Law School Discussion

Rank vs. Debt (What is more important?)

Rank vs. Debt (What is more important?)
« on: April 12, 2009, 06:36:30 PM »
While a first look at these two schools (William Mitchell and Wash U) may easily lead one to decide on Wash U as the better option, please take into account my financial aid. 

For William Mitchell, I essentially am looking at taking out a loan for around $20,000 per year ($60,000 total debt) due to a substantial scholarship.  For Wash U, I would have to take out a loan for full tuition and living expenses ($60,000 per year x 3= $180,000 total debt).

I understand that Wash U would generally be considered the better school academically.  In addition, it would likely provide better career prospects as a top 20 school.  William Mitchell is a smaller school in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is not ranked.  I would likely have access to the BigLaw jobs only if I graduated in the very, very, very top of my class.

What should I do?  More debt, better school?  Much less debt, not as great career prospects?

What do you think??????

Re: William Mitchell vs. Washington University St Louis ($$$)???
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2009, 08:25:02 PM »
it should actually be notated "William Mitchell($$$) vs. WUSTL"

that is all.


Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2009, 06:05:52 PM »
First and most important question: what do you want to do with your law degree?

Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2009, 07:29:37 PM »
I actually want to focus on disability rights and/or Native American law.  Wash U has great resources and highly distinguished professors for both legal fields, but again, the DEBT!


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Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2009, 08:17:26 PM »
That's a tough call.  I am usually not a big proponent of choosing a school based on rankings, but WashU is a vastly superior school based on employment prospects.  Although it sounds like you don't particularly want to work at a large firm, these numbers are generally indicative of the school's employment prospects: about 25% for WashU and 5% for William Mitchell are able to secure NLJ 250 firm employment.  My guess would be that these numbers indicate WashU could place upwards of 33-50% of its class in large firms, and William Mitchell could place upwards of 10-15%.  By "large firm," I mean those paying market or near-market rates in a particular region (so this might include boutique litigation firms, too).

Thus, a J.D. from WashU would probably allow you to pay back your loans if you worked for 4-5 years or so at a large firm and really saved a lot.  At the very least, you could pay off a substantial chunk after a few years of work.  Or you could bypass the firm route and take advantage of the College Cost Reduction & Access Act; but note that the CCRAA only applies to federal loans, which will likely not cover $180,000 debt.

I suggest you contact some employers that you think you might want to work for (or just any attorney who works in the practice area that you want to work in) and ask them what they think about your situation.

Is there a GPA requirement to keep your scholarship?  More importantly, what class rank do you have to maintain to keep the scholarship?


Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2009, 08:39:18 PM »
It's ironic that you want to focus on Native American law, as William Mitchell has made a big deal of hiring two full-time NA law specialists beginning 2009-10.  One has pretty impressive credentials (Order of the Coif, Michigan) and the other has already been a visiting prof at the school for the past academic year.  (Regardless, as unfamiliar as I am with WUSTL, I'm certain that their professors are equally well-credentialed and probably more experienced.)

More information would help here: do you actually want to work in BigLaw?  If so, going to William Mitchell would limit you to those NLJ 250 firms based in Minneapolis, barring some pre-existing personal connection outside the state.  From what I've heard, WUSTL can place students not only in Minneapolis, but also Chicago, St. Louis, Madison, etc. 

On the other hand, if you don't care about working in a big firm, and would rather do something akin to legal aid-type services, then perhaps choosing the cheaper option is better for you.     

Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2009, 08:57:38 AM »
Thanks for the advice and information.  So, hypothetically, if I went to Wash U and graduated in the top 50% of the class, would I have a decent shot at getting a job at a larger law firm (not necessarily NLJ 250) that would make a $180,000 in debt payback affordable? 

Also, what would be your thoughts on going to William Mitchell for a year and then transferring to a school that would provide more nationwide employment opportunities?


Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2009, 09:28:51 AM »
Someone who goes to WUSTL can correct me on this, but my guess is that you need to be considerably higher in class rank than the median to get a BigLaw job in a top market.  If I had to guess, you'd have a "good shot" if you were 25% and above.  Maybe 20%.  On the other hand, if you consider a job that comes with a $75K - $100K salary decent enough, then you'd might be ok in the median. 

As far as debt repayment goes, just do what you can do at the moment and try not to worry about being able to pay everything back in ten years (very few people can).  That means consolidating from year to year during law school and possibly using untouched funds (if there are any) towards the interest accruing on your principal.  The interest is what kills, especially for private loans without fixed rates.

While I was at Mitchell, I knew three students who "transferred up"--two went to UMN and another went to W&M.  Unfortunately, I have no idea whether it was ultimately more beneficial to their careers or whether it helped them obtain more national exposure.  All I know is that it's possible.  According to data compiled by, Mitchell graduates are heavily concentrated in MN and WI, followed by CA and FL.  Anecdotally, I know there are also a fair number practicing in Washington, D.C.  I'd recommend checking out the data that the site has for WUSTL as well.             

Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2009, 02:30:15 PM »
I was just surfing this board and thought I'd sign up and chime in here. WUSTL has a pretty significant American Indian externship program. You can read about it here:

I don't know much about William Mitchell, but if you really want to do American Indian law i think you'd have a leg-up with this Wash U program.

Re: Should I go with Wash U Law? (help please!!)
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2009, 09:29:31 AM »
If all of my loans would qualify for forgiveness and Income Based Repayment under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, would it even be a question as to whether or not to go to Wash U?