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Author Topic: top law school vs national law school  (Read 2813 times)

Thane Messinger

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2010, 04:03:49 PM »
I would like some clarification-what is the difference between a top law school and a national law school? I know about the tier system but I read somewhere that some schools cater to a niche market and that makes them a national law school. (HBCU,schools that have a religious connection like Ava Marie) Does that really make a difference or are these schools really still just regional?


The tier system itself is misleading, because a school under the national and quasi-national schools (roughly, Tier 1) will not usually be judged relative to other schools outside its region.  There are a few exceptions, as there always are, but in general, below the top schools (top 5, then top 14, then top 25, then top 50), it begins to get hazy.  Within a region, there are the national schools and then rankings of schools within that region.  Other schools aren't exactly excluded, but neither are they really in the picture.  (So a T3 school in California is all but irrelevant in North Carolina.)  The important point is that while rankings seem linear, in truth law school "value" is not.

Also important are your goals.  If it's to teach law, your choices are the top 5 (and really top 2).  If it's biglaw, top 14 (and really top 5-10).  If it's lots of money, same answer . . . or real work and skill, in litigation especially.  If bar admission, ABA.  If impressing aunts and uncles, well then that depends upon where they went.  = :   )

Morten Lund

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2010, 12:44:36 AM »
while rankings seem linear, in truth law school "value" is not.

Before selecting a law school, copy this statement into your favorite word processor, blow it up to 72pt type, then bold it and underline it, and add funny colors if you like, then print it out and tape it to the wall in front of your face where you will be sitting while making law school choices.

louiebstef

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2010, 09:10:57 AM »
Morten,

If you mean that the choice is a highly individual thing, I absolutely agree with you.   Making a knee-jerk pick based solely on USNWR is ludicrous.

Situations are different.  For me, an acceptance letter to Yale would mean very little other than a pat on the back.  I am debt averse at my age and assuming a $150K debt is absolutely not an option.

If I were a 23 year old cocky gunner with a Daddy who has deep pockets, I would be excited to pack for New Haven, most likely.

From all that I have read, it largely depends on the personal situation of the student, their eventual employment goals (BIGLAW, small regional firm, etc), their academic potential, and personal/social/cultural preferences.  I seriously believe in making a campus visit to any school one would seriously consider attending.  I have done so with three schools so far, and I will not be applying until next year.

 
"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"

marcus-aurelius

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2010, 11:05:45 AM »
I agree that a campus visit should be made.  As many of you know, I prefer a T14 school.  Should I be accepted to multiple schools, I plan on utilizing visits to decide my destination.  Comfort, IMO, can help onw succeed.  So visits are paramount to getting the "feel" for where you are comfortable.  Unless its YHS.  Then I go there


Morten Lund

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2010, 11:19:42 AM »

If you mean that the choice is a highly individual thing, I absolutely agree with you.   Making a knee-jerk pick based solely on USNWR is ludicrous.

Situations are different.  For me, an acceptance letter to Yale would mean very little other than a pat on the back.  I am debt averse at my age and assuming a $150K debt is absolutely not an option.

That was indeed more or less what I meant, but I must admit I had a more limited application in mind (choosing between schools ranked 15 and 23, for instance) - and you have just shown that my limit was inappropriate.

My often-repeated advice to everyone I meet is that if they get into YLS (or even, I guess, HLS/SLS) to go no matter what - the value of a JD from those schools cannot be underestimated.  And in general I stand by that advice.

BUT - as you demonstrated, even that rule is too firm.  I agree that for you, in your situation, attending ANY expensive law school (including, gulp, YLS) could be a bad idea. 

Every decision should be approached with your (general you, not you you) goals and limitations firmly in mind.  What (get used to hearing this from me) are you trying to achieve?

And apologies for the excessive parentheticals.  I must be hanging out with Thane too much.

louiebstef

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2010, 12:43:10 PM »
Morten,

Very well put.  I would put a very general hypothetical age at about 30 for taking the debt plunge.  I could see myself jumping at HLS/YLS if I were 15 years younger.  If BIGLAW were my focus, I could see a 33yr old being competitive as a potential associate, even with a few years of post-BA/pre-JD experience.  A 40 year old?  Ummmmmmprobably not.  The same would hold true if academia was the goal.  Even though the salaries are lower, that additional 15 years would make a difference.  Unless you have a mattress stuffed with $100s from that little side trip to Nicaragua.....servicing a debt gets harder as time goes on.

