Law School Discussion

University of Minnesota or California Western

University of Minnesota or California Western
« on: March 24, 2014, 09:39:09 PM »
I would appreciate any advice to help me decide between these two options....

1.  University of Minnesota Law School (Ranked #20) with a 40% scholarship
2.  California Western School of Law (Not Ranked) with a 90% scholarship

I plan to practice in Los Angeles and open my own firm as soon as possible.  I am not sure what type of law I would like to practice.

Re: University of Minnesota or California Western
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2014, 12:37:29 AM »
Yikes... well, thats a difference. I honestly have no idea... I would defer to the judgement of others on this one.

Thats said, if I were forced to pick one or the other just on these facts, I would probably go with UMinn. But I may be wrong.

Good luck!

Re: University of Minnesota or California Western
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2014, 05:23:37 PM »
If you are interested in practicing law in LA, neither of these schools are ideal choices. You'd be better off attending school in LA.

UM obviously has greater name recognition, but it's not what I would call "elite". UM is an excellent school, but I don't think its reputation is so prestigious that the pedigree alone will open many doors in LA. For example, I would ask UM how many LA firms interviewed on campus recently. I'll bet the number is very low. That's because the larger LA firms have their pick of UCLA, USC, Irvine, Stanford and Berkeley grads. If they look out of state, its at places like Harvard and Yale.

At smaller firms and government agencies they are less concerned with pedigree, but they want relevant experience. It's difficult to make connections and gain internships (both of which will be critical to gaining employment) from 1500 miles away. Simply showing up in LA after three years in Minneapolis and starting from scratch is very tough. 

From what I've seen, a graduate from a school like Loyola or Pepperdine who has significant local experience is often in a better position than a graduate from a higher ranked school who lacks experience. The exception being if the graduate is from a truly elite school like Harvard.

Also check the CA bar pas rates for UM. Law schools in MN are not designed to prepare you for the CA bar exam.

As far as Cal Western, I can understand the attraction of a 90% scholarship. If you plan to go into business for yourself, there is no reason in my opinion to accrue $150,000 debt. Most of your clients won't know the difference between Cal Western and Yale, nor will they care.

The problem, again, is location. If you want to practice in LA why go to school in San Diego?

For both schools, be sure to check the scholarship's stipulations. It may have some tough requirements.

If you have the numbers to get scholarships at UM and Cal Western, then you might want to shoot for a scholarship at a local LA school. At this point it probably means waiting a year, but it might be worth it.

Re: University of Minnesota or California Western
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2014, 08:24:09 PM »
These are very interesting schools to be choosing if you plan to work in L.A. I think you are making the common mistake many 0L's do when choosing a law school, the same ones I did and placing emphasis on what a for-profit unregulated magazine thinks about a school and forgetting to use common sense.

Frankly if your goal is to be a solo practitioner in L.A. attending school in Minnesota does not make a lot of sense. San Diego to L.A. is doable, but if you want to be in L.A. why not attend school in L.A.

With that said I want to give you an analysis of five factors   I think any 0L should consider when choosing a law school, and I will apply them to your situation.

Factors: (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 Rankings. I will analyze these factors to your situation below

This is something law students really do not consider and it is by far the most important thing. Remember law school does not exist in a vacuum and you will be spending three years of the prime of your life were you attend law school. Additionally, your connections will be made in the area you attend law school and more likely than not you will end up taking the state bar in the state your school is located in.

There is also the reality that if you spend three years somewhere odds are you will end up there. If you attend Minnesota you will make friends, possibly get into a relationship, get an apartment you like, etc and the longer you stay somewhere the harder it is to leave.

In your situation Minnesota and San Diego are two extremely different places. It sounds like your ultimate goal is to end up in L.A. and you are more likely to achieve that by attending school in San Diego than Minnesota. There is probably still time to apply to a school like Southwestern in L.A, which will give you the best shot at making connections in L.A. I think Pepperdine and LMU closed their applications, but it never hurts to ask.

I do not know anything about you or your situation, but just really think of the reality of the differences between Minnesota and California that will matter, what some magazine "ranked' a school will not.

2. Cost

Scholarships are great and out of state tuition at Minnesota is 43k and California Western tuition is 42k so roughly equal. I am sure living expenses in San Diego will be much higher than Minnesota though.

