Law School Discussion

Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn

Hello,

As we all know, we are quickly approaching the deadline for law school seat deposits (April 15). But I'm still conflicted on where to go. Here are my choices: Dickinson on full scholarship, drexel on full scholarship, villanova on full scholarship, temple on 3/4 scholarship, or U Penn with no money offer (which I realize is long shot compared to the others). I've been hearing a lot of opinion, but only from my family and of course each law school admissions dept. but I'm looking for your opinions. I don't really have any specific type of law in mind in terms of a career path. What I'm wondering is, what is my best choice? Is temple worth 5,000/yr when compared to the others? Is Penn really worth it's full cost? Are there other schools I should look into? I will value any response, let me know if you need more info, thanks!

loki13

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Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2015, 06:48:07 AM »
I will make this simple-

If you can afford it (loans, etc.) AND you really want to be a lawyer, and know that, and want to make the sacrifices to make that happen, go to UPenn. It is an investment. It's a T14 school. It's national. You are almost guaranteed to find a decent job (if you wish) afterwards. The debt will suck, and will haunt you for a long time. It wouldn't be worth it outside the T14 (at all!) But that degree can be a powerful signal.

Your last comment doesn't make any sense. At this point, how could you be looking into other schools?

Then, there's another issue. Are there any conditions on any of the scholarships? Not all scholarships are equal. Do any have GPA cutoffs (and what are they compared to the curve)? Unless there's some strings, I would take the money. Which means Dickinson (Penn. St.). Congratulations.

Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 07:34:06 AM »
Thanks for response! The only requirements for my scholarships are to "maintain good academic standing"- so either a 2.0 or 2.2 GPA. Also, I know job prospects are better for Penn graduates than for my other options, but would my job opportunities depend largely on my academic performance at the school rather than simply the name on the degree? For example, do straight As at Nova give me similar prospects to average grades at Penn?

Also with my question about applying to other schools, I just meant that, considering my present offers, is there potential for me to get a scholarship to a school ranked higher than Penn State, say Notre Dame or George Washington.? That is if the school's rep matters as much as many say it does. Thanks.

loki13

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Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2015, 08:07:55 AM »
I know this advice will seem simplistic, but it is true. I remember, a long time ago, when I was told these same things and I didn't believe them. I didn't want to believe them because I wanted to have more control over the process, and because the decision mattered so much to me. And to my life! But choosing a law school is a pretty simple business.

First, consider cost carefully. I would *not* pay full freight at any school outside of the T14, with the exception of some in-state schools. Now, some people are in different situations (for example, their parents are paying, and they have a guaranteed job after graduation because they come from a family of attorneys), but that's my opinion. The risk/reward just isn't worth it. Remember- everyone you are competing against, for the most part, did really, really well in undergraduate.

Second, don't believe what law schools are telling you. No law school outside of the T14 or so is "national". Heck, some of the schools in the T14 aren't that national. If you go to a school in the T50, expect to practice in that region. If you go to a school outside of the T50, expect to practice in that locality. Does that mean you will? No. But chances are, you will. Most school in the T100 can pull some examples of students that went to a BigLaw job at another coast, or got a clerkship with X federal judge... but they did that on their own, and because they finished at the very top of their class. This doesn't mean that these schools are bad... the good students at these schools are just as good as the good students at the best schools in the nation. But it's the way it is. So, when looking at schools outside of the T14, consider where you want to practice. Seriously. That doesn't mean that you're forever trapped there. But it does mean that if you dream of practicing in, say, Los Angeles, you probably shouldn't be looking at Dickinson.

Now, moving to your specific questions... it's hard to answer without having some idea of your goals. No one knows exactly what they want to do going into law school (no, you're not going to be a "Constitutional lawyer"). But going to a school like UPenn gives you a much better chance of working at a BigLaw job, or getting a clerkship with a federal judge, or a prestigious (but lower paying) government position than these other schools. Period. The alum network will be better. Is it Harvard, Yale, Stanford or Columbia? No. But it's going to be a powerful signal that will help you for a long time..... on the other hand, you'll be looking at, what, $200k in debt by the end? (Don't forget that you need to live, in addition to tuition). That debt *will* constrain your choices in the future, but it will can certainly be worth it (be aware that BigLaw, for example, is not for everyone.... I did my time, made my money, and I am now working my dream job).

