Law School Discussion

Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA

Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« on: December 15, 2014, 02:49:32 PM »
Okay so I have been very stressed out about what law school to ultimately pick. I love the idea of going to law school in SD and I would not mind residing there permanently if i get offered an employment opportunity. However, I am currently living in LA and I have a great job in a top immigration law firm whose offering me an associate position once I finish law school. If I stay here in LA I would do the part time program so that I can still work in the morning. So far, only Loyola and Southwestern offer a part time afternoon program which is where I intend to go if I stay here in LA. However, something keeps pulling me towards SD. I am not sure what to do anymore! I just submitted my applications I have a 3.6 GPA and received a 162 in the LSAT so i'm sure my opportunities of getting into either are pretty decent. Any input would help thanks!

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2014, 03:00:17 PM »
Several things...

Loyola is generally better-regarded as a law school, but it is also one of many top tier or thereabouts schools in LA. Southwestern less so. Cal Western is #2 in SD but in a much less crowded market. However, to a large extent, the LA and SD markets overlap.

What kind of "offer" is your law firm making? That if you go to law school and pass the bar, you will be offered an associate position? As a part-timer, that is 4-5 years away at a minimum. It is very difficult for law firms, even large ones, to predict their employment needs that far out. The "offer" may amount to nothing after you spend 5 more years working there while in law school, accumulating debt. Is that an acceptable result?

What other connections do you have in San Diego? Can you articulate why you'd rather be there than LA? The LA market is probably stronger but there is significant competition.

You will be likely be practicing in the city where you attend school regardless of which school you choose as all of the schools you've mentioned are regional.

To me, I would weigh the likelihood of actually obtaining an associate position at your current employer with how much you think you'd rather live in SD. Personally, if you have a good thing going and can do the part-time program while having reasonable hopes of full-time associate employment afterwards, I'd do that. If it's all smoke and mirrors and you are dead-set on living in SD, go down there. I'd also consider that after you have some experience practicing law you will be much easier to move around SoCal.

Regardless of what you decide, good luck!

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2014, 03:15:57 PM »
Thank you for replying and your input!

As for the offer, the firm I currently work for prefers to employ law students who are already working for them to associate attorneys once they graduate and pass the bar. More than half of the attorneys already there were once paralegals for the firm and after graduation and passing the bar were made associates. Its a great law firm and a great environment but I really dream of being a prosecutor and doing criminal law (not family,immigration law which is what the firm specializes in).

One of the reasons for SD as you mentioned is that the market is not as competitive as LA. In LA you are competing with students from UCLA, USC, Loyola, Southwestern, Pepperdine and students from every other top tier school up north that want to live in LA. In SD they have an undergraduate internship within the county of San Diego as well as a graduate clerkship only offered to students in the three law schools in SD. Students who did the internship/clerkship also have priority for positions in the court once they have passed the bar. Which is what I ultimately would like to pursue and thats where my hesitation to stay in LA comes from.

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2014, 03:57:01 PM »
Hmm, I would be extremely careful about choosing a law school or city based on one particular clerkship. Chances are, if you are interested in it and know about it, so is and does everyone else. I also wouldn't choose it based on the assumption that you know what kind of law you really want to practice, after you get out of law school.

I suppose to me, it goes back to the old adage of "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Your law firm sounds like as close to a sure thing as one can get in this uncertain legal market, barring a rich attorney relative with a firm. Lots of debt and no job is no joke.

Less crowded does not necessarily mean less competitive. If anything, the smallness of the legal market in SD makes things tougher. See Thomas Jefferson. And USD is widely considered to be superior to Cal Western. The same people from schools like Berkeley and Stanford or UCLA/USC that want to live in San Diego will still want to live in San Diego.

My personal recommendation would be do Loyola, assuming you get in. They have a decent track record of getting people into the DA's office. This also keeps you in the running for a job at your firm if, for whatever reason, the DA doesn't work out.

The tough part with this plan is that you'd ideally need to do a semester and summer externship at the DA's office. During the summer you could extern for credit part-time, but most are looking for full-time over the summer and you would want to do this ideally full-time summer after 2L to really maximize your experience, followed up during the semester 3L. The summer training program is usually more comprehensive and focused, so the tough part would be taking 10 weeks off of law firm work if you could. During the semester you can extern for credit half-time while still working part-time at the law firm.

Later on, either immediately after law school or after you have some experience, regardless of practice area, it will be easier to move to San Diego if you still desire.

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2014, 05:38:58 PM »
Completely agree with Groundhog about not putting to many eggs in one basket with this firm.  It is very difficult for any firm to know what will happen in five years major clients could back out, another recession could occur, immigration reform could completely change how your firm operates etc.

If the firm was offering to pay for law school then the firm is putting it's money where it's mouth is, but of course they will tell any decent employee to stick around and pursue law school while working for them. You will be paying for own education making you more valuable while being paid the same rate. If you graduate, pass the bar, and it happens to be a good time I am sure they would hire you, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they will hold a position for you.

As to your overall question I always tell any incoming law student to consider the following factors in this order.

(1) Location
(2) Cost
(3) Personal Feelings about school
(4) Understanding the reality of legal education
(5) Last and Least U.S. News Rankings.

This article does an excellent job analyzing these factors to any incoming law student. , but I will analyze these factors to your current situation below.

I will also add some minor input about my thought on part-time law school, which I do not recommend, but to each their own.

(1) Location:
For all intents and purposes San Diego and L.A. are pretty similar, but during law school you will not have the time or financial resources to go between the Cities. However, you will have time to enjoy life a little bit and for three years wherever you attend law school will be the City you spend 95% of your life in. Additionally, after three years it is unlikely you will move. If you stay in L.A. and work for that firm part-time there is a good chance you will end up at that firm or another L.A. firm. Additionally, you will make friends in San Diego or L.A. and likely enter into a serious romantic relationship or solidify an existing one during law school and that person will likely get a job in the City you attend law school. So upon graduation again you will likely stay in San Diego or L.A.

