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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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I'm somewhat familiar with these schools. I visited almost all of them, have worked with attorneys from most (if not all), and have friends who went to others.

It sounds like you're pretty set on Chapman, and with an 80% scholarship that's understandable. Chapman has the nicest campus of any of the SoCal schools you're looking at. I was really impressed with their law school building. That's not a huge factor, but if you have to spend three years somewhere you want it to be pleasant.

The main factor I think you need to consider (after expense) is location. Chapman will give you better opportunities in Orange County, but Southwestern, Loyola, and Pepperdine are far better established in LA. There are lots of Chapman grads working in OC as prosecutors, county counsel, etc., but not as many in LA. That doesn't mean that each school will absolutely limit you to it's immediate area, but it will be tougher to compete for jobs in LA if you're competing against LA area students who have been able to make connections.

Between Chapman and Southwestern, I'd be inclined to take the option with the least debt. There is really no reputational advantage between the two, in my opinion. I think most employers will view them as basically on the same level. The only reason to consider SW at a higher cost is if you are determined to work in LA.

As far as the San Diego schools, I'd only consider them if I was willing to live in SD. It will be difficult to make connections in the LA area and to obtain internships if you're in SD. USD has a decent local reputation, but it's not so strong that it's going to open many doors outside of SD. The LA area is already so flooded with local grads that it won't make much difference.

If you get into Loyola or Pepperdine it may very well be at sticker price. Personally, I don't think either of those schools at full price is a better option than Chapman or SW at a substantial discount. Again, they're each good schools but they're not elite. They are ranked higher, true, but take those rankings with a grain of salt. Nobody is going to be so blown away by a Pepperdine degree that they'll offer you a job based on pedigree alone. To get hired at the DA you're still going to have to make connections.

That's not to say that it doesn't matter at all. Loyola, especially, is held in good regard and a degree from Loyola combined with relevant experience might have an advantage over a degree from Chapman or SW with the same experience. But just keep it in perspective.

If you were trying to decide between UCLA and Chapman/SW, UCLA might win. But as between schools like Chapman, Southwestern, Loyola, etc., the decision becomes murkier.

I currently aspire to be a DA, in the SoCal/LA County/Orange area. I want to go to a school for their criminal litigation/trial advocacy programs, clinics, academia, and alumni network. Quality of life inherent from their campus and location is of consideration to me.

A word about getting hired as a DA. The DA's office is probably the most competitive government law office in terms of hiring. LOTS of people want to be DAs, and hiring in most counties is currently very low. When a position opens it is not unusual to get literally hundreds of applicants. People who have crimlaw experience and personal connections (such as having worked at that office as an intern) will have a distinct advantage. Obviously, grades and class rank will matter too, but connections and experience are really the key.

The reason I'm pointing out the highly competitive nature of DA hiring is because you should go into law school with a flexible attitude. The fact is, the vast majority of aspiring DAs will not become prosecutors. Trust me, half the people in your class plan on being DAs. It's good to understand early on that you may end up doing employment law, family law, or defending DUIs. In this market you need to be willing to go where the jobs are.

Hope that helped, Good Luck with your decision!

Incoming 1Ls / Re: ANXIETY!!!!!
« on: June 07, 2014, 08:23:48 PM »
I should probably also add that the $200k figure that they cited did not include interest, which effectively turns a $200k loan paid over a 30 year term into about $450,000 even at favorable interest rates.

California sounds like a nice legal market b/c the public attorneys in New York and New Jersey are making nowhere near 6-figures. Public defenders and state prosecutors start at around $40k here.  After 10 years they're making about $70k, which, by the way,  could have been earned with just a bachelor's degree without incurring 6-figure debt.

Only a small minority of lawyers make 6-figures at graduation, and of the majority that don't,  most do not get there within 10 years after graduation (indeed, a good number never get there at all).  The "average" income stats of our profession are skewed higher than other professions because the minority of attorneys who are big income earners make 6 and 7 figures and beyond.  But I know way too many attorneys who are 5 or 10+ years into the practice who don't make $100k.  Accordingly, I can't accept the proposition that "most" attorneys earn significantly more money than bachelor's degree holders - especially when debt is factored in.

