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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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Phantom, if you're still here I noticed something today that you may find interesting.

Just out of curiosity, I went on Calbar to look up my alma mater's performance on last July's bar exam. I noticed that Santa Clara only had a 60% first time pass rate.

Although that is not super low in the absolute sense, it does seem quite low for a long established school with relatively decent admissions numbers. I mean, other schools were lower but they were places like Whittier and Thomas Jefferson which have had problems with bar passage rates for years. Other schools like McGeorge were also lower, but so are their admissions numbers so it isn't too surprising.

I seem t remember that when I was in law school a couple of years ago SCU had very respectable pass rates. If the rate has fallen, I'd wonder why? It doesn't necessarily mean anything bad, might just e luck of the draw. One year of low pass rates is not a trend.

BUT, if I were a consumer (and yes, law students are consumers) considering writing a very large check to ANY law school and I noticed this issue, I would ask:

1) what happened?
2) what are you doing about it?

I am being offered the following positions:
~Dept. of Justice, U.S. Office of Trustee Legal Intern (for the summer)
~GAP Legal Intern (for the summer and into the next school year)
~[A tech company but not a huge global one] (for the summer w/possibility to extend to the fall term)

These are pretty different positions. I think it has to do with what you hope to accomplish via the internship. If you are simply looking for any legal experience, DOJ would be a good choice.

You mentioned that you might want to work in Biglaw. In that case, a Biglaw internship/summer associate position would be best, as many people actually get hired based on their summer experience.

Out of the options you listed, I'm tempted to say that DOJ offers the best experience, although the Trustee's office is fairly unique. I'm not sure that what you learn there will be viewed as widely applicable to most civil litigation/transactional firms, the way that some other DOJ positions may be. Bankruptcy and receivership (I think they handle receiverships?) are their own animals, with their own courts. Unless you were considering this as a career, I'm not sure that the DOJ imprimatur alone will make much difference.

I would also look at the whether any of these internships hold out the possibility of a job offer after graduation. For the feds that will depend on budgets. For the private firms, you could discretely inquire. 

I will be moving to SD to attend law school these two choices will constitute my decision just not sure if I should go for TJ even with a full ride since Ive heard that its reputation is not so remarkable even in SD.

Here's the thing, I'm not trying to be rude but neither school's reputation is remarkable, even in SD. Outside of SD, many employers will have no clue about either school, period.

There are a few things to consider.

Personally, and this is just my opinion based upon my own priorities, I'd take the full ride in a heartbeat. Your post grad employment opportunities are probably going to be very similar graduating from either school. Firms that care about pedigree won't be interested unless you graduate top of the class, and firms that don't care so much about pedigree will focus more on your personal skills and experience anyway.

For example, if you apply to the Public Defender's office they're going to want to see that you have some relevant experience (internship, volunteer attorney, etc). A TJSL grad with relevant experience would probably stand a better shot at getting hired at the PD's than a CW grad with no experience. In that case, it would be better to be the TJSL grad with no debt.

You mentioned that you're moving to SD for law school. Are you prepared to live in SD after law school? If you attend one of these schools you will almost certainly end up in the immediate area for work. 

Scholarship Stipulations
Pay very close attention to these. It is very easy to lose most law school scholarships. If the CW scholarship offer has more reasonable stipulations, it may be a better deal even though it's only 50%. What are the stips?

Yeah, I more or less agree.

I was just thinking about how many people I know who have been in his conundrum. Most people aren't really trying to decide between say, UCLA and GGU. But lots of people who didn't have the numbers to get into Berkeley or UCLA are trying to decide between schools like Loyola and Santa Clara at full cost, vs. GGU, Southwestern, etc at a huge discount.

For someone in that position, who has decent grades and a decent LSAT score, it's seems like the discounted JD should at least be seriously considered. That person might very well possess the skills to succeed, and won't be hampered by the crippling debt.   

Just curious, what would you guys consider a more favorable option:

$50k debt from someplace like GGU, or $200k debt from someplace like SCU?

