Law School Discussion

Did I make the right decision?

Did I make the right decision?
« on: July 14, 2013, 07:19:46 PM »
So I ended up getting off of the waitlist at Fordham and begged and pleaded for some scholarship money, but as expected, no dice. It was definitely my top choice from the start of the application process and after I got waitlisted, I figured I had no shot anyway. I ended up using leverage to get a 45k a year scholarship to Brooklyn Law and decided to go there over Cardozo initially. When I got into Fordham, it was the toughest decision of my life (seriously), but I couldn't fathom being in the enormous amount of debt - roughly 250k including living in NYC - after graduating. I still have the intention of doing big law, which out of BLS is going to be tougher than out of Fordham, and maybe if I do well enough this year I can try to transfer to NYU/Columbia/Penn, but just was looking for some reassurance. Feel free to be as honest as possible. I do not mind criticism no matter how harsh you may end up being.  :o

Background: Went to U of Michigan undergrad and have lived in NY suburbs my entire life.


Re: Did I make the right decision?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2013, 06:11:20 PM »
First off realize this is your life and you know better than any anonymous internet poster giving advice on this board or others myself included. With that said I am an attorney and think there are some factors that every 0L should consider when choosing a law school. These factors are in the following order (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about the School (4) What you want out of your legal career (5) U.S. News Rankings and not necessarily a factor, but understanding the reality of legal education. Each of these factors are analyzed below.

1) Location
It does sound like you have this pretty well established and you will be studying in New York. I see many students consider Gonzaga or Miami and not understanding the vast differences between the two locations. So this is not as big a factor in your decision, but living in New York I imagine you realize the difference between attending a law school located in upper Manhattan v. Bedstudy Brooklyn, but this goes more to factor 3 than 1.

2. Cost
This is a major factor and the scholarship is something to consider Brooklyn is 48k per year and Fordham is actually cheaper at 47k per year according to LSAC, but 45k pear year from Brooklyn will result in almost no debt for you, which would be amazing. However, BEWARE OF SCHOLARSHIP CONDITIONS this often mislead law students. Many law schools will give you a condition such as you must maintain a 3.0 GPA or finish in some percentage of the class. The 3.0 requirement is usually the most tricky almost every incoming law student at any ABA school obtained a 3.0 while in undergrad in their sleep. Therefore, 100% of 0L's believe they will get a 3.0 in law school. However, unlike undergrad law school has a curve typically schools allow only 35% of their class to have a 3.0 GPA at the end of first year. Everybody could do A work, but only 35% of the class will get A's bottom line.

Even knowing that 100% of incoming law students at any ABA school are smart, hard-working, and motivated and on the first day 100% of students will truly believe they will be in the top 10% and there is no way they could finish outside the top 35%, but that will be the case for 65% of the students. So bottom line check out what if any conditions are part of this Brooklyn Scholarship. If it is a full ride no conditions attached that is really something to consider, but schools like everyone else don't generally hand out 100k without some stipulation. So I would ask as many questions about the condition as possible if you don't ask they won't tell you. Additionally this NY times article does a good job explaining the system.

3) Personal Feelings about the School
In your situation with Location and cost being a major issue I don't know if this is an important, but it is something to consider. Each school has a culture to it as 0L there were many schools I liked and others I didn't. I have been to both Fordham and Brooklyn Law school and the campuses are very different as are the cultures of each school. I think Fordham is a much more prestigious school and if you want to be in a BigLaw environment etc that is probably the better environment for you. More of a streetfighter type litigator etc might prefer Brooklyn. I don't know you personally and nobody knows what will suit your style better than yourself so visit both schools talk to professors, students, tour the campus, etc and see what school feels right for you.

4) What you want out of your legal career

You mention Big Law aspirations and certainly Fordham will provide more BigLaw opportunities than Brooklyn although I don't think Fordham competes with Harvard, Yale, NYU, Columbia etc, so odds are you will not land a big law job from either school, but Fordham will provide a fighting chance Brooklyn probably not. 

However, I know plenty of people that wanted Big Law and went into it and couldn't stand it. If you pass up the money for Fordham you may be stuck in a job you hate. I would try and reach out to some big law lawyers and see if it really is something you want. The paychecks sound great, but many are utterly misreable I have many Harvard friends who left after a year or two to go in-house, work for the AG, or various other jobs and they might have been better served taking scholarship money opposed to the Harvard education. Again, it is up to you.

5) U.S. News Rankings:
Remember this is a for-profit unregulated magazine offering an opinion nothing more so don't make a life altering decision based on it. To be perfectly honest I don't even know if Fordham is ranked higher than Brooklyn, but I know the campus is much nicer at Fordham, which shows how much ranking matters in the real world. You can certainly consider it, but the rankings change so much year to year and the rankings are truly based on nothing other than people filling out scantrons of 1-5 on schools they never interacted with. That is the system so don't take it to seriously.

6) Reality of Legal Education
A final point to understand is that at any ABA school you will learn the same thing. Whether you attend Fordham or Brooklyn your first year will consist of Torts, Contracts, Property, Civil Procedure, etc and in these courses you will read Supreme Court cases. Palsgraf f to learn proximate cause in Torts, Pennoyer v. Neff to learn about Notice in Civ pro, International Shoe to learn about personal jurisdiction, Hadley v. Baxendale to learn about contract remedies so on and so on. So there really isn't a "better education" the law is the law.

At the end of your three years you will then sign up for Barbri or Kaplan to help you with Bar Review then you will sit in a class with law students from Touro, NYLS, Brooklyn, Fordham, NYU, Columbia, and Cardozo then you after months of studying you will go into a room with 1,000 or so other bar takers from the same schools and hope you pass the exam. If you do you will then be granted a bar card whether you attended Touro or Columbia if you fail you will be given one. If you get one you will have a license to practice law and what you do with that will depend much more on you than the name of the school on your diploma.

I am some guy on the internet and this decision will impact 3 years of your life, 100k + of your money, and shape your legal career. Therefore, I will not even think of telling you what to do, but find out what the scholarship conditions are first and foremost then consider the factors above along with anything else you deem important when making your choice.

Congrats on your acceptances to law school and good luck in your legal career.