Law School Discussion

Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul

Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« on: March 27, 2015, 04:25:39 PM »
I've lurked on here for a bit and decided to post. I have been accepted to the following schools:

Depaul ($10,000 to be divided between three years. I cannot recall the conditions but I'm sure they are unreasonable.)
IIT Chicago-Kent (full sticker. Also, they stated if I manage to get in the top 10% they'll throw some money at me. How generous. /s)
John Marshall Law School Chicago ($20,000 first year I have to stay in the top half of my class.)
Whittier Law School ($21,000 first year. I cannot recall the conditions right now.)

Meanwhile, I've been waitlisted at Southwestern. I interviewed with them earlier this week. The interviewer stated she was impressed with me but I haven't heard a peep out of them since.

What would you pick? I'm leaning toward Southwestern as my top choice if they take me and Kent as my second.

Little background:

I completed my undergrad at a Chicago school. I very much enjoy the city and have friends there. Additionally, I was born and raised in Los Angeles and have family there (which I am currently living with). I have a good deal of undergrad debt (65k). Have an uncle (practically raised me since my father died) who works at a biglaw firm. He and I are very close and he even helped me out with undergrad living expenses (paid for an apartment and living expenses last two years of college). He offered to help me foot the bill for the first year and for living expenses in Chicago and OC if I go there. He also stated he could hook me up with a job (he is the head of a practice group at the firm he is at) in both cities. I do not want to assume he can get me a job. I think that is a dangerous assumption.

Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2015, 10:15:44 PM »
It sounds like you have experience living in both L.A. and Chicago and the first question to ask yourself, which City do you prefer more?

If you attend Southwestern or Whittier you will be in L.A., which is much different than Chicago. If your friends etc are in Chicago and you love Chicago stay in Chicago.

You can negotiate better conditions and scholarship money with the school. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by asking.

Also, visit all these schools and see what you prefer. Each school has a culture to it and whether you like a particular school is a highly personal decision. Depaul has an undergrad with sports teams etc while Southwestern is a Law School with no sports teams etc. One is not better than the other, but just one of 10,000 factors to consider.

You are wise to not count on anyone guaranteeing you a job in the future. Your uncle may leave that firm by the time you graduate in four years. The economy could tank again and jobs might be unavailable and frankly a lot can happen in four years. Maybe you will meet a girl who convinces you to move to Minnesota where he doesn't have a practice group. I could go on and on with possibilities, but number one thing to consider is where you want to live after graduation.

Good luck with your decision.

This article might also be helpful in making your decision.

Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2015, 11:02:49 AM »
Citylaw's advice is good. I would just add the following:

Since you're already carrying 65k in debt, you may want to make debt minimization your top priority. Accruing an additional 100k (which is ENTIRELY possible even though you've been offered scholarships) can impact your career choices as much if not more than your choice of school.

Since none of the schools you're considering are elite, you probably won't be competing for a high paying job straight out of law school. Thus, you really need to consider whether or not you will be able to service that amount of debt on a (probably) $50-70k starting salary.

Citylaw has already addressed this, but I will reiterate: if you go to school in Chicago you will likely end up working in Chicago. If you want to live in California, go to school in California. When you're talking about non-elite, local schools it really is that simple.

Other options
I understand that you are probably eager to start law school, but if I were you I would at least consider reapplying to other So Cal schools and seeing what happens. Frankly, (and don't take this as criticism) I don't think any of the schools you mentioned are worth racking up a $150k + debt.

Whittier has offered the most, but you could easily lose it and be stuck paying full freight after the first year. Whittier has also had some problems with high attrition and low bar pass rates which resulted in the ABA putting them on probation several years ago.

If you were willing to wait on more year, you could study like crazy and retake the LSAT, then reapply to schools like La Verne, California Western, Southwestern, Chapman and Western State. You employment options from any of these schools would be about the same as the schools you're currently considering. You might be able to improve your bargaining position and significantly reduce you overall debt. Something to think about.

Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2015, 08:44:37 AM »
Good advice above, but I typically think your better off starting law school sooner than later. A lot can happen in a year and in this scenario if you decided to retake you would not be starting school for 18 months. Being in limbo for that long is tough and odds are you will enter into something that will be difficult to leave and also have one less year of life to recoup your educational investment.

