Law School Discussion

Wayne State v. Michigan State

Re: Wayne State v. Michigan State
« Reply #40 on: May 07, 2008, 02:11:41 PM »

No Vault 100 firms come to WSU.  I'm sure the poster you quote was speaking more colloquially (biglaw = Detroit firms of 100-200).  U of Detroit Mercy has a v innovative program that teaches big firm practice skills, and that's why it places students in true biglaw firms, even if those firms do not show up and recruit there.  Hit UDM's website and read the Wall Street Journal article for more info.

Re: Wayne State, the poster you quote is really drinking the Kool Aid.  Wayne used to be near the top of T3, and its in-state rival MSU was in T4, so Wayne could boast it was the best regional school in MI. Last year, Wayne State fell to T4, and MSU got to T3.  This year, Wayne crawled back into T3, but far down: it's tied for 125 w/ 5 other schools.  MSU moved up to a tie for 108--close to the top, since T2 this year extended down to 104.  MSU is now the #1 regional school in Michigan.  Given its "trajectory" it will likely be T2 v soon.  You can get an out of state job at a T2 (though probably not a Vault 100 job).  People at Wayne (if you can get them on the phone!) will tell you that they are headed back to T2, but that's a fantasy, and the numbers/rankings show just how unrealistic that is.  Read my posts upthread for more about WSU v MSU.

Good luck making a tough choice

Re: Wayne State v. Michigan State
« Reply #41 on: May 16, 2008, 02:19:06 AM »
Reality Check:

After the top schools (top 15, top 25 or so) the difference between ranking is really splitting hairs. The bottom line is that you will not get a big bucks job or a job with a selective employer (Certain Federal Govt, ACLU, etc. - I mean jobs after graduation, not unpaid summer internships) from MSU or Wayne or any school of it's ilk unless you are at the very top of your class. THEN, you might have a shot, but no guarantees.

At the end of the 3 years, the average student from both of these schools will be in substantially the same position with re: to jobs. You'll be working at a small firm, DA or PD's office, or opening a solo shop. If that doesn't sound good to you, do not go to either of these schools or any school like them.

Re: UDM, a tiny sprinkling of students in NY biglaw doesn't do anything for the average student. Just ask a recent UDM grad, who most likely won't be able to find work until after the bar passage results come in (same with the other schools mentioned here). WSU1 makes it sound like there is an ocean between these schools, but that is pure B.S. The schools' reps are all very similar and MI is crawling with alums from all 3 schools.

For the average student at any of these schools, you will orchestrate your own job search. On campus recruiting will be strictly pre-screened by the career office and you won't even have a chance to show your face to any firm recruiting on campus unless you meet the gpa cutoff, which will be quite high, even for the smaller and midsize firms that come to campus. My advice, if you are a 0L or 1L, is to FORGET about 2L on campus recruiting until grades are in. 70-80% of you won't qualify for a single respectable firm anyway based on your gpa.

Since you aren't going to be making the big bucks, minimize your debt any way you can. Be careful with scholarships at low ranked schools. They are almost always conditional on gpa, and the low ranked schools' curves make them very difficult to keep. Make a budget with the assumption that you won't keep the scholarship beyond the first year of law school.

I'm not going to go into detail over WSU's supposed faculty exodus or customer service issues. I will say this: profs at most law schools are a mixed bag. You may get lucky and have a few that are decent, but you will most certainly have more than a few that are terrible. Just because some prof went to a big name law school or was a hot shot attorney back in the day doesn't mean they are qualified to teach you. After a year or so of law school you'll see what I mean.

In any case, any marginal gains or losses your school suffers from year to year in the faculty department are unlikely to impact your job prospects because school reputation and employers' selectivity schedules are things that get cemented over a very long period of time. As far as UDM or MSU offering a more practical education, I'm not too sure about that. Virtually no school in America will prepare you to practice law right out of the gate. Sure, some schools have more theoretical/academic profs that others (it can even vary from prof to prof at the same school, obviously), but you will learn how to practice on the job, not in some "mock law firm" program.

Lastly, to any MI residents that are considering these schools and want to add another school to the consideration process, check out Univ. of Toledo. Many MI residents qualify for in-state tuition there.

Re: Wayne State v. Michigan State
« Reply #42 on: May 16, 2008, 09:25:46 AM »

Thanks for getting in.  I agree w/ a lot of what you say.

First, it's true that only about the top 10% of students will get jobs through OCI.  Check out the OCI websites, and see what qualifications the firms demand b4 they'll even talk to you.  OCI can help in other ways--giving you advice on resumes, cover letters, some have interviewing workshops, and they have info on which firms practice what.  But in the end, 90% of students will direct their own job searches.  In this regard, customer service does matter.  If you have to wait 3 weeks to meet someone to discuss any of the above issues, you'll be pretty frustrated

Most T3 and T4 students get permanent jobs by serving an apprenticeship.  They clerk for local firms during the school year, those firms like their work, and they get hired on.  Even if the firm has no room, you have at least impressed some local lawyers, who will act as your advocate/reference, and maybe even pass your resume around.  Believe me, that sort of reference is worth way more than the pro forma letter you'll get from a prof who gave you an A.

