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Achilles

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Law school questions
« on: December 19, 2011, 04:52:26 AM »
I am interested in attending Law School, but I have a few questions and I figured this would be the best place to ask them.  First of all, I have a 3.85 GPA and I believe I can score between a 168 and a 174 on the LSAT.  I recently took my first LSAT pretest and I scored a 168, so I figure I can improve that number with practice.  My numbers are pretty decent, but I do not come from a wealthy background and I would prefer not to graduate saddled with debt (I'm older than most students, and I want to start a family soon). 

As an Arizona resident I could apply to ASU, which is a pretty good school at a reasonable price (ranked 40th, for what that is worth).  I would be a fair amount above their 75th percentile, and perhaps qualify for some type of scholarship (?).  Or, I could apply to a top fifteen school, where I would spend a lot more money, and I would be a lot more average and thus be less likely to get any scholarships.  If I managed to get into a top 15 school, would the extra debt be worthwhile?  What would you do in my situation?

Finally, what is a good focus to choose during law school?  I realize that question is quite broad and based on opinion, so I will try and narrow it down.  What would be a good focus for finding a job?  What would be a good focus for high earnings?  Is there a direction to take my studies that would be a good financial decision, but also allow for substantial do goodery?  Or, is saving the world one itty bitty step at a time not compatible with making decent money (honestly/realistically)?

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2011, 10:50:14 AM »
1.  Don't just take practice tests.  sounds like you're not independently wealthy, so maybe a prep course is out of the question.  At a minimum, get the powerscore books or something and learn genuine methods for acing the LSAT.  I can't emphasize enough that you don't want to do "well" on this test, you want the maximum possible score.

http://www.powerscore.com/lsat/content_publications_lgb.cfm?source=google&Campaign=LSAT&adgrp=LSAT4-LSATprep&gclid=CIDH-cO9jq0CFYPc4AodSjynlg

2.  With your GPA and an LSAT in the 170s, you should have quite a few schools across the country that will offer you a full-ride.  You should consider them if they are in an area where, ultimately, you would like to live.

3.  If you can get into a top 14 law school, I would say do it.  Hold your nose.  Take on the debt.  You'll be wearing this degree for 40 years or more.  You want it to be pretty.  Although a mountain of debt sounds unappealing (and it is), there are some instances where it's not such a bad idea.

Let's say you go $150,000 in debt.  Some people equate that to a mortgage, but that's a bit deceiving.  You don't have insurance, property taxes, etc., mixed in with your payment.  So, really, you might be looking at a monthly payment of $1,000 or less. 

However, with a T14 degree, you could get a job that pays $160K.  $12,000 a year debt payments when you're making $160K?  It can be done.  I don't care how expensive people say it is in NYC or San Fran.

So, you'll have options.  I'd say if you can get a full-ride to a 2nd tier (or maybe even 1st tier) school (tiers being roughly 50 schools per) and it's where you want to live, that would be worth considering.

If not, I'd advise to go top 14.  The value of those degrees is high and getting higher with time.  In fact, with a high enough LSAT, it may be worth looking at Harvard / Stanford / Yale.

Achilles

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2011, 03:27:30 PM »
Wow, thank you for the feedback.  I notice that you write in a lot on these forums, and I am sure a lot of people are appreciative.  I do have one further question.  The geographical region of one's school of choice seems to be important.  It would seem that schools tend to be relative heavyweights in their surrounding region (although I would imagine a top 14 school is a heavyweight anywhere).  That, coupled with the variances in each state's legal codes and bar exams seems to limit one's options for traveling.  So my question is this, if I was to attend a law school in Arizona (ASU/UofA) would I have a difficult time branching out of the state during the course of my career?  Because, to be frank, I don't want to live in Arizona (and I certainly don't want to live in the Phoenix metro area) for the rest of my life.  However, I don't know exactly where I want to live, and I will most likely move to several different states (predominantly west coast) at different points.  Thank you for any advice you may be able to provide!

FalconJimmy

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2011, 05:46:20 PM »
Wow, thank you for the feedback.  I notice that you write in a lot on these forums, and I am sure a lot of people are appreciative.  I do have one further question.  The geographical region of one's school of choice seems to be important.  It would seem that schools tend to be relative heavyweights in their surrounding region (although I would imagine a top 14 school is a heavyweight anywhere).  That, coupled with the variances in each state's legal codes and bar exams seems to limit one's options for traveling.  So my question is this, if I was to attend a law school in Arizona (ASU/UofA) would I have a difficult time branching out of the state during the course of my career?  Because, to be frank, I don't want to live in Arizona (and I certainly don't want to live in the Phoenix metro area) for the rest of my life.  However, I don't know exactly where I want to live, and I will most likely move to several different states (predominantly west coast) at different points.  Thank you for any advice you may be able to provide!

The very, very top schools aren't regional.  Meaning, if you graduate from Harvard, and you go to Portland OR, the degree is considered just as much of a badass degree as it is if you apply for a job in Boston.

Once you get out of the top 10 or so, that starts to fray.  On another discussion thread, a person was trying to weigh the merits of Cornell vs. UCLA.  Those schools, though clearly they have top national reputations, are at the cusp of where regionality carries some weight.  For southern california, you'd be better off with UCLA.  For something in New England, probably better off with Cornell.

As you go farther down, the schools can get really limiting.  For instance, I live in Ohio.  If you go to, say, Cleveland State, and you get a top class rank, you can do very well in the Cleveland market.  Enough people have that degree and have attained a high position that it isn't held against you.  However, go to Columbus?  Pittsburgh?  Detroit?  It's held against you.  It's just regarded as being a not-very-good law school.

ASU and UofA are both regarded as being very good.  Obviously, they will give you an advantage in the State of Arizona.  However, you'll notice when you're in school that other than the Federal Government, most of the recruiting on campus will be regional.  If you go to Harvard, the region just happens to be pretty much most of the developed world.  ASU and UofA will largely be recruited by firms in the area.  Maybe some in New Mexico and I bet some SoCal firms are going to be there. 

If you tried to apply for a job in Dallas, you'd have an advantage over a Cleveland State grad.  They know that ASU is a better law school than CSU.  However, you'd be behind the SMU grads.  You'd be way behind the UT grads.  And frankly, you'd probably be behind all the Texas Tech, UofH and Baylor grads, too.

So, once you leave the top 10 or so (I've heard people refer to the "top 6" and maybe that's the good guidance, here), the reputations start becoming regional.  You can practice anywhere in the country with an ASU or UofA law degree.  Thing is, you give away home-court advantage if you look for work anywhere outside of AZ.

Not sure if that helps, but hey.  Besides, PHX market is growing like crazy.  If you have to be stuck somewhere, there are worse places to be stuck.  (I look in a mirror as I say this.)

Julie Fern

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2011, 08:06:35 PM »
why, golly, you also might even get job that pay $1 million year, because that way you make much more money!  see how easy this?

Julie Fern

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2011, 08:07:34 PM »
you welcome.

Achilles

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2011, 11:09:07 PM »
Thanks again Jimmy.  That was really helpful and I have a lot to think about.  And Julie, your post simply blew me away - big thumbs up.

DanielleTex

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2011, 04:39:28 PM »
Are you looking to stay in Arizona?

And yes, getting into a T-14 is worth the debt.  The financial implications only start to become tricky when you get to the bottom of T1s and into T2 and beyond.

Julie Fern

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Re: Law school questions
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2011, 04:48:56 PM »
Thanks again Jimmy.  That was really helpful and I have a lot to think about.  And Julie, your post simply blew me away - big thumbs up.

you too perky for own good, you little heel.