Law School Discussion

T2 Schools Worth It?

T2 Schools Worth It?
« on: April 19, 2011, 01:01:51 PM »
I've been out of school for almost ten years and have a toddler.  My husband's job pays all of our bills and mortgage.  His job will allow us to move anywhere there is one of his stores, which is Oregon (either Salem or Portland), Seattle, Charleston or Denver.   

I'm not content to be a stay at home mom and have thought about law school for a few years now.  I have a 158 LSAT (I couldn't swallow the out of control test prep costs, so I got this score on my own), a 3.55 GPA, and graduated magna cum laude with a BA in English from CU, Boulder.  I had a friend who's on the Boalt Hall admissions board read my personal statement and she said it was terrific.  I have worked as a paralegal for two years, and my letters of recommendation are from professors and the attorneys for whom I worked.

 I don't know what kind of law I want to practice yet, but I'm interested in affecting agricultural policy (sustainable and organic agriculture)... I've been accepted to Lewis & Clark but the tuition seems extremely high ($30K!) and I'm hearing that the job placement AND the market after graduation are terrible.  I also applied to CU Boulder, which is cheaper, but I haven't heard back yet.  I'm reading all over the place that going to a T2 school (L&C is 64th, does that make it T3?) means I'll never find work after graduating anyway.

What are people's suggestions about attending L&C and the job market in Portland, specifically?  And what about attending a T2 school? 

Re: T2 Schools Worth It?
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2011, 01:38:29 PM »
T1 (top 50) and T2 (51-100) schools are usually solid choices.   Each place you want to live/practice has its own law school ranking in the opinions of local lawyers, and I don't know the Portland market.  But, you can get a feel for it by researching the bigfirm websites and seeing where they are hiring from. 

At either school, IMO, you will have little trouble finding a job if you can get into the top 25% of the class and get a little bit of law clerk experience under your belt (if you can make top 10%, your life will be much more easy).  Your dilligence thus far suggests to me that it is an achievable goal. 

The lower your class rank, the more important local contacts will be.  If you find yourself outside of the top 25% consider working at a local law firm during school as well as the summer.  I think that being in the top 25% of a top 100 law school, with legal experience, gives you solid odds in any economy.   

The big caveat is that everyone thinks they will be at the top of the law class.  But, you are light years above the average applicant.  If you apply the same diligence to figuring out how to do well in law school as you have to admissions, I think you will do fine. 


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Re: T2 Schools Worth It?
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2011, 09:38:51 AM »
My T2 is the highest ranked school within a few hundred miles and the employment outlook isn't great.  If you are in the top 20% you are almost guaranteed a job by graduation.  If you are in the top half you are almost guaranteed a job by the time you are licensed. The bottom half is totally random and their job chances seem to be based on their networking efforts.
I don't think a T2 has a massive advantage over a strong regional T3, but T2s are usually every bit as cheap as T3 schools.  If I could go back I would probably have taken a large scholarship offer at a T3 instead of paying full tuition at a school ranked between 60 and 80.

Your school choices are pretty solid though.  My suggestion would be to plan on making under $50,000 when you graduate and then decide if it's worth it or not.

Finally, I have a toddler and I feel like I have much more time to spend with my family as a law student than when I had a full-time job.  Also, most Stay-at-home parents seem to really like law school (the relationships, intellectual conversation and challenges, etc)

Re: T2 Schools Worth It?
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2011, 09:42:01 AM »
I don't think a T2 has a massive advantage over a strong regional T3, but T2s are usually every bit as cheap as T3 schools.  If I could go back I would probably have taken a large scholarship offer at a T3 instead of paying full tuition at a school ranked between 60 and 80.

That's an awesome insight.


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Re: T2 Schools Worth It?
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2011, 07:03:23 PM »
You can find work from any ABA school. No matter what law school you go to you will more or less learn the same thing. The ABA makes all ABA schools follow certain requirements and no matter where you go you will take Civil Procedure, Contracts, Con Law, etc. You will read Supreme Court Cases and they donít write special versions for Ivy League Schools. You will read Pennoyer v. Neff, International Shoe etc no matter what school you go to. You will learn how to do research on Lexis or Westlaw and all schools use the Socratic method. As everyone above said if you do well in school you can find a job and even if you donít you can find a job. Once that happens whether or not you keep your job or progress in the profession will be largely determined by YOU.  If you do a great job you will advance whether you went to Cooley or Harvard. If you do a s*** job you will you will get fired and not progress.

This article published by LSAC does a good job of explaining how the rankings work.

The rankings outside of elite schools i.e. Harvard, Yale, don't mean much. This is literally the system and not a joke. Lawyers and Judges from around the country mark a scantron from 1-5. So a judge in Nebraska checks a box from 1-5 to determine whether University of Miami is a 3 or 4. The Nebraska judge is unlikely to have ever met anyone from Miami and would be unable to give any type of accurate assessment of the school, but the ranking goes in.  Besides not interacting with anyone from 90% of the schools it is pretty difficult to tell whether something is 83rd or 84th best so they just make everything a tie.  There is currently a 12 way tie for 84th place. Besides all the ties etc schools drop and rise upwards of 20 spots in a given year. The reason for this is there is no methodology in place.

As a result of the questionable methodology the ABA and AALS publicly condemn the rankings. It needs to be noted that U.S. News is not officially regulated by anyone and it is a for profit magazine offering their subjective opinion based on questionable methodology. Obviously Harvard, Yale, etc are top schools and you should go, but the 58th or 72nd best school nobody cares especially considering they jump drastically from year to year.

