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Author Topic: Take the money or Move up a tier?  (Read 5080 times)

dnw2007

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #20 on: April 02, 2004, 05:19:14 PM »
little_old_lady:

I received my undergrad degree in May 2003.  Before graduating from college, I had interned in the U.S. House of Representatives in DC, interned at the county DA's office, interned at a division of the federal govt (National Labor relations Board) and worked part time at a small family law firm.  Since, I have been working as a legal assistant at one of the largest and most respected firms in my state.  (800+ attorneys & and it's a BIG state)  I have built a good rapport with numerous associates, a couple of junior partners and a couple of senior partners.  In fact, the hiring partner of the firm's office, here, in my home city went to the "3rd Tier" law school, along a with a couple of other partners and associates.  So the opportunity is there; I just have to do extremely well- like top 5%.  At the "Tier 1" school, I'd have to be in the top 10% to get back in- not much of a difference.  But like I said, I'm not too sold on BIGLAW; the politics involved are not cool.  It's not as great as everyone thinks.  This is frustrating.  It's hard for me to justify going $130,000 plus in debt when I can receive a similar free education.  To be honest, I was slightly more impressed by the people at the 3rd Tier law school.  But I do hear what you're saying- image is key!  Please provide more insight.   

kidcanuck

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #21 on: April 02, 2004, 06:02:03 PM »
I'm in the middle of my class at a top 20 school.

Are you in a top 20 tier 1 school, or a lower tiered school?  Care to name your place of study?

little_old_lady

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #22 on: April 02, 2004, 06:11:51 PM »
I wrote this long eloquent post and then I timed out.  I'll try again. 

To answer the first question.  I am not at a top 20 law school which I won't name.  I transferred here from the 2nd tier. 

To the OP, you're in a tough situation.  I think that you're choosing between two bad investments.  And law school is full of people who worked for prestigious firms before law school and most can't even get interviews with those firms.  It's just 'icing on the cake,' something that will only make a difference all things being equal.  And experience doesn't matter that much either.  It's icing on the cake, too. 

I'll tell a little of my own story as a cautionary tale.  I choose a 2nd tier school over a top 25 school for a scholarship.  I did very well during my first semester but made one really bad grade during second semester so didn't grade onto law review and wasn't in the top 10%.  I don't what happened.  I was just 'off' my game that day and law school success comes down to a few hours on one day. 

tofccc

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #23 on: April 02, 2004, 07:46:14 PM »
I am facing a similar dilemma and am completely obsessing/stressing over this! USC has offered no money but is at #18. They have great alumni network and 97% hire rate. I know I am not interested in BIGLAW but I am interested in judicial clerkships. I have no firm specialty in mind although entertainment law and international law intrigue me. USD at #67 has offered a renewable (depends on class rank but decreases incrementally) 90% scholarship. This school is #22 in Leiter's rankings though, and was considered a "great value" according to another site (I can't remember now but it gave list of top 20 best values for private schools and then for public schools) and has 93% hire rate. The thought of living in LA worries me and San Diego sounds great (I currently live in podunk NM). So, I think, I will definitely go to SD. Then I look at USC's web site and I just HAVE to go there. Then I think about the projected $150,000 debt load and how it will limit my choices after graduation and I think, I have to go to SD because that kind of debt is terrifying. Then I think, well yeah, it is terrifying but I will be offered better prospects and so can pay it back. And around, and around I go.

Okay sorry that was so long... I guess the trouble is I want my cake and to eat it too! Why couldn't USC offer me a huge scholarship too :) Seriously though - what would you do?

little_old_lady

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #24 on: April 02, 2004, 08:05:52 PM »
First, I wouldn't pay any attention to employment figures quoted by the law school.  God only knows how they come up with the numbers and you know what they say "there are lies, damned lies and statistics." 

Second, don't count out opportunities to make some money over the summer if you go to USC.  If you get a summer associateship (much MUCH more likely from USC than USD) then you can cut down on your debt significantly. 

Third, judicial clerkships are very prestige driven.  And you won't get a clerkship from either school if you don't have excellent grades. But if you go to USC and don't get excellent grades at least you can find a good job. 

