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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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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. 

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« on: March 30, 2015, 05:10:27 PM »
I would just add a couple of points:

A school like Whittier may or may not be alright depending on the student's goals. I know several Whittier grads who are PDs, local govt attorneys, small firm practitioners. If that's your goal, then Whittier may be an alright choice. As Citylaw said, however, if your goal is Biglaw then you better look elsewhere.

As far as debt, Whittier is about the same price as most private law schools which is to say it is too expensive. I'm not sure why Whittier grads would necessarily accrue more debt than other California law students. The tuition and cost of living is high all over CA.

That said, Whittier does seem to have some unique problems that go beyond the general tight job market that all T4s deal with in CA.

One is location. This used to be an asset for Whittier, but now I'm not so sure. When Whittier moved from LA to OC in the 90s they were the only ABA school in the county. (Western State was still only Cal Bar approved at that time). Now, OC has Western State, Chapman, UC Irvine and Whittier. That makes the competition for both quality students and jobs tighter.   

Additionally, Whittier's past problems with the ABA are still pretty fresh in a lot of people's minds. That can't help when it comes to looking for a job. I applied to Whittier when I was looking at law schools, but decided early on that regardless of what they offered I would not attend. I talked to too many people who warned me away. (Also, I visited the campus and thought it was ugly. Perhaps a small issue, but still...)

Where I would disagree with Loki is on the idea of Whittier (or any other school) being a legal scam. The tuition, bar pass rates, employment rates, and anything else you want to know about any ABA school is readily available. No one is forced to go to law school. Quite to the contrary, people ask the law schools to please let them attend.

Whittier isn't lying to anyone about anything. If they were, this would be an entirely different discussion. Schools like Whittier give people a chance to become lawyers when no one else will. If the students squander their chances by not studying or not looking into the legal market first, I don't have a lot of sympathy.

At some point, aren't college educated adults responsible for their own actions?

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Greetings,
« on: March 30, 2015, 11:15:37 AM »
Then there's the cheap, local, easy to get into North Texas field: UT, SMU, UNT (unaccredited), A&M, or Texas Tech...?

As a side note, I had to look this up.

Apparently, the University of North Texas (part of the UT system) has opened a new law school in Dallas. This is the first I'd heard of it.

Although it is currently unaccredited, they are seeking ABA approval. Law schools can't apply right away, they have to be I operation for (I think) at least one year then can apply for provisional approval. They have to maintain that for another couple of years then can seek full approval. The new UC Irvine just went through this process.

If I were a prospective law student in TX, this would interest me greatly. With the backing of the UT system, I think they will probably get ABA without any problems. It's also cheap and (at this point) easy to get into. A student with decent numbers might be able to get some serious scholarships as they are likely eager to boost their numbers.

Of course, there are caveats to attending a new law school: no reputation, no alumni, etc. The UT system, though, is well respected. Although this school may not rival UT-Austin anytime soon, it might be viewed quite favorably within the DFW area.

An example would be the aforementioned UCI. The school had a good reputation and high expectations in So Cal before it even opened it's doors because of the strength of the UC system. UCI grads are competing favorably with much more established schools, and the lack of an alumni base does not seem to have made much difference. Something similar could happen with UNT. 

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Greetings,
« on: March 29, 2015, 10:00:18 AM »
Hi King,

As the previous poster has indicated, until you have an actual LSAT score on the board everything is pure speculation. The LSAT is such a huge part of the admissions criteria that it almost can't be overstated.

3.75 is a very solid GPA and indicates that you probably have the potential to do well on the LSAT. To have a realistic shot at Harvard (or Yale) you'd need not just a good score, but a stratospheric score. 175-180, which is (I think) the top 1-2%. That's just to be competitive. Get a crazy high score first, then you can worry about Harvard.

Master's Degree
If you are definitely going to law school, I wouldn't waste the time and money on a Master's. It will make very little (if any) difference, and will be waaaaay behind GPA/LSAT in terms of importance. It's a soft factor. If the idea is to get a Master's in case law school doesn't work out, that's different. Just be sure it's in a useful field.

Other Schools
Chances are you won't get into Harvard, so it's good to consider other schools. Again, without an LSAT score it's all speculation, but for argument's sake let's say you score 165. With a 3.75/165 you would have some good options in TX. (BTW, most people don't consider UT "easy to get into.")

UT would be a possibility with those numbers, although certainly not a shoe-in. Places like Texas Tech, SMU, etc would be pretty much sure things, with the possibility of scholarship money at some.

The question at that point would be what do want to do with your degree? Those schools are all fine if you want to live and work locally, but it would be tough to go into Biglaw, academia, etc.

Take the LSAT, get a score, then you can assess your options.

Let's be precise: no one voluntarily lives in Long Beach.

And yes, get a room as close as possible to the test center! The few hundred bucks you spend are nothing compared to the $100k you just spent on law school, and the reduction in stress is huge. You don't want to be commuting through traffic for and hour before either the bar or LSAT.

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