For this reason, practical training in law school does matter.  Smaller firms want you to do real work, not some made up memo assignment that's just a test.  They want someone who can write complaints and answers, and esp SD responses, or SD motions.  A knowledge of local motion practice and local court rules goes a long way to making yourself useful to a local firm.  If your civ pro class was taught entirely out of the fed rules and a case book, your learning curve will be awfully steep.  If you've taken a clinic or 2, and some pre-trial ad that focused on state and local rules, you will be a much more useful apprentice, and will improve you odds in the way I discussed above.  When a school is not staffed w/ enough people to provide a clinical/pre-trial experience, that's a problem.

Good point about scholarships.  They have gpa requirements which students too often ignore.  If you had a 3.7 in UG, and get a scholarship conditional on a 3.25, you'll likely think it'll be a breeze.  Well, everyone else on the same scholarship also had a 3.7 UG gpa, and about half of you will fail to keep your scholarships.  (the scholarships are there to get you in to boost a schools USNews #s.  Once you enroll, it does not matter to the school if you fail to retain.  That's just more $ in the scholarship pool to attract next year's crop of rankings-boosters)  Get hard #s on the % of students who keep their scholarships, but for most schools 1/2 is the 'sweet spot'--enough to encourage the incomings that they will keep theirs, w/ enough fail-to-retains to hire next year's class

Rankings w/in a US News category (esp T 3 & 4) are not hugely significant in themselves, but trajectory is.  You need to consider what your degree will be worth when you graduate in 3 years, and when you want to make your first job move 5 or so after that.  A T3 that is near the top and climbing, and a T3 near the bottom and falling are 2 very different animals.  Many med sized out of state firms will only interview T2 and higher (you're right, in my experience--out of state larger firms won't talk to a T3/4 student no matter what.  They have their own regional schools that they know and trust).  Reputations don't move much in a year or 2, but over 5-8 years they can move a lot.  MSU is a case in point--as the old DCL, it was regarded as clearly inferior to WSU.  That just is not true any more.  Used to be 80+% of 'common admits' went to WSU.  May not be even 50% now.

You are so right about the relationship between scholarly output/reputation, and teaching ability for profs.  The best scholars are often the one w/ the least time to devote to teaching.  Other profs get tenure, give up on the publishing rat race and dedicate themselves to teaching.

I also agree about Toledo.  I know some profs, and have talked to a few students there.  If you can get in state tuition, it is a bargain.

Re: Wayne State v. Michigan State
« Reply #43 on: May 16, 2008, 10:10:54 AM »

I disagree with you on a few points here.

Based on my experience with career services at a T2/T3 school and a T14, their utility is questionable. At the T2/T3, the office can really only help viable OCI candidates (i.e. top students) and direct you to some books and online resources. If you're really lucky they might have a list of alums in different cities or in your state which may or may not be useful depending on your grades and where the people on the list practice. In short, you are better off networking and hustling on your own to make contacts. I'll refrain from discussing the limitations of the T14 career office because that is not part of the discussion here. Now, I've not used the offices at Wayne / MSU / UDM, but I highly doubt there is much they can do for the average student.

Reputation matters only where the people who do the hiring are concerned, not among naive pre-laws who think MSU's name really means that much and make school decisions based on fluctuations between T2/T3/T4. The name might help you get a $40K job out of state based on the notoriety of it's sports team or possibly a connection with an undergrad alum, but it definitely isn't going to help as far as top jobs go unless you have top grades. Employers (both public and private) on the east and west coast and in larger cities in particular know full well MSU is not a top law school and will never be one. To them, an average student from UDM/MSU/Wayne is essentially fungible and will not get much of look.

As to Wayne's deficiency in practical classes, again, that can be made up for by clerking at a local small firm during the academic year, or volunteering at legal aid, DA / PD, etc. Attending any school based on certain classes or clinics it offers and banking on those opportunities is a horrible idea. The odds are you may not get into a clinic or certain classes because placement in those will be competitive. With clinics, that is especially true. Not every student who wants to get X clinic at X school will get it. The odds are you won't get it, in fact. Your best bet is always to make your own opportunities - that means looking for summer internships that will help you learn what the practice of law is actually like, and school year law clerk jobs or volunteer.

In the local MI market, I'm not sure the argument that a Wayne degree will be worth less 3-5 years out of school holds any water. Sure, alums and students are disappointed, especially since MI has too many law schools as it is - everyone wants their school to be the best right after UM Law. Fact is, 3-5 years out UDM/MSU/Wayne are essentially fungible because at that point it becomes about your experience. None of these schools are prestigious and none holds a considerable advantage over the other. 3-5 years out, again, the average student from these schools will be working solo, small law, PD, DA and they will be in essentially the same position.

Bottom line: I don't think the extra money it costs to attend MSU or UDM is worth it. Since you aren't going to make big bucks, most likely, coming out of these schools, keeping your debt down is paramount.

