Law School Discussion

City Planner Interested in Land Use Law

City Planner Interested in Land Use Law
« on: March 17, 2009, 01:51:55 PM »
I am a city planner in Texas with 8 years of professional experience. I am 35 years old, married with 1 child.  I am interested in land use law.  I have about a 3.4 UGPA from a quite selective liberal arts college and a 3.9 GGPA from a huge university where I received a masters degree in city planning. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 = me winning American Idol and 10 = me continuing the job I have now, I currently see law school as about a 4.   

Here are the schools with land use law programs:

University of Denver; University of Florida; Florida State University; Georgia State University;
University of Missouri, Kansas City;  New York University;  University of Oregon;  Pace Law School;  Rutgers;  Vermont Law School;  and Washington University.

Some of these, such as UMKC are not Tier 1 schools.  Is it better to go to a lower tiered (and hopefully cheaper) school that has the program I am interested in or a higher ranking school that doesn't?  Since I have a masters degree in planning, do I even need a land use law program? I assume most of the students in 2L or 3L in land use law programs have little or no experince as city planners.  I have fewer years left in my work life (and therefore fewer years to pay off debt) than a 22 year old would so maybe a cheaper school is the way to go.  I just don't know.

I am not interested in big law.  I am not really interested in any other type of law. Right now, I don't have any noble interest in law or legal matters.  Since that is the case, would you think law school is realy even right for me?  I am only doing it to try to make more money and be more marketable. Is that a good enough motivation for most people once they get into a school?
If I went to and graduated from law school, I'd like to be a land use attorney for a city or for a planning consulting firm. 



Re: City Planner Interested in Land Use Law
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2009, 02:41:37 PM »
As far as specialty programs go, they're not all that important.  Sure, they'll give more "exposure" than a school which lacks the program, but the ultimate goal (employment), will certainly not be linked directly with any school's specialty program.

You need to be specific with your goals.  I understand you want to work in land-use law.  I used to work for a small firm (as a law clerk) which specialized in land use law, so I have some idea about what they do, etc.  With that being said, many different types of places practice land use.

You could work for the federal government; you could work for the county or state in some capacity; you could work at a big law firm which has a land use specialty; or you could work at a small law firm (amongst many other things!)... I hope you get my point.

Based upon those possible avenues of where and how you could practice land use law, you'd want to decide upon which type of school would best serve your purpose.  For instance, if you wanted a big law firm and wanted to work in land use, then you'd want to go to the highest ranked school you could get into (of course that's an oversimplification).

However, and as you said you didn't want to accumulate much debt, you may want to consider lower ranked schools (which are still good) who offer you a scholarship.  You mentioned your GPA (3.4) but not your LSAT.  Have you taken the LSAT?  This will largely determine which schools you could get into and which schools will offer you scholarships.

Lastly, keep in mind that, save for the top top schools, law schools are regional.  So if you don't really want to uproot your whole life, you may want to consider a school that has pull in your region.

One more thing (i know said "lastly" above):  I personally don't think you need extra certification for a land use specialty.  Your experience will certainly appeal to anyone employing in the field.  You'll have connections and you'll have credibility (how many 20-somethings can say that they've been aspiring to work in land use law?).

Good luck.


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Re: City Planner Interested in Land Use Law
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2009, 03:01:57 PM »
I agree with everything said about expect to relating to specialty rankings a school not mattering, in the regular student way that donít for most students because most students do have a firm specialty in mind, will take whatever offer they get doing whatever, and will focus on OCI as their primary means of finding a job. Specialty ranks or programs really donít help folks like that much.

Now there are a few people out there who know what they want to practice and that wonít change in law school no matter what. For those folks a specialty program may make the deal. The right way to use a specialty program to help your career is through making contacts, doing research and getting to know professors in that field. Because itís a specialty area professor in that area will know practitioners in the areas, and would of mouth or recommendations by your professors to their friends goes a long way. If you take advantage of the befits of specality program they can beat rank alone, but if you donít them donít expect that just because the school has a specialty program it will help you any in OCI.

I actually go to Denver and know a few of the professors who specialize in land use and they are very well connected and have students RA for them all time. Plus they get publication credit when they work on a project with the prof. I went to law school knowing all I wanted to practice was water law, that never changed. I chose Denver over higher ranked school because of its water law focus and water law journal. Through be acvtity in that, working with profs ect. I have got great contacts in the water law field now.