Law School Discussion

$$ or prestige for Public Interest?

$$ or prestige for Public Interest?
« on: February 24, 2009, 10:16:30 PM »
This post is a variation on the old theme of $$ vs. prestige.  I have not finished my cycle but it looks like I will be choosing between a lower t-14 close to sticker or a decent school 1/2 off or full ride.  Here's the twist: I know I am interested primarily in Public Interest and D.A. work.

So for those of us heart set on taking a vow of poverty after we graduate, what say you?  Does the possibility of incurring too much debt to turn down a Biglaw salary mean we should take the money at a lower ranked school?  Or will we need a nice degree to insure respect for the rest of our lives, in case there are some who can't see past a cheaper suit than theirs, regardless of the debt?

Speedzie

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Re: $$ or prestige for Public Interest?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2009, 07:02:51 AM »
This post is a variation on the old theme of $$ vs. prestige.  I have not finished my cycle but it looks like I will be choosing between a lower t-14 close to sticker or a decent school 1/2 off or full ride.  Here's the twist: I know I am interested primarily in Public Interest and D.A. work.

So for those of us heart set on taking a vow of poverty after we graduate, what say you?  Does the possibility of incurring too much debt to turn down a Biglaw salary mean we should take the money at a lower ranked school?  Or will we need a nice degree to insure respect for the rest of our lives, in case there are some who can't see past a cheaper suit than theirs, regardless of the debt?

Even with a full ride, you're still going to take on a lot of debt during school, unless you're getting a big stipend.  Personally?  I'd try to balance a good school with a cheap one.  On the one hand, you are going to want some prestige under your belt in the long term - it can only help in the job hunt.  On the other hand, though, do you really want to be making payments of $800/mo or more on your student loans when you get out? 

If I were you, I'd do a little research too.  1. Talk to a career services person at a school you're accepted to, preferably when you're on a visit so they'll take you seriously.  2. Look around online:  Martindale Hubbell, and just google.  See where D.A.s and public interest folks went to school.  3. Get your hands on some legal career books - I know this one tells you about what people's jobs are like, and also shows where they went to school (decent proxy for prestige requirements)
http://www.amazon.com/Official-Guide-Legal-Specialties/dp/0159003911/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235570502&sr=8-8

Lastly, I'll give the same advice I give everyone.  Follow your gut.  Visit, talk to students, and go where you feel comfortable.

NYC3L

Re: $$ or prestige for Public Interest?
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2009, 10:34:28 AM »
This post is a variation on the old theme of $$ vs. prestige.  I have not finished my cycle but it looks like I will be choosing between a lower t-14 close to sticker or a decent school 1/2 off or full ride.  Here's the twist: I know I am interested primarily in Public Interest and D.A. work.

So for those of us heart set on taking a vow of poverty after we graduate, what say you?  Does the possibility of incurring too much debt to turn down a Biglaw salary mean we should take the money at a lower ranked school?  Or will we need a nice degree to insure respect for the rest of our lives, in case there are some who can't see past a cheaper suit than theirs, regardless of the debt?

This is a very tough call. Look into LRAP programs very closely -- you may not have to make the sacrifice. That said, DA's offices hire from all over the place. If it's a choice between a T14 at full price and a T25 at full scholarship (or almost that), it becomes very hard to justify taking the T14 if it doesnt have good loan forgivene

Re: $$ or prestige for Public Interest?
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2009, 12:50:17 PM »
As someone who has worked in public interest since graduating from a top 25 LS (12 years ago), I can tell you that people still care where you went to LS.  Prestige does help get your foot in the door, but in my current office -- US Attorney's office -- I think the door opening effect really only works for the Top 3 schools.  After that, it's not that big of a deal. 

So, if you can get a good deal on attending a good school that is well respected where you want to work, I'd pick that (with minimal debt) over going to a top 14 with a great deal of debt. 

If you have more specific questions, feel free to send me a message.


bamf

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Re: $$ or prestige for Public Interest?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2009, 07:20:20 PM »
This post is a variation on the old theme of $$ vs. prestige.  I have not finished my cycle but it looks like I will be choosing between a lower t-14 close to sticker or a decent school 1/2 off or full ride.  Here's the twist: I know I am interested primarily in Public Interest and D.A. work.

So for those of us heart set on taking a vow of poverty after we graduate, what say you?  Does the possibility of incurring too much debt to turn down a Biglaw salary mean we should take the money at a lower ranked school?  Or will we need a nice degree to insure respect for the rest of our lives, in case there are some who can't see past a cheaper suit than theirs, regardless of the debt?

This is a very tough call. Look into LRAP programs very closely -- you may not have to make the sacrifice. That said, DA's offices hire from all over the place. If it's a choice between a T14 at full price and a T25 at full scholarship (or almost that), it becomes very hard to justify taking the T14 if it doesnt have good loan forgivene

I wholeheartedly agree with this post.  Talk to someone in each school's career services about the repayment options, and also pay attention to the federal repayment plan ... I'm told, though I don't have all the details, that you can sometimes even use both in tandem.  Anyways, if you want to be a DA, also pay attention to the geography of your school choices.  If you want to work in New York County DAs office, and you are picking between Cornell and WashU, go to cornell.  If you want to work in the DA in Cook County (Chicago ... actually I think they call it State's Attorney there) and you are picking between Illinois and Cornell, I have got to think you'd be better off at UIUC ... get what I'm sayin'?

Speedzie

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Re: $$ or prestige for Public Interest?
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2009, 04:00:22 PM »
Seconded.  For local government jobs, especially elected office, you'll want a local education.