship.

I've never heard of a school that specializes in ag law, but Lewis & Clark, Vermont, Davis, Hastings, and Oregon all have better than average environmental offerings. Again though, be realistic about how little difference it makes when it comes to getting hired. I agree with Jack24 that specialty rankings are questionable, and I certainly wouldn't advise going massively into debt to attend a school based on a specialty ranking.

302
Law School Applications / Re: What are your thoughts?
« on: January 23, 2013, 04:17:10 PM »
On tier 3/4 schools? I've gotten in a few with pretty decent scholarships and am waiting to hear back from quite a few schools (ranks mixed) still.
I pretty  much have  a job secured after law school but what are your thoughts, is it worth going to tier 4 with good scholarship?

My opinion is that all ABA accredited schools are basically decent quality. In fact, that's the entire point of ABA accreditation: to create a predictable set of standards and to assure the consumer that a particular law school has met those standards. In reality, the education you receive at a T3/T4 is pretty much identical to what you will receive at all but the most elite schools. (Places like Harvard tend to focus on philosophical and policy considerations, whereas everyone else focuses on a combination of black letter law and policy.) The students at T3/T4 schools will mostly be smart, ambitious people, and you'll work very hard to earn your J.D. Honestly, there's probably almost no difference between the average T3/T4 and the average T1/T2, academically speaking.

The real difference, of course, is in post-grad opportunities. This is where you need to consider your personal goals before making a decision. If you want to work in biglaw or a prestigious federal clerkship, then you need to get into a big name school. If you're fine with smaller firms, solo practice, or government, then a scholarship at a T3/T4 might be a better deal. It really depends.

Many people will tell you to just accept an offer from the highest ranked school you get into. That may or may not be a mistake, depending on your goals. For example, let's say you want to live in Los Angeles, and you're trying to decide between the University of Florida (T1) or a full scholarship at Southwestern (T3 or 4). Personally, I'd take the scholarship at SW in a heartbeat because although FL is a Tier 1 school, it's not so elite that the pedigree alone is going to land you a job in Los Angeles. You'd be at a disadvantage compared to local talent who have had the opportunity to make connections.

OTOH, as between a scholarship at Southwestern versus full tuition at Stanford, I'd take Stanford. The point is, it really depends on the specifics.

Also, many T3s and T4s actually have good local reputations, despite what outsiders may think. For example, you listed Willamette as one of the schools you've applied to. In Oregon/Washington/Idaho etc Willamette has a decent reputation and many local judges and lawyers are Willamette grads. Even though a firm in NYC or Chicago may not be interested in Willamette grads, that doesn't mean it's a bad choice for someone who wants to stay in the northwest.

Realistically, with a 2.86/151 you're going to be attending a T3/T4. Focus on the area you want to live in, and get the cheapest degree from a local school. I wouldn't sacrifice tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars in tuition to move up a few spots in rankings, since it likely won't matter much anyway.

303
Job Search / Re: Big Law GPA Cutoff
« on: January 23, 2013, 02:07:34 PM »
I'm not sure that there is a particular cutoff that applies across the board. Some firms are more selective than others, and some schools are more prestigious than others, so it depends. A Harvard student with a 3.3, for example, probably has better biglaw options than a Duke student with the same GPA. That said, I'd think that a Duke student in the top 1/3 or so should be fine for biglaw, especially in the South/Southeast.

304
Distance Education Law Schools / Re: ABA approved LLM degree online?
« on: January 22, 2013, 03:20:55 PM »
Not to get too wonky, but the ABA doesn't actually accredit LL.M programs. They only accredit the first degree in law, the J.D. Therefore, if a state requires an ABA accredited law degree for bar admission, an LL.M from an ABA accredited school will not suffice.

305
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Decisions-Decisions...<grumble>
« on: January 21, 2013, 02:51:50 PM »
I did very well at a school ranked around 50 at full price.  I was a law review editor, moot court guy, and top quarter of my class. (graduated in 2010)   The job search was brutal, but maybe things have changed now..   I passed up a full ride at a T3, and I really should have taken it.

Anyone who is contemplating law school should read this quote, and really let it sink in. I have heard this so many times, from so many lawyers, it isn't even funny. I've even had people who graduated from schools like UCLA and Michigan tell me that they wish they had just accepted a full scholarship at a lower ranked school instead.

I really believe that the vast majority of students would be much better served by minimizing debt than by focusing on rankings. Even at well respected (but not necessarily elite) T1s, most graduates will not obtain high paying jobs right out of the gate. In many cases the job that a graduate of a non-elite T1 obtains is probably not significantly better paying than the job that a lower ranked grad obtains. A few years down the road the expensive degree is worth even less, as experience begins to outweigh pedigree.

For some jobs a higher ranked degree is required, but people should be realistic about their chances.

306
Considering your age and existing financial obligations, you may want to focus on minimizing your debt. At some point you'll want to retire, and you don't want an additional $1000 per month payment to deal with. If you can score very well on the LSAT you may be able to secure a substantial (or even full) scholarship at Memphis State. I think Memphis' average LSAT is around 155, so a score of 165+ might yield some positive results.

