Deciding Where to Go > Choosing the Right Law School

Brooklyn Law vs. Fordham Law

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Here's the current situation...

I had also gotten into Cardozo, and although Brooklyn Law took a dip in the rankings, I couldn't justify going to Cardozo at full price. When I told BLS I was considering Cardozo, however, they upped their scholarship offer to $45,000 per year. Practically a full ride, for now it's a no brainer. Also guaranteed housing too.

However, if I am accepted off of Fordham's wait-list, assuming I'd have to pay full price, would it be worth attending Fordham knowing I'll be in an enormous amount of debt, or head to BLS and come out essentially debt free.

Please be as ruthless and as honest as possible - I can take it  8)


First and foremost remember to take anything you read on this board or others from anonymous internet posters should be taken with a grain of salt my post included. Remember this is a life altering decision and I like anyone posting on this board knows nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you.

With that said I see the typical 0L logic in your post placing rankings above everything and I can tell you when I was a 0L I made the same mistake and now as a lawyer I realize how flawed that logic was.

I tell any 0L to consider the following when choosing a law school in this order (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feeling about the school (4) the reality of legal education (5) and last and certainly lease U.S. News rankings and these reasons are analyzed below.

1) Location
Thankfully you are not getting to crazy with this and all your schools are in New York However, having lived by Fordham and Brooklyn law school I know the areas are very, very different. Fordham is in a beautiful part of Manhattan and Brooklyn is in a less than ideal neighborhood. However, you might like it a little grungy and not enjoy being near the symphony and so forth that is your own call.

Since all your schools are in New York this is not that big of a factor, but for other 0L's considering attending school in California or New York, Washington or Arkansas  etc etc realize living in Arkansas will be much different than Washington

2. Cost
I see you have the foresight to realize getting a full scholarship is great. However, one thing to be very careful about are the conditions attached to these scholarships. Often there will be a requirement that you need to maintain a 3.0 GPA or finish in the top 50% of the class or some other restriction. It is usually the 3.0 GPA requirement, which is very deceptive and law students do not realize until it is to late.

Now as an incoming law student I am sure you got a 3.0 in undergrad without breaking a sweat and assume the same will happen in law school. However, in law school everyone is smart, hard-working, and motivated. Not only that law school grading is far different and generally only 35% of the class can have a 3.0 at the end of 1L. 100% of law students at any ABA school are convinced they will be in the top 10% and there is certainly no way they would finish outside of the top 1/3 of the class, but 90% of those people will not finish in the top 10% and 66% will not finish in the top 1/3.

If the typical conditions apply to this scholarship then odds are you will lose it year 2 & 3 and pay full price. This NY times article does a pretty good job explaining the system .

Bottom line pay attention to the CONDITIONS and continue to negotiate for the most favorable terms possible. As you saw by your scholarship increase you have the leverage as a OL and they want you in there, but once your enrolled you have no bargaining power left so do not be afraid to push for more.

3) Personal Feeling About the School

I can tell you having been a OL and visited various schools and competed in mock trial competitions that every law school has a culture to it. I know I hated some schools and loved others, but you may hate what I love and love what I hate.

This is three years of your life, your money, and your legal career so visit the schools, talk to professors, look at the neighborhood, talk to students, admins, and so forth and get a feel for the school to see if you fit in. You may love Fordham or hate it that is your personal decision and only you know what you enjoy.

So really listen to your gut when visiting these schools.

4) Reality of legal Education
Another important thing to realize is that any ABA school you learn the same thing. Your first year will consist of torts, contracts, civil procedure, property, etc. In these classes you will read Supreme Court cases Pennoyver v. Neff in Civ Pro, Palsgraff in Torts, and the Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for everyschool and neither do textbook publishers. Whether you attend Fordham, Cardozo, or Brooklyn you will likely read from a Contracts text book written by Epstein and read Hadley v. Baxendale, also the hair hand case and so forth.

The law does not change and you will learn the same thing at any school. After three long years you will then decide whether to pay for Barbri or Kaplan for your bar review course along with all the students at Cardozo, Fordham, Brooklyn, NYLS, Touro, Pace, etc and then you will all be in a barbri lecture hall for the next few months and finally all of you will take the bar exam and you will not list what school you attended and it will be up to you personally to pass the bar. That is the reality of legal education.

5 Rankings
Remember that U.S. News is a for-profit, unregulated, magazine offering an opinion. You can take it or leave it there is no authority and U.S. News has identified New Mexico as the best place to live. they have a balloon festival and the writers of U.S. News decide that make it the best place to live. Are you going to move to NM because these writers said so? I would hope not.

Use the same logic when choosing a law school the rankings system makes very little sense and clearly Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc have pedigrees, but none of these schools will have people falling over themselves for you.  New York has Columbia, NYU, not to mention plenty of Harvard & Yale grads want to come along with Stanford, UCLA, and USC, Cornell, so forth and so forth Fordham, Cardozo, and Brooklyn do not have that sort of pedigree.

They will jump around from year to year in the rankings between 30-70 I would imagine and there is a good chance Brooklyn will be higher ranked than Cardozo by the time you graduate or vice versa.

Use your common sense when choosing a law school to many law students myself included over think the decision and make U.S. News their deciding factor, but a magazine should not be the basis for a life altering decision your own personal likes, dislikes, goals, etc should guide your decision.

Good luck whatever you decide.

Wow, thank you for such a thorough and honest response. In regards to the scholarship, the stipulation states that I have to stay within the top 80% of the class. I would hope that I can maintain this obviously, and compared to most scholarships, this seems fairly generous...

Happy to help, but again there is a 20% chance you will lose that scholarship this is nothing against you personally just the reality of law school. One your first day you will see everyone is convinced they will be in the top of the class and there is absolutely no way anyone believes they could possibly be in the bottom 20% of the class. However, it looks like Brooklyn has around 450 students in each year's class so that means 90 students will be in the bottom 20% of the class one of those 90 could easily be you.

Furthermore, law schools do what they can to make you lose the scholarship they do not do anything illegal, but I do not think it is uncommon to put all the scholarship students in one section to compete against each other or other tactics. Remember law school is a business first and foremost from Harvard to Cooley schools want tuition money and if they can find a way within the rules to have you pay another 90k for years two and three they will. Again they won't do anything wrong or illegal, but it is in their best interest to have you attend their school and lose your scholarship.

Once you enter the school unless you finish in the top 20% of the class and have the option to transfer up you will have no negotiating power and there is an 80% chance you won't be in that position. Therefore, I highly recommend you continue to negotiate the most favorable terms you can before committing to any school. As you saw by simply mentioning another school your scholarship money jumped try negotiating for more possibly as long as your in good academic standing at Brooklyn you will keep the scholarship.

This will also be a good lesson as to what being a lawyer is all about you fight for stuff and I know it is uncomfortable to negotiate for terms, but that is what you do in the real world. Try getting your feet wet with it and hopefully you will guarantee 90k for your law school career. In your current situation there is a a 20% chance you will lose $90,000 which is a substantial sum of money especially considering it will be accruing interest.

Right, all very true and fair points. I guess my biggest concern, aside from doing well, resides with job prospects after graduation. Specifically, going to a school with "worse" job prospects and with a scholarship versus going to a school with "better" job prospects and having to pay full price.


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