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Author Topic: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school  (Read 6260 times)

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2008, 02:50:42 PM »
I agree that you can not assume that you will finish higher at Loyola simply because of the lower ranking.  BUT, I also think that this article lays out the case as to why "always going to the best school" might not be the best advice either, especially when that school is outside the T14.  As you can see from the chart, less than 20 percent of USC grads made NLJ250 firms.  And looking up their cost on LSAC reveals that they are $40K a year alone in tuition.  I imagine you can easily spend $180K over three years if you add together tuition and cost of living.  Is it worth that gamble?

The only rational way to answer that question is to look at a lot of different factors -- how obsessed are you with making BIGLAW?  What do the majority of Loyola grads do?  Would you be happy with only making say $60K or maybe even less coming out of law school?  Does that outweigh the risk of taking out $180K in loans?  Do you have prior connections that might come in handy come job search time?  How far above Loyola's 75 percent range are your GPA and LSAT score?  Do you have undergrad debt?  What type of salary do the non-BIGLAW people at USC make?  Could you stomach having $180K in loans and maybe only making $50 or $60K?  Have you run those numbers to see what your loan repayments would be?

These are all variables that I think you have to consider.  Different answers to those questions should determine the answer to this question.  What I think is the wrong strategy however is just blindly using USNWR or blindly taking a scholarship offer.  You have to realize that there are very complicated tradeoffs in this equation.  Simply going to the higher ranked school however is NOT a guarantee of getting a better job -- it statistically increases your chances but even that increase might be very small and not worth the additional debt.   
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I think this is all great advice. Let me propose this question: is it really the end of the world if a grad doesn't get into big law right out of school? Is it not possible to make lateral moves up the big firms from smaller boutique firms? Even with $100k plus of debt, you can still service your debt with an $60k job if you budget well. I suppose that claim is dependent on the market you practice in, though. You can live cheap for a few years and then make it to the big time. Am I wrong?

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2008, 01:55:53 AM »
I mean you no disrespect, but you don't have a clue of what you are talking about. I hope you are not an accountant. I am a CPA, though. So, let me give you some numbers:

With $120k of debt coming out of law school (I'm rolling undergrad debt into this) and a loan amortized over 10 years at 9.5%, your minimum monthly payment would be $1,552.27. If you amortized it over 30 years through consolidation, you would pay $1,009.03, assuming the same interest rate. Let's go with ten years at 9.5% (which is a little high). Your annual aggregated loan payments would be roughly $18,600. So, lets assume that you make $60k out of law school, just for argument's sake. I estimate federal and state taxes (with no material deductions) to be roughly $9,600. After taxes and loan payments, you have $33,700 (roughly) of disposable income. That's more than I make now after taxes and student loan payments. I live just fine, drive a new car, and live in a nice neighborhood. I'm not wealthy, but I have no trouble living and saving money.

Now, I don't know if you can move from a boutique firm to big law. I don't see why that is not possible, but I have no facts one way or the other. I can only speak for the accounting profession. It's very easy to move from a small firm to a big 4 firm. Why is law different? Maybe it just is.

Now $60k may not be enough in CA, NY, DC, ect. It's more than enough in Las Vegas, Phoenix, New Mexico, Utah, ect. So, if you plan to practice in CA, you might be in trouble with large sums of debt and job prospects that fall short of the largest firms. Those are the breaks of trying to compete in saturated markets.

If you take the free school, you have much more wiggle room.

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2008, 07:20:54 AM »
Now, I don't know if you can move from a boutique firm to big law. I don't see why that is not possible, but I have no facts one way or the other. I can only speak for the accounting profession. It's very easy to move from a small firm to a big 4 firm. Why is law different? Maybe it just is.

What do you mean by "boutique firm"?  Boutiques in the legal profession are generally firms that have similar hiring standards and compensation structures as the large firms but that simply happen to be smaller and more specialized.  For example, no one questions that a place like Susman Godfrey is populated by lawyers who could lateral to big firms. 

Firms that happen to be regional or local with smaller numbers of lawyers, easier hiring standards, lower compensation are not generally referred to as "boutiques".  There's no reason why a lawyer couldn't really distinguish herself at one of these places and lateral to a big law firm, but that's exceedingly rare from what I've observed.

And as for why law is different from accounting, law is far more stratified and (slightly irrationally, in my opinion) obsessed with the idea of "prestige".

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2008, 11:52:54 AM »
How you came up with $9600 I have no clue, considering that's around what I paid on a lower income with a number of significant above the line deductions.  $15k is closer to reality.

OP was considering between Loyola LA, Hastings, and USC, so that's not flyover-state cost-of-living.

Did you read my post or just skim it? I said that CA would be a tough market to make it in based on my example. However, SLC, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and New Mexico, are all markets where someone could make it with that kind of debt load. A CA degree is very portable in those markets.

Let's use your figure of $15k in taxes (CA has local taxes that I didn't factor into my very generic example, which by the way, I could find more deductions if I wanted to). You would still have $27k to live on. That's enough in smaller markets, but not CA. You can always consolidate your loans at a lower rate and amortize them over a longer term to ease some strain. I used a high interest rate in my example and amortized loans over ten years.

