Law School Discussion

Law School Dilemma


Law School Dilemma
« on: March 20, 2004, 05:12:17 AM »
I am having some issues, and I was hoping some of you might have some good advice.
I want to go to law school mainly because I want to learn and study the law.  Money, prestige, employment, or even being a lawyer is secondary to that.  My intellectual curiosity and desire to learn new things has really been sparked in college, and I really want to learn the law.  Yet ironically I don't know if I want to practice the law.  I know for sure I wouldn't want to work in those big firms slaving away endlessly.  I'd actually like to have a life.  But having said that, I'd be up for various careers that I might get from having a law degree, including the obvious, which is being a lawyer.
I know I want to go to law school, but because I am putting so much premium on learning law and not too sure about afterwards, what course should I take?  I mean I know my options of law schools are limited because of my numbers (3.2/ 165).  Should I look to go to the best possible school I can go to (faculty wise, which usually would go hand to hand with rankings) so I can open up all the doors I can possibly open, including maybe teaching law one day?  Or should I look to go to any school (even a 4th tier) that I can get money from so I can keep my debt down while still studying the law? 

I have heard that lower tier schools are not as interested in teaching the law as an academic discipline, rather the want you to get the practical aspects of it.. so that would be a concern of mine.

I am really puzzled, I hope someone can help.  So far I have applied to Santa Clara, Southwestern, Pacific, Cal Western, Thomas Jefferson, Whittier, UNLV, Arizona State, Chapman, IU Bloomington, Temple, and U Minnesota.  I've only heard back from Cal Western (I'm in).  Any suggestions on which of these schools might be a good fit for my situation?


Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2004, 10:02:01 AM »
That's funny pchan, since Im KIND of in the same boat as you.  The difference is that I am pursuing law because I want to PRACTICE law, among other things.  After working as an IT geek for 10 years, Im ready for a change...  Your numbers are even better than mine 2.8 (1.9/10yrsWE/3.7)///162, but I am struggling with the same issues.  I have been offered scholarships at all the tier 4 backup schools I have applied to and havent got any admission offers from my tier 1/tier2 schools.  Another difference is that Im 35, so I dont have the luxury of pursuing law as an 'interest', I already make 60k, and could increase my earning power to 100k over the next 3 years easily by getting an inexpensive state school mba and getting more certifications (which my company will pay for)... So, for the practice of law to make sense, I have to make it make sense financially.

If you go to a tier 4 school, you will likely get a full ride, or close... I dont understand CalWestern, they only offered me 10k, when all the other tier 4s I applied to offered me a full ride... but Im going down there TODAY in fact to talk to them.  I live in San Diego, and if I can get a full ride, I can live on Staffords... and deal with their pathetic 60k average starting salary knowing that If I am working on my JD full time, I am likely to come out in the top 10% there, and should do a little better.  It helps that I have leverage offers from other schools, I hope.  If I graduate with say 60k in stafford debt for 3 years, I can service it for a while till my income rises.  No way am I going to pay Any tuition at a tier 4.

My other option is to say screw the tier 4s, and wait for my other schools.  I have also applied to WashU, Loyola and USD, WashU waitlisted me, and from looking at, I can tell that I am just under the 'automatic admit' threshold at USD and Loyola... so Im confident Ill get into one of them... WashU isnt hopeful, Im not a URM.  I know Im not going to get any scholarship money at any of those, but I hope if I bust my ass as 1L, that there will be some $$ for 2L and 3L... except WashU, they offer 3 year guarantees on all their scholarships, which sucks for me, cause that probably means there are no 2L or 3L scholarships... So likely, Ill come out of those schools owing 90-150k... since the salary depending on the school is 80-125k, Im not worried about servicing that debt.  I just need to make sure it makes sense financially, since I could be at the 100k level ANYWAY, in that time period.

You have a different set of priorities, from the sound of it, you want to LEARN the law, but dont necessarily care to practice, but you want to teach... you have a problem.  Because of your numbers you need to choose.  If you have ANY hopes of teaching law someday, you need to find the best school you can get into, period.  NOBODY I am aware of hires anything but top 50 graduates to teach law.  So if you wanna teach, you need to graduate from the best school possible, get out there and practice and pay off your loans, and then maybe leverage for a LLM or another advanced degree at a top 10.  Oh yeah, and wherever you go, you need to finish in the top 10%.

If you just want to learn the law without all the stress of practicing to pay stuff off later, Id recommend going where you can get the best offer.  Look into Ave Maria, I dont know of any others that are as cheap, (they have ALOT of scholarship money) or as academic (they approach EVERYTHING from a natural law history theory perspective).

Maybe that helps, maybe it doesnt.....

Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2004, 10:07:34 AM »
Oh yeah, one more thing, Thomas Jefferson will offer you a 'scholarship'.  Don't be fooled, it isnt a true scholarship, if you leave TJ for any reason before graduation it turns into a 'loan' that accrued interest from the day you enrolled.

Cheesey tactics....

That offer went STRAIGHT into the circular file.

Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2004, 04:51:03 PM »
pchan, are you actually a law student or do you just like writing columns about law school?

Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2004, 05:37:07 PM »
Hey pchan,

Cliffs notes version:  IT isnt fun anymore.

If you are interested, Ill elaborate.

Still with me?  Okay. 