Thane.....I think you just got called out by Morten!  LOL

"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"

Thane Messinger

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2010, 03:25:02 PM »
Morten,

Very well put.  I would put a very general hypothetical age at about 30 for taking the debt plunge.  I could see myself jumping at HLS/YLS if I were 15 years younger.  If BIGLAW were my focus, I could see a 33yr old being competitive as a potential associate, even with a few years of post-BA/pre-JD experience.  A 40 year old?  Ummmmmmprobably not.  The same would hold true if academia was the goal.  Even though the salaries are lower, that additional 15 years would make a difference.  Unless you have a mattress stuffed with $100s from that little side trip to Nicaragua.....servicing a debt gets harder as time goes on.

Thane.....I think you just got called out by Morten!  LOL


I did have a few extra parentheses scattered about.  And since I'm on a punctuation diet, I thought it only fair to share.  = :  )

Thane.

PS:  As to a Top 3 (or 5-10) or Not Top 3 (or 5-10) school, while the aversion to debt is admirable and wise, Morten's point is likewise fair:  for a 30-something--and even for a 40- or 50-something--the vocational and self-actualization boosts are often worth it.  You're quite right that it's not likely as an associate at a traditional firm (and at 40+ who would want that?!) . . . but I've known three non-trads who just about walked into partnerships, mostly with boutique firms.  And for many there might be a different point:  if debt is "buying" a law school education and credential, the real question is whether that purchase is a good purchase, for you.  ("You" specifically, whoever you are.)  There are multiple sides to that equation, and ego can well be part of the final answer.  Money is clearly important, but shouldn't always drive the decision (within reason).

Thane Messinger

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2010, 03:50:38 PM »
PS:  As to a Top 3 (or 5-10) or Not Top 3 (or 5-10) school, while the aversion to debt is admirable and wise, Morten's point is likewise fair:  for a 30-something--and even for a 40- or 50-something--the vocational and self-actualization boosts are often worth it.  You're quite right that it's not likely as an associate at a traditional firm (and at 40+ who would want that?!) . . . but I've known three non-trads who just about walked into partnerships, mostly with boutique firms.  And for many there might be a different point:  if debt is "buying" a law school education and credential, the real question is whether that purchase is a good purchase, for you.  ("You" specifically, whoever you are.)  There are multiple sides to that equation, and ego can well be part of the final answer.  Money is clearly important, but shouldn't always drive the decision (within reason).

My apologies if it's bad form to quote oneself, but louiebstef's comment deserves additional play for those who might be considering just such a dilemma--or, worse, the assumption of $150,000+ debt for a school that is not quite at the tippy top.  After all, it's fairly easy to state that Yale will almost certainly offer the opportunity to pay off those mountains of loans, and fairly well.  A school lower in the top tier, in this market?  Not so much. 

I happen to be working on a book about money, and so the point that came to mind was a paradox: individuals such as louiebstef, who are allergic to debt (as were our grandparents and their parents and other ancesters before them) are likely to have a greater capacity to take on debt. 

Debt is neither good nor bad.  It is clearly bad if consumed.  It can be wonderful if invested.  Education has been a fair investment, on average.  As we have seen, the economy can crumple without a steady flow of credit (i.e., debt from the other side) . . . and those who pay the bill are those least able to, such as new graduates.

So, if you're contemplating enrolling in a law school, consider seriously the points louiebstef makes.  One should be somewhere between averse and allergic to the volumes of debt we're talking about . . . before one has even started to practice.

This brings to mind yet another issue, which is that the law school is just part of the success equation: the student is a (big) part too.  If one IS going to assume this burden, then one should devote oneself to doing well.  But . . . and here's where my radical counter-revolutionary tendencies take over . . . "doing well" is not what we think it is.  In law school, this is not being teacher's pet, or gunning, or note-taking, or color-coding, or bad behavior.  All of that is, at best, irrelevant.  Doing well means learning the law in a way that approximates how a real lawyer thinks about the law, because that is what will be tested.

louiebstef

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Re: top law school vs national law school
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2010, 08:51:21 PM »
VERY well put by Thane.

His point about debt and investment is well worth listening to.  As a former business wonk (Yes, after I finished buying $600 toilet seats in the navy), we call it ROI: return on investment.  It is the judicious application of this ratio that often times results in a business either succeeding or failing.  Thane also gave a nod to timing.  That too is a part of the equation.

Don't ever forget that unless you are in a non-profit, government or academic position, the law indeed IS all about profits (and a well-run practice).  I am trying to think along those lines now, as a 0L. 

Had I the confidence in my ability to really know that I would excel (or even be admitted!) at HYS, I probably would risk taking on the debt.  It is very much an individual question.  In my case, I see (and pray for) a partial ride to a good T-1/2 state school.  I have confidence that by doing the things Thane mentioned (study SMART-learn the LAW), that I can be in the top 25%.  The positions that would possibly be available to me as a graduate would likely fulfill my salary needs.

All 0Ls should seriously be considering these things for themselves.  Law school is just not done half-way.  That is surely a recipe for disaster.
"Why be a lawyer? I'm already an ass.  Might as well go professional!"