It's a difficult question to answer because there are so many variables. What specific degree someone holds, where they attended school (a BS in engineering from Caltech is probably going to earn more than a BS in engineering from an unknown school), location, experience, etc.

I think another issue is that many people with BAs in liberal arts aren't really using their degrees, per se. For example, I was a history major in undergrad and ending working in film distribution/marketing. A lawyer's employment is directly tied to their degree, so the benefit is easier to quantify.

My evidence is merely anecdotal, but it seems that TONS of people with BAs are working at low-midlevel paying jobs. Although I know plenty of new lawyers who are struggling, the experienced lawyers are doing just fine.

I mean, if you take two people, one with only a BA (and statistically it's likely to be a liberal arts degree) and one with a JD, are they likely to be making the same salary ten years down the road? I doubt it, but I might be wrong.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: ANXIETY!!!!!
« on: June 07, 2014, 11:49:22 AM »
Unfortunately, the reality of legal education today is that the average law student graduates with over $100,000 in student loan debt.

"Law school debt essentially means a lawyer must make $200,000 or more above what the holder of a bachelorís degree will make over a lifetime, to have the investment break even." -

It is truly unfortunate that a legal education is so expensive.

However, that figure doesn't seem too bad when you consider that it's over the course of a lifetime. If a new law school grad can expect say, a 30 year career, we're talking about having to earn less than $7000 per year above what a Bachelor's degree holder would earn. That seems pretty realistic.

I completely understand that the first few years out of school are very difficult for many people. I graduated in 2012, and am keenly aware of how tight the job market is. Most new lawyers will struggle to make $1500 per month loan payments on their starting salary.

But I think it's important to point out that most lawyers will increase their earning potential over the first few years. Five to seven years into a legal career, I think the average lawyer is probably making substantially more than the average Bachelor's degree holder (depending of course on what the bachelor's is in. A BS in Engineering will make more than a BA in English Lit).

Here in LA our public law offices (DA, PD, etc) start out at about $70k. By five years in, the salary will be about $100k, and in most cases will max out at around $130-140k. I think that is significantly better than what the average holder of a liberal arts BA can expect.

Current Law Students / Re: Academic Dismissal
« on: June 06, 2014, 12:07:58 AM »
I think the most important thing is to demonstrate changed circumstances. If they (the council) think that you're still experiencing the same problems, they may not want to let you continue. But if you can convince them that those problems are in the past, and you now know what it takes to succeed in law school, may have a shot.

You should be as specific as possible, don't speak in generalities. Say exactly what has changed which makes you confident that you can succeed. Give specific examples, and be positive. I wouldn't spend any time at all blaming a lack of IRAC instruction, or the curve, or spring admissions.

Also, be 100% honest even when it hurts.

Remember, the council wants to be reassured that you're a good bet. Focus on the positive aspects, and show that you have a plan for success.

BTW, I went to law school with kids (and a job) too. It's an unbelievable grind, but it's worth it. I did well the first semester and had good grades. Even so, I considered dropping out because it was so much stress on my family. Now have a job that I love, and am thankful everyday that I stuck it out. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions. Good Luck!

Law school admission is very different from grad school admission. It is far more numbers driven, and far less weight is given to things like academic publications.

Without a GPA and LSAT score, everything is pure speculation. Law school admission is first and foremost a numbers game. You can have the best soft factors in the world, great letters of recommendation and an impressive resume, and it will not overcome a low GPA/LSAT. Conversely, someone with zero soft factors and a high GPA/LSAT will get accepted regardless.

That said, your soft factors are good (much better than most) and this will help if it's tied to a good GPA/LSAT. The thing to understand is that these factors will be viewed as additional to, not in lieu of, your numeric qualifications.

At this point the best thing you can do is focus on the LSAT. It is hugely important, even more so than your GPA in my opinion. Start studying, take a prep course if possible, and max out your score. It will help you obtain offers of admission and scholarships, which you should definitely be shooting for. 