You can live, though not on easy street, for sure. I don't know if you can lateral up to big firms, but even government jobs pay $100k or so with experience. I know grads from less than pretigious schools who got some good jobs with experience.

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2008, 11:55:37 AM »
Now, I don't know if you can move from a boutique firm to big law. I don't see why that is not possible, but I have no facts one way or the other. I can only speak for the accounting profession. It's very easy to move from a small firm to a big 4 firm. Why is law different? Maybe it just is.

What do you mean by "boutique firm"?  Boutiques in the legal profession are generally firms that have similar hiring standards and compensation structures as the large firms but that simply happen to be smaller and more specialized.  For example, no one questions that a place like Susman Godfrey is populated by lawyers who could lateral to big firms. 

Firms that happen to be regional or local with smaller numbers of lawyers, easier hiring standards, lower compensation are not generally referred to as "boutiques".  There's no reason why a lawyer couldn't really distinguish herself at one of these places and lateral to a big law firm, but that's exceedingly rare from what I've observed.

And as for why law is different from accounting, law is far more stratified and (slightly irrationally, in my opinion) obsessed with the idea of "prestige".

I would define a boutique firm as a firm with less than 30 attorneys and a few practice areas, at most. I understand the prestige governs major markets in the legal profession.

Look at the attorney profiles of Las Vegas firms, though. Outside of the very largest of firms, you can't find anyone from prestigious schools. Phoenix is somewhat similar. The smaller firms seem to be full of non-prestige grads in those markets. Why? If what you say is true, then that shouldn't be the case.

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #25 on: July 03, 2008, 01:25:58 PM »

And as for why law is different from accounting, law is far more stratified and (slightly irrationally, in my opinion) obsessed with the idea of "prestige".

Supply and demand is the largest difference in the professions, actually. There are more jobs than accountants to fill them. I wouldn't say that there is a glut of lawyers, but in certain practice areas that may be true. Also, there are no prestigious accounting schools. Some are rated higher than others, but a debit is a debit at every school. You won't get a better education at UoT Austin or USC than at UNLV. I think this is also true for law, but the demographics of the job market force employers to attempt to distinguish applicants by splitting hairs over irrelevant issues. There really is no difference in the quality of legal education at a T14 school compared to a T2 school. The curriculums are identical. Supply and demand in the job market perpetuate the perception of prestigious schools graduating better attorneys. If anything, the prestigious schools simply attract better talent rather than produce a better final product.

Maybe lawyers are more insecure because their profession is really not that difficult. Accountants that go into law find it incredibly easy in comparison. So, if you don't have skill and talent to hang your hat on, maybe prestige is all that's left. I know I would rather write briefs and research case law than calculate derivative liabilities or value joint venture interests in foreign currencies and tranlate the unrealized gain/loss to USD.

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #26 on: July 03, 2008, 06:48:48 PM »
There really is no difference in the quality of legal education at a T14 school compared to a T2 school. The curriculums are identical.

You're putting forward an opinion as if it were a fact.  Likewise when you assert that law is easy compared to accounting.

And small firms are not all boutiques.  Some are just small firms.  I wouldn't consider a small firm a boutique unless it had hiring criteria and compensation structures comparable to the large firms.

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #27 on: July 03, 2008, 07:41:52 PM »
There really is no difference in the quality of legal education at a T14 school compared to a T2 school. The curriculums are identical.

You're putting forward an opinion as if it were a fact.  Likewise when you assert that law is easy compared to accounting.

And small firms are not all boutiques.  Some are just small firms.  I wouldn't consider a small firm a boutique unless it had hiring criteria and compensation structures comparable to the large firms.

Point taken. The curriculums are identical. Read course descriptions in school handbooks. I'm also only talking about first and second year (first semester courses).

As far as accounting being harder than law, that is an opinion. It's not a fact, but some circumstantial evidence in my favor: far fewer people pass the cpa exam on the first try than the bar exam. State Boards of Accountancy require two years of practice before candidates can take the CPA exam. You don't need a shred of experience to take the bar exam.

Law school is essentially reading and briefing cases. It's not hard. I do that on my own time for fun. The reasoning required for a legal career is not difficult at all. The process is more competative, though. Law school exams are harder than undergrad exams, I'm sure.

Accounting is a whole different ballgame. If I handed someone a general ledger and told them to prepare financials, there is no way they would be able to do it if they were not an accountant. Paralegals often do the same worka as attorneys without attending law school. They just can't advise clients or represent them in court. Often, though, a good paralegal knows just as much law as an attorney in specified fields. The practice of law is just not as intellectually demanding until you get into tax law and IP law. Yes, this is an opinion. I guess I'll let you know on the other side of the bar exam if it's valid or not.

vap

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #28 on: July 04, 2008, 04:08:22 AM »
So, lets assume that you make $60k out of law school, just for argument's sake. I estimate federal and state taxes (with no material deductions) to be roughly $9,600.

 ???

kenpostudent

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Re: HELP!!!! Good schools vs Free school
« Reply #29 on: July 04, 2008, 04:06:49 PM »
So, lets assume that you make $60k out of law school, just for argument's sake. I estimate federal and state taxes (with no material deductions) to be roughly $9,600.

 ???

Ok, what is your calculation?