Law School Discussion

Too Many Good Choices

Too Many Good Choices
« on: February 19, 2013, 11:55:06 PM »
Here are my options so far: Baylor, Florida, Georgia, Houston, Maryland, Wake Forest, Washington and Lee, and William and Mary.  I am still waiting on Arizona State, George Mason, GW, SMU, and Washington University in St. Louis.  As of right now my Top 3 schools (which change order hourly) are Baylor, Wake, and W&M.  Based on the scholarships I have received, all of these schools will end up costing about the same amount.  So with money out of the way, does anyone have any strong positive or negative feelings about any of these three schools or any of the other schools that I mentioned?
Thanks in advance

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2013, 05:50:36 PM »
While I can't directly comment on any of the schools you mention (I too am applying currently) I would suggest visiting the campuses or if that is not possible at least asking the admissions office to give you a name and contact information of an alum from the school, so you can at least have someone to talk to about the school.

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2013, 03:52:37 PM »
If total cost is equal between your top 3, go to the school located in the market you want to work.  Baylor is better than W&M or Wake, which are roughly equivalent in terms of employment prospects.  None of them will allow you to travel far from their location so make sure you're happy working there.  Finally, realize that lawyer salaries are bi-modal, so you will be making 40-60k MAX upon graduation.  Plan your finances accordingly. 

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 06:42:17 PM »
First off realize that anything you read on this board or others comes from anonymous internet posters who know nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you. Furthermore, as an anonymous internet poster you have no idea if I am the valedictorian of Harvard or some bum in a public library with a heroin needle in my arm. I can tell you that I am a law school graduate, who passed the bar, and works as an attorney, but you have no idea if that is true or not.

From my experience I can tell you when choosing a law school I think there are 5 things any OL should consider in this order. (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about the School (4) Reality of Legal Education (5) and if those factors don't point you in the right direction use U.S. News as a tiebreaker, DO NOT make it your main priority when choosing a law school. Below is some analysis of why these factors matter.

Your school choices are all over the country Arizona, Houston, Georgia, etc remember that law school does not exist in a vacuum and you will be spending three years of the prime of your life in whatever city you attend law school in. Arizona is a desert it will be hot as hell everyday and you will leave in a college town. Florida the same humid as hell and Gainesville is a small college town. Houston is a fairly big city and your experience at these three schools will be entirely different.

Furthermore, whatever school you attend is where you will find an apartment, likely enter into a relationship, make friends, get internships etc. When you are done there is a high likelihood that is where you will remain after graduation. Florida law school does not have connections in Arizona and even if they did an Arizona firm is not going to fly out a recent grad from Florida for an interview and as a broke graduate or law student you will not have the money to fly out to Arizona for an interview and even if you did they are far more likely to hire from Arizona schools than someone from Florida. If you wanted to be in Florida and you were in Arizona the same would be true, just really understand LOCATION IS THE BIGGEST FACTOR WHEN CHOOSING YOUR SCHOOL SINCE THAT IS WHERE YOU WILL LIKELY BE SPENDING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

This is a secondary consideration and if you have scholarship money at some schools check the conditions. Often it will say something like you need to have a 3.0 to maintain your scholarship, but generally you need to be in the top 35% to have a 3.0 and in law school 100% of people think they will be in the top 35%, but you don't need to be a math major to see how that turns out.

There are also some schools, which offer in-state tuition I know Florida does and Arizona State might be another one that costs only 15,000 a year and if you think Arizona or Florida are places you could live then go for it.

Another thing to realize is that each school has a culture to it and whether you like that culture or not is up to you. When I was a OL and a law student participating in mock trial competitions I encountered numerous schools some I liked others I hated, but just because I liked or hated one school doesn't mean you will. I can almost guarantee you and I have numerous different views and you will like or dislike a certain school based on factors unique to you. Since the law school you choose is a life altering decision I highly recommend you visit the schools and see which school fits your style.

Another thing to understand is that legal education is exactly the same no matter what ABA school you attend. Your first year will consist of Torts, Criminal Law, Contracts, Property, and Civil Procedure. In these courses you will read Supreme Court cases in Torts you will learn proximate cause in the Palsgraff case, in Civil Procedure you will learn about notice in Pennoyer v. Neff and personal jurisdiction in International Shoe.  The Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for different schools and whether you are attending Wake Forest or Arizona State you will be learning the same exact thing.

