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Where should I go next fall? / Re: Non-American Law Schools
« on: June 23, 2012, 01:50:17 AM »
The European system is very different from the American system. General university entrance exams are required, and in some countries an additional law exam may be required, especially if it's an impacted major. Law degrees in some European countries (U.K., Ireland) are undergraduate degrees (LL.B), and require about four years of university study, a series of state exams and some monitored/mandatory internships (they don't use the word "internship", but I can't remember what it's called). In some continental civil systems, like Germany and the Netherlands, I believe it takes about six years altogether and law students will often pick a track while still in school: civil, criminal, judicial, administrative attorney, etc. Civil law degrees are essentially professional doctorates, much like the J.D. Unlike the U.S., there is little or no crossover between fields. In other words, if you become a prosecutor you will likely remain a prosecutor for the rest of your career.

The U.K. has a distinction between solicitors and barristers, although it's been substantially reduced over the last few decades. Graduates from common law countries (U.K. for example) can take the California bar without an LL.M, but I think that most civil law graduates would be required to at least obtain a U.S. LL.M first. Admissions to European law schools can be very competitive depending on the school, just like the U.S. My guess (and I could be completely wrong) is that it would be pretty difficult to get accepted to most European law faculties as a U.S. student.

Europen universities (especially on the continent) tend to be far more traditional than American schools. Since you already have a B.A., you'd be applying for something like a second, unrelated B.A. which really can't be used in the U.S. (and unless you have joint EU/US citizenship, you will almost certainly have to return after graduation.) You'd probably have a much better chance with U.K./Irish schools than with civil system schools.

I lived in the Bay Area for several years, and my impression was that USF had a slightly better reputation than GGU, but nothing too significant. The heavy hitters were obviously Berkeley and Stanford, followed by Hastings. The big firms hired from those three (and perhaps some top students from USF and GGU). Lots of GGU and USF grads were in local govt jobs (DA, PD, City Attorney) and small firms.

The Bay Area is a tight market, probably one of the most competitive in the nation. Lots of people from around the country want to live in SF, and SF firms have no problem attracting applicants from southern CA, the east coast, etc. I knew some attorneys at a federal office in SF, and the place was stocked with Harvard, Yale, and Stanford grads. I'm not saying this in order to discourage anyone from attending either school, it was just my observation about the market.

There are lots of second, third, and fourth tier schools that have good local reputations and whose grads dominate the local bar. GGU is in a tough position, in my opinion, not just because it's a fourth tier school surrounded by some legal giants, but because it's had some issues recently with the ABA.  GGU was on probation with the ABA (along with Whittier) for a few years. That really hurt both schools' reps, and I'm not sure that they've entirely recovered. There are plenty of very successful grads from USF and GGU. In fact, I know a GGU grad who pulls in more $$$ than most biglaw guys could even dream about. But it's important to understand the individual market you're entering into, and it's dynamics.

You'll get a solid legal education at either school, but ina very tight market you may want every advantage that you can get.

Golden Gate / Re: Going to Golden Gate
« on: June 19, 2012, 02:23:19 AM »
I did not attend GGU, so I can't speak to the specifics of their program. I'd be willing to bet, that GGU works pretty much like any other law school. Total cost of attendance (based on thte per unit cost) is around $118,000. Throw in few grand extra for books, etc. Some people will have that significantly reduced by scholarships, which are probably based almost solely on GPA and (especially) LSAT. This is just a guess, but looking at GGU's admissions profile, and based on what I've seen at other T4 schools, an applicant with a 160-165 could probably get at least a 50% scholarship, and someone with a high 160s could probably get a full ride. Again, this is just a guess. I might be totally wrong.

People with those kinds of LSAT scores make up a small percentage of GGU's student body, however. Many more students are probably be offered scholarships in the 5-25% range. A huge issue with all law schools is scholarship retention. Schools routinely hand out big scholarships to entice well qualified students to attend, but place difficult stipulations on them. I had to rank in the top 15% after my first year in order to retain the entire amount of scholarship, for example. It's rare that any law school will simply hand out a scholarship without some kind of GPA/ranking requirement. One effect of these policies is that they make it difficult to predict how much law school will actually cost, because it's very difficult to predict how you will perform. 

Another thing to consider is that tuition always goes up, never down. Usually scholarships are for a set dollar amount, not a percentage of tuition. Therefore you will likely pay several thousand extra. My guess is that alot of people at GGU end up owing pretty close to that 118k sticker price when you factor in loss of scholarships, tuition increases, and living expenses. If you're interested in going, try to get the highest LSAT that you possibly can. In my experience a high LSAT will trump a high GPA.

