Law School Discussion

Should I go for a better school

Should I go for a better school
« on: December 17, 2012, 07:49:46 AM »
Well, I have been out of school for 20 years.  When I was in my undergraduate program, I was going through a lot personally, including being 9 months pregnant at the beginning of my junior year, when I transferred to a new school.  I ended up with a 2.61 GPA.  :(  Not happy about that, but nothing I can do about it now.  I'm also a single mom, 2 young kids.

I am going to law school, but I'm trying to figure out if there would be any chance of getting into a good school.  I live about 4 miles from a Cooley campus and planned on going there.  My LSAT preptests are averaging around 165 and getting better every week.  I'm hoping by February I'll be testing btw 170-175 consistently.

But, with that GPA, I'm thinking Cooley is the answer, even though it's not a great school.  Is there any chance I could get into a better school like Michigan State or U of M?...............

I also should add, that I have two incredible letters of recommendation.  They are from 10 years ago, but one is from a Macomb County, MI judge and the other is from an opposing attorney.  They are both from when I was representing myself on my divorce case when they were attempting to set aside the judgement.


Re: Should I go for a better school
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 01:39:42 PM »
Take this with a grain of salt because I'm only some guy on the internet, but if you can score in the 170's don't waste it on Cooley.  This is a great time to be a spilter and with a 170 you could get into the T14.  UVA is pretty friendly to spilters who enroll via their early decision program.  Honestly, Cooley is ranked bad for a reason.  It will be extremely hard for you to get a job coming out of Cooley.  Your in Michigan right? The university of Michigan has a good law school and that degree would serve you much better than Cooley.  Your first job prospects are highly dependent on where you get into school so I cannot recommend you go to Cooley. 

Re: Should I go for a better school
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 06:00:44 PM »
My LSAT preptests are averaging around 165 and getting better every week.  I'm hoping by February I'll be testing btw 170-175 consistently

At this point, without a real live LSAT score, everything is pure speculation. The LSAT is a somewhat weird exam and you can't assume that you'll score in the top 2-3%. Practice LSATs are alright, but it's not uncommon to score significantly below your highest practice exam. Practice exams simulate, but don't actually replicate, testing conditions and stressors. 

That said, assuming that you do score very well on the LSAT you could probably get accepted to several other Michigan schools. UM seems like  longshot with a 2.61 GPA (even with a high score), but MSU, Wayne State, and Detroit-Mercy might all be options. Also, considering your age and the fact that you have a family, you might want to consider a scholarship at lower ranked local school instead of a huge debt from a higher ranked school. If you're roughly twenty years away from retirement you may want to steer clear of a $100-200K debt. I started law school as a non-traditional student in my early 30s, and used my high LSAT to obtain scholarships. It was definitely the right move for me, and it may or may not be the right choice for you.

Depending on your goals after law school a full scholarship at a place like Cooley or Detroit-Mercy might make sense. Take the time to seriously think about your post-law school plans. If you plan on opening your own office, joining a small firm, or going into government work, it may not matter too much where you go. If you want Biglaw or federal jobs, then it will matter big time. Take all of these factors into account and don't base this enormous life changging decision on the USNWR rankings or what anonymous people like me say.


Re: Should I go for a better school
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 06:24:12 PM »

Congratulations and good luck on your decision to retun to start law school.

The following are some random thoughts and opinions which I hope are helpful to you:

1.   If you are able to relocate then you should not limit yourself to Cooley.  I have known only one student that attended Cooley and his experiences repeat much of what you read on the Internet.  The most daming statistic about Cooley is in my opinion it's own self reported attrition rates which are contained in The linked ABA report that indicates 227 students transferred the heck out, 124 "1Ls" failed out, 33 "2Ls" failed out, 8 "3Ls" failed,out with an overall attrition rate of approximately 30% for Cooley students.   I believe that the Cooley attrition rate should scare you particularly when you compare it to other schools.
LINK: .....  hit "law school data" to arrive at cited data

2.  Good luck on the LSATs.  Be cautious however that many score much higher on practice tests then on the real thing. 

3.  After you have received your score then consider all alternatives if relocation is an option.  In my opinion Michigan State is a very good option for someone wishing to stay in the state of Miichigan.  If you can relocate then apply to schools near where you may wish to live after law school.  The below links provide good starting point for schools you should apply to.  As the above poster stated a high LSAT score will make you a "splitter" and make you a more attractive candidate than your gpa may indicate.  Also note that as a non traditional student I believe that your application will get a more positive read than a younger student ( yes, age does have some benefits).  I know that many law schools appreciate the sacrifices which applicants made to raise families.   LINK      

4.  Be cost conscious with regard to tuition.  If you can relocate the look for grants by applying to a number of schools.  The below link will show you the gpa & LSAT numbers for  students that got money from from schools in past years.  Link for Michigan State    

5.   Note that the number of law school applicants is down for the 3 consecutive,year so that trend may be of assistance to you.

Sincere best wishes.

Re: Should I go for a better school
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2012, 01:19:55 PM »
Before anything is said realize that I or anyone else posting on this board or others are nothing but anonymous internet posters that know nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you so and if anyone on this board or others is 100% wrong there is no repercussion. Therefore,  please take any advice you get on these forums with a major grain of salt particularly when making a 3 year and $100,000+ commitment. 