Education is a long-term investment and the longer it takes to finish the less time you have to benefit from it.

Also congratulations on your acceptances getting into an ABA school is an accomplishment.


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Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2015, 09:32:18 AM »
A few thoughts-

I disagree with Citylaw re: taking time off. I think it depends on the person. I saw far too many people who just went straight UG - Law School. And I think it hurt them. Because UG is not law school. Sometimes, it helps to take a little time off, work a job, get some perspective. Truly know what you want. Law school is a big commitment. In my experience (YMMV), the people who took off a year or two and worked, and who then decided that they *really wanted it* and treated law school like a job did better. I saw far too many flame out during law school because they were treating like an extension of UG.

Now, your options. To me, it's pretty simple. Where do you want to live? Do you want to live in Chicago, or California? Because none of these schools will carry you outside of the region. Make that choice first, unless you are flexible. IMO, you nailed it- SW if you want LA, Kent if you want Chicago. But you need more money from those schools.

Next, some brutal honesty. These schools are ... not good. Whittier is truly bad. I would not go there unless they offered a full ride, no strings attached, three years. Period.

The other schools- well, Kent is okay. I don't know- this is a lot of debt to consider. It's good that you have family that will help you with living expenses! Just remember that none of these schools is a likely thing to place you in a job that will repay your student loans very easily. You will need to do extremely well.

Hope this helps, and good luck.

Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2015, 02:06:18 PM »
Loki makes a great point and I do think it is best to take some time off to work prior to law school. Many people that go straight from senior year of undergrad, which is pretty low key to the intensity of 1L would be in for a rude awakening.  However, if you have already worked or taken time off and everything is in place then I would recommend delaying.

As for Loki's comments about the schools not being good, I partially disagree. In my opinion ABA law school will provide you the tools to succeed.  Would Harvard open more doors than Whittier? Yes obviously.

However, I do think at any ABA law school you can recoup your investment. Law schools can range from $150,000-$200,000, but you will be a licensed lawyer for 20-30 years and education is a long-term investment after 5 years of being a lawyer from any school your income will go up significantly. When you first graduate from law school and have very little money to your name $100,000+ in debt and struggling to find your best job it will seem like a terrible investment, but you will find your first legal job.   Assuming, you perform somewhat competently your career will grow.


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Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2015, 03:01:49 PM »
CITYLAW!!!!!! (In the voice of KHAN!!!!!)

We continue our debate, I see. ;)

Whittier is not a good school. It is, in fact, a pretty bad one. I'll be more explicit- it's one of the worst. Whittier has one of the highest average debt loads of any law school for its graduates. Conversely, Whittier has one of the worst job placements of any law school, period.

So, to put it more simply- Whittier makes students take on a lot of money, and the vast majority of them graduate with no ability to puruse a career in the law. They are really close to what one might call a legal scam. Now, that said, you will get your JD. Maybe you hang up a shingle.

But I would rather tell people to burn their money than attend Whittier. Because not only will you have wasted that money, you will have wasted three years of your life. Or, instead of burning that money, use it to buy a house. Get started in life.

Or attend any other law school. Whittier is right there with the Cooleys of the world. Don't do it.

Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2015, 03:22:41 PM »
Whittier is one of the least regarded of the 200 ABA schools and if you are expecting a BigLaw or Federal Clerkship job right out of law school then it will not work. However, you can definitely get a job as an attorney from Whittier or any other ABA law school assuming you pass the bar.

Again, I place very little faith in job statistics. First and foremost if you don't pass the bar your not getting a job as a licensed attorney and whether you pass the bar or not has a lot more to do with the individual than the school. Additionally, you will need to hustle to get your first job out of Whittier or any of these schools and your first job might be in a small firm, public defender, d.a., etc office. 

I think that is fundamental difference in our positions.  From what I gather you work in Biglaw and went the clerkship route and if that is the goal then honestly none of these schools are a good investment. However, many people have no desire to work in Biglaw and the majority of legal jobs are not Biglaw.

So to the OP can you get a paying job as a lawyer from Whittier? Yes. Your only option will not be hanging out your own shingle either, but that is of course an option. Here is a list of 244 Super Lawyers from Whittier doing quite well. .