U.S. News Ranking
To many OL's make life altering decisions based on this magazine, but remember that is all this is a for-profit, private, unregulated magazine, offering an opinion. U.S. News says New Mexico is the best place to live right and South Dakota will be the best place to live in 2032

Now I imagine you are not going to New Mexico based on what U.S. News thinks or start planning retirement in South Dakota. U.S. News has reasons for choosing these places, but I wouldn't make a life altering decision by moving to either of these places because U.S. News says so. U.S. News ranking of law school is no different they have their reasons for choosing schools and maybe if Harvard, Yale, or Stanford were on your list then consider it, but all these schools are fine and whatever their rank is means very little.

Also as to Anti's point plenty of lawyers do start out making 40-60k, but this number goes up drastically in a few years with experience. There are also plenty of people who start out making 80-100k and whether you succeed as a lawyer is going to depend a lot more on you than whatever school you attend.

Also congrats on all your acceptances I wish you success as you embark on your legal career.

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2013, 03:41:25 PM »
Also as to Anti's point plenty of lawyers do start out making 40-60k, but this number goes up drastically in a few years with experience. There are also plenty of people who start out making 80-100k and whether you succeed as a lawyer is going to depend a lot more on you than whatever school you attend.

No they aren't.  Salary distributions are overwhelmingly bimodal.  OP should plan to make 40-60k upon graduation.

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2013, 04:35:45 PM »
Ok again the survey you produced shows a total of 18% of reported salaries for lawyers then means 82% are unaccounted for. This does not necessarily mean they are unemployed either as I have detailed my own experience I am a working attorney and I simply never bothered to fill out the survey detailing all my personal financial information to my school. Most people just move on from their school start working, hang out with their friends, girlfriends, etc the survey is voluntary to fill out and as displayed only 18% of people reported.

Furthermore, of the 18% that reported the mean salary was 78,000 in 2011, which was the worst year for legal employment. In 2009 the mean was 93,000, but again this is based on only 30% of people reporting. These numbers are highly inaccurate because they are based on little information. Furthermore, lawyers are paid by their abilities and it can range 0 to well over 100,000 and it just depends on each person these statistics mean very, very, little.

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2013, 07:43:52 PM »
the mean salary was 78,000 in 2011, which was the worst year for legal employment. In 2009 the mean was 93,000,

The mean starting salary is a fairly meaningless statistic when the distribution is bimodal.  The NALP report is pretty clear:

The left-hand peaks of the graph reflect salaries of $40,000 to $65,000, which collectively accounted for about 52% of reported salaries. The right-hand peak shows that salaries of $160,000 accounted for about 14% of reported salaries. However, more complete salary coverage for jobs at large law firms heightens this peak and diminishes the left-hand peaks and shows that the unadjusted mean overstates the average starting salary by just over 6%. Nonetheless, as both the arithmetic mean and the adjusted mean show, relatively few salaries are close to either mean.

Notice how the largest proportion of those reporting, by far, were making between 40-65k.  The only ones making 140-160k did not, in general, graduate from schools like the ones OP is considering, because none of them place more than a few % into biglaw.  It is much more likely that OP will be making between 40-65k, which the salary data says is by far the most likely outcome.

You are correct that NALP surveys do not receive perfect participation. This is a bit of a moot point, however, as increased participation would likely end up hurting employment statistics. Notice that salary coverage is overrepresented at large firms, and consequently, among those making $140-$160k.  This is because law schools relentlessly pursue their successful graduates for their employment statistics, and let the less successful 'self-select' out.  I certainly wouldn't be thrilled about reporting I was unemployed, would you?

Statistics aren't everything.  But they are the best indicator of the legal market that we have.  It's silly to ignore them - we cannot pretend like there aren't serious problems with the legal industry.  It is difficult for students from the very best schools to get jobs, and OP needs to be informed of the substantial risk associated with graduating from a school that only places 50-60% of the class.  If he is taking on debt, it is simple common sense to plan his finances according to his expected salary (and commensurate with the very real possibility of ending up unemployed). 

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2013, 08:49:26 PM »
Yes most people do not find jobs right out of law school or any profession starting in any career is a struggle. Most lawyers find jobs if they pass the bar many schools even top schools have 70% bar passage rates that means 30% of the class simply cannot work as lawyer, still more are rich and have no desire to practice law, the possibilities are endless.

