Law School Discussion

FULL SCHOLARSHIP...but still confused.


FULL SCHOLARSHIP...but still confused.
« on: March 11, 2012, 03:06:41 AM »
Hey guys.

I applied to a bunch of schools but my GPA and LSAT scores weren't the best. Despite that I did get into New England Law School (Boston) and Widener Law (Harrisburg Campus). New England Law offered me a full scholarship which is obviously awesome. I've been doing a lot of reading and I'm kind of freaked out because I've been hearing that a lot of recent graduates (from most law schools) are finding it very difficult to find jobs.

Should I just go to New England for free and risk the competitiveness in Boston? Or should I go to Widener and hope that its slightly higher ranking will be more of a guarantee in terms of snagging a job?

I would really like your feedback. I'm so anxious about making this huge decision.

Re: FULL SCHOLARSHIP...but still confused.
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 02:23:25 PM »
If those are your top two choices I would go to NELS as long as the conditions for keeping the full scholarship arnt to harsh. But if you don't have to pay tuition you don't have much to lose.


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Re: FULL SCHOLARSHIP...but still confused.
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2012, 02:54:00 PM »
This is my own personal opinion from my law school experience on what to consider when making this decision. There are two main things to realize before reading anything I have to say.

1)   Anything you read on the internet from an anonymous source including myself should be heavily scrutinized. I know nothing about you, your situation, your views, your likes or dislikes. In the end it will be you that lives with the decision for at least 3 years and likely the rest of your life, but I am going to fill in some things I did consider when choosing my school along with some things I wish I would have considered.

2)   There is no right answer you your question. Many 0Lís think there is some answer out there that will tell them exactly what to do, but sadly there isnít. I personally spent months talking to people, researching so and so on hoping to come to the conclusion of knowing exactly what to do, but that day never came. I had to choose a school and I ended up being happy with it although there are days I wonder what would have happened had I gone to X, Y, Z school. I will never know the answer and neither will you. A choice has to be made and there is no right or wrong answer.

Now to the meat of it your question. I would personally choose New England based on the facts you have presented and below is my reasoning, but these are factors that you should consider and plug in your personal situation to see if New England is actually the right fit.

A) Financing:
Law school is expensive and if you can save 100k on tuition that is a lot of money. I am still paying off my loans and remember this 100k is collecting interest usually between 6-8% depending on where your getting the money from. This means in a year you will accumulate 6,000-8,000 on interest alone. If you can save 100k then that is something to heavily consider.

However, I am assuming Boston is more expensive than Harrisburg and I find it unlikely that Boston is offering to pay living expenses and that is a financial factor to consider. Furthermore, if you have friends, family in Harrisburg that you could stay with rent free opposed to paying rent in Boston that is a factor to consider. If you have family in Boston that you could live with plus full tuition then the scales tip even further towards New England.

B) Location:
This is probably the most important thing to consider when choosing a law school, yet so few 0Lís really think this through. Whatever school you end up at is where you will be for a minimum of three years. You are going to develop friends, go to parties, sporting events, concerts, and so on during these three years and your social life is important during law school. Just to set aside some fear you will have a life while in law school, and that is why location is something to consider.

On top of the social aspect law school does not exist in a vacuum. If you happen to be an ultra liberal, gay man, pro-choice, card carrying democrat then attending law school in Alabama might not be the best place for you. On the reverse if you are an ultra-right wing conservative, card carrying Republican San Francisco probably isnít the right place for you either. On a social level it will be an aspect plus when you interview with people in the area those beliefs will be there. I know not everything fits into stereotypes, but there is a reason for them and if you have adamant social beliefs then the location is something to consider.

I know nothing about Harrisburg or Boston or how they are on those issues, but it is something to think about. However, personally Boston sounds like a more enjoyable place to spend three years than Harrisburg so that is another reason why I would say New England. You might have your own beliefs because you likely have been to these cities I havenít, but whichever one you enjoy more should play a role in your decision.

Also remember wherever you go to school is likely where you will end up. I know there are exceptions, but you are going to have an apartment, friends, internships, and so on while in school and these will be hard to leave particularly with law school debt hanging over your head. You are probably going to hustle to find a job right out of school and few if any employers are going to come from out of area to recruit you, and as a newly minted J.D. you are not going to have the time or money to fly out to Miami or Seattle for the first interview yet alone a series of interviews, which many attorney positions require. This is just the practical nature of geography, which should also play a role in your decision.

C) Prestige/Ranking:
When dealing with schools of this caliber whatever U.S. News happens to say really doesnít matter. First remember U.S. News is nothing more than a magazine offering an opinion. It does have some clout, but the difference between Widener and New England? I truthfully have no idea what if any difference in prestige there is. The rankings matter if your at a top 50 school and some might say top 100, but the higher up the ladder you go the less relevant it becomes. In this situation choosing between two regional schools it should essentially be a non-factor, because if any prestige ranking difference exists between Widener and New England it is so miniscule that it doesnítí warrant consideration.

