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Author Topic: Law in Florida. HELP!!  (Read 1869 times)

gatorslaw

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Law in Florida. HELP!!
« on: April 17, 2011, 11:15:58 PM »
Hey guys, quick question. I am about to take my LSAT and thinking where to apply. I am from South Florida and I KNOW I want to live/ practice in Miami after law school. So...UM or FIU? UM is well established and has a great alumni network...but I can't help but feel it's ridiculously overpriced (it's ranked around the low 70's) and in this economy, who is willing to pile on 180k of debt with the job uncertainty? On the other hand..FIU is brand new, rising in the rankings (brand new law school started out at tier 3) CHEAP (13k) and I know I'd place near the top of my class ( I currently have a 4.0 undergrad GPA at UF, I'm at the top of my class, and heavily involved in research, TAing, and various leadership positions around campus & community- I am very driven, ambitious, and above all I KNOW I want to be a lawyer despite my salary)

Other reasons for wanting to move to Miami: I HATE living in Gainesville ( a southern town in the middle of nowhere infested with bigotry) so I don't think I will even apply to UF. The thought of living here for 7 years makes me cringe. And yes, it's more important for me to be happy with my surroundings, and close to my family, than to go to a top law school. I don't wanna be a pawn in this law school name game. Also I plan (& hope!) on going into solo practice ASAP, I am not interested in climbing the ladder at a firm or sticking around for 20 years being someone's biotch in order to make a 6 figure salary as partner but be miserable.

Please please, give me your advice on whether attending FIU for the aforementioned reasons is a good idea or not.

Thanks! I truly appreciate it.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2011, 02:01:59 AM »
What you're saying all makes sense.

With your undegrad GPA, why are you only considering these two schools?  Why not set your sights a little higher?

I get what you're saying about going into practice for yourself. 

Just one thing to throw in there:  working for da man for a couple of years first could be a good way to build a strong set of skills and contacts for your own practice.

Best of luck.

gatorslaw

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2011, 02:37:23 PM »
Thanks, I really appreciate your input. Like you said, I probably wouldn't be able to build a solo practice as a fresh law school graduate, so clerking or working for a firm for a few years would probably be really beneficial, like you suggested.

Maybe I'm wrong in only considering these two schools. I just thought being in Miami would give me a leg up on graduates from FSU/ UF who lived in Tallahassee and were unable to network in Miami for those 3 years.

To answer your question, the reason I'm only considering those two is because I'm having a tremendously hard time with the LSAT. I moved to the U.S ten years ago, and I didn't know any English. I can definitely speak it well enough for my day-to-day activities but taking this logic test in a foreign language has proven to be a little harder than I thought. It's sad because I worked my butt off at UF and I might get stuck at a lower ranked school because I can't understand an entire reading passage in 8 min. Oh well, I've sort of come to terms with it, I can only do my best and hope it's enough and that schools take into account how hard I worked in undergrad as a sign of how I will do in law school. Also, sadly, since I'm Hispanic but not Puerto Rican/ Mexican I'm not a URM. How ironic that immigrants are not considered URM's as I would assume they are probably just as underrepresented in the legal field as official URMs. Oh well.

Thanks for your advice!

bigs5068

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2011, 04:17:54 PM »
Everything you said makes perfect sense and with the awesome tuition rate at FIU that would probably be my choice. However, something to be careful about is your statement that you know you will rank highly at FIU. You certainly can, but everyone at every ABA school thinks they will be in the top 10% of the class. You don't need to be a math major to figure out how that turns out for 90% of students.  99% of people at any ABA school are smart hard-working ambitious people who have done pretty well academically their entire life. All law students tell themselves they will rank highly, but that obviously can't happen.

I don't know if that helps your decision at all, but it is something to think about no matter what law school you attend. Looking at lawschooltransparency, which is far from perfect, but does at least offer actual salary numbers unlike U.S. News or the ABA it looks like only 20% of the class from UM had a reportable salary. http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=miami. FIU doesn't have anyone listed, which is strange I have not seen any other school with no reportable salaries. http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=fiu

A good step to take is simply e-mailing firms in the area. I was seriously considering attending FIU when I was choosing schools and people in Miami were very receptive to my questions. Most had positive things to say about FIU, but having no reportable salaries is a little strange. However, FIU's tuition rate is one of the best in the country.


gatorslaw

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2011, 05:16:01 PM »
Bigs5068, thanks a lot for your input. You are right, I cannot assume that merely because I did well in my undergraduate that I will be a stellar student in law school. I was making the assumption (perhaps erroneous) that, since FIU has lower stats, maybe students who enroll there are not as competitive or driven as those, say at UF. But now I realize that's a silly assumption to make.