Online Law Schools / Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« on: June 04, 2014, 04:27:38 PM »
Well, my guess is that nearly all DL begin their JD studies with the intent to become a lawyer. They look at the stats and say "Ok, I'll be in that 15% that passes and gets licensed." For a few this works out fine, they get licensed, and have successful careers as solo practitioners or small firm lawyers. For most it doesn't, and these careers could offer viable alternatives.

I would agree with this, if we removed the work "viable"

Depends on the individual. If someone is smart, personable, and knows how to hustle they can make a decent career out of one of these fields.

On the other hand someone can have a JD, pass the bar, and still be unemployable because they can't get along with people, lack common sense, etc. It all comes down to personal attributes (or lack thereof).

Online Law Schools / Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« on: June 04, 2014, 10:14:58 AM »
Well, my guess is that nearly all DL begin their JD studies with the intent to become a lawyer. They look at the stats and say "Ok, I'll be in that 15% that passes and gets licensed." For a few this works out fine, they get licensed, and have successful careers as solo practitioners or small firm lawyers. For most it doesn't, and these careers could offer viable alternatives. 

Online Law Schools / Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« on: June 04, 2014, 12:43:48 AM »
As with the other "advocate" positions raised earlier, one does not need a law degree to be a patent agent.  A Bachelor's will do just fine.  In other words, you don't need go through the time, energy and expense of law school in order to be an "advocate."  If that is your end goal, then you can get started on that path now and skip the J.D.


If the goal is to become a patent agent or SSA advocate, then spending money on a JD probably does not pass the cost/benefit analysis. I believe the OP's intention, however, was to point out career options for DL students who do not pass the bar.

Let's say you get an online/correspondence JD, take the bar a few times, and realize that it's not going to happen. Is there a way to utilize the knowledge and make money? Perhaps.

Although a JD is not required for these careers, knowledge of statutory construction, civil procedure, and maybe conlaw is useful. In that way the JD holder can enhance their abilities and be a better patent agent, SSA advocate, etc.

I don't think the OP was suggesting that anyone obtain a JD in order to become an advocate, or that they become an advocate in lieu of professional licensure.   

Online Law Schools / Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« on: June 03, 2014, 06:27:30 PM »
If you're going into business for yourself as a solo practitioner doing SSA or VA advocacy, it doesn't matter if you're licensed. It's not going to prevent you from hiring yourself, and nothing you learn for the bar exam is going to prepare you anyway.
Is it a good idea to go into solo practice straight out of law school, and without a mentor? Depends on the individual. Some people are smart enough to figure it out, especially if they have previous experience in the field. Others aren't, and need some hand holding at first.

I could see it being a problem if clients want a licensed attorney as opposed to a mere advocate, but frankly, I doubt if most actually care. What they want is someone who can win, regardless of licensure.

This strikes me as professional suicide with HUGE liabilities

To be clear, when I say "solo practitioner" I'm talking about jobs that don't require bar admission, not lawyers. To practice law without licensure is flatly illegal.

As far as "professional suicide" and liability, I imagine the potential liability for an SSA advocate or patent agent, etc is similar to that of a lawyer: professional malpractice. I'm not sure if they are required to carry professional liability insurance.

As far as actually practicing law as a solo practitioner straight out of law school, I wouldn't have felt competent enough. I would have been scared of screwing up. But, some people have more experience than others. I have a friend who worked for several years as a paralegal at a family law firm, then continued working during law school. By the time she graduated and passed the bar she had something like 7-8 years of experience in family law, and felt totally competent going solo. It just depends.

Online Law Schools / Re: Practice of "Law" w/out a License
« on: June 03, 2014, 05:37:52 PM »
Yes, that's absolutely right. Practicing law without a license is illegal and unethical.

I think what we're talking about I this thread are a few jobs in which a legal education would be helpful, but bar admission is not required.

The fine line that such an individual must walk is to avoid giving legal advice (practicing law) while still advocating for their client. My understanding is that non-lawyers can represent clients in certain administrative hearings such as SSA, VA, Patent Office, and some IRS proceedings.

They aren't supposed to hold themselves out as attorneys or offer legal advice, although I imagine that does indeed happen.

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