Your questions about "straight As" at Nova, to me, are nonsensical. Never, ever, ever count on straight As. Right now, you have no idea if you'll do well in law school. If you'll make law review. If you'll get on moot court. *Every class your 1L year has a forced curve*. Do you know if you will do as well as your peers in contracts, crim law, con law, property, and torts (all of which are decidedly different)? Are you as good at timed essays as take-homes, open book as closed book, as good at multiple choice (my 1L year I have exams in all those formats)? Instead, assume that you'll do the average, and work to do better. Treat it like a job. Assume that if you go to a school like Villanova, you'll likely be working in that market. Remember- their connections, their alum, their OCI focus is in that area. I worked BigLaw in two markets, neither Philadelphia. I never met a Villanova grad, and I wouldn't know anything specific about that school.

And that's the real issue. There's a trend in your schools. Do you want to work in the Philly market? If so, I would go to a full scholarship school like the ones you have listed. Probably Dickinson. Because once you go out of the T14, you need to think of law schools like real estate- location, location, location. You are not doomed to where you went to school, but it is more likely that you will end up practicing in that area. And remember that lawyers, moreso than almost any other profession, have a lack of portability due to state bar requirements and the differences in state laws. Once you start practicing in one state, it is no easy task to suddenly move to another (yes, some states and groups of states now have reciprocity allowances... but others don't).

TLDR- Penn is an investment if you are sure, otherwise take the free ride. Whatever you do, don't count on finishing with straight As or at the top of your class. You very well might, but remember that the majority of your class mates feel the same way.

loki13

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Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 09:03:56 AM »
So maybe this will help. Look at a BigLaw firm like Reed Smith (they are big in the Philly market). Do a search for different law schools. You'll find the following:
4 Villanova associates (all Philly).
4 Drexel associates (3 Philly, 1 DC).
6 Dickinson associates, 11 partners (Philly, Pittsburgh)
43 U Penn Law grads, from Silicon Valley to London.

Now, do the same search for a well-known big law firm not prevalent in the Philly market (say, Quinn Emanuel).
Many U Penn grads (from NY to LA)
No Villanova.
No Drexel.
One Dickinson grad who built up his practice, and then lateraled in as a partner.

This is what I'm trying to get at. It's about risk-reward. UPenn will give you options, but it will cost you. The other schools are a free lottery ticket- and I would seriously consider them. But that's a choice you have to make. But what it comes down to is this; if you're willing to take the risk, I'd go to UPenn; if not, go to the best school in the location you want to practice in that is giving you a free ride.

Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 04:07:33 PM »
Yeah... this really is a non-question. Go to UPenn and be done with it. That said, this is assuming you don't already have a job lined up right now come graduation. In other words, if you are planning on working in your dad's firm for the rest of your life and you are just going to law school so you can practice... save yourself the money and go to the cheapest school possible. Basically any other life scenario... for goodness sake, go to UPenn.

For so many reasons... check out:

http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/pennstate/2013/
http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/villanova/2013/
http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/temple/2013/
http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/penn/2013/


UPenn places approx. 3/4 of their class in literally the most competitive (and high paying) jobs at graduation. Yes, you are looking at about $250k of debt on graduation. You will be able to pay that off well within 5 years of graduation working in BigLaw (starting salaries at $160k plus some bonuses and raises). And from there, you will basically be free to transition into any area of law: partner in big law; mid law or small law; in-house; flipping burgers at burger king...

All these other schools, you are looking at about $80-90k of debt (cost of living!). You would HAVE to graduate in the top 5-10% of your class in order to have a shot at big law. Realisitcally, you would be working in a small law firm or for the government (if you can find a job at all) making $60k. It will take you 10-20 years (if that) to get out of debt and you will be bottlenecked to work only in those legal sectors (lateraling up from a small firm to big law could happen, but so could winning the lottery).

Granted, the above is a bit blunt - but not that far off from average (in other words, it is not a best case/worst case thing).

Those are all the quantitative reasons for UPenn. Qualitatively, you will be challenged intellectually more so at UPenn than the other schools. Yes, you will end up learning the same things and reading the same cases. But the real difference will be what you take away from your peers. The average intellectual caliber at a school like UPenn is undoubtably higher than the average at these other schools. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying UPenn kids are smarter than Temple kids. I am saying that it is far more likely the kids that did really well on the LSAT and did really well in undergrad (read: were motived to study hard) will, on average, be the kind of people that will push you intellectually in a far high degree than at the other schools. This is seemingly a trivial factor, but when you are living and breathing off of 80+ other law students' thoughts for 5+ hours a day for three years... it becomes much more important than you would think.


Finally, have you tried asking UPenn for scholarship money? You might be able to squeeze something out of them using the other offers (and by begging). Worst case, they say no.