The exception would be if you have an UNCONDITIONAL scholarship at MSU / UDM. Or maybe you work full time in Lansing and can't go to Wayne or Utoledo. Or maybe you have family in Lansing that will give you free housing, thus making the cost even or less than what it would cost to go to Wayne. Or family or personal income is paying full ticket for law school in cash so price isn't an issue. There aren't very many other scenarios I can imagine where the extra money to go to the non-in-state school would be justified.

Not to get personal here, but I think WSU1 is personally upset with Wayne's mistakes with re: to it's USNWR ranking and it's curriculum and is thus imagining the grass is so much greener over at MSU and UDM.

Re: Wayne State v. Michigan State
« Reply #44 on: May 16, 2008, 01:31:21 PM »

Thanks for the reply.  Not to get too "back in my day . . . " but this is why LSD is such a great resource.  10-15 year ago, information was very limited about law schools, and what you could find was all pretty biased.  Stuff on this board is biased, too--I know I have mine--but at least people can collect a lot more data points.

I think we largely agree about OCI.  Only about 10% or so will get to do the dress-up interviews.  For the rest, if you've been in the world for a while and have interviewed for jobs, etc, you can handle the search on your own.  But I also know from folks in a couple of OCIs that the 'straight out of undergrad' types often need a lot of hand holding (not that anyone would admit to it).

As for reputation: for years Wayne had the reputation it had in large part b/c it got better students.  There was a large gap between the qualifications of wayne's students and  the other MI regionals.  That gap was very evident in bar passage rates (wayne would routinely best the UM students who stayed in MI).  The gap has almost disappeared bet wayne & MSU, (which was why I mentioned the 'common admits') and those of us who work here and use law clerks have noticed.  It's not that the wayne kids have gotten worse, but the others have gotten better.  Time was, people would hire a wayne student, almost regardless of grades.  not any more.

Working in a local firm, prosecutor's office etc is pretty much a must for students, as I mentioned in my earlier post.  Without that sort of practical experience, and a recommendation from someone who practices, you'll be way behind.  You'll find quickly that, consciously or un, you will be competing with the other clerks.  Being well prepared for the experience goes a long way.  It is true that at any school you'll often be unable to get into the skills course you want. But another one will often do for acquiring the skills you need (even if you might have preferred a clinic focused on one area of law vs another).  But if you can't get into any at all, you'll be at a disadvantage.  I'd advise anyone looking at a regional school to find out what resources are committed to skills training.  Also worth checking to see if schools have caps on how many you can take.  You won't want to take a huge number of course (still have to 'cover' the bar stuff), but some faculties have a stronger prejudice against them than others.

I agree w/ your emphasis on money and debt.  People should absolutely shop their deals around.  Some students are aggressive about it, but too many are not.  you are right, BFB--there are too many law schools in MI, but the good news is that the schools compete aggressively for students w/ lasts/gpas above their means.  Prospects should tell all their serious schools what they are getting in loans and grants from everyone else. (No bull, in case they ask for the letter).  You'll often find that the more favorable "advertised price" isn't the lowest price for you.  Happy hunting.

It's Ok to be "personal," BFB.  I'm the tip of the iceberg of disappointed members of the extended wayne community, and we're pretty unapologetic about it.  You are right that w/r/t other schools, I know only 2d hand.  There are satisfied and dissatisfied students at every school, and maybe I'm running into a particularly chipper bunch from MSU/UDM.

Brings me to my last point, which circles around to the first.  Prospects need to get as much information as they can, and 'sanctioned' tours by the law schools are often little better than the 3D equivalent of the brochures.  Most schools have some summer classes.  Drop by the schools, tell the students you meet that you are deciding between law schools, and you will get a lot of good information.  Most students will give you the good and bad.

OK--there's this too.  This is one of the better articles I've read about the topics we've been discussing, BFB.  If it sheds any light for anyone else, so much the better.  (Check out the chart at the end about schools giving out lots of scholarships.  You'll see MSU, and also U of Toledo)

Time to bill a few hours. 

Re: Wayne State v. Michigan State
« Reply #45 on: May 16, 2008, 07:53:26 PM »
I agree that sanctioned tours are worthless. Usually, if a student gives a tour, you are dealing with one of the school's cheerleaders or a star student. The best students to talk to are those studying for the bar exam or about to start studying for it. Graduating 3Ls from low ranked schools are a lot more honest about how things work (profs, jobs, overall experience,etc) than most 1Ls and 2Ls (most of whom are either clueless or overly optimistic), in my experience.

Negotiating scholarships is a great idea. The only catch is that these schools will rarely remove the gpa conditions from their scholarship's still worth a shot though. Conditional scholarships are a big pet peeve of mine.

Asking about how many externship / clinical credits you can take is a good idea. I wouldn't base my school decision on it, but it's something to consider, certainly.  Some schools will let you do up to 10 credits or more in externships over the 3 years of law school. Others are way more restrictive and only let you do one 2 credit externship plus a school-run clinic, for example.