I fell into IT in the mid 90s after dropping out of school the 1st time around and working for a bouncer for quite a while.  Back then, it was fun.  If you were smart, had good instincts, and such, people let you do new things and stretch out... I started out selling systems, then doing upgrades, then working as a desktop tech, then admining servers, then building servers... you get the idea.. it happened FAST.  In no time I was lead analyst on a Sales Force Automation project for a world wide industrial sales force, doing integration for new products, handling projects, lots of really cool stuff... But I was working 70 hours a week for 40k, though having a blast.  This was when things were exploding, so you PROVED you could do it by DOING it.  There was always a new project to learn, a new product to dig into.

Things changed when the bottom dropped on the tech boom, my situation had improved, I was up to 60k for 40 hours a week... but between 95 and 2000, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of peeps went and got CS degrees.  Another couple of hundred thousand, maybe a million ex fry cooks got wooed by promises of 80k a year 'with just 6 months of training at night' from fly by night training centers.  Even before the tech bust, the market was flooded with CS grads and paper MCSEs.  Oh yeah, and HR took over hiring, cause degrees and certifications are something that an HR puke can understand.  Everyone wants to be a web admin or SQL database admin or a CCIE now, we are like rock stars or something, everyone thinks its a free ride. :)  But anyway, just the fact that all these peeps started in means that there is downard pressure on salaries.

Then the big Firms, like mine, started offshoring programming, Tech Support and Data Center jobs... UH OH.  Who can compete with people who have the same education but walk to work in plastic sandals and sleep on dirt floors?

I realized I had two choices, go get a BSCS  a masters in a CS SPECIALTY, and then an mba so I would be managing business model for the offshore workers , (or a team of super qualified lowly paid US techs). Staying as a system admin meant  the prospect of having to work 60 hours a week, continue to invest 10-15 hours a week to keep my certs up to date and get more... Cause by now, being a specialist in MS isnt enough, now you gotta know Linux too...., for the same amount of money, didnt really appeal to me to be FORCED to work that hard just to keep my job.

And it wasnt fun anymore, management was squeezing every freaking penny out of us.  Forcing billable overtime, shutting off lights, cramming us into ever smaller cubes, and forcing us to take vacations at the end of the fiscal year, paid or unpaid if we didnt have vacation left.  All at the same time the company was making hundreds of millions in profit.  I went and got my BA in Social Sciences instead.

So to make a short story long, there it is.  I dont think that running 90 miles an hour just to stand still because the ground is moving backwards under my feet makes a whole lot of sense.  Dont get me wrong, you can still be successful in IT, if you are willing to put alot of effort into formal education, at least a masters, and then become management, OR you are the ubergeek most brilliant who creates the next most awesome encryption algorythm and licenses the technology to MS... but for the most part, I was never going to make millions no matter how hard I tried, Im a smart man, but Im no coding genius, I wont be the next Napster.

Hell, If I am going to work that hard to make 100 to MAYBE 150 a year, I might as well go to law school and work the same hours and maybe Ill make partner andhave a shot at 3x that. 

Besides, if I dont like working for a big firm, I can hang a shingle... and Im pretty sure that would be fun.


Hi Aonghus,

Can I ask you a question please?  I'm just curious, why are you leaving your career in IT?  Personally, I've always been interested in computers - and once toyed with the idea of getting certified (A+, MCSE or CCNA) and becoming a network administrator - but I just don't think I have the "brains" for it.  If I did, though, I would probably choose that as my career.  So I'm always curious to hear why people are leaving the IT industry, since, well, once you're "in," the pay and the lifestyle seem to be actually quite good.  The money might not be as good as a lawyer, but it still seems a lot better than most other fields, and plus the lifestyle is probably a whole lot better than a lawyer's overall. 

Anyhow, just curious.

Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2004, 06:08:36 PM »
Who can compete with people who have the same education but walk to work in plastic sandals and sleep on dirt floors?
Hell, If I am going to work that hard to make 100 to MAYBE 150 a year, I might as well go to law school and work the same hours and maybe Ill make partner and have a shot at 3x that. 

Never mind, you two deserve each other

Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2004, 06:35:41 PM »
X, if you are gonna step up to the plate, and take a swing, at least let me throw a pitch.  Am I supposed to sit and wonder what in the HELL you are talking about?  Wait, I just did for 2 seconds.............RRRRRRRRR IIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPP... aahhh, okay, your riddle is gone now.


Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2004, 07:44:11 PM »
Well I STARTED this thread, and I thank all of you for your input, and all it has been extremely helpful.  So don't sweat it PCHAN.  Thanks for all the good advice.
So I have another question.  If I do want to practice law after law school, is the only option working at a big firm slaving away?/  I mean I really don't want to do this, I want a life away from work.  Would working for smaller firms or any other options be available?


Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2004, 12:29:35 AM »
Hey pchan (or whoever else has some good advice), then what would be a good direction for me in terms of law school.  If I am putting a high premium on learning law but very little desire on slaving away at a law firm after graduating (I have nothing against an honest week of work, but the 100 hours I've heard lawyers can work at these firms is just too much), then should i look to go to any school that I can keep my debt the lowest?  Or should I still look to go to the best school I can possibly go to so I can open more doors and possible careers that way?

Re: Law School Dilemma
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2004, 08:44:12 PM »
Or do you disagree with what I've written?  If so, then why not point out where you disagree?  Others have done so.

I was just curious about your background, because while your posts are lengthy they are composed largely of sweepingly bland platitudes like "there are countless other stories of those who have made themselves successful using a law degree as a means to their goals" and "Law school will always be there for you."

So again I ask, what is your direct involvement with law school & the law? Or are you dispensing information you've gathered reading John Grisham novels and other law school websites?