Law School Discussion

Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!

Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« on: July 25, 2008, 04:05:16 PM »
Hey all,

So here's my story - 36 years old, former hedge fund manager for the past 9 years, prior to that, was a management consultant for 5 years.  I've decided to leave the financial industry and go to law school - something I've wanted to do since I was young (life took a different path!).  Married with two little girls, 3 1/2 and 2.  I left my job and am now focused on preparing for the LSAT and putting together the best application as possible.  I'm scheduled to take the LSAT in October and in December (if needed).  So here's where it gets a little confusing ... When I was younger, I went to two schools - a local community college while I was working as a newly hired consultant and left two years later with a 3.8 GPA.  A few years later as a 26 year old student, I applied to and attended NYU (Stern) and finished with a BS in Finance, but with a 2.6!  Reason?  I was working full-time, going to school full-time, commuting from Connecticut into New York City every day and truthfully, there just wasn't enough time in the day for me to be successful at both.  Clearly, work had to prevail (again, I was 26 and was just hired into a very nice position with an investment firm).  Fast forward, I worked my way up to be a Managing Director and fund manager of the firm and have been involved in loads of professional activities (active industry speaker at national events, etc).  I've also volunteered about 15 years of my life - American Red Cross, EMT, Board Positions of not-for-profit organizations, coached baseball, led fund raisers, etc.

Given my background, I'm not sure if shooting for a top school is even something I'm concerned about (don't even know if I'd get in).  I may consider criminal law or environmental law or perhaps business and go back into the financial world in a compliance role.  In addition, we're selling our home and will be moving to wherever I get into school - so I'm fully committed to this and I have the next 5 months to study for the LSAT and do anything and everything to prepare the very best application.  It's now my full-time job!  I'm planning on a Fall '09 start.

So here are some questions:

1. In my situation, where do I need to be on the LSAT to be competitive for a tier 1 school?  Should I even worry about shooting for a top school?
2. Would hiring a professional consultant, like that firm in Washington, DC (the name escapes me) be worth it?
3. Letters of reference:  I have a number of high profile attorney friends who would probably write something for me, as well as a friend who is a DA.  Would that help?
4. When schools are rated "top" in a specific field, e.g. Environmental Law - Vermont, Pace, etc.  Are they really "top" schools as viewed by others?

Any advice and suggestions would be VERY much appreciated.  This is a big life change and a bit scary seeing that I have two young children and I'd be 40 when I graduate!

Thanks everyone... I really appreciate your thoughts.


Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2008, 06:52:34 PM »
1. Well, you are actually in better shape than you think- your community college grades will count just as much (if the hours match) as your NYU grades. You are far enough out and have done enough that your "downward trend" is not likely to be a big issue with a short grade addendum, and if your overall GPA is a 3.2, you could get in many places, depending on your LSAT. If you can hit high 170's, aside from Harvard/Stanford/Yale and likely Berkeley, most are possible to likely. Mid- to high- 160's will keep you in Tier 1. 170 or so will open a LOT of doors. So, don't shoot too low when applying. And I'm glad you are taking the test seriously- this will very much dictate your options.
From what I saw last year, your numbers will more or less predict your acceptances, with the experience, etc will tend to increase scholarship offers, and maybe get you in where you might otherwise be on the cusp. So, helpful but not decisive.
2. Depends- I was very surprised to realize the huge potential difference in opportunity based on rank. However, you have to consider your family, and where/if you'd be willing/able to move. I started out thinking I'd just stay here in Portland and go to Lewis and Clark, and ended up imminently moving to Ann Arbor. It REALLY does matter, much more so than specialty rankings. Another thing to consider- the curriculum tends to be taught very differently in top schools vs. those further down the rankings. I hope to have fun with the academic end of things and am attracted to the "teach you how to think like a lawyer" rationale of the top schools, rather than what you might get at a school which concentrates more on pre-bar prep. Others may prefer the practical approach.
3. Letters of reference- I'm your age, and had to scramble a bit, as well. I ended up with my parter (work, that is), and a former attending/senior resident writing my letters. At our age, it's harder to find someone with whom you don't have a friendly relationship- I consider all of my letter writers friends. However, you do want someone who has observed if not supervised you in a professional capacity. I don't necessarily think there has to be a law connection- none of mine have one. Just try to cover the broad outline of your career out of school. Mine covered the period 1997- present. What you can do is send them guidelines for a law school recommendation- I sent a xeroxed chapter from a book on applications. So, maybe one at most from a lawyer/DA friend
4. From what I can glean, higher general ranking trumps area of interest ranking definitively.

Have a great time with your year off! Sounds like you need a rest as much as I do. In fact, I'm thinking of the next three years as an extended sabbatical.

I'll be under 40 (by two months) when I graduate, so guess I beat you in the early mid-life-crisis race.