My dad's an economist and when my little sister was applying to law school right out of undergrad my dad crunched the numbers for her.  My little sister spent a few months preparing for the LSAT and got into Columbia, NYU and Georgetown.  My dad's calculations showed that it was worth the extra money to go to one of those schools even incurring the ungodly debt.  My sister ended up going to Texas with a full scholarship which turned out for the best because she's not practicing law.  I didn't ask my dad to crunch the numbers for me because I was already out on my own by the time I was applying. 


little_old_lady

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #25 on: April 02, 2004, 08:09:55 PM »
One more thing, I am so leery of merit scholarships that are dependent on law school grades.  As I wrote earlier, you have no way of predicting your performance.  Say you go to USD and don't do well then you can't transfer and you're stuck paying too much for USD. 

Besides, think of it this way, they're buying your LSAT score with one of these merit scholarships.  What they get out of it is your score cancelling out their normal student's score.  But what do you get out of it?  Hopefully a pretty cheap education.  But if your scholarship isn't guaranteed then they get more than you.  You worked hard to get good grades and do well on the LSAT and you deserve to get as much out of it as you can. 

You might want to bring this up with them.  It's a business and it doesn't hurt to negotiate. 

tofccc

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #26 on: April 02, 2004, 08:23:40 PM »
I have thought about the grade thing too, but here is what worries me. If I would not do well at USD (say I fall to middle of class) then I would probably end up at bottom of USC. That likely wouldn't get me too great a job, plus the huge debt. If I do great at USD, might that only equal mediocre at USC? Then I would have better prospects from USD than at USC (plus less debt).

FYI: Scholarship stays at more than half tuition if I am between 34th and 50th percentile of my class and stays the same if I am in top half of class. I really believe my nontrad status (used to time management, work responsibilities, etc.) should keep me getting at least some money. However, I do plan to try to negotiate a full scholarship with living stipend since I qualify for their Dean's Award for nontrads. I don't really know why I wasn't offered it in the first place :(

Thanks for your advice - I am not ignoring it. I am playing devil's advocate, hoping that when my true desire comes out I'll recognize it :)

little_old_lady

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #27 on: April 02, 2004, 08:33:38 PM »
I don't think it's safe to assume that if you would end up at the middle of the class at USD that you'll be at the bottom of the class at USC.  Grades don't follow the LSAT/GPA curve of the incoming class.  As an example, most transfer students do just as well at the better school as they did at the lesser school. 

And then there are all factors that you won't be able to control for, like who your teachers are. 

I disagree that the middle of the class at USD is equal to the bottom of the class at USC.  I still think the USC degree would be worth a little bit more.  Think of it this way, your credentials would be used by your future employer to sell your services.  Go to law firm's lawyer biographies and see what I mean.  USC still looks better than USD without cum laude after it. 

The scholarship qualifications seem fair and I'm sure (as an almost I should never say "I'm sure" of anything) that you'll be in the top half of your class.  I'd say what's uncertain is where you'll rank in the top 25% or around there.  I'm basing this guess on my experience at a 2nd tier school.  Don't count out 2nd tier students.  A lot of their top students are people with high LSAT and low GPAs (late bloomers) and they are going to be just as smart as you. 

Revenant

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #28 on: April 02, 2004, 08:57:00 PM »
Okay, first of all, your example is rigged, whether you're referring to University of Missouri-Columbia or University of Missouri-Kansas City.  I mean, come on, you're comparing apples and oranges here.  Harvard???  The top 3 (or even top 6) schools are completely in a league of their own.

Secondly, but more importantly, please note that I did not say compare yourself as a 50th percentile student at each school.  Rather, I only pointed out that most people choose a lower school because they think they can make the top 10% easy and then transfer or be made for a good job.  Obviously there should be some sort of corrolation between the amount of competition and the overall calibre of the student body.

The hypo presented was a realistic one that I'm sure many people are facing right now, a bottom T1 vs a solid T3.  Using last year's data (I don't have a copy of this year's data) that would be something like Pepperdine vs Hastings, or a DePaul vs UIUC.  You can take issue with my choice of 3rd tier schools, but I would imagine that someone with a good enough portfolio to apply to Hastings/UIUC would have applied to some of the more competitive T3s.

Hastings (#36):  3.35-3.70, 159-164
Pepperdine (T3): 3.15-3.65, 155-160

UIUC (#25):      3.15-3.60, 159-163
DePaul (T3):     3.21-3.65, 153-158

Yes, the students at Hastings and UIUC are more competitive than the ones at Pepperdine/DePaul, but how different are they truly?  In terms of undergrad GPAs, they seem to be of the same breed.  You have people who got mostly Bs as well as people who got mostly As going to each of the four schools.  Granted, those going to the T1s have higher LSAT scores on average, but that could be as small a difference as between someone who does well on the Logic Games section and someone who doesn't.  Last I checked, there was no corrolation between the Logic Games section and a person's ability to study.  And then there are bound to be tons of people who are inherently smart but slacked off during undergrad.  I'm going to admit: I think I will do better than alot of people at higher ranked schools than the one I will be attending.  However, I am not naive enough to assume I am the only one.