Is any law school a guarantee absolutely not, but education whether it be law, accounting, medicine, etc is a long-term investment. Lawyers with 10 years of experience make a substantial amount of money many people who work in huge firms making 140-160k right out of law school burn out, others struggle to find the first job, it is endless. My overall point on this board is that if you want to be a lawyer then go to law school, but yes there are risks there is no guarantee anything will work out. However, the same thing applies in any profession if you want to work at McDonald's making minimum wage you can get that job, but if you want to be a Cop, Firefighter, Lawyer, Doctor, salesman, etc there will be stiff competition and law is no different.

Realize that law school is the only profession I know of that is required to report employment information on an easy to access database. I would love to see the employment numbers for recent college graduates I am sure it is far worse than law schools. There is no centralized database for medical grads, MBA grads, accounting grads, or undergrads that I am aware of. At the very least law reports statistics and as far I know not one other profession does that.  If you know of a site that reports universal job statistics and everyone is reporting 90% employment making 80-100k from CPA school then I guess that is the route, but plenty of people struggle to find jobs in every profession as evidenced by my two second Google search.

A pessimist accountant saying in your first year you will make only 45-50k if your lucky.

Another thread of desperate accountants submitting endless resumes without finding a job.

A whole article explaining why an MBA is a waste of money.

Another article explaining why an MBA is a waste of money

Another thread of a guy with an MBA posting for a job

Maybe being a cop is easy?
Oh nope

another thread of people looking for law enforcement jobs

How about just a plain old Bachelor's everyone must be hiring people with a B.A. or B.S. right? Uh no.

I could go on and on, but the reality is starting a career is difficult and nobody likes looking for work. I don't know if your still in college or attending law school, but you can see there is no easy route that I can find. At the end of the day people can complain on the internet about finding a job or get it done. Personally when I was waiting for bar results I was rejected by over 400 employers it was depressing, but I did have a few interviews and thankfully one came through once results were released, but it was not easy. It will not be easy no matter what profession you choose that is my point.

However, if you know of some golden ticket where everyone is getting hired, you don't have to pay any tuition, and you are paid exorbitantly please let everyone me know as well as everyone else on this board I would honestly love to know about it.


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Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2013, 10:00:29 AM »
Come on Living Legend.  Are you an admissions counselor for a T4 somewhere?   You are an attorney.  Make a real argument.

You have some great points in that form letter you love to paste in every thread, but then you get on your analysis and it doesn't add up. 

None of the things you mentioned are good comparisons to law school.   A masters in accounting and a CPA for an accounting major is a very small investment.  An MBA for a business major is only 1/3 of the credits of law school.   A job as a cop doesn't require anything close to the investment of law school.   A BA or BS?  One of those is required for law school, so how can it hurt to pursue a career for a couple years before going to law school?

The statistics are horrible.  Our debate about Appalachian has some good information about this.   Graduates at Appalachian have approximately an 18% chance of getting a law job that pays over 55 grand a year.  And their average debt is well over 100,000.   You can get a MAC or MBA with less than 20,000 debt with very little problem, and do you really think the chance of making 55,000 is less than 18%?  Even if it is, the debtload is significantly less, so a lower paying job is more manageable.

Nobody is arguing that there is some other yellow brick road out there.   We are arguing that law school is a statistically bad investment unless AT LEAST ONE of the following is true:

1: You already have a job lined up and you can crunch the numbers.
2:  You can graduate with very little debt and will have no trouble surviving off 40,000 a year.
3: You can get into a T-14 school or a school that absolutely crushes in the region you want to work (Like Texas)

Now, if you don't have any of those going for you, you can still go to law school. However, the odds are not in your favor that it will be a good financial investment.   If you are going to law school for reasons independent of finances, then my advice has little relevance. 

And I think that's what people like Anti09 and I are trying to convey to people.  The only smart reason to go to law school is if you have sufficient evidence that you can find a job and that you will be happy working in that job.

My experience tells me that very few law students can predict what their work environment will be after law school.   You may find a job at a DA's office, city office, in-house at a company, a small firm, a big firm, with a judge, in compliance, with some other government organization.  Those jobs are hardly even comparable.  My day to day isn't anything like my friends in Biglaw.   My day to day isn't anything like my friends at the DA's office.

So again, I can't in good conscience recommend law school unless you have a specific job lined up, you can graduate with little debt, you get into the top 14 or clearly best school in your region, or you like to gamble with your financial future.

And then your response is, "There's no guarantees in life. Go to law school if you want."   Everybody already knows that.  Now they need information that will help them to make an educated decision.   Why don't you provide them with some? 

Re: Too Many Good Choices
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2013, 06:52:09 PM »
Well said, jack24.