Deciding Where to Go > Choosing the Right Law School


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functionial drunk:
Hey Guys,

So I am choosing between FIU and FSU Law. The prospects for employment out of FIU law are good but probably not as great as FSU's (because it is a low tier 1 school) but I do want to practice in the Miami area. I am interested in practicing corporate/transactional law and wanted to know what you guys would think about choosing one over the other.
Things to consider: at FIU I would be paying no living expenses as I would be at home and FIU has given me $5,000 in scholarship money whereas FSU has given me none.

First and foremost realize anyone posting on this board is nothing more than an anonymous internet poster so take everything you read with a grain of salt my post included.

With that said I think any law student should consider the following five factors when choosing a law school in this order. (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about the school; (4) Understanding the reality of legal education; and (5) LAST AND LEAST U.S. NEWS.

The reasons for the factors being listed in this order are analyzed below.

1) Location
Remember law school does not exist in a vacuum and you will be spending minimum of three years of the prime of your life in City you attend law school. Tallahassee and Miami are very different places so you have to ask yourself where do you want to be. Do you want the College Town atmosphere or the City life in Miami? Some people would prefer the college town others City life there is no wrong answer, but you certainly know what you want.

An additional factor to consider is that if you attend law school in Tallahassee it will be difficult to get internships in Miami while you are in law school or even interview for jobs in Miami.

From your post it also appears that you have family in Miami and if this is also something to think about. If you have a support network in Miami and not Tallahasse it can make your law school experience much more pleasant. Many people travel across the Country for law school and it can be a lonely experience. I had a number of friends outside law school and it was great to get outside of the law school world once in awhile.

Just really think about where you want to spend the next three years.

2) Cost
FIU already has low tuition as does FSU, but if you have no living expenses plus a $5,000 scholarship cutting down on debt is something to consider. You indicate you want to practice corporate law, but you really have no idea what you will be interested in doing until you get out of law school. If you have minimal debt you can explore a lot more options and getting out of law school with almost no debt as you would at FIU is something to seriously consider.

3 Personal Feelings About the School
You should also visit each school and see how you personally feel about each. When I was a 0L I visited a number of schools and later competed in a number of mock trial competitions at different schools. I have probably been to 30+ campuses and can tell you each one has a culture and feel to it.

I loved a lot of schools I visited, felt indifferent about a number of others, and despised a few. However, these were my subjective opinions you very well love what I hated and hate what I loved it is your life and nobody knows better than you what suits your needs.

Therefore, you should visit each school walk around the campuses and surrounding neighborhood, talk to professors, admins, students, and alumni and see the vibe you get. At some point you will start to get a gut feeling that you really like one over the other and listen to that feeling.

4) Reality of Legal Education
Although U.S. News "ranks" law schools there really is no difference in the quality of education. No matter what ABA law school you attend you will be learning the same thing. Your first year will consist of Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Property and Criminal Law. In these courses you will be reading Supreme Court cases and believe it or not the Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for each law school.

You will be reading Pennoyer v. Neff in Civ Pro whether you attend FIU or FSU, Palsgraff in Torts, etc. At the end of three years you will then have to take a bar exam and whether you attend FIU or FSU you will be paying for a bar prep course most likely BarBri or Kaplan. Then after months of studying you will crammed into a room with about a 1,000 or so law students from every law school in the Country taking a very high pressure test. If you pass the exam regardless of what school you went to you are a licensed attorney and if you do not pass the exam your not. 

Once you have a license to practice law what you do with it is up to you and the name on your diploma will have little to do with your success.

5) U.S. News Ranking
Remember U.S. News is nothing more than a for-profit unregulated magazine offering an opinion and it should not be the basis of a life altering decision.

As an example U.S. News ranks more than law schools. According to U.S. News Albuquerque, New Mexico is the #1 place to live. Citation here . I am sure Albuquerque is a great place, but I am not going to move there simply because U.S. News said it is the best place to live, and doing that would probably seem crazy to you.

However, many incoming law students make life altering decisions regarding where to attend law school based on this magazine, but remember it is nothing more than a magazine. Do not choose to attend FIU, FSU, or any other school based on ranking. Use it as a tiebraker and maybe if you were accepted to Yale or Harvard some thought should go into the prestige, but I imagine you knew Harvard and Yale were pretty good schools without U.S. News telling you. As to FIU v FSU I have no idea, which is ranked higher and I imagine most other practicing lawyers do not care or know about the difference in rank.

There is no right answer as to what the right law school is, but you should visit each school, evaluate the costs, and consider where you want to live for the next three years. If you cannot make a decision based on that evaluation then use the rankings as a tiebreaker, but do not let it me the main source of your decision.

Congrats on your acceptance and good luck in your legal career.

functionial drunk:
Thanks for the insight Citylaw, it really put things into perspective. I guess the best way to decide which school to go to would be to visit each school and also look into which firms hire at each school. Although you claim that rankings do not matter, I have witnessed a few instances where a large firm would only interview FIU grads just to say that they "interviewed them" and have no intention of hiring them. I was just wondering if going to FSU law would increase my chances of getting hired at one of these firms because it is slightly more prestigious.


Overall, the difference is not significant enough to blindly say one is far better than the other. If you want to live/work in Miami, FIU will offer you the advantage of networking in Miami while FSU may offset that with reputation. I'd say go to the one that is cheaper. If both costs are similar, go with your gut.

functionial drunk:
thanks for the advice Miami 888 and the link you provided was really helpful as well. My preference is to practice in Miami at some point but I do not mind beginning my legal career somewhere else in Florida which is why I would not mind going to FSU. The cost of living would be virtually non existent if I did stay in Miami, but as an undergrad from FSU I have to say that I love Tallahassee and would not mind spending another three years there.


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