Law School Discussion

Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?

Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« on: April 03, 2013, 03:59:55 PM »
My husband and I and my toddler were just relocated to Charleston, SC with his job.  I have been offered $25k for three years to attend Charleston School of Law.  Wondering if it's worth it to this recently accredited school... The tuition is $38k.  Due to my husband's job and our life circumstances, if I want to go to law school it really does have to be in our back yard, and it's the only school around.  I am confident I will graduate at the top of my class... Is it worth the roughly $30k in debt?

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2013, 09:37:12 PM »
First off before I say anything realize that anyone posting on this board or others is nothing more than an anonymous internet poster that knows nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you and on top of that their is no qualification for typing on this board or others all you need is an internet connection, which a bum can acquire at a public library.

With that said I am an attorney and have gone through law school and notice several things to be concerned about in your post and I also think any OL such as yourself should consider the following things in this order when choosing a law school. (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal feelings about school (4) The reality of legal education (5) and last NOT first U.S. News rankings.

Concerns form your post
First you say you are confident you will be in the top of your class, but I can tell you 100% of students at every ABA school think this on the first day, but only 10% of the class can be in the top 10% and there is a 90% chance you won't be in the top of your class. This is not a knock on you, but everyone that attends an ABA law school is smart, hard working, and motivated. Not to mention if your dealing with a toddler at home the multiple 25 year old single people will have a lot more time to study than you, which puts you at a disadvantage.

You also really need to answer the question of whether you want to be a lawyer or not. A lot of people go into law school expecting things to be handed to them at graduation, but that is not how it works. You have to work your way up the chain and starting out sucks to be frank and if your doing that with a young child it will be tough, but it can all be done. However, make sure a legal career is something you really want.

With that said I will go into the following 5 factors I think every 0L should consider.

1) Location
It seems obvious that you understand this your Husband has a job in South Carolina and you have a small child so the only law school you can attend is South Carolina so for your scenario I don't need to break this down.

2. Cost
It is great you received scholarship, but one thing any potential 0L really needs to understand are the CONDITIONS of the scholarship. Typically the school will say you need a 3.0 GPA to maintain the scholarship and I am sure you obtained a 3.0 in undergrad without breaking a sweat as did everyone else who got accepted into an ABA school, but law school is much different based on the curve.

Typically only 35% of the class can have a 3.0 and as to my point above there is a 65% chance you will not be in the top 35% this is no knock against you, but just a simple reality. So I strongly encourage you to check on the conditions of the scholarship as there is a good chance you will lose that scholarship for years 2 and 3, but I do not know SC's system.

3) Personal Feeling About the School
It appears you only have on option, but somethign I think is important is to visit the school and see how it fits your personality. When I was a OL I visited multiple schools some I hated and others I loved, but that is my personal opinion. Visit the school interact with students, professors, admins and if you get a good feeling from the school listen to your gut if you feel like it is a cesspool then stay away it is your life and your decision make sure the school fits your personality.

4. Reality of Legal Education
I know there is all this discussion of "better" schools, but the reality is at every ABA school you learn the same exact thing. Your first year you will take Torts, Contracts, Property, Civil Procedure, and then they generally mix up Con Law, Crim Law, and Criminal Procedure between 1L and 2L, but you will take those courses.

For Contracts you will likely read the Epstein Book and then Epstein himself will be your BarBri Instructor when you graduate no matter what law school you attend. In Contracts you will read the Hadley v. Baxendale Decision and other Supreme Court decisions and believe it or not the Supreme Court does not write seperate opinions for different law schools the law is the same.

In Torts you will read Palsgraff to learn about proximate cause and Justice Cardozo in 1930 did not write 200 different opinions for every law school there is only one.

Pennoyver v. Neff in Civil Procedure again the Supreme Court in 1800 wrote one opinion and that is what you will read whether you attend South Carolina or Harvard.

After you graduate you will then take Barbri or Kaplan to pass the bar and if you graduate from an ABA school and pass the bar your a lawyer period.

5. Rankings
When I was a OL I though this was the gospel and should be the basis of any decision I made, but now I realize this is nothing more than an a for profit, unregulated magazine offering an opinion. This should not be something you base a life altering decision on you can use it as a factor, but it is literally a magazine nothing more.