It's curiously strange that FIU would have no reportable salaries...but then again they've only had about 3 or 4 graduating classes. Could that be an explanation? If not...that scares me a tad. Also, why did you decide against attending FIU? If you don't mind me asking, where did you decide to attend instead?

And thanks for the tip, I'll e-mail/ call a few attorneys in the area to get their input once finals are over.

bigs5068

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2011, 08:48:04 PM »
My story is completely random and all the decisions leading up to choosing my law school were completely wrong in my opinion, but thankfully some attorneys talked some sense into me.

I am from California L.A., but went to college in Northern California and wanted to end up in San Francisco. I decided to put a lot of emphasis on the rankings and when I got accepted into Michigan State the 95th best school in the country my mind was made up I would go to Michigan State, but then a few months later I had the realization of I do not know anybody in Michigan, I have no desire to live in Michigan, I hate! cold weather, and the tuition was extremely expensive. Then I started looking at schools with lower tuition rates and noticed FIU. I applied there and they let me in. I have familiarity with Miami and 12k a year is more than reasonable for an ABA degree. I paid the deposit at both schools, but ultimately decided the U.S. News rankings were the most important thing and decided to go to Michigan State. Literally the week before I was going to drive out to Michigan my car fell apart and then my fiance got an amazing job offer in San Francisco. I had been accepted to Golden Gate, but never paid the deposit, but I was thinking why the hell am I going to Michigan. I e-mailed Golden Gate a week before classes started and explained my situation to them and they let me in and let me keep a huge scholarship they had initially offered me. After that discussion I started e-mailing and talking to a few attorneys in the Bay Area and they responded saying what should have been obvious to me from the outset. If you want to be in San Francisco go to school in San Francisco and Golden Gate is where I ended up.

GGU is tier 4, but everything has worked out fine for me up to this part. I had a pretty good 1L summer job, I had an alright internship Fall of my second year, and I really like my internship this Spring, then I got a pretty high paying 2L summer job. I have honestly really enjoyed the school and made a lot of good friends. GGU is certainly not Stanford, but the law is the law. You will read Supreme Court decisions and they don't write special editions for Ivy League students. I will probably never on the Supreme Court with a degree from GGU, but that is alright with me.
 
I have no idea why they have no reportable salaries. Lawschooltransparency has not been updated since 2008 and as you said FIU is a very new school so that might be the reason. I truthfully don't know. These reportable salaries and employment stats are not real accurate and the reality is finding a job etc is going to be on you. No school guarantees you a job and your going to be bear the burden of finding employment etc. This is particularly true at non-elite schools. 

My rant on the rankings-
As a sidenote a month into attending law school I decided to look at how the rankings were done since I almost made a life altering decision based on them and I was shocked! The rankings make no sense. This is how it works lawyers, judges, and law school faculty from across the country mark a scantron from 1-5. So  a judge in Nebraska gives a check of 1-5 to FIU. The person in Nebraska has probably never been to Miami or met a single person from FIU, but they check a box and that is basically it. A school's bar passage makes up a whopping 2% of the rankings, which just shows the ridiculousness of it. As a result of this unbelievable formula schools drop and rise 20 spots any given year. They have limited these free falls by making making 7 way ties for 63rd place. In this years ranking there is a 12 way tie for 84th it is simply unbelievably bad. This article from LSAC does a pretty good job of summarizing it. http://www.lsac.org/LsacResources/Research/GR/GR-07-02.pdf. Since the rankings are so terribly done neither the ABA or AALS acknowledge and publicly condemn them. It is a for profit private magazine offering their opinion on schools. It is a cash-cow for them they put in little work to make any determinations about anything, but people do not even question them. I personally knew Harvard and Yale were good schools before U.S. News started publishing the rankings in the 80's, but U.S. News needed to establish that fact. They only used to deal with top schools and it was legit, but then the expanded it and now use Scantrons to determine whether Gonzaga is a better law school than Maine.

Point is whatever you decide to do don't take the rankings very seriously. There are elite schools and if you were debating between Harvard and FIU the answer would pretty obvious. I suppose Florida or Florida State are highly regarded in Florida, but from your post it sounds like you hate living in small college towns and that is your personal preference. If you attend Miami or FIU you can probably get a lot of internships etc while in school, which I have been able to do as a result of going to school in a big city.


gatorslaw

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2011, 01:51:39 AM »
I can't thank you enough for sharing that story! I am really glad things worked out for you and you just gave me ample hope in my future decisions. Like you, I always had this unsettling feeling about rankings, but the info you just gave me is truly eye-opening.

Thanks SO much!