General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: Solo Practice Advice
« on: June 16, 2012, 04:22:21 PM »
I have not started a solo practice, but I worked at a small firm during college. When I started the firm was just a year old and comprised of two lawyers, both about three years out of law school. They had both obtained experience in civil litigation with mid/big firms before striking out on their own. Within another year they grew to five lawyers, and focused on entertainment.

The biggest hurdle (not surprisingly) was getting clients. They wanted to do entertainment law and had some great contacts in the industry, but still took in cases ranging from business disputes to divorce. I remember that they spent at least as much time drumming up business as they did billing hours. It was tough, and they worked very, very long hours. When you don't have much of reputation it can be difficult to obtain referrals, so they were constantly working to make contacts at local bar meetings, civic organizations, you name it. They kept costs down by doing most of the secretarial/paralegal work themselves.

All of the attorneys at that office knew that the needed to build up a good rep, and they went the extra mile to provide truly excellent service. By the time I left the referrals were starting to come in and they firm was growing.

B.S. in Asian Sexual Migratory Patterns. Who cares what any of us majored in? The vast majority of law school students come from liberal arts programs. Go figure.  ;)

Participation in the discussion is voluntary, if you don't want to respond, don't. But why be obnoxious? You look absurd when you respond to something that you claim not to care about.

I majored in history.

LSAT horror stories / Re: LSAT means nothing in the big picture
« on: June 16, 2012, 03:29:58 PM »
The LSAT is not a perfect predictor of law school success, but it's not meaningless, either. The LSAT tests the type of logical reasoning and reading comprehension which are essential to law school success. It also tests how well the taker is able to prepare and to master new concepts. If the correlation between high LSAT scores and law school performance wasn't well established, why would law schools offer scholarships to applicants with high scores?

The law schools can simply look at the statistical data from previous classes and see the correlation between LSAT score, grades, and bar pass rates. They want students who will pass the bar the first time, and LSAT scores are indicative of this. 

Does any of this mean that a low LSAT score guarantees failure in law school or in legal practice? No, of course not. Anyone can have a bad morning and get a low score, but no one accidentally scores 170. A high LSAT score is a decent predictor of potential.

Much better.

All I have to do to keep my scholarship is stay in the top 20% of my class, and based on my academic performance I can even receive more money

I know nothing about you or your abilities, OP, but staying in the top 20% of your class at any law school is no small feat. I'm not saying you can't do it, just be aware that you may lose that scholarship and will have to decide whether to continue at Brooklyn or not. In law school you won't be competing against slackers like you were in undergrad. Those people have already been weeded out. Pretty much everyone in your class will be smart, accomplished, and ambitious. In other words, just like you. Many of them will be competing to retain their own scholarships as well.

Law school is competitive in a way thats hard to describe. It's very different from undergrad and its difficult to predict how you will perform. Again, I'm not saying you can't do it, but top 20% is no joke. You could try to negotiate better terms with Brooklyn. Maybe shoot for scholarship retention based on good standing or at least top half. It's worth a shot.

A couple of things to consider:

What are the stipulations on Brooklyn's offer? If they're generous and the scholarship is relatively easy to keep, that makes the Brooklyn offer more attractive. If the offer requires you to maintain a high class rank, that's obviously less attractive since you may lose it anyway.

What do you want to do after law school? If you want biglaw or a prestigious federal job, Fordham might offer a better chance assuming you perform very well once you're there. Performing well in law school is very different from performing well in undergrad, it's much more difficult to predict. If your goal is smaller firms or local govt jobs, Brooklyn might be just fine.

The real issue is debt. I'm not very familiar with the NY market, but I doubt that Fordham is really worth 200k compared to a full ride at Brooklyn. Fordham is ranked higher, but it's not an "elite" school, like Columbia or NYU. Most firms and agencies that will hire someone from Fordham will probably also hire someone from Brooklyn. If you were contemplating a full ride at Brooklyn vs. sticker price at NYU/Columbia, that would be a different story and I'd say go for the elite institution. It's important to be entirely realistic about how much a degree from a particular school will help you. I don't doubt that Fordham has a better overall reputation, but 200k worth of debt is a huge gorilla on your back after graduation. Less debt (or no debt!) from Brooklyn will give you much needed flexibility after law school. In this market you need to be competitive and adaptable, not chained to a debt which limits your options.

Good Luck!

"The weird, loud, obnoxious, snobby guy in the back ususally didn't find employment." I love it! That describes about half the people I went to law school with.

OP: I don't live in NY and I have no experience with the NY market, but if a firm or government agency is willing to hire from St. John's wouldn't they be willing to hire from Brooklyn? The possibility of retaining the $$$ at Brooklyn is much better, and less debt will give you greater freedom and less stress after graduation. Something to think about.

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