Considering that it's highly unlikely that you'll be working in Biglaw or a federal clerkship from either school, I'd probably take the money. If someone graduates in the bottom half of their class from someplace like SCU, are their post-grad options really that much better? Enough to justify the cost?

In this case, can I get your guys' help on sorting through the cost issues?

Given the current cost scenario, would going to SCU and working here in the long term be better for me than going away and having less debt?

I will have roughly 200k debt coming out of SCU. I will

Let's keep this simple and not get lost in the weeds. IMO, this is a VERY simple issue:

If I were contemplating attending a non-elite law school with mediocre employment stats, I would go for

A) The cheapest degree,

B) In an area where I actually wanted to live and practice.

For me personally, a $200k debt from either SCU or SLU would be a non-starter. That kind of debt can adversely affect your future FAR more than where you went to law school. For the record, I'm not a rankings snob. I went to a law school in So Cal with a good local reputation, and that's about it. I went there because they offered me a very large scholarship. Three years after graduation I have a job that I love, and I am not convinced that I would be any better off with a more prestigious degree and bigger loan payments.

Two potential options that haven't really been discussed:

1) USF with a $63k scholarship. If you could live with family in Walnut Creek and commute to USF, you could graduate with far less debt. The employment outlook may not be as good as SCU, but the lack of debt might make up for it.

2) Wait a year, retake the LSAT, and re-apply. Maybe add a few new schools to the list too, like Golden Gate and McGeorge.

These are the options I would be looking at, but they may or may not be right for you.

Hi Phantom,

Your friend sounds like he has a good grasp of the healthcare law market. It's nice to have a springboard like that on which to bounce off ideas. There are a couple of important issues that I think you should research.

1) How many SLU grads actually end up working in Healthcare Law, and who are they?

If healthcare law is primarily the domain of BigLaw, then I assume that hiring is quite competitive. Even graduating from a top ranked program, will you be competing with T14 grads? Is this an area where the SLU grads who do get hired are top 10%, law review, etc?

2) If you don't get a job in healthcare law, will you be happy defending DUIs and drafting wills in St. Louis?

I'm not trying to be nasty here at all, but this is a legitimate question. If you graduate middle of the pack at SLU and don't get picked up for a healthcare job, you'll probably take whatever you can get. Trust me when I tell you that the vast majority of law students do not end up in their desired field straight out of law school.

In closing, I'm not trying to either dissuade or encourage you towards any decision. This is YOUR decision. I generally believe, however, that it is a mistake to chose a law school based on a very specific desired outcome, ie; being a healthcare lawyer/environmental lawyer/prosecutor, whatever.

The reason is this: despite what exposure you may have already had with healthcare law, the practice of law is almost always very different than what people imagine. It's hard to explain, but the work you will do as a healthcare lawyer will focus on things like contractual terms, civil procedure, federal statutes, and corporate governance. Healthcare will likely only be tangentially involved as the subject matter of the disputed contract, for example.

If you go to law school, go with the desire to be LAWYER, period. Not a healthcare lawyer, but a lawyer. There is a very good chance you will be doing something entirely different with your career, and you don't want to be stuck with a job that you hate.

Just my two cents. Good Luck with everything, and I really do hope that you find the career you're looking for!

I would add that, IMO, Hastings > Santa Clara  > USF. But it should come down to costs. If you know you want to practice in Cal, chose from those schools. Ask for more money. Run the numbers. Check out the differences in likely salaries and job outcomes at other websites so you understand the cost/benefits of each. Don't forgot to factor in living expenses (if you can stay rent-free, for example).

I agree. Hastings definitely has the strongest local rep among these three schools. Is that increase in academic profile worth the additional money? That can only be answered by the individual.

As between USF/SCU I think it's murkier. Like I said, SCU may be perceived as slightly higher on the food chain than USF, but it's not as stark as the difference between both of those schools and Hastings.