Another option is to attend part time in the evening. This would allow you to continue working, and you wouldn't have to take out loans to pay your mortgage. I believe that Tennessee is one of the few states that has state-accredited law schools, and they probably offer evening options. I know there is one in Nashville, I'm not sure about Memphis.

When I graduate I'll be 51 years old. At this age does rank even matter considering how firms will likely ding me for being an old fart?


Whether or not rank matters depends on your goals. Unless you're willing to pick up and move to another city for law school, and unless your goals include large law firms, I wouldn't worry about rank too much. I think it is possible that larger firms would ding you for being older. They tend to hire young associates fresh from top law schools, it's just the industry culture. At smaller offices, though, I don't think it would matter too much. For those smaller firms (or if you go solo) Memphis State is probably fine.

I don't know what your current profession is, but you may also want to consider the fact that you may experience a drop in salary initially. A new minted, inexperienced lawyer in a secondary market like Memphis, especially at a small firm, isn't likely to command a large starting salary. This is also a factor when you consider whether or not to take out loans.

307
Non-Traditional Students / Re: Am I too old for law?
« on: January 18, 2013, 05:38:12 PM »
My questions is, what advice would you more experienced, or anyone with advice that would help, give to me in my current situation?

I was about the same age as you when I started law school, and my biggest piece of advice is this: minimize your debt, maximize your experience.

It sounds like you already have the debt part figured out, and that's good.

By "experience" I mean legal experience via internships, part-time jobs during law school, summer associate positions, etc. The job market is still likely be very competitive when you graduate, and it's imperitive that you bring some actual skills to the table. Good grades or a good pedigree alone don't really cut it anymore (unless you're graduating from someplace like Harvard). Many firms don't really have the time or money to train someone, and they look for people who can hit the ground running.

Many law students, however, focus almost entirely on grades, and perhaps complete one or two lightweight summer positions. As a result, there are plenty of newly minted lawyers pouring into the market, but very few who actually know what they're doing. (You'll find when you get to law school that practical skills training is usually minimal).

You can give yourself an advantage by finding positions at busy firms or govt offices where you won't just be a gopher or researcher. I had an internship during law school that allowed me to write motions, work on discovery, and make court appearances (including a civil bench trial). Instead of doing it for one summer, like most of my classmates, I stuck with it for the rest of law school. That kind of experience will allow you to effectively compete against others who have gone to bigger name schools, or who have higher grades.

As far as being a prosecutor, take all the criminal law and trial advocacy courses you can during law school, and intern or volunteer at the local DA's office. Personal connections are very important for those jobs. Hiring at the DA's in my state (CA) is very bad right now, but TX might be better. If you can't land an internship with the DA, look into criminal defense firms. You'll learn criminal procedure at either one.

Without an LSAT score it's tough to speculate about which schools to apply to, although all the ones you mentioned have good regional reputations. If possible, take an LSAT prep course. They're expensive, but I think they're worth it.

Hope that helped, and good luck.

308
Law School Applications / Re: Fordham asks for "additional law schools"?
« on: January 17, 2013, 06:49:30 PM »
I suppose that's possible, it seems unlikely.

Here's the deal: you're not the only person who's applying to Fordham as a backup, they get this all the time. Plenty of people who are hoping for NYU, Columbia, Cornell, etc will apply to Fordham and Cardozo as safeties. If your numbers are high enough to legitimately consider Fordham a safety, you'll probably get admitted regardless. I don't really think the adcomms strategize as much as you think they might.

309
Western State College of Law / Re: oL at Western State
« on: January 17, 2013, 06:43:08 PM »
Just my two cents about the school having never been there, but I think that Western, Cooley, and many other schools get an unfair rap. If you think a law school exam is difficult when you are told exactly what the subject will be try balancing thirteen different ones for 3 days straight i.e. the California Bar Exam.

I completely agree. I've worked with plenty of graduates of WSU, Whittier, Southwestern, La Verne, Chapman, Cal Western, and plenty of other local Socal schools. They've all been smart, successful attorneys, and a few were even judges.

Nonetheless, any policy that allows otherwise good students who have passing GPAs to be kicked out of law school seems unfair to me. I understand the purpose, and it's definitely helped WSU raise their bar pass rate, but I don't think it's necessarily picking on WSU to point out that this policy is uncommon and contributes to very high attrition.

Additionally, although a 2.5 requirement doesn't sound too bad, it really depends on the school's curve. I have no idea what WSU's curve is, but if the curve is low, you could end up with a significant number of people who receive passing grades but still fail to earn the required points.


310
Law School Applications / Re: Fordham asks for "additional law schools"?
« on: January 17, 2013, 11:01:13 AM »
That's very common. Almost every law school I applied to asked for that info. I think they use it for statistical purposes; they want to see who their competition is, which schools applicants choose over them, etc.

Would it harm you to not provide the info? I don't know, probably not. Why not disclose it, though? What's the reason?

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