On top of that during law school you might find an apartment you love and don't want to leave for at least few years. These are all things that ended up happening to me and I still live 1 mile away from my law school, which is in a City I didn't intend to live in when I enrolled, but things happen and during your mid-late 20's you really solidify where you will end up living so if you really want to be in San Diego attend law school in San Diego.

(2) Cost:
With your numbers I assume California Western would offer you a scholarship and if they haven't ask them to. However, be sure to negotiate your conditions and make sure they are fair. Many students get a 3.0 requirement and assume they will easily get that, but law school is a different animal with a steep curve and only about 35% of the 1L's can have a 3.0 and nothing personal, but there is a 65% chance you will not be in the top the 35%.

3) Personal Feelings about the school:
California Western and Loyola are fairly close to each other and I highly recommend you visit both schools. While there talk to professors, admins, walk around the neighborhood, check out the campus, and see, which one you like more. As a 0L I visited numerous law schools some I liked others I didn't, and whether you like something or not is a highly personal decision and the only way to answer it for yourself is to personally visit each school. After your visit you will likely have a gut feeling about both schools and listen to that feeling. 

(4) Reality of Legal Education:
At any ABA school you will receive a great legal education. Whether you attend California Western or Loyolya you will for all intents and purposes learn the same exact thing. Your first year will consist of Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, and Property. In these courses you will read Supreme Court cases and brief them. The Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for different schools and you will likely have the same exact textbooks for each of these courses at either school. At the end of three years you will sign up for the California BarBri or Kaplan Course and study for a** off for months then pack yourself into a room with thousands of other law school graduates wanting to be licensed to practice in California. If you pass that exam your an attorney if you don't your not regardless of what school you attend.

(5) U.S. News Rankings:

Remember this is nothing more than a for-profit magazine offering an opinion. U.S. News ranks everything form hospitals to best places to live. Albuquerque, New Mexico was ranked #1 place to live, but I imagine you will not make the life altering decision to move to New Mexico because U.S. News said it was #1. Here is the link showing New Mexico is #1

Use the same logic when choosing your law school do not make a life altering decision based on what a magazine thinks.

(6) Part time law school and your employer:
The majority of people that fail out of law school go part-time. The reason is that first year is insane no matter where you go, and if you are dealing with the struggles of work your academic performance will suffer. Even if you don't fail out there is no way to will be able to compete with students going full-time and your class rank will not be as good as it could be.

I personally feel if you making the $100,000 life altering decision to go to law school go "all-in" . Don't dip your toe in the water, because odds are you will not do well academically, you will not make connections in law school, and you will simply not have the same experience.  There are people that can thrive in part-time programs, but the majority of people don't.

Again, as to your firm as I stated above there is no guarantee you they will hire you at graduation, but they might. However, a lot of doors will open once you are licensed to practice law unless this firm is where you want to work at graduation, which it might be don't settle. You are pursuing a J.D. to open doors don't put to much weight in this one firm if your not that into it. If it is a firm you want to work at and you are absolutely passionate about then perhaps part-time and working there is the best route, but only you can answer how interested you are in that firm. In closing don't sell yourself short and settle despite all the negativity from anonymous internet posters once you are licensed to practice law there are a lot of opportunities.

I am some random anonymous internet poster along with everyone else on this board or others so take my post and everyone other anonymous internet poster's advice with a major grain of salt.  I have never met you, I know nothing about you, and I certainly do not know what is best for you and neither does any other anonymous internet poster.

What I do know is that either school will provide you with a solid education and an opportunity to be a licensed attorney. What you do with that license has far more to do with you than the school you attend and what the best decision for "you" is can only be answered by you. I encourage you to analyze the factors above to make your decision.

Good luck whatever you decide and congrats on your acceptances.


Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2014, 08:05:17 PM »
We can all give objective advice and opinions, and while those have value, a lot of this needs to be subjective. Where do you WANT to be? What might be something small to one person might be huge to another. Heck, maybe one campus has coke vending machines and one has Pepsi. If it matters to you, IT MATTERS.

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2014, 11:40:33 AM »
Perfectly stated Gunner and so true.

What means absolutely nothing to one person can be a huge factor to someone else and anyone considering law school should take that to heart.

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2014, 09:34:47 AM »
Most of what needs to be said has already been covered, but I will add this:

Consider using your GPA/LSAT to get a full ride (or close to a full ride) somewhere, regardless of ranking. If you have a guaranteed job at your current firm, then does it really matter where you go? Would they still hire you if you went to say, Whittier? If so, the lack of debt may be worth it.

Secondly, I live and work in the LA area and I can tell you that none of the schools you mentioned are so prestigious that they are worth $150,000 in my opinion. No firms are going to be so impressed with a degree from Loyola or San Diego that they will hire based on pedigree alone. 

Don't get me wrong, they are both fine schools with good local reputations. I know plenty of lawyers from both schools. But again, is the reputational advantage worth $150,000? I don't know, that's something you'll have to answer for yourself.

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2014, 02:42:56 PM »
Secondly, I live and work in the LA area and I can tell you that none of the schools you mentioned are so prestigious that they are worth $150,000 in my opinion. No firms are going to be so impressed with a degree from Loyola or San Diego Cal Western that they will hire based on pedigree alone.
I went to law school in LA and otherwise, agreed.

Re: Cal Western in SD or Loyola Law School in LA
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2014, 11:05:11 AM »
Do you mean that firms will hire from San Diego based on pedigree?

I can't really speak for the SD market, but in LA it carries no more weight than Loyola/Pepperdine, etc.