Deciding Where to Go > Choosing the Right Law School

Drexel or Loyola LA

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I was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, so I applied to almost all of those area schools (temple, Villanova, Penn, Drexel). I have not heard back from Penn yet, but I got into the other three and got more money than I can reasonably turn down from Drexel. I know that Drexel is a TTT school and is new, but I have several family connections to the Philadelphia Biglaw community and one of them is saying that Drexel is doing all the right things to be a serious contender in the Philadelphia market. I went to admitted students day and liked the school and the people I talked to.

As I am writing this, I am in Los Angeles looking at a few schools. It is my first time visiting the area and the only time I will have to visit before I have to make a decision. I have acceptances from Chapman (with comparable money to what I got from Drexel) and Loyola (with less money) and am waiting to hear back from Pepperdine. I was hoping that I would not like the city so that this would be an easier decision, but I really do like it. I am considering the area because I am interested in entertainment law. I know that this is a changing field and is not about representing celebrities anymore, and I am more than okay with that because I am genuinely interested in the entertainment industry and have taken some related pre-law courses, so I feel like I know as much about what I'm getting into as anyone in my position could. I don't really have any personal or business connections in California; the only person who I would know out there is my boyfriend, who lives in the same city as I do now and would move with me. I don't think I can negotiate a whole lot more from Loyola without getting more money from Pepperdine. My uncle in Philadelphia Biglaw tells me that going to Drexel does not necessarily mean that I can never, ever leave the Philadelphia market later in my career if I do well enough, but I feel like being here during law school will open more doors for me into that industry.

I have less than a month left to make this decision and it's so difficult. Can anyone offer any advice?

Maintain FL 350:
I can't really tell you what to do, per se, because where you choose to attend law school is a highly personal choice. Nonetheless, I live in LA, went to law school here, and worked in the entertainment industry for a while. Perhaps I can offer some insight on the local market.

Generally, you should go to law school in the area in which you want to live, unless you have the opportunity to  attend a highly prestigious national school. It is much easier to obtain internships, clerkships, and other positions locally. If you have the reputation of an elite national school behind you, like Harvard, well, that's different. But if you attend a local/regional school like Drexel it might be very tough to land entertainment related internships in LA. Conversely, if you want to live in Philly, it might be difficult to make connections if you attend an LA school. 

Even in a big metropolitan areas like LA and Philly, law can be a very local, insular business. I've seen tons of examples of students from small, locally reputable (but not nationally known) schools easily beating out applicants from higher ranked out of state schools. The ability to make connections and to network is highly valuable, and it's tough to do that from three thousand miles away.

Loyola and Pepperdine both have good reputations in CA, with an advantage to Loyola, in my opinion. Lots of attorneys in the entertainment field are Loyola and Southwestern grads, as well as UCLA/USC and Pepperdine. All of these schools offer various internship opportunities and alumni connections with the studios or firms, and offer courses in entertainment law. If you attend school in Philly, you will have to find a way to compete against the local talent from these schools, which may be difficult.

Your uncle is right, in that attending Drexel will by no means permanently prevent you from practicing elsewhere. Drexel is ABA approved, and qualifies you to take the bar in any state. The question is simply one of difficulty. No matter what city we're talking about, whether its LA, Philly, Dallas, whatever, it is very difficult to show up after graduation in a new city in which you have no connections and to compete for jobs against local students who have had three years to develop a network and gain experience. This is especially true if you are not graduating from a prestigious national school, as you won't be able to rely on your pedigree alone to open doors. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but be realistic about the obstacles you may face.   

Additionally, if you really are interested in entertainment, you will need to pass the CA bar exam. This is no small task, as it's considered the toughest in the nation. Take a look at the CA bar pass rates from out of state schools, and take that into account.   

Drexel has abysmal employment data - 43% of C/O 2011 found work as a lawyer.  Additionally, it's lack of an alumni base is very troubling.  Be very skeptical when people tell you it is "doing the right things" to be a major player, because its employment data certainly does not reflect this.

Loyola is actually worse.  42% of C/O 2011 got laywer jobs.  Additionally, the CA legal market is in absolute shambles, and the thought of targeting CA without ties is terrifying.

Do not attend either of these schools for any less than a full-ride scholarship.  It is more likely than not you will never work as a laywer coming out of either school.  Your best option is to retake the LSAT and try to get into Temple on a full ride.

Maintain FL 350:

--- Quote from: Anti09 on March 19, 2013, 11:10:25 AM ---It is more likely than not you will never work as a laywer coming out of either school. 

--- End quote ---

What an utterly absurd claim. Either your lack of critical thinking is appalling, or you find it necessary to exaggerate to make your point. Either way it diminishes your credibility.   

Your statement is based solely on LST's data, which is nothing more than a regurgitation of LSAC's data for the most recent year available (2011). This data was collected nine months after graduation and has not been updated.

Most LLS students will graduate in May and pass the bar in November. The employment data is collected in February, only three months after bar results are released. At that point, 42.7% were employed in fulltime, long term legal jobs, and something like 56% overall. There is no data available for the subsequent months and years. 

Think about it: if only an additional 7.4% of the LLS class of 2011 gains long term legal employment, then the number becomes 50.1%. At that point it is in fact more likely than not that a LLS grad will work as an attorney, and your claim is refuted. I think common sense dictates that far more than an additional 7.4% will eventually find legal employment.

Can you provide data which proves that more than 50% of LLS grads will never be employed as attorneys? Of course not.

Does any of this mean that the LA market is in great shape, or that people won't struggle? No, not at all. It's a difficult market and it's tough to find your first job.

This is, however, a great example of how people misunderstand employment statistics. You can't use such scant data to extrapolate years into the future and support your claim that most LLS will "never" work as attorneys. It's an unsubstantiated claim, at best.   

Oh right, I forgot that 40% employment 9 months after graduation is totally acceptable.  OP, I retract my statement - feel free to attend either of these top notch legal institutions.

The nature of legal hiring is such that if you do not find work within one year, the chances that you ever will drop off dramatically.  This is not an absurd claim, it's common sense.  Would you, as an employer, be tempted to hire someone who was not able to obtain gainful employment after looking for an entire year?  There is likely a reason they have not been employed yet - poor grades, interviewing skills, etc.  That is not going to change 9 months, one year, or ten years after graduation.  The longer you are out of the job market, the less relevant your degree becomes, and the less likely it is an employer is willing to take a chance on you.

Even if, as you (baselessly) claim, 7% of grads manage to find work after those 9 months, that doesn't change the fact that the employment data from Drexel and Loyola is absolutely abysmal.  You have no more data than I do; you just simply assume that some of these students must find work, eventually, they just have to.  Obviously, I cannot definitively "prove" that they will never find work, since proving a negative (particularly concerning the future) is impossible.  But, by the same token, you have offered no data to suggest that these unemployed grads will ever find legal work - that data simply doesn't exist (to my knowledge), so we must draw inferences from the data we have.

The only difference between you and me is that you prefer to attach undeserved optimism to the employment outcomes at these schools, while I prefer to take a conservative (and in my opinion, much more realistic) approach.  Less than half of the legal class of 2011 found legal employment, a trend that shows no signs of reversing.   Given that these schools cost hundreds of thousands of dollars which, if financed by loans, is never dischargeable, I'd prefer to be on the safe side.  If you have no reservations about dropping $200k+ on a school with a 40%, 50%, or 50.1% chance of employment, that's your prerogative.  But it is still an objectively risky decision, financially and professionally, that will end in abject failure for a significant portion (if not the majority) of the class.


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