Oh, regarding consultants...see how you are feeling after the LSAT. The essays are few and not terribly difficult, and most of the information is easily obtainable on the web (spend some time on LSN if you haven't already). If you are uncomfortable at that point, hire someone. I'm not sure I'd recommend it preemptively. Also, you may want to hire someone for an hour or so for specific questions, rather than spend a lot of money on a package deal. I used one for an hour to run my story by them and ask if I'd applied well- I was really hoping for a full ride/huge scholarship at a top school (made leaving my career seem less insane), and wanted to make sure I was maximizing my chances. In the end, more of an affirmation than anything else, but did alleviate my anxiety.
Off to my going away party at work. Woo hoo.


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Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2008, 07:30:50 PM »
Hi and welcome from a fellow Non-Trad!

I ditto everything that has been said, but would like to add that the "specializations" are not important. I would just focus on getting into the highest ranked school you can.

I wouldn't bother with hiring any consultants. If you stay here long enough, we are all here to support each other and there are many well qualified people here to answer your specific questions. We help each other with Personal Statements, and applications, the LSAT etc. There are many helpful resources on the internet "Law school numbers" "Chiashu" will give you a lot of information.

How are you studying for the LSAT? Are you self-studying or taking a course?

Good Luck with your cycle :)

~ Mori

Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2008, 07:54:52 PM »
As simple and shallow as it sounds, LSAT LSAT LSAT.  It is the single most important factor that is still under your control. 

Good luck with your cycle.  "That's how you become great, man, hang your balls out there" (Jerry McGuire, dude at Kinko's)

Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2008, 08:44:47 PM »
Hey I'm a fellow Stern grad.Double major, accounting and finance.  Brian's advice is dead on...kill the LSAT.

Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2008, 04:06:26 AM »

I really appreciate all of your responses and suggestions.  More than anything, it's nice to know that others are in similar shoes and I'm not as "non-traditional" as I had thought.

In terms of studying for the LSAT, I've purchased a handful of books - Kaplan, Princeton Review, some books on logic games, etc.  My plan was to go through the books on my own and start taking as many practice exams as possible.  I've spoken with an LSAT tutor locally and I may do some one-on-one time if I feel that I'm lacking in any particular area.  Again, studying for the LSAT and preparing my application is my full-time job now, so I'll self study, take a class, use a tutor, etc. - whatever I feel is needed.

I'm heading away for the weekend, but back early next week.  I'm sure I'll reach out to many of you again with more questions.  Again, thank you so much for your terrific feedback, advice and support!

Any suggestions on the best way to start a study program for the LSAT?

Best regards,


Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2008, 04:54:59 AM »
Taking as many practice tests under timed conditions is probably the best thing you can do once you've read through and have a good understanding of what each section is all about.  Learning to identify what "type" of question your dealing with as soon as you read it, is very helpful.  There are books called "10 Actual LSAT Tests" that are exactly what the title says, actual tests administered in the past.  They are what I used to practice. 

Tutors can, in my opinion, be great for helping you set up strategy on the Logic Games.  You can figure out any logic game eventually if you have enough time, but your time is severely restricted and you need to be able to diagram and set up the problem as efficiently as possible.  I wish I would have used a tutor for the logic games.  It was the difference maker for me.  I did well but a few more correct answers on the logic games would have put me at the next level. 

Good luck with your studying.

Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2008, 01:58:07 PM »
From what I've read here and seen on LSN, it's even more important for non-trad students to rock out the LSAT, particularly if there are issues with the GPA.  If you took about the same number of units at the community college and NYU, your LSDAS GPA (the most important number) is going to be roughly around a 3.2 which is a bit on the low side for some schools like Berkeley.  If you do well on the LSAT, a school like Northwestern would be a good target, given your work experience.

Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2008, 05:59:19 PM »
All excellent advice - thank you.  So how have you all gone about choosing the best school for your interests?  I've gone through the US News database and have been reviewing about 40+ school catalogs, but if you read 5 of them, you hear the same thing.  The courses are so similar, the GPA and LSAT requirements (or averages) are so similar, etc.

Any thoughts?

Seems like you just shoot for the best school you can get into.  In addition, is a good method to shoot for applying to 7-10 schools - some slightly above your expectations, some in line and some as fall back schools?

Tomorrow's my big day to hit the LSAT book and start reading.  It's official. I'm on course.


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Re: Non-traditional prospective student - need some advice!
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2008, 09:51:10 PM »
You can't really know which schools to apply to unless you have an LSAT score. Since I wont be taking it till October, I basically have chosen schools that are in the area I want to live and work in, and I know I have a shot at with an LSAT score of a 158-170. Some of the schools I picked were reaches (given my GPA) and some I know I have an excellent shot at perhaps with some $$$ too.

You are right, you should shoot for the best schools you can get into. But you have to also take into consideration if the schools are regional or national. Most people would advice to go to a law school in an area that you plan to work in. This doesn't apply to the T14. There are a lot of factors involved in choosing the right school. Between now and October 27th you will develop a better grasp of what schools you should be aiming to apply to, with an even firmer grasp right after your LSAT score is posted.