 I think you need to wait until you have a real LSAT score before you can really start considering where to attend law school. Many people tell me they are getting 170's-160's on the practice exams, but for some reason they never end up taking the test. I also know when I was studying there were some practice tests in books that I scored much higher on than others. Not to mention the pressure of the real thing is not the same as practice and many people myself included tend to not keep of time as accurately as possible in practice situations. I personally scored in the upper 160s on several practice tests, but also had numerous scores in the 150's and in the end my official score was 157 with that I went to an ABA law school, passed the bar, and work as a lawyer now. I accomplished this without going to a T14 school so despite the ramblings of certain anonymous internet posters you can be hired as a lawyer without going to Harvard. However, it would have been great if my LSAT would have been 180 and I went to Harvard. At the moment you don't really know what your numbers will be, but when you know check out it is a great site to let you know what your options are and what scholarship money might be available.

In regards to the specific question I think any potential OL should consider the following factors (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal feelings about the school  (4) The realities of legal education (5) Any specialty interest you might have 5) If all else fails then use U.S. News rankings. I will elaborate on these points below.

1 Location

I think your situation is a perfect example of why this is so important your a single mom with two kids. Uprooting them out of your current location to attend law school away from everything they are familiar with might be a lot on them. Particularly if they are attending school taking them away from their teachers, friends, etc will be a lot and I imagine it is easier to stay in your current location with the current support structure you have.

Not to mention whatever law school you attend you will be there for 3 years and moving to a new location, with kids, while adjusting to a new apartment, being away from friends, family, etc is a lot to handle. You know better than anyone else how well you could manage that and how well your kids can handle it, but really think about that before choosing your school. Furthermore, odds are wherever you attend law school is where you will end up living again 3 years is a long time and you will make friends, possibly enter into a romantic relationship, etc during these years and transitioning to a new location will be tough.

Again you have kids if you end up getting a 170 with a 2.61 odds are Cooley will give you a full scholarship. Michigan State might give you a lot of assistance as well and clearly raising 2 kids with $150,000 in debt accruing interest is not ideal and I will tell you from personal experience money does not come flowing in right when you graduate law school it takes time to build a career and that is assuming you pass the bar on the first try which many people do not.

One thing to consider in regards to the scholarships you may get are the conditions attached. Many schools will say something such as you need to maintain a 3.0 or be in the top 35% of the class and as a motivated law student everyone who attends an ABA school is pretty certain they will be in the top 35% of the class, but 100% of people cannot be in the top 35% of the class. Also it is important to know that law school grading is very strict and generally to maintain a 3.0 you need to be in the top 35% of the class. So if scholarships end up coming your way pay EXTREMELY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE CONDITIONS.

Personal feelings about the school

Another thing few people consider when making this life altering decision is how they personally feel about the school. I was accepted into many different law school and participated in a lot of mock trial competitions nationally so I have seen quite a few different schools and interacted with the students, faculty, etc. I can tell you I loved some places and hated others, but that was my personal feeling. You may have loved the places I hated and hated the places I loved you need to visit the schools, interact with professors, and just get a sense of what you personally think about each individual school because nobody knows what a good fit for you is better than yourself.

4) Reality of Legal Education
I will let you in on a big secret it is all the same. Your first year of law school will consist of torts, civil procedure, contracts, property, and criminal law. Then you might have Con Law and Criminal Procedure in your first year or possibly second year, but you will take all those subjects. In these classes you will read Supreme Court cases that are exactly the same whether you are reading them in the Harvard library or Cooley's. In the famous Palsgraff case the firecrackers still get dropped nothing changes. Then at the end of three years you will pay a company like BarBri or Kaplan to help you pass the bar.

There are some minor differences by school such as course selection, quality of professors, etc, but the substance of what you are learning is literally identical.

5) Specialty Programs
This is something worth considering for some and is one of the differences I mentioned above. Some schools have more course selections and experienced professors often based more on location than anything else. For example if you wanted to be an entertainment lawyer then go to law school in New York or L.A. that is where entertainment law happens. Even if U.S. News says South Dakota Law has the best entertainment law program I can assure you not many actors, movie studios, etc are located there.

However, if you have a particular interest in something family law, litigatin, etc check the school's course schedule and see if they offer the non-mandatory courses. Granted you will probably only take between 2-4 classes in a particular area since almost everyone takes the courses I mentioned above combined with the highly suggested courses and often required courses such as Evidence, Wills & Trusts, Corporations, Trial Advocacy, Remedies, and a few others that are on almost every state bar exam. If you don't have a particular interest then don't worry about it most law students and lawyers don't really know what they want to do either.

6) U.S. News

If after all that research you don't know the best way to spend 3 years and 100,000+ of your money then consider the rankings, but remember it is a for-profit unregulated magazine offering an opinion nothing more. You would also be wise to look up how often school rankings change year by year for no apparent reason. Granted there are schools such as Harvard, Yale, and yes Michigan that are nationally known schools and will open more doors, but I don't know how much of a difference Cooley v. Michigan State would be. If cost, location, etc is the same then why not go to the higher ranked school, but uproot your kids and spend 100,000 more dollars because some magazine said X school is 29 spots better than the school that is cheaper and more convenient for your personal situation.

I apologize for the multiple grammatical errors in this post, but I didn't have much time and wanted to convey as much info as possible. Good luck on the LSAT