Law School Discussion

SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)

SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« on: April 02, 2015, 11:01:19 AM »
Hey there everyone!

I wanted to make this thread here after dealing with folks from the TLS forums.

I'm a recent UC Santa Cruz grad, with a 3.35 and 155 LSAT. I do have a feeling I could have done better (closer to 160), but the dynamics with my family and other complicated matters are essentially making me go through with law school this upcoming fall. So I wanted to get thoughts here as the tone and information seems more balanced and respectful than at TLS.

I've gotten into SCU with a 30k scholarship (haven't asked for more yet), USF with 63k or so, SLU with half tuition, and Case Western with no scholarship yet (but I'm appealing). I'm waitlisted at W&L and waiting on Hastings.

The only reason I'm not really thinking of going to SCU is because I strongly prefer focusing on healthcare law than IP. I'm from the East Bay area in California though :)

Right now I'm 90% sure on going to SLU unless W&L or Hastings accept me. And I'm aware of scholarship stipulations (SLU has the best one at maintaining just above a 2.1 I believe). My dream is to also practice around the Bay Area, but I realize if I go to SLU, with its top health law program, I may be stuck around St. Louis for a few years (especially since I'd be doing a JD/MHA rather than just a JD).

But yeah, I would love to hear people's thoughts on whether I'm making a wise decision. I'm just tired of the T14 or bust attitude on TLS; I would rather focus on my accomplishments and future potential than my shortcomings with the LSAT.

loki13

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Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2015, 11:20:33 AM »
Phantom,

First of all, congratulations! Do not listen to anyone who tells you that you can only make it at a T14 law school. While I agree that the T14 law schools give a person the best chance to get that BigLaw job, and are the schools that might be worth going to if you're paying full freight, there are some great schools outside of the T14 that might make better choices from a cost/benefit analysis if you know your options.

Now, your first comment is nearly nonsensical when you write about choosing between healthcare law and IP law. Do you have a STEM degree? Any idea about the patent bar? Many people talk about IP law, but the fact is that this is an incredibly hard field to break into; I did some "soft" IP work early in my career (copyright, trademark), but... well, unless there's something in your background you're not telling us, I'm not sure why IP law is even an option. Also- healthcare law? Um... no offense, but... what does that even mean? That's kind of a joke, but- I know medmal attorneys (on both sides). I know attorneys that do admin law (specifically, FDA). I know attorneys that specialize in compliance with government regulations as they relate to health care (medicare issues, PPACA, HIPAA, non-competes, etc.). But that's a pretty nebulous thing to practice (cf. "elder law"). You might want to think carefully about that.

So... what is *my* advice? It's simple- if I were you (and I'm not), and given the limited amount of knowledge that you have given me, I would go to the school that is offering the most money in the location I could practice. If you choose St. Louis, then there's a good chance you'll end up practicing there... perhaps for the rest of your life (job mobility for attorneys is less than that of other professions). Something to think about. But it's usually pretty simple- lowest cost, in a place you can see yourself practicing.

Also- don't forget the cost of living. It is likely you will have to take out loans to live on as well. Don't forget to factor that in. Finally, if you haven't already, go to other websites such as lawschooltransparency to see some statistics on jobs, expected salaries, costs of attendance and living, etc. from each of the schools your are looking at.

Again, congratulations! You seem to have a good heard on your shoulders. I think that the one misconception you have (that many have) is that you are likely to practice X law. Very few people I knew ended up practicing the type of law they thought they would as a 0L.

Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2015, 11:38:57 AM »
Hi Loki, thanks for your response. Let's see how much I can clarify, hahaha

About the IP vs. Health. I've shadowed both types of lawyers and from just that limited observation, and given my preference of doing "desk" work as opposed to more adversarial trial/court cases, I figure knowing myself IP and Health suit me best.

I would only do IP if I decided to go to Santa Clara, based off their strong reputation around Silicon Valley and their strong program there. But my passion is for health law. As far as STEM degree, not really. I studied Neurosci my first 2 years and switched to Psych/Legal Studies my last 2, but I helped charter the professional pre-med fraternity at UCSC, and have been heavily surrounded by healthcare subjects my whole life. I work in a pediatric dental practice (working on computers mainly) where I have made good connections with the dental partners and other dentists. I took part in setting up the AMSA conference in Davis a few years ago. I volunteered at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek. And I've been the "advocate" for my family in all health matters as we are all Russian immigrants and I'm the only one who speaks English relatively well.

So in terms of assurance that I want to be a healthcare lawyer, it's pretty high up there, regardless of the specific department (M&A, malpractice, insurance, etc.) I want to fuse my passion for medicine and helping people with my natural better skills with regards to law. If I had continued with the neurosci degree I'd be applying to med school now, hahaha

SLU has the best financial options right now, I'm just trying to decide if it's objectively the best option. Especially if Hastings were to somehow accept me, at say sticker price.

loki13

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Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2015, 12:26:34 PM »
Phantom,

Thank you for the clarification! Given your background, some intersection with the law and a medicine might be useful. As an aside, some schools allow you to take a very limited number of courses at affiliated (non-law) universities and transfer them in; if you aren't familiar with all the terminology, taking some 2 CR course in medical terminology, if you're going into this field, will be helpful.

It's good that you've shadowed some attorneys; it sounds like you'd like to practice in transactional work instead of litigation. I'm a litigator, so that's not really my bag. But I work with transactional lawyers, and, um, they do stuff. ;)

Here's what it comes down to- UC Hastings, despite being in-state tution for you, costs more than SLU straight up (without taking into account scholarships). Ouch. Then, there's living expenses; would you be living with your family in San Francisco, because if not, your living expense will be higher than SLU (and not covered either). SLU's job stats are also better (but Hastings is good).

