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Where should I go next fall? / Re: Emory? Hofstra? Neither?
« on: May 01, 2012, 12:28:56 PM »
Where do you want to live and work? You'll want to do clerkships/internships in that area, and you'll have better opportunities with a local school. Also really think about where you want to spend the next three years, NY and Atlanta are very different places. If you want to live and practice in the southeast Emory is a great opportunity. I've spent some time in GA, NC, and FL, and Emory has a very strong regional reputation. In fact, I'd say after Duke and UNC it's the most respected school in the area.

If you want to eventually live in NY, I'm not sure if Emory has the kind of national reputation that will open doors based on pedigree alone. That doesn't mean you won't be able to get internships and a job, but you may have to hustle to make it happen. I really don't know much about the east coast market so take everything I say with a grain a of salt. Just keep in mind that as an out-of-towner (especially if you're not top 10%, law review, etc) it is more difficult to compete with local grads who have spent the last few years clerking and making connections. In other words, a Hofstra grad with connections might be in a better position than an Emory grad without connections. Also consider the fact that the importance of your law school pedigree will diminish over time, and your resume will become the dominant factor.

I usually advise people to take the $$$ and minimize debt. Here, I'm not sure. Emory is a pretty darn good school. Not elite, but very good.
Ask yourself this: what are my goals after law school? Biglaw, government, solo practice? Realistically, what do I want to accomplish? Think about how each school (and its price tag) will help or hinder your goals. Rankings are something to consider in this case, but don't obsess over them.

Acceptances / Re: U of A vs. Pepperdine
« on: April 30, 2012, 03:04:44 AM »
Congratulations, you have two good schools to choose from!

You'll get a solid legal education at either school, and they've both got good regional reputations. To some extent it really comes down to where you would prefer to spend three years: Tucson or LA? (Notice I didn't say Malibu? Unless you're independently wealthy, you won't be living in Malibu.)

If you don't care where you end up after law school, I'd say that the scales tip in favor of Arizona. AZ is $23,000 per year, Pepperdine is $41,000. Over three years that's $54,000 extra to attend Pepperdine in tuition alone. I can tell you from personal experience that the cost of living is much higher in LA. Assume another $10,000 per year in living expenses as compared to AZ and you're at $84,000. Those loans are easy to take out, but much harder to pay back.

In terms of post law school employment, I think you'd have decent opportunities coming from either school. AZ may have an advantage, though. AZ is the top law school in the state. I imagine that AZ students have a good shot at internships/clerkships/summer associate/judicial clerkships throughout the state. Also, AZ has a solid reputation throughout the southwest. You could probably score summer positions in LA, Las Vegas, etc if you put some time into developing contacts.

The California market is more saturated. If your goal is biglaw or the more competitive government positions, you'll be facing some serious competition.

Here a few things to consider:

1) What are your goals after law school? Don't limit yourself to focusing only on which school to choose, but think about what you want to do with your degree. Biglaw, government, solo practice? The answer to that question will guide you ultimate choice.

2) Be realistic about your goals. The people I know who graduated happy and with job offers started law school with clear, achievable goals. You don't need to be valedictorian at Harvard to get a great job, but if your goal is to clerk at SCOTUS you better be valedictorian at Harvard. 

3) Money. The vast majority of 0Ls don't seem to think about the cost of a legal education and how that debt can cripple you later. Generally, I think you're almost always better off minimizing your debt. It will allow you greater flexibility when you start to look for a job, a huge advantage. Remember, no matter where you go to school there is no guarantee that you'll land a high-paying job.

4) Rankings. Don't obsess over them. Very few schools have national reputations so strong that the pedigree alone will get you an interview. Often students choose to go deeply into debt to finance a legal education based on a school's ranking, when they could have obtained scholarships at lower ranked schools. Unless we're talking about truly prestigious law schools, this is a bad idea.

5) Network, hustle, and make connections from day one. the market is very competitive right now and you can't rely on OCI and mass resume drops to get you a job. You need to make connections. The people I know who have job offers at graduation are not necessarily law review, top ranked etc. They are, however, great at marketing themselves and working hard.

Good Luck! 

Some T1 grads will make $160k starting. I just find it hilarious that there are people who would consider $160k a tier-wide average. 

Where should I go next fall? / Re: Seattle vs FIU
« on: April 26, 2012, 07:24:09 PM »
Think about where you want to live after law school.

If it's Florida, I'd go with the cheaper tuition at FIU. That, combined with internship and clerkship opportunities, will probably help when it comes to finding a job. My understanding is that U Miami has a very good local reputation, but you mentioned recent bar rates? What happened? If it's just a one year anomoly, you still might want to consider Miami.

If you want to live in Washington, Seattle U will certainly provide better networking opportunities. The extra 36K (and remember, tuition always goes up, never down) is an issue, however. The fact is they're both good schools but neither has the kind of national reputation that's going to score you a job based on pedigree alone.

If you choose to attend a school outside of the area in which you intend to practice, it's important that you secure summer internships in that city. Don't wait until after graduation when you'll have to compete with the local kids who've already made their connections.

Good luck!

$160,000 average for T1 grads? Laughable. Even among T1 grads the percentage who will go into biglaw (the only place a newly minted JD is gonna make $160K) is relatively small. People are so uninformed its amazing.

I agree with some of your statements and disagree with others.

