Law School Discussion

South Florida law schools

South Florida law schools
« on: December 12, 2013, 07:21:21 AM »
Hello all. So I am facing a tough dilemma on deciding where to go to law school. I am a South Florida resident and want to stay in the region so going to school down is a must. I currently have 4 offers on the table: U of Miami (No scholarship), FIU (No scholarship), Nova Southeastern University (half tuition scholarship) or St. Thomas University (full ride). I am heavily leaning towards attending Miami because I truly believe that if one wishes to practice in a certain market, one must go to the most prestigious/reputable school in said market to take advantages of resources as best as possible (alumni base, internships/externship, ettc) and Miami is TOP DOG in all those aspects down here. However, the thought of graduating with a six figure debt is very daunting and I don't know if I'm ready to take on that kind of debt. Thankfully, I graduated from college without any debt so I do have more leeway in that regard than others and working in the public sector is something that has always interested me so perhaps i can take advantage of IBR and the PSLF loan forgiveness program. Additionally, I will not be retaking the LSAT due to personal reasons that will make it nearly impossible to give 100 percent of my effort. So I'd like to get your guys opinion on this: Is U of Miami a good enough law school to justify taking on all that debt or should I settle for the cheaper options and have bleaker employment prospects come graduation. Any insight is appreciated. Thanks!

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2013, 06:18:13 PM »
Honestly, unless you are offered a full ride from UM, I'd prefer FIU. They have stronger bar passage rates, good employment numbers, are sky rocketing in reputation and ranking, and their students are humble and helpful. I am sure within the next 5-10 years, FIU will have just as much rep. in south florida, if not more, as UM. Unless you are in the top percentile of UM's class, the nominal boost of UM's rank is not going to help you out that much... If you really are skeptical, ask hiring lawyers at firms/sectors what they think.

I'd also visit UM law and meet as many students as possible. My experience with the environment of UM law is mixed.

Finally, note that you may be able to use the scholarship offers to get money out of higher ranked schools. First, you'll have to wait and see what FIU offers (you should hear back around Feb., but ask them). I'd then use the St. thomas offer to get more money from Nova and FIU. If UM really is a top choice for you, it wouldn't hurt to negotiate $ using a scholarship from FIU, and worse case, St. Thomas/Nova.

Good luck! You are certainly in a good position as is, so, congrats!

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2013, 07:21:06 PM »
Interesting you say that. I know FIU is on the rise but from the attorneys I've talked to down here, UM is still regarded as a powerhouse in the region. I also have an interest in working for a government entity so even if I do rack up a lot of debt, I can take advantage of generous repayment options such as PSLF after 10 years and IBR. Basically, if I don't end up top ten percent and don't get a shot at biglaw after 1L then I'll probably gun for a public sector job. Thanks for your insight!

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2013, 09:57:21 PM »
I am a lawyer in California not Florida, but I can tell you when I was a 0L I believed the rankings meant something, but the bottom line is once you pass the bar your a lawyer.

Having gone through law school I think any potential student should consider what law school to attend based on the following factors in this order. (1) Location (2) Cost (3) Personal Feelings about the School (4) Understanding the Reality of Legal Education (5) Last and certainly least rankings.

An brief analysis of each factor is below.

1) Location
Looks like you have this figured out I cannot tell you how many 0L's myself included believe going to the best "ranked" school they can attend regardless of location is the right decision. That is incredibly stupid because if you want to live in Florida attend law school in Florida don't attend Seattle University if you want to live in Florida at graduation. It sounds like you have that aspect figure out so your ahead of the game.

2. Cost
For your purposes this is what you need to consider.

FIU Tution = 16,000 per year x 3= 48,000 for an FIU J.D.

UM= 39,000 per year x 3= 117,000 fir a UM J.D.


NOVA & St. Thomas : Scholarships are great, but what are the CONDITIONS . Often the conditions will be something like a 3.0 GPA requirement and I'm sure you think that will come easy anyone offered a law school scholarship got a 3.0 in undergrad without breaking a sweat, but law school is much different and typically only 35% of the class can have a 3.0 GPA at the end of first year meaning there is a 65% chance you will lose your scholarship for years 2 & 3, which can result in substantial costs.

NOVA = 33,000 per year (1L= 16,500 and depending on conditions 66,000 for 2L & 3L = 82,000

St. Thomas= 1L Free (68,000 years 2 & 3 again all depending on scholarship conditions.

You have to ask yourself is UM worth and additional 65,000 and I assume your taking out loans, which will be at approximately 8% interest and resulting in the interest for the UM degree being around 9,300 per year post grad while FIU will be around 3,800 per year post grad.

