Law School Discussion

Charleston School of Law

Charleston School of Law
« on: August 30, 2012, 08:56:45 PM »
Good evening,

I am a new member but long time lurker of the site. My Name is Nicholas and wanted to introduce myself. I enjoy the informative responses and sometimes heated debates your insight offers. My search function won't work and I'm not sure if that has to do with the newness of my account. It seems my post is not about to re-invent the wheel here, however anyone patient enough to read my below situation and offer whatever you wish, (Advice, insight, constructive critique or questions) would be greatly appreciated.

I am 25 and live in Charleston, SC and work for a major insurance & investment company from home. I've been in insurance since I was 18 and want to settle in to the legal field for the rest of my career.. I live with my boyfriend who is a police officer downtown and our two dogs. My current job is task driven and not a set schedule so I have decided to take advantage of the leniency offered and achieve my goals of higher education by going full time since Spring 2012.

 I am currently in the middle of a Paralegal Associates degree. I chose this field because I have an extreme interest and passion for law, the risk vs. reward compared to law school is less in regards to financial investment. But for me, in spite of the current legal economic climate being so bleak; I still want to push through and obtain a law degree While I believe I would enjoy the moments of legal research as a Paralegal and getting to use your brain finding applicable case law for instance; I don't think those moments will happen often enough to satisfy my desire to think analytically. I also foresee struggles with perceived notions of what my career entails by those close to me and within my future law office, (My ego might not allow me to play second fiddle for long- Especially once I fully know what I'm doing through experience).

So here is my tentative plan:
-Push through and finish my associates in Paralegal as a solid career back-up, (In case "life" derails my plans)
-Transfer to the College of Charleston to finish my Bachelors in Philosophy and minor in History, (Undecided if I will pursue a minor at this time)
- Hopefully gain acceptance to the Charleston School of Law 

 Charleston is a rare city for police work as they require a college degree to be an officer and thus actually compensate their employees very well financially. My boyfriend is 28 and very goal oriented. He has a masters in Math and began teaching when he was 22. He turned to police work to fulfill his own life's goal and to make more money, (Off duty jobs and a hustlers spirit can raise your income by up to $30,000/year over your base salary). On top of this, he is extremely savvy with his money and we are able to take full advantage of our respectable but not impressive $120,000 combined salary.

The whole reason I mention this about him and our personal situation is that because of our spending habits and desire to remain debt free, (Beyond my student loans), we are on track to pay off our mortgage in three years. I will work for my job from home until I finish my bachelors degree. At that point; the plan should sync up and the house should be paid off. This would in theory allow me to enroll and hopefully gain acceptance to the Charleston School of Law and quit my job to allow me to focus studies without hurting us financially.

I will hope to be no older than 32 by the time I graduate from law school. I know that the Charleston School of Law is a T4 school and not even a highly ranked school among other T4's and the cost is high for the ranking. However, because of our living situation and desire to remain in the Charleston area post graduation; leaving to seek out more prestigious law schools is not something I can justify. I consider myself fairly in touch with reality and know that my future will not be in NY as a corporate attorney- I will be happy and define my success if I can achieve my goals of higher education to show myself I can do it and by securing a respectable position as an attorney in some sort of civil subject matter. I have many friends in the legal field, most are attorneys but some paralegals so my networking instinct is already ablaze.

 I also wish to have children in the future and believe that I will regret it if I don't at least attempt to fulfill my goals before they are born or adopted. This was rather long winded and upon a reading it over; seems a bit of an outlet for me since I have only discussed with my partner. I have based my ideas on reading many books about the legal profession from insiders and matching them up to my personal goals and skill sets and observing those in the profession. I don't want to sound off of the glorious things I will accomplish to those close to me, only to potentially fizzle out.

Please offer any advice, comments you wish as insight from those in the legal field and/or in law school are greatly appreciated and thank you for reading.


Re: Charleston School of Law
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2012, 08:59:45 PM »
I now am realizing this is not the best sub-forum for this post. If a mod would prefer to move it please feel free. I tried; but it will not allow me to move my own post. ???

Re: Charleston School of Law
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2012, 12:01:44 PM »
I think you have a good, workable plan. You're considering the right criteria (geography, future goals) and you seem to be very realistic about the legal market and the implications of attending a T4. That, combined with your work experience, vaults you well ahead of most law students.

If I could offer any advice, it would be this: do everything you can to minimize your costs. Since you will likely be going solo, and you want to have a family, minimal debt should be a primary goal. Here are two things to consider:

1) Get your B.A. at a cheap public school. I don't know the Charleston area at all, but if there is a state university nearby take advantage of wthe cheap tuition. When it comes to law school admissions, they really don't care where you went to undergrad. Try to get the highest possible GPA. Even though it's not required for admission to Charleston Law, it will help you get scholarship $$$.