10% is an extremely small proportion of the student body; statistically speaking, it is unarguably still alot easier to fall on the other side of the line, which would also entail no Law Review, etc.  Have you looked at the grade distributions at each school?  The difference between being top 10% and only top 33% at some schools is a 3.40 gpa compared to a 3.30 gpa.  Everyone realizes how well you do in law school, especially that first year, will affect your job opportunities and they'll certainly "bring it."  Are you willing to wager something that could follow you for the rest of your career based on a small statistical sample of GPA data that is completely at the whim of a human-based and thus error prone grading system?

The problem with thinking of yourself as an average student at both schools is that your probability of being an "average" student depends on the level of students at the school.   Suppose you've been accepted at two schools--Harvard (where you barely got in) and the University of Missouri (where you're far more qualified than your fellow applicants).  Should you ask yourself, "How does the average Harvard grad do as compared to the average University of Missouri grad?"  No.  At the University of Missouri, you won't be in the middle of the class, you'll be at the topof it.  At Harvard, you're more likely to be toward the bottom of the class.  You should ask how the best students at Missouri do compared to the lower-ranked students at Harvard.

I realize that few people are making a decision between such widely varying schools.  I also realize that you can't really predict how well you'll do in law school with any certainty.  Still, it seems reasonable to consider this sort of thing.

Revenant

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Re: Take the money or Move up a tier?
« Reply #29 on: April 02, 2004, 09:11:57 PM »
tofccc:

I understand your pain.  I am looking at the same range of debt (165-170k) and it won't even be at a school as prestigious at USC.  I wouldn't pay any attention to a ranking of "best values" based on someone else's list of priorities.  If you're talking about the ranking by the National Jurist, then also consider that they said my school was a best value as well, even though the cost of attendance is $55,000+ alone.  I'm not sure how they rated schools but I don't buy it, considering they left off some of the top schools (which would arguably provide me with better opportunities) that are much, much cheaper to attend.

Honestly though, I am GRATEFUL I am not in your position.  My personal dilemma is between an expensive school in an area I want to work and a relatively less expensive school in an area I want to stay away from, so the decision is easier for me.  That 90% scholarship, at a fine school like USD no less, is extremely enticing.  If it were at a lesser school like USF, then I would have a much easier time deciding.  However, from all the stuff I've learned from people who know the job market, either from being in it or providing headhunting services, I would really have to just burn that USD letter, pretend I never saw it, and go with USC.  Why?  You only have one chance at law school, and thus, one chance at a JD.  You'll pay off your USC debt eventually and after that, USC's degree would definitely be a landslide winner over USD's.  Besides, that's what loans are for and the current rates aren't bad at all.  I've always been thinking, but what if I invest the money I would save?  $150k would turn into $6.788 million dollars if invested at a 10% average return per year for 40 years.  Then again, it's not like that $150k was yours to begin with (unless of course, you're paying out of pocket, and then I would question why the dilemma if you have $150k to spend ^^); so just consider it a hefty investment you're putting into yourself.  Of course, this would all change if say you were older, have to take care of a family, etc., but if you're a student out of college like me, I say go for the plunge. :)

I am facing a similar dilemma and am completely obsessing/stressing over this! USC has offered no money but is at #18. They have great alumni network and 97% hire rate. I know I am not interested in BIGLAW but I am interested in judicial clerkships. I have no firm specialty in mind although entertainment law and international law intrigue me. USD at #67 has offered a renewable (depends on class rank but decreases incrementally) 90% scholarship. This school is #22 in Leiter's rankings though, and was considered a "great value" according to another site (I can't remember now but it gave list of top 20 best values for private schools and then for public schools) and has 93% hire rate. The thought of living in LA worries me and San Diego sounds great (I currently live in podunk NM). So, I think, I will definitely go to SD. Then I look at USC's web site and I just HAVE to go there. Then I think about the projected $150,000 debt load and how it will limit my choices after graduation and I think, I have to go to SD because that kind of debt is terrifying. Then I think, well yeah, it is terrifying but I will be offered better prospects and so can pay it back. And around, and around I go.

Okay sorry that was so long... I guess the trouble is I want my cake and to eat it too! Why couldn't USC offer me a huge scholarship too :) Seriously though - what would you do?