With that said you need to check the scholarship conditions. I imagine the schools require you to maintain a 3.0 GPA or finish in the top 35% of the class or some stipulation at the end of your first year. I'm sure you think getting a 3.0 will be easy you were smart enough to get a scholarship at an ABA school and probably got 3.0's in undergrad without trying.

Law school however, is completely different and 100% of the students are smart, hard-working, motivated, and sincerely believe they will finish in the top 10% of the class on the first day, but obviously 90% will be wrong. To retain a 3.0 typically you need to finish in the top 35% of the class first and that means there is a 65% chance you will not retain your scholarship years 2 and 3.

Really check the conditions and if they are not favorable negotiate for better ones. This NY times article does a better job explaining the system than I can.

3. Personal Feelings about the School:

Each law school has a culture to it and whether you like that culture or not is a question only you can answer. If your going to make a 3 year and $100,000 commitment you should visit the schools talk to professors, admins, students, walk around the campus, the library, the neighborhood and see how you feel about it. Maybe you will love Cal Western maybe you will hate it.

I know I visited many schools as a 0L some I liked others I didn't. You may like what I hated and vice versa this is your life decision and what you like is a question only you can answer.

4. The Reality of Legal Education:
It is all the same at an ABA school. Whether you attend Minnesota or Cal Western your first year will consist of Torts; Contracts; Property; Civil Procedure; and a LRW class. You will read supreme court cases and learn about blue book citation. The law is law wherever you are and at the end of three years you will sign up for BarBri or Kaplan to help you prepare for the bar exam.

Bottom line no school really does a "better" job of teaching the law. In Torts you will learn the elements of negligence (1) Duty; (2) Breach ; (3) Causation; (4) damages.  In Contracts you will learn promissory estoppel, the mailbox rule etc. The list goes on and one.

5. U.S. News Ranking:
So many students make the mistake of making life altering decisions based on this magazine, but remember it is an unregulated for-profit magazine offering an opinion nothing more nothing less. Realistically I had no idea Minnesota was ranked high and frankly I could care less as could most people. In Minnesota University of Minnesota will carry a lot of weight, but people in California will not care.

By example realize U.S. News ranks more than law schools Albuquerque, New Mexico is the #1 best place to live.

Are you going to move to Albuquerque because U.S. News ranked it #1? I assume it will not and use the same logic when choosing a law school. Sure it's great U.S. News ranked Albuquerque New Mexico #1 I am sure there are some real positive things about the place, but I would not make a life altering decision of where I am going to live based on the magazine.

On the same note do not make a 3 year, $100,000, and career altering commitment based on a magazine. Once you are out of the law school bubble you will realize how little it matters, but I know when you are in the bubble it seems really important.

I am just an anonymous internet poster as is anyone else on this board or others. I certainly cannot tell you what the "right" answer is. Minnesota may be a great choice or Cal Western may be a great choice it is unpredictable. However, if your goal is to end up in Southern California attending law school in Southern California is the best way to end up in Southern California.

Many law students over complicate things, but do not forgot the tool of common sense it is very effective in law school and the practice of law.

Good luck on your pursuit of a legal education.

Re: University of Minnesota or California Western
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2014, 05:59:14 PM »
I really appreciate the time you guys took to give me advice.  It was very helpful!  I did apply to LA schools and got into Pepperdine and Loyola with no scholarship and Southwestern with about a 57% scholarship.  The reason I was not really considering these schools is due to the financial factors.  Do you believe it is worth the extra money?  If so, which of these options would you choose?

Re: University of Minnesota or California Western
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2014, 08:00:16 PM »
Again, I do not think anyone on the internet should be making the decision for you. I encourage you to visit Pepperdine, LMU, and Southwestern.

What financial factors are at issue?

Also do not be afraid to negotiate for scholarship money tell Pepperdine and LMU you are considering Southwestern due to the scholarship offer and they will likely throw 5-10k your way. They may not, but you have nothing to lose by asking.

I think Pepperdine is far and away one of the most beautiful campuses in America and if I was in your shoes I would go there, but I am not you so it doesn't really matter what I think.

There is no "right' answer. Any of these schools will provide you with a solid education, but if you really want to end up in California I do not think attending school in Minnesota is a good idea. However, I am just some guy on the internet so take my advice with a  grain of salt.