D) Reality of Legal Education:
This is something many 0Lís donít realize either and that is what you learn at Yale or Widener is basically the same. At almost every ABA law school you take the following courses during your first year. 1) Torts 2) Contracts 3) Property 4) Civil Procedure 5) Criminal Law 6) Con Law 7) Legal Writing & Research. There are some variations to this, but at any ABA law school you will take those courses at some point whether it be first or second year.

Whatever school you take these courses at you will learn the same thing. In Torts you will read Palsgraf, Contracts Hadley v. Baxendale, Civil Procedure Pennoyer v. Neff, so and so on. These are Supreme Court cases and you read what the Supreme Court wrote then your professor will explain it to you. Law school unlike Med School or Engineering does not require any special equipment. All you need our books so if Widener is ranked higher than New England it is not because you are learning anything different or have access to better equipment. You are going to get a textbook and the majority of schools use the same exact textbook so you get the same law, same textbook, same everything from school to school.


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Re: FULL SCHOLARSHIP...but still confused.
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 02:55:11 PM »
Continuation of above post

Although there is technically not much difference in what you learn at any school some schools do specialize in certain areas. If you truly know what area of law you want to get into then the clinics, courses, professor experience might be something to consider. However, few law students and practicing attorneys really know what area of law they want to practice, but some people do.

If you really want to be litigator South Texas Law School has all kinds of opportunities for mock trial competitions. They have built their school around that and give students access to a great courtroom, fund numerous competitions, and really emphasize that. Some other schools have a Tax Clinic they run or something of that nature, and if you happen to know exactly what you want to do then this should be a factor in your decision.

If on the other hand you are like the majority of law students and lawyers that really doesnít specifically know what area you really want then it shouldnít be a big factor in your decision.

I personally know nothing about either school or what specialties they might have, but it is something you can look into if you know where your interests lie.

E) Personal Feeling About School
Aside from location each school has itís own feel that you are either going to like or not like. When I was visiting schools there were a few places I couldnít stand and a few others I loved. There was nothing particularly great or awful any of these school did I just had a gut feeling of liking it or not. You should visit these schools individually and see how you feel when you enter it. This is probably one of the most important things to do, because if you canít stand it in your first encounter it will probably not improve over three years.

I highly recommend visiting yourself and getting a feel for the school. Talk to any actual students at the school and see how they feel, professors, and so on. Your are making a big investment of time and money so reach out to the school, and listen to your gut.

F) Scholarship Conditions:

This is the ugly business side of legal education. Many law schools offer full scholarships with conditions that could be considered deceptive. Many schools will say you can have the scholarship as long as you keep a 3.0 GPA. Any law student offered a scholarship at an ABA school likely got a 3.0 in undergrad without trying and assume the same will be true in law school. Unfortunately, it isnít.

Most law schools have very stringent curves and only allow 35% of the first year class to get a 3.0 GPA. This accomplishes two things for law schools first gets rid of scholarship offers and second keeps students from transferring up. You might think you will just study harder than everyone and the other 65% arenít as hard-working as you, but again you will be wrong. About 99% of law students are smart, hard-working, and have a knack for school that is why they signed up for the madness that is law school. Almost every student does pretty well on the exams, but there is a limited number of Aís & Bís that can be handed out. The difference between an A and a C can often be a few multiple choice questions or a missed issue on an essay. It is that tight of a curve.

This article actually does a far better job explaining it than I can.

G) Jobs
I wonít sugarcoat it neither of these schools likely have a phenomenal OCI schedule, and most students are probably on their own to find jobs. Many people can and do get jobs from regional schools, but it will not be easy. The economy is also not great now, but then again I donít know if it ever is. (Just a sidenote) but I remember Bill Clintonís 1992 campaign ďitís the economy stupidĒ during the presidential campaign to address the recession that was going on. A lot has changed since then , but jobs are hard to come by and it seems like they always have been, and always will be.

I think your job hunt will be easier if you have 100k less in debt to worry about, but just my two cents. Also if you graduate, pass the bar, odds are you will find a legal job. It won't be easy and your first job likely won't be 6 figures arguing a 1st amendment case, but you are likely to find work at some point. Just be ready for the reality that lots of other people have J.D's and it is a competitive market and profession.

H) Conclusion:
As I stated at the beginning I am nothing more than an anonymous internet poster and my advice should be scrutinized. I am sure someone out there thinks everything I posted is complete B.S. and maybe they are right. If you go into  litigation you will be amazed at how two ďexpertsĒ completely contradict eachother.

I also donít know about these schools, but a visit to both of them is certainly in order. However, Boston sounds like a better place to spend three years and if you can save 100k in tuition that accrues interest that is another factor in itís favor.

Good luck to you on this big decision and congratulations on being accepted into law school.