I scheduled a tour and a class sit-in this Friday at FIU and I'm very excited. I already visited UM this semester and I was very unimpressed. The law school building looks like my old high school, the library's facilities are sub-par, and what really turned me off is the fact that the only place where students are allowed to smoke is in the ONLY, tiny courtyard of the law school so it's constantly filled with smokers that come from all over campus. On the upside the administration and tour guide were very courteous. It's not bad, I don't want to rag on the University of Miami, but for that price I guess I expected a bit more pizazz. I'll write a review of FIU after my trip.

Thanks again for all your help.

blue54

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2011, 03:46:45 PM »
Here's my take on it. I am currently a 3L at Michigan State.  Throughout law school, everyone everywhere has placed so much emphasis on the rankings. Yes, Michigan is a T14 school, and Michigan State is only 95th. But, as the previous poster stated, we are all studying the same material and learning the same laws. It's all about debt in the end. Thankfully, I will have no debt when I get out of law school school. This comes with a degree from a school that doesn't fall in the top 14. So what? I'd rather take that then gamble with paying out 40K/year at a higher ranked school. Very few T14 students are landing jobs right out of law school anyways.

So, think about this: debt and location. Don't go to Northern Illinois University if you want to practice in south Florida. Don't go to Wayne State University if you want to practice in Seattle. Get into the best school you can with the least amount of debt in the location you want to be in afterwards.

That being said, there are some caveats: some schools have a terrible stigma attached to them. There are a number of these in Florida (and one in particular here in Michigan).  Don't attend these even if have landed a large scholarship, because most likely you will lose this scholarship after the first year as a result of criminal grade curves. Instead, go to a state school and take advantage of the low tuition and strong ties to the community. 

Lastly, some schools will carry a strong name no matter where you go in the country. Most of these are the T14 schools. Larger state schools follow as well: Michigan State is ranked at the same level as Marquette, but Michigan State carries a bigger name with it.  Name recognition is not as crucial as one would think, but it still plays a role.

Good luck with your law school career. It's an amazing experience. Hopefully by the time you are finished, the legal market will have turned around.

gatorslaw

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2011, 05:15:23 PM »
Blue 54, thanks a lot for your advice! It means a lot coming from someone who has already gone through the process. I also think the economy played a large role in the breeding of this new mentality. I'm starting to think a 150k+ loan is only worth it for a T14 in this economy. I can't help but think I'd have buyers remorse if I were to drop 150k for a school like UMiami, when FIU right down the road, is 36k. It just doesn't seem like the opportunity cost would be worth the sleepless nights after law school wondering about how to pay off all my debt.

I just wish people would realize that successful undergraduates are ACTUALLY seeking to attend  public T3's or T4's in their desired market over, say, a T50 school for an arm and a leg. This would really mitigate some of the social stigma attached to these schools... 

bigs5068

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Re: Law in Florida. HELP!!
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2011, 08:57:40 PM »
I don't know if any actual lawyer does look down at particular schools. Most people that bash certain schools have never taken the LSAT and one thing you will learn in all aspects of life is that those who know the least know it the loudest. Go to any courtroom and watch lawyers argue. Some are good some are not and one thing that I have never heard any lawyer say is what law school they attended in court. When determining for example if a girl was raped or not the judge and jury care about the facts of the case not whether the prosecutor went to a tier 1 school or not. I have seen lackluster performances from Ivy League Grads and I have seen great performances from attorney that went to non-aba law schools. It really comes down to how good you are.

sidenote. California has a name directory on the bar website and when I watch certain cases I like to look at what school the lawyers went to that is how I know what school they attended.  Again nobody has ever mentioned their law school in a court proceeding that I have witnessed.

I really think the legal profession has a lot of similarities to sports. It certainly helps to be drafted #1, but it is no guarantee of success i.e. Jamarcus Russel. You can also be drafted #199th and dominate i.e. Tom Brady. Jamarcus Russel was given plenty of opportunities, but he didn't perform. Tom Brady had to bust his ass to make the roster his rookie year, but he made it and now he is arguably the best quarterback in history.  Same thing applies in law school if you attend Harvard their will be a lot more doors open to you, but you still have to perform. If you don't make a proper objection, or don't follow the rules of court, you will screw your client. I just read a case where a prestigious firm Arnold and Porter filed their death penalty habeus corpus motion 3 days late. The court did not care that is was a prestigious law firm. The case is Coleman v. Thompson 501 U.S. 722.  The client was executed and by not following the rules of court they killed their client. It was irrelevant that they have to many Harvard Grads to count in their firm. http://www.arnoldporter.com/professionals.cfm

At the end of the day whether or not you will be a good lawyer depends on you not your school. It certainly helps to go to Harvard, but the name of your school can only take you so far.