2) Consider a cheaper public law school, like University of South Carolina. I don't know if that's an option due to it's distance from Charleston, but it's something to think about. Alternatively, start focusing on the LSAT now, and get the highest possible score. A high GPA/LSAT will likely get you a scholarship to Charleston. I don't remember Charleston's admissions profile, but I bet if you could score in the mid-160s you'd be in great shape. You have the time to do it, and you can start now.

As an aside, I'd probably drop the paralegal program and focus on getting a B.A. as quickly as possible. It's just my opinion, but if you want to be a lawyer focus your time and money on getting to law school.

Good Luck with everything!

Re: Charleston School of Law
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2012, 12:45:54 PM »
Thank you Ronald for your thoughtful reply. Turning lemons in to lemonade; Charleston School of Law does seem to have low standards for acceptance and still maintain a reasonably high credibility amongst Charlestonian law firms. the average LSAT was 150 and a 3.5 GPA. Can you elaborate on how likely scholarships are and the process to obtain them. It seems that money hungry law schools who have the power to turn down many students each year wouldn't be so keen on dolling out free money. Anything would help with their $17,500/semester cost.

A few weeks ago I purchased a Kaplan LSAT prep book with practice tests. One of my best friends is a former chemist turned attorney who got a 168 first time out so I've been and will continue to pick his brain. I've been practicing in a completely relaxed environment for now. Knowing how nerves can play a role come test time I'm trying to associate the LSAT with a glorified Sudoku game in my brain early so when it comes to serious multiple timed practice tests and ultimately the one that counts I hopefully won't lose my mind and get a 146.

I understand the importance of a high GPA and currently maintain a 4.0. This is the last semester i'm taking prerequisite classes and plan on meeting with admissions at COFC to discuss transferring for my bachelor. It's a little scary to push through without the paralegal as a back-up but I understand and appreciate your advice. It's something I continue to wrestle with especially considering how non-challenging I'm finding the program to be.

You sound like you know what you are talking about and it is nice to read that I am seemingly on the "right track". Again thank you for your thoughtfullness.


Re: Charleston School of Law
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2012, 12:58:39 PM »
Can you elaborate on how likely scholarships are and the process to obtain them. It seems that money hungry law schools who have the power to turn down many students each year wouldn't be so keen on dolling out free money. Anything would help with their $17,500/semester cost.

Glad I can be of some (limited) help. I can't tell you anything specific about obtaining a scholarship at Charleston, because I don't have any experience with the school. I can tell you that generally speaking if you have a GPA/LSAT profile that is significantly higher than the school's median, you have a good shot at scholarship money. The amount of money awarded, requirements to keep the scholarship, and numbers needed to obtain the scholarship will vary according to the school.

Believe it or not, law schools are willing to give away lots of money in order to attract highly qualified students. Law school admissions is a numbers game and GPA/LSAT dominate the process. Law schools want students with high numbers because they get to report those numbers to LSAC and US News and World Report, which increases their rank. Also, those students are more likely to pass the bar, which increases the school's rank/reputation. You'd be amazed at how much money people with high LSAT scores get thrown their way.

Although law school admissions is competitive, as you said, most schools admit students within a relatively narrow band. Look at the 25% - 75% numbers on LSAC (the bottom and top quarters of enrolled students). Often, they're only a few points apart. Charleston's medians for the full time program are 3.2/152, and something like 2.8/149 for part time (my numbers are not precise, I'm going off of memory). That means that Charleston probably gets very few applicants with, say, 165+ LSAT scores. Of the few they do get, most probably apply to Charleston as a back up and will turn down a scholarship offer in order to attend UNC, Wake Forest, Duke, etc. I think that a school like Charleston would therefore have a lot of incentive to try to retain an applicant with those kind of numbers. 

As I said before, I don't know anything about Charleston and I certainly can't tell you what specific LSAT score would get you a scholarship. However, based on what I've experienced personally and based on what other people have posted here and elsewhere, an LSAT score that is 10-15 points higher than a school's median is probably going to put you in a good position to obtain money. I had an LSAT score roughly ten points above my school's median and I received a 75% scholarship. The stipulations in order to retain the scholarship, however, were brutal (top 15%!).

Focus on high grades, then focus on the LSAT, don't obsess over nonsense rankings schemes, and you'll be alright. You can get a good legal education at any ABA law school, but you really should try to minimize the debt. As an aside, I spoke with a friend of mine just a couple of days ago. He graduated from one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, and was telling me that every time he writes out that huge check to pay back his loan he wishes he had accepted a full scholarship offer at a smaller school instead. He thought he wanted Biglaw, and was willing to pay a premium to get there. After a couple of years he burned out (as is common) and now works at a job he really likes, but which does not require an elite degree.

Good Luck, let us know what happens!

Re: Charleston School of Law
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2012, 03:30:35 AM »
So, you want to become a Paralegal :) I'm sure you'll enjoy it, it's a real career after all. Also, if you decide later to become a lawyer you will have a lot of experience already.