I even know several Superior Court Judges that went to Whittier you can succeed at Whittier, but nothing will be handed to you and some doors will be closed. However, if your goal is to work at a firm like Cravath they will not hire you out of Whittier or any of the schools your interested in.

Whittier will provide you with a quality legal education as will any ABA school. After three years you will sign up for the bar exam and use BarBri or Kaplan to pass. Plenty of people from UCLA, Whittier, USC, etc do not pass the bar and whether you pass or not will have a lot more to do with you than the school you attend.

If you pass the bar your a licensed lawyer and you will have options, but again if your goal is to work BigLaw or go through the recruitment process Tom Cruise did in the firm do not expect that any of these schools. Instead watch the Rainmaker with Matt Damon and that is a more likely look at your first year or so coming from these schools.

Just a huge John Grisham fan and he is doing quite well for himself coming out of Mississippi Law School a non-top 100 school.

Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2015, 04:10:27 PM »
I would just add a couple of points:

A school like Whittier may or may not be alright depending on the student's goals. I know several Whittier grads who are PDs, local govt attorneys, small firm practitioners. If that's your goal, then Whittier may be an alright choice. As Citylaw said, however, if your goal is Biglaw then you better look elsewhere.

As far as debt, Whittier is about the same price as most private law schools which is to say it is too expensive. I'm not sure why Whittier grads would necessarily accrue more debt than other California law students. The tuition and cost of living is high all over CA.

That said, Whittier does seem to have some unique problems that go beyond the general tight job market that all T4s deal with in CA.

One is location. This used to be an asset for Whittier, but now I'm not so sure. When Whittier moved from LA to OC in the 90s they were the only ABA school in the county. (Western State was still only Cal Bar approved at that time). Now, OC has Western State, Chapman, UC Irvine and Whittier. That makes the competition for both quality students and jobs tighter.   

Additionally, Whittier's past problems with the ABA are still pretty fresh in a lot of people's minds. That can't help when it comes to looking for a job. I applied to Whittier when I was looking at law schools, but decided early on that regardless of what they offered I would not attend. I talked to too many people who warned me away. (Also, I visited the campus and thought it was ugly. Perhaps a small issue, but still...)

Where I would disagree with Loki is on the idea of Whittier (or any other school) being a legal scam. The tuition, bar pass rates, employment rates, and anything else you want to know about any ABA school is readily available. No one is forced to go to law school. Quite to the contrary, people ask the law schools to please let them attend.

Whittier isn't lying to anyone about anything. If they were, this would be an entirely different discussion. Schools like Whittier give people a chance to become lawyers when no one else will. If the students squander their chances by not studying or not looking into the legal market first, I don't have a lot of sympathy.

At some point, aren't college educated adults responsible for their own actions?


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Re: Southwestern vs. Kent vs. Depaul
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2015, 08:15:38 AM »
"Where I would disagree with Loki is on the idea of Whittier (or any other school) being a legal scam."

Technically, what I wrote was, "They are really close to what one might call a legal scam." I wrote that, and I stand by it. they prey on low-information young adults, saddling the vast majority of them with debt they will never have a chance of paying off. Is it possible to get a degree from Whittier and a career in the law? Sure. But the odds are stacked against you. Way against you. Less than 4% of Whittier grads have a job when graudating, and longer term, almost 50% of Whittier grads are unemployed. Let that sink in- because of the 50% (or so) that are employed, 1/2 are employed in jobs that don't require their JD.

And even succeeding at Whittier is unlikely to put you in a job that will repay your debt. Remember- you will need to finish in roughly the top quarter of your class just to get that PD or City Attorney job. You are paying Harvard prices for a "You want fries with that?" outcome.

Yes, I agree that it's not, technically, a scam. AFAIK, the lawsuits against these types of schools failed (as I agree they should have- there's a sucker born every minute, and people are free to make bad choices). Numbers, such as the ones I just cited, are available if you look and don't depend on the glossies from the admissions office.

But, again, I would recommend lighting that money on fire first. At least you'd have the pleasure of watching it burn, and you'd have three years to do something else.