Good luck and congrats!

Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2015, 10:18:03 AM »
In most situations I think people should just take the cheapest degree possible. However, most people don't have the chance to attend a nationally recognized school like Penn.

This is one of the few times when I would at least seriously consider attending a certain school, even if it involves debt accrual. Penn is one a very limited number of schools whose reputation alone really can open doors throughout the country. This may (or may not) be worth the debt depending on what you want to do with the degree.

If you want to hang your own shingle and do family law, or become a local prosecutor, then I'd go for the free degree in a heartbeat. But if you are inclined towards Biglaw, federal jobs, or just aren't sure what you want to do yet, then Penn may be worth the investment. Keep in mind, however, that even as a Penn graduate you will still have to compete for the top jobs. Plenty of students from Harvard/Yale/Georgetown, etc are also after those positions.

Congrats! 

Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2015, 10:32:22 AM »
Second, don't believe what law schools are telling you. No law school outside of the T14 or so is "national". Heck, some of the schools in the T14 aren't that national. If you go to a school in the T50, expect to practice in that region. If you go to a school outside of the T50, expect to practice in that locality. Does that mean you will? No. But chances are, you will.

Yep.

I live and work in the Los Angeles area and I cannot tell you how many times I've seen students pass up the opportunity to attend a solid local school on a 50% scholarship in order to attend a non-elite (but higher ranked) out of state school. They have been so imbued with the notion that rankings are infallible, that they cannot fathom that law firms in LA won't give a crap that you attended the #52 school vs the #67 school.

I've tried to explain that once you get away from truly elite schools (not just "good" schools), cost and geography should drive the decision  making process. Frankly, many of them are oppositional to the information. Oh well. They'll learn the hard way that a $150k debt is a far bigger obstacle to their success than the arbitrary nuances of law school rankings.

loki13

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Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2015, 11:26:05 AM »
" that they cannot fathom that law firms in LA won't give a crap that you attended the #52 school vs the #67 school"

This. A thousand times over. I cannot emphasize this enough. You think the difference between a, say, "Emory" (#19!) and a UC Hastings (#59) is huge? Let me explain this- if you want to practice in Atlanta, or the South, go to Emory. If you want to practice in Los Angeles, or Seattle, people will have no idea what an "Emory" is. Even that giant disparity doesn't matter as much as location.

Going back to the original post, the only reason that I wasn't quite as full-throated in my support of UPenn as Maintain and Miami (both post, btw, that I absolutely agree with) is for the following reasons:
1. I don't know enough of your background. You have listed a number of Philly-area schools; do you live in the area? Can you minimize living expenses, etc? Do you plan on practicing there? Are your connections there? If so, then the full-ride schools might be a decent option.
2. I think that UPenn should be a slamdunk decision. But it is still a risk-reward scenario. I have had friends who can't hack BigLaw. Who burn out after one or two years (which can be a lot of due diligence / doc review type tasks, depending on your litigation/transactional slant). It's said that the law is a lot like a pie eating contest, where the prize is that you get to eat more pie. Go to UPenn, and you will have a career, but you'll need to plan around that debt (with the benefit being that UPenn is one of the very few schools that graduates people to jobs that can take care of the debt). OTOH, go to another school *and you may never have that BigLaw job or clerkship you dream of*. But if you find out that what you really wanted was to be a public defender, or some other job that doesn't provide great remuneration, then you have a very manageable debt load. Of course, there's the possibility you can't find a job if you don't do well (something that is exceedingly unlikely if you go to UPenn).

But if I were in your shoes, I would go to UPenn.

Re: Where to go: psu Dickinson, temple, drexel, villanova, U Penn
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2015, 12:30:55 PM »
2. I think that UPenn should be a slamdunk decision. But it is still a risk-reward scenario. I have had friends who can't hack BigLaw. Who burn out after one or two years (which can be a lot of due diligence / doc review type tasks, depending on your litigation/transactional slant). It's said that the law is a lot like a pie eating contest, where the prize is that you get to eat more pie. Go to UPenn, and you will have a career, but you'll need to plan around that debt (with the benefit being that UPenn is one of the very few schools that graduates people to jobs that can take care of the debt). OTOH, go to another school *and you may never have that BigLaw job or clerkship you dream of*. But if you find out that what you really wanted was to be a public defender, or some other job that doesn't provide great remuneration, then you have a very manageable debt load. Of course, there's the possibility you can't find a job if you don't do well (something that is exceedingly unlikely if you go to UPenn).

But if I were in your shoes, I would go to UPenn.

yes.