To illustrate this point realize U.S. News ranks more than law schools for example New Mexico is the best place to live according to U.S. News

South Dakota is one of the best places to retire in 2032 One of the factors in making this decision is access to dental visits. Really read the formula U.S. News used to make this determination and you can realize how little research goes into their rankings.

I imagine U.S. News saying New Mexico is the best place to live is not going to inspire you to pack your bags and move there or even apply to New Mexico Law School. Furthermore, I think you would question anyone who opened a retirement account in South Dakota based on this magazine alone. Are their legitimate points made by U.S. News sure, but where you attend law school will impact the rest of your life what some magazine thinks should play a very minor role in your decision and not be the basis of it.

It sounds like you have on option to attend law school in South Carolina at this time in your life. Law school is not going anywhere and if your husband moves somewhere else then perhaps you can attend law school elsewhere, but South Carolina might be a great choice for you.

You also have to consider whether you want to occupy yourself with law school while raising a toddler that is a major decision that only you can make.

I am sure South Carolina is a fine school nothing spectacular, but it will give you the tools to pass the bar and assuming you pass what you do with your law license is up to you. I have met many great attorneys from "tier 4" schools and many bad ones from "tier 1" schools and obviously vice versa. Bottom line is whether you make it in the legal profession has a lot more to do with you than the school you attended.

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2013, 07:28:55 PM »
This is similar to my situation.   I live in Jacksonville,  Fl.   Only one law school here,  Florida Coastal School of Law,  a 4th tier but they might offer an evening part time program that will fit my schedule.   I also have small children, so I feel your pain. 

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2013, 06:01:30 AM »
Living legend makes a a bunch of great points. I would add one more.. If you are likely to live is Charleston after law school, find out what the local market is like for practicing law. Go to the career center at the school and ask about placements in Charleston. Talk to some local law firms and see what they are projecting for 3-4 years down the road.

The reality is that most students do have limitations on where they are going to go to school and where they are going to live and work.  If you want to practice in Charleston, then there might not be any advantage to getting a degree somewhere else.

This is true in most cities and states, i.e. if you want to practice in Indiana then going to school in many other places does not get you a leg up.

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2013, 01:51:18 AM »
I know this thread is a few months old, but thanks, livinglegend, for the great advice. I am in a situation similar to the OP, and when I seek advice on these online forums I usually just get a lot of bashing. Your closing line ought to be a sticky: "Bottom line is whether you make it in the legal profession has a lot more to do with you than the school you attended."

Thank you for the insight!

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2013, 10:29:31 PM »
Well remember Giove to take anything you read on these forums with a major grain of salt my posts included. Anonymous internet advice is the easiest to obtain, but the least reliable form of information as anyone can post anything they want without repercussion.

If you want to attend law school speak to real life attorneys, visit schools you are interested in, etc and see first hand what the situation is and if it works for you.

I do a lot of ridiculous statements on boards like top law schools by people just bashing on school after school, but you have to question the credibility of people who spend all day on the internet attacking people anonymously.

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2013, 12:09:53 PM »
Probably not a good idea. However check the school's placement rate on Law School Transparency. A few low rated law schools do have good job placement rates.

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2013, 09:48:17 PM »
Law school transparency and employment statistics are not a great indicator of anything. Although I am all for law school transparency and their mission the reality is that tracking each student is impossible especially since it is not mandatory. If look on law school transparencies website typically the vast majority of students are unreported. This does not mean they are unemployed I know that when I graduated, passed the bar, and got a job I never reported. It was nothing personal I just didn't get around to it the same way I didn't get around to mailing a birthday card to a friend or some other inconsequential thing that occurs.

Bottom line is it doesn't hurt to look at the stats, but realize these come nowhere near painting an accurate picture of what the outcome of your law school career will be. There are Harvard grads that never passed the bar and Cooley grads who are doing quite well for themselves.

On top of that realize that each person is unique and has their own life circumstances for example several people in class got pregnant right after graduation they were married etc and dealt with 9 months of pregnancy opposed to 9 months of job searching. You cannot assume everyone graduates law school at 25 and is looking to go straight into working. On top of that by the time bar results get released it is 7 months after graduation at least in California and they are released a week before Thanksgiving and the majority of law firms do not hire anyone during the holidays.