There is no right or wrong, but really consider cost when choosing your school law school rankings change drastically every year, but the debt you accrue does not.

3) Personal Feelings About the School

This factor is very important for your situation as well. When I was a 0L I visited a number of schools and while in law school I competed in mock trial competitions and visited many more schools some I liked others I hated, but those were my personal opinions.

I recommend you visit all these schools talk to professors, students, admins, walk around the campus, etc and see what feels right. Listen to your gut you will like one of the schools more than the other and listen to your gut feeling when visiting these schools there is a right fit for everybody and each school has their own culture make sure you choose the one that fits YOU.

4. Reality of Legal Education

No matter what law school you attend you will learn the same exact thing. Your first year will consist of Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Legal Writing and Civil Procedure. In these courses you will read Supreme Court cases and the Supreme Court does not write seperate opinions for different law schools and more importantly the law is the same no matter what school you attend. Roe v. Wade applies the same to Harvard Grads as it does to Cooley Grads.

Additionally, at the end of your three years of law school you will then take BarBri or Kaplan and be in a room with law students from across the Country stressing out and then you will be in a room with thousands of law students taken the Bar Exam if you pass that exam your a lawyer if you don't your not regardless of the school you attended.

5. Rankings
It is important to realize U.S. News is nothing more than a magazine offering an opinion and they rank more than law schools. According to U.S. News Alburqerque, New Mexico is the best place to live . That is great, but I don't imagine your going to move to New Mexico because U.S. News said it is the best that would be ridiculous, but for some reason law students make life altering decision based on this magazine and it is a terrible idea.

On top of that law school rankings change year by year you can see Miami has been as high as 60 in the last 5 years and as low as 77 what changed during those 5 years nothing I am sure, but the methodology used by U.S. News is far from full proof and it doesn't need to be they are a magazine offering an opinion and if you want to make a life altering choice based on a magazine go ahead, but I would use law school rankings as a tiebreaker nothing more.

There is no right choice all four schools will give you a solid legal education, but you want to watch your debt if St. Thomas is offering a full ride with attainable conditions then that might be something to consider, but you have to ask about the conditions etc.

Also as I mentioned visit the schools see what feels right and go with it.

Good luck in your decision.

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2013, 05:54:24 PM »
That was a very informative response. Thank you! I think Miami is what feels right as of now and I am already speaking to alumni and students who have nothing but good things to say about the U. One alum even offered to mentor me and I haven't even started school yet so I can already feel the prestige factor in UM in this region. The stipulations on St. Thomas scholarship are pretty ridiculous as in must be top 35 percent ridiculous. Nova stips aren't as bad but still not the best. FIU is an up and comer but I really didnt like the campus or what I heard from the faculty, students and I have not found one alum in the areas that interest me.

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2013, 09:57:08 PM »
Glad it was informative and it sounds like UM is a fit for you, but don't let them know it yet. Something you should really consider is negotiating for scholarship money. Tell UM you have a Full Ride at St. Thomas and Half tuition at Nova and are really considering attending to save money. They are unlikely to match the scholarships, but they might throw in 5-10k.

Also tell Nova your considering Miami and try to get more out of them. Additionally, negotiate better conditions with St. Thomas.

Remember as a 0L you have all the bargaining power law schools need to fill seats and your a qualified candidate, but once you enrolled your bargaining power is gone.   

However, listen to your gut if Miami feels right then it is right, but try to negotiate some sort of scholarship deal before you enroll.

Good luck!

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2013, 05:52:42 AM »
I have been trying to negotiate pretty furiously but both attempts were turned down due to my low lsat score. Is possible to maybe just request a a set amount such as $7500 even though they've already told me that it doesn't look like I'd be eligible for anything?

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2013, 07:39:35 AM »
Have you tried negotiating with the other schools? If Nova gives you a full ride and you bring that back they might take you more seriously or maybe you will become more serious about Nova.

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2013, 06:37:27 PM »
Looks like I won't be getting any scholarship money from U of Miami after another round of negotiations. A six figure debt at graduation seems so daunting but is it really something that I should be that concerned about? Miami has a nice trend placing grads in the public sector and placed about a third of their graduating class this past year in the public sector. I'm really close to just going there even though it's going to be very expensive. Any thoughts you guys may have?

Re: South Florida law schools
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2013, 07:17:48 PM »
I think you have already made up your mind. At this point, go with your gut. You know the pros and cons.

Also, there are tons of outside scholarships that you can apply for. Even if you just snag a few k... something is something. I also know quite a few people that worked during law school at UM. All that combined with living well within your means can help keep your debt as low as possible.

Good luck!!!