I agree that regional distinctions are an important factor. Some T3-T4s are the only game in town and thus the local bar and bench are dominated by their grads. Within their region these schools have good reputations. U West Virginia, U Oregon, and U New Mexico are examples. A graduate of any of these schools who wants to stay in the region will probably be just fine.
In large urban markets with local T1 schools, however, this dynamic changes. The T2-3-4 grads in areas like NY, LA, or San Francisco face stiffer competition for jobs. 

In those areas most big firms are not interested in non-T1 grads unless they're ranked near the top of their class or have some other marketable skill (like a science background). At the same time, I've noticed that many T1 grads over estimate their chances at obtaining biglaw positions. In my area, Los Angeles, a high ranked grad from a local T3-T4 would have a better shot at the big firms than a mid-ranked grad from some random out of state T1.

I agree with you that networking and self-marketing are key factors in obtaining employment, no matter where you go to law school. Keep in mind, however, that you situation is pretty rare. The vast majority of T4 grads (especially those ranked in the bottom half of their class) will not score a $96k per year starting salary. Incidently, that's also pretty rare for most T1 grads ranked in the bottom half.

I will graduate from a non-elite, local law school this May. Like the OP, I have nice job lined up which is the result of networking and connections. The people in my graduating class who have jobs either did very well in law school, hustled like crazy, or both. It can certainly be done, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it doesn't matter where you go to law school.

Here's my advice to anyone contemplating law school:

1) Think long and hard about your goals after law school, not just which law school you want to attend.
2) Do a little research. What will it take to achieve that goal?
3) Be realistic. I think this is the most important point. If your goal is to work in biglaw or to score a competitive federal job, understand that you'll need to do very, very well in law school. Further understand that law school is nothing like college, and it will take enormous amounts of stamina and discipline to rank high.
4) Consider scholarships over rankings. I've worked at private firms and government offices, and in my experience many T1 degrees do not travel as well as their grads hope they will. Unless you're talking about a truly elite school, that random T1 in the midwest will not give you much of an advantage in LA or NY. You may well find yourself losing out to local grads from lower ranked schools who ad the opportunity to do internships, clerkships, and make connections.

If you are realistic about your post-law school options, you'll be fine.

General board for soon-to-be 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: April 24, 2012, 08:37:27 PM »
I haven't taken the exam, so I can't offer advice per se. I've spoken with several people who have taken (and passed) the FYLSX, however, and this is what I've been told:
It's tough, maybe tougher than the bar exam. It's not as long and doesn't cover as many subjects as the bar, but the level of difficulty (I've been told) is perhaps harder.

Study hard, take lots of practice tests, then really take the time to compare your answers to the model answers. Not just a cursory comparison, but in-depth. Like the bar itself, I imagine that you will start to see patterns in the model answers the more you study and you'll get a feel for what they're looking for.
Check the CA bar website, they might have past exams available.

Successful test taking is a learnable skill, and involves more than memorizing the subject matter. If the FYLSX is like the bar, you've got to remember that the graders will probably not spend too much time on your test. Organizing your answer as clearly and logically as possible will get you the most bang for your buck.

Good luck!

L.L.M. Board / Re: LLM or MBA?
« on: April 24, 2012, 01:00:12 PM »
Sorry for all the typos. Meant to say "law firms are NOT hiring you to be a business administrator."

L.L.M. Board / Re: LLM or MBA?
« on: April 24, 2012, 12:52:41 PM »
For the vast majority of people neither degree is worth the extra student loan debt. If your goal is to practice law the MBA will not give you an advantage because law firms are hiring you to be a business administrator (at least not straight out of law school). LL.Ms are rarely required and often not even preferred. In most cases an LL.M is a "soft factor" at best.

The exceptions are LL.Ms in Tax or Environmental/Natural Resources Law. For most students who are pondering a random LL.M, however, the expenditure will likely not result in increased earning potential. For those who don't believe me, scrool through the attorney profiles for any firm, large or small, and see how many non-tax/non-environmental LL.Ms you spot.

The SJD is a purely academic degree and would make sense if your goal was to become a professor. If your JD was from  non-ABA or non-elite ABA schoolhowever, I think you'd probably have a tough time getting into one of the better recognized SJD programs. Academic jobs are extremely competitive, and even small, local law schools often hire people with pretty impressive resumes.   

Bottom line: for most jobs the JD is sufficient, and an MBA/LL.M/SJD will not really help.

Distance Education Law Schools / Re: Taft or Concord Law School
« on: April 23, 2012, 03:12:31 PM »
I'm not sure that it makes sense to lump T3-T4 grads into the same category as unaccredited online grads. The California bar pass rate for online grads is something like 20%, and thats after the FYLSEX has weeded out a significant number. Of those who pass, some will have successful careers. The numbers, however, are very small.

T3-T4 law schools, on the other hand, produce plenty of successful grads. Do they have the same job opportunities as those from T1 schools with national reputations? Of course not, at least not straight out of law school. Notice that I mentioned "national reputations". Many T1 schools really only have regional reputations that don't travel as well as their grads would like to pretend. Do you honestly think a mid-sized firm in LA, for example, is going to give preference to an Iowa grad over a Southwestern grad?

Of course it all depends on how you choose to define success, but most DA/PD/Midlaw offices are well stocked with such grads. 

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