I can tell you my law school has a law school transparency placement rate of about 50%, but almost everyone I know from my class is employed as an attorney now. I will admit I do not know everyone, but I surrounded myself with somewhat competent people and most of them did quite well. I also know there are several people who did not find jobs, but it had a lot more to do with them than school on their diploma. For example one of my friend's got hired as a D.A., but he failed his drug test and his offer was rescinded and it turns out he has a cocaine problem that is his own deal not the school's again that just shows the individuality of each person and why these law school stats are so flawed.

Again they are worth browsing, but you should not make the life altering decision of what law school to attend based on some statistics that are flawed.

Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2013, 05:51:37 PM »
I know this thread is a few months old, but thanks, livinglegend, for the great advice. I am in a situation similar to the OP, and when I seek advice on these online forums I usually just get a lot of bashing. Your closing line ought to be a sticky: "Bottom line is whether you make it in the legal profession has a lot more to do with you than the school you attended."

Caseycu8 & All -

Livinglegend offers excellent advice. 

As to the "It's not you, it's me" aspect, while that is generally true, two factors should weigh heavily in this discussion:  the abysmal market, and, even with a scholarship, the sizable cost.  (Also, be very, very careful that the scholarship is non-revocable; most can and are lost in the second and third years.  Get it in writing.) 

As to the former, the market, while one might want to believe that its effect is merely on those who are seeking a more traditional path, what we have seen in the collapse of the market is a cascading effect.  I lived this, in 1991 when I graduated into the short but steep recession then.  What is different now is, first, this is anything but short, and second, there may be and likely are structural changes afoot in the practice of law.  The length and severity of the recession, which have left us with approximately half as many jobs annually as there are graduates, is a "bunching" of unemployed, and soon unemployable, law graduates.

As to the structural changes, Charles Cooper and I wrote a book, Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession).  The book goes into greater depth into the above.  (Cooper is author of Later-in-Life Lawyers.)

It seems reasonable (if admittedly self-interested) to state that Con Law (or its more academic cousins, Don't Go To Law School (Unless): A Law Professor's Inside Guide to Maximizing Opportunity and Minimizing Risk, by Paul Campus; Failing Law Schools, by Brian Tamanaha; and The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis, by Steven Harper) are a minimum of research before embarking on a three-year and multi-hundred-thousand-dollar degree.  (And, by the way, even if you are given scholarships that are not revoked, you will still be "spending" this much money in opportunity costs.)

If, after reading these accounts, one is still insistent . . . excellent.  That is a sign that you should go to law school. 

Once you have decided that, then you should read all the books on law school, and incorporate from each strategies to maximize career options that will be open only to the tippy-top students, especially at non-tippy-top law schools.  Please keep in mind that there are, and have been for the past several years, only one-half as many law jobs (of any kind) as there are law graduates.

A personal take:  do not listen to those who say, or write, some version of "Don't worry, be happy" during, well, now, the summer before you go to law school.  You darned well ought to be worried about, and working toward, doing extremely well.  For most, that requires a sense of what happens in law school that is missing in all but those students who (usually) have a family with a top lawyer or two.  In short, what we think as students is happening in a law classroom is not what is tested on an exam; this is one reason grades are so radically disconnected from what is happening in class.

Best of luck to you,


Re: Fourth Tier worth it if 60% scholarship offered.?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2013, 07:33:06 PM »
I'd add one other issue to consider in addition to all of the other excellent points made. Consider how you will pay off  even $30k in student loans when you graduate. Gone are the days of 6 figure job offers the day you graduate even for graduates at the top of their class from a top law school. You'll probably end up having to take whatever legal work you can find just to make your student loan payments. This might be doing doc review or similiar grunt work for long hours, all this while having a young child. So you should also consider any other family plans you and your husband are thinking about. I guess what I'm getting at is it will be a long road beyond just the 3-4 years of part-time school. Thus, you need to be really sure that you want to be an attorney- I'd suggest asking Charleston Law School if they could match you with an alum or something to talk with them about what they do as an attorney in the local market to see if this what you really want to do