Here are just a few of the biggest jumps from 2010-2011 that I noticed. .

Nebraska went from unranked tier 3 in 2010 to #84 in 2011, but not just any #84 rank a TWELVE way tie for 84th place. I donít even know how you can have a twelve way tie for 84th place, but they managed to do it.

LSU went from 75 into this twelve way tie for 84th place. So it is not clear if LSU went from 75 to the 96th or 84th school because there is a twelve way tie for the prestigious honor of 84th place.

Kansas went from 65 in 2010 to a 5 way tie for 79th place.

Catholic went from a 4 way tie for 94th place in 2010 up to a 5 way tie for 79th place in 2011.

LMU from 71 in 2010 to 54 in 2011.
Emory from #20 to a 4 way tie to #30.

What changed at any of these schools in one year I donít know if anyone can say. More impressive yet is in the new rankings they just make 4 way ties for everything. In the 2011 ranking the following ties involving four or more schools occurred, 5 way tie for 30th place, 4 way tie for 35th place,  5 way tie for 42nd place, 4 way tie for 50th place, 4 way tie for 56th place.

After 56 the ties get really impressive!  6 way tie for 61st place, 4 way tie for 71st place, 6 way tie for 71st place, 5 way tie for 79th place, then my favorite 12 way tie for 84th place, then they round it up with a 5 way tie for 95th and then wrap up the top 100 with 4 schools tied for 100th best. lists actual salary numbers of each individual school so it has some reliability and is worth taking a look at.

The point of this entire rant is that outside of TOP schools the ranking donít mean much. If you rank in the top 10% at a tier 1 school you will have more doors open to you than if you finish in the top 10% at a tier 4 school, but there is a 90% chance you wonít be in the top 10%. If you can get significant scholarship money at a tier 3 or 4 school in the location you want to live in then it might be the better option. If you can get a full ride at Willamette it might be better than paying full tuition at Lewis & Clark. University of Oregon is also a solid option. They will all open doors, but be careful of the costs. Remember no matter what school you go to whether or not you have a successful legal career depends on YOU.

Sorry for the long rant, but many 0Lís including myself when choosing law schools put WAY to much emphasis on the rankings. I was shocked to learn how horrible the methodology was, but it is not U.S. News' fault they are making money off this and never say it is supposed to be anything other than an opinion. I would do the same thing, but you are the one who is going to be paying 100K plus in tuition along with 3 years of your life so make the decision based on what you want not what this unregulated for-profit magazine thinks.     

Re: T2 Schools Worth It?
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2011, 04:06:14 PM »
While I agree with a lot of bigs5068's points, there are certainly many T2 schools that are NOT worth going to, the biggest being the lack of employment for grads. The main things you want to consider when you're not choosing amongst T14 schools are:

Where do you want to work / live

Schools outside the T14 are generally locked into their region and you're unlikely to find employment too far out. This means you should choose a school that's in an area you want to live.

How competitive is the market

Some schools are in highly saturated markets, making it a very bad investment because the school will have no ties outside the market and will be muscled out of their home market by other schools. A number of markets specifically come to mind:

NYC (Brooklyn and Cardozo will get beaten by Columbia, NYU, Fordham and other T14 NYC feeders like Harvard, Yale, Penn, Virginia, etc)

San Francisco (Any school below Hastings will have significant competition from Stanford, Berkeley, Davis, Hastings when added up more than saturates this very competitive market)

DC (Georgetown alone could fill up all the lucrative spots that are available. A lot of other T14 grads would love the opportunity to come to this limited market as well)

The two schools you specifically mentioned, however, are much better choices than many other T2s because they are specifically located in a non-competitive market. Not many T14 grads want to move to Washington / Colorado. Lewis and Clark places decently in the Portland area and if you want to live there, it could be a good choice if they offer enough financial aid. CU Boulder is also a decent option if you want to live in the Rocky Mountain areas because it's the most highly regarded school in the region (and again, not many T14 grads want to move there) 

Re: T2 Schools Worth It?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2011, 02:18:04 PM »
Thank you all for the insights!  I'm stunned at the responses. Thanks, again. 

So far I've heard back from CU-- waitlisted.  I decided that since the post-grad employment stats at Lewis & Clark weren't terrific (coupled with the rumor that the pacific northwest market is saturated, like the ground), that I would withdraw and wait on CU.  They weren't offering any kind of scholarship.  I like the advice about Willamette-- maybe they'd give me some money. 

If I don't get into CU, I will take the LSAT again, this time with a prep class.  If I were able to increase my score on the Logic portion alone or my overall score by 5-10 points, I think I'd be a stronger candidate for merit scholarships at T2s and 3s, as well as a stronger candidate for T1s. 

Thanks for the enlightenment on the rankings shenanigans!  I'm confident if a school would just LET ME IN that I'll do well.  Truthfully, I coasted through undergrad and screwed off way more than I should've.  I know I'll do well in school, just don't know how confident I'll make the top 10%.  I'd like to graduate from somewhere where it'd be OK to be in the top 25% and still get a job after graduation-- boutique, hopefully.  I do plan on either clerking or donating hours to a law firm while in school or over the summer.

(Still waiting to hear back from UCLA, but if I got waitlisted at CU and Loyola Marymount, the reality of me getting into UCLA is a "little" far-fetched.)