Funny enough, my wife is a Hastings grad and tells me that everyone she knew from USF, Golden Gate, etc had an inferiority complex about Hastings. Conversely, her Hastings classmates had inferiority complexes about Berkeley and Stanford. No matter where you go (unless it's Harvard) these things will come up.     

Hi Phantom,

I agree with most of what Loki has said, especially in regards to healthcare law and IP. A couple of points I want to expand on:

Subcategory Rankings
These are, IMO, practically meaningless. I wouldn't base my decision on whether a school that is otherwise non-elite ranks high in some specialized category. In my experience the only people who tout these rankings are the students and administration of these particular schools.

Here's and example. Lewis & Clark and Vermont Law School have some of the highest ranked Environmental Law programs in the country. And guess what? A big firm will still give preference to a Harvard grad who has never taken single environmental class, ever.

Same goes for IP. Do some SCU grads get hired by the big Silicon Valley firms. Sure, people who graduate top of their class, are on law review, and who intern at a big firm may be able to compete with the Stanford/Berkeley/Hastings grads for those jobs.

I have no doubt that SCU is solid school with a good local reputation, just don't put too much weight on a specialty program. It matters, but its importance is perhaps somewhat limited.

Location and Money
This is really what your decision boils down to. If you want to live and practice in the SF Bay Area/Silicon Valley, it makes no sense to go to law school at a non-elite out of state school. If you were considering Michigan or NYU, that would be different.

Case Western and SLU are both (like SCU) solid local schools. They have very good reputations within their respective regions. In CA, they are virtually unknown. It will be very difficult to obtain CA internships and to make networking connections from 2000 miles away. This is important because when you graduate from a non-elite school your ability to find gainful employment will be based largely on your own networking abilities.

Unless you are prepared to live in St. Louis or Ohio, I would look at CA schools.

If you can live with family and cut down on living expenses, the USF offer may be a good one to consider. I know that SCU may be considered higher ranked, but I don't think the difference is so huge that it outweighs the additional expense of attending SCU. If you live in Walnut Creek you can take BART to USF, live with your family, and limit your debt.

With a 155 LSAT Hastings is probably out, so I wouldn't worry about it.

This is nothing more than my personal take on things, knowing next to nothing about your actual situation. Don't base your decision off of what anyone here tells you, but these are some things you can consider.

My general thoughts are that I would not pay full price for any of these schools, USD included.

That said, USD and CW will give you a better shot at employment in SD than Whittier. Conversely, Whittier's location will offer better access to internships and networking in the LA/OC markets. When you are attending a non-elite, local reputation school, knowledge of the local market and the ability to network and make meaningful connections is paramount. If you attend any of these schools your ability to get hired will depend more on your personal networking and experience-building skills than on the school's ranking.

Outside of SD, I don't really think any of the three schools will be viewed all that differently. Yes, I know that SD is ranked higher but it's not the kind of school that will get you an interview based on pedigree alone (at least not outside of SD). Within San Diego, USD is considered the top school. Both USD and CW, however, face competition from the numerous LA area schools (especially for the higher paying jobs).

For me personally, cost would be at least as important as location. You really need to look at the scholarship stipulations. If you need a 3.0 GPA to retain the scholarship, that's very difficult and you will likely lose it. If you only need to maintain "good standing", that's much better.

Remember that even with a scholarship you will accrue living expenses unless you can stay with family. Thus, even a 50% scholarship to CW could still result in a 100k debt.

Like I said before, I personally would not be willing to accrue that kind of debt for any of these schools. I think it's difficult for a 0L to imagine just how crippling that kind of debt can be when you are NOT able to land one of the few high paying jobs that go to graduates of local schools.

BTW, I'm not a rankings snob. I graduated from an ABA school with a good local reputation, but that's probably unknown outside of the immediate region. I went there because I had a very good LSAT score and they offered me a huge scholarship. For me, taking the most money was the right decision. It may or may not be the right decision for you, but I would urge you to carefully consider the long term ramifications of a huge debt combined with a non-elite degree. 

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