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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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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. 

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.


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. 

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.  :-[

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. 

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

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.

Transferring / Re: Admitted to Appalachian but I want to go to Uconn
« on: February 08, 2013, 11:38:09 PM »
When you took the LSAT, did you study much beforehand? Or take a prep course? The reason i ask is because if you could raise your score to even 153-55, you'd have many more opportunities. I don't know if it would be enough for UConn, but maybe for Quinnipiac and few other schools in the region like Roger Williams, Albany, Widener, etc. Any of those would give you a better shot at employment in the CT area.

Where should I go next fall? / Re: I can't decide!
« on: February 08, 2013, 07:00:03 PM »
If Biglaw or Midlaw is your goal, it's stupid not to consider ranking.   Should it be considered above location or cost?  No.  But many employers do care about it.

Yes, I completely agree. Especially at big firms, prestige and national rank matter greatly. As you've shown, most attorneys at big firms went to prestigious law schools, and they like to hire from peer institutions.

In the handful of cases where someone is hired from a non-prestigious school, however, I wonder how much the rank of their law school really mattered.

For example, if Gibson Dunn, a huge firm, has only a handful of lawyers from non-elite schools, then I have to think that school rank had very little to do with those people getting hired. Someone like that gets hired based on other strengths. They'd have to compete against T14 grads with impress pedigrees, which leads me to believe that they have uniquely stellar resumes, both academically and professionally. Maybe they were valedictorians, federal clerks, or have graduate STEM degrees.

Those people are so few in number that I don't know if the general rules apply. I think you can say that in the context of big firms in LA/NYC a non-elite law school grad overcomes their lack of pedigree, and gets hired despite the snootiness.

I went to a T3 in CA, and our top grads scored biglaw jobs. Even though the school isn't prestigious, the local biglaw firms have dealt with enough grads to know that the top grads are a good investment. I suspect that's the same in most cities.   


Where should I go next fall? / Re: I can't decide!
« on: February 08, 2013, 03:19:04 PM »
Living Legend:

I've read your posts about this several times, and you don't address the real question:  Do employers care about the rankings?

That's the question.  If employers do care, then all your argument about the best place to live is completely bogus.

I think the point here is that none of the schools the OP mentioned are nationally prestigious, but most probably have decent local reputations. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on the region in which the OP intends to live, and to pick a school that will offer the best opportunities within that region.

I completely agree that if you want to work in NM it makes more sense to attend Arizona than Cooley. Arizona has a better reputation and better alumni connections in the Southwest. That doesn't seem to be analogous to the OP's situation, though. The schools he mentioned are located in very different parts of the country, and I doubt if any one of them carries significant reputational weight outside of it's immediate locale. In that case, rankings matter very little.

For example, I live in Los Angeles, and I can safely say that a degree from any one of the schools mentioned by the OP would be viewed as roughly equal by most LA firms. At the big LA firms (where rankings definitely matter) none of those schools would be considered prestigious enough to get the OP an interview based on pedigree alone.

Therefore, if the OP wanted to live in LA, he could attend the highest ranked school on that list and realize little or no benefit. Of course, in Birmingham or Philadelphia, it's going to be a different story.

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