So.... SLU, IMO, is a slamdunk. That said- of the people who graduate with jobs from SLU (84%), 60% work in Missouri. 11% in Illinois. And a little more than 3% work in D.C. Get the picture?

Once you move out of the T14, schools are regional. Assume you will be practicing in St. Louis- or maybe Chicago. That doesn't have to be the case; I went to a regional school, and ended up on the opposite coast in California because I wanted it and did really well. But my story is, by far, an outlier. The vast, vast, majority of grads from my school work in-state, or in the neighboring state. Period. Remember that.

But student debt is like herpes- it will follow you for life. My advice is always, always, always minimize that student debt if you're going outside of the T14.

Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2015, 12:36:17 PM »
I live in Walnut Creek, and have never been out of state by myself. Moving to another state is stressing me out more than law school itself (silly, I know). So I'd either live at home or find an apartment to share with my best friend and his wife (think HIMYM) if Hastings were to accept. But yeah, if they do, it'd most likely be sticker, which would make it FAR more expensive than SLU.

But they have the advantage of having a good relationship with UCSF, they're close, and they'd help me pass the Cali BAR and make connections here.

Living in St. Louis isn't something I have any desire to do right now, but I'd bite the bullet if it meant having a stable life for however long it lasts.

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Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2015, 01:03:22 PM »
Phantom,

I cannot make this decision for you. And it's a tough decision! It was easier for me, because I grew up all over the place, and traveled overseas. So I didn't mind moving around. I'm not in your boat.

Only you can answer the question of whether or not you could be happy living outside of California (or the Bay Area, for that matter- I lived in SoCal). What might be helpful is to really understand the costs- look at the cost of living (getting an apartment, food, etc.), and budget that out. Then add in the cost of the tuition and everything else (minus discounts) and compare over three years. That will give you a better idea of how much you're going to be spending.

But if you can't see yourself living and practicing in the Midwest (St. Louis or Chicago)... then I wouldn't recommend SLU. While not impossible, it will be very hard to get back to California, and your degree won't mean anything there, and there will be close to 0 alum connections.

You wrote that you want to pick the "objectively best option[.]" There isn't one. The best choice (oh... I'm sounding a little like CityLaw here) is the school that works for you. That gives you a shot at being an attorney, where you want to practice, with the lowest possible debt load. This really comes down to location and cost. Personally, I think most people don't consider cost enough, because law school is a somewhat risky proposition. But if you can't see yourself outside of Cal, don't go to SLU.

Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2015, 01:04:31 PM »
Hi Phantom,

I agree with most of what Loki has said, especially in regards to healthcare law and IP. A couple of points I want to expand on:

Subcategory Rankings
These are, IMO, practically meaningless. I wouldn't base my decision on whether a school that is otherwise non-elite ranks high in some specialized category. In my experience the only people who tout these rankings are the students and administration of these particular schools.

Here's and example. Lewis & Clark and Vermont Law School have some of the highest ranked Environmental Law programs in the country. And guess what? A big firm will still give preference to a Harvard grad who has never taken single environmental class, ever.

Same goes for IP. Do some SCU grads get hired by the big Silicon Valley firms. Sure, people who graduate top of their class, are on law review, and who intern at a big firm may be able to compete with the Stanford/Berkeley/Hastings grads for those jobs.

I have no doubt that SCU is solid school with a good local reputation, just don't put too much weight on a specialty program. It matters, but its importance is perhaps somewhat limited.

Location and Money
This is really what your decision boils down to. If you want to live and practice in the SF Bay Area/Silicon Valley, it makes no sense to go to law school at a non-elite out of state school. If you were considering Michigan or NYU, that would be different.

Case Western and SLU are both (like SCU) solid local schools. They have very good reputations within their respective regions. In CA, they are virtually unknown. It will be very difficult to obtain CA internships and to make networking connections from 2000 miles away. This is important because when you graduate from a non-elite school your ability to find gainful employment will be based largely on your own networking abilities.

Unless you are prepared to live in St. Louis or Ohio, I would look at CA schools.

If you can live with family and cut down on living expenses, the USF offer may be a good one to consider. I know that SCU may be considered higher ranked, but I don't think the difference is so huge that it outweighs the additional expense of attending SCU. If you live in Walnut Creek you can take BART to USF, live with your family, and limit your debt.

With a 155 LSAT Hastings is probably out, so I wouldn't worry about it.

This is nothing more than my personal take on things, knowing next to nothing about your actual situation. Don't base your decision off of what anyone here tells you, but these are some things you can consider.
 

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Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2015, 01:30:43 PM »
I was going to concur with Maintain. My only added notes-

"These are, IMO, practically meaningless."
I would omit "practically[.]" Subcategory rankings are completely useless.

"Unless you are prepared to live in St. Louis or Ohio, I would look at CA schools."
He stated this more succinctly than I did. I'll emphasize it.

I would add that, IMO, Hastings > Santa Clara  > USF. But it should come down to costs. If you know you want to practice in Cal, chose from those schools. Ask for more money. Run the numbers. Check out the differences in likely salaries and job outcomes at other websites so you understand the cost/benefits of each. Don't forgot to factor in living expenses (if you can stay rent-free, for example).

Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2015, 02:21:32 PM »
I would add that, IMO, Hastings > Santa Clara  > USF. But it should come down to costs. If you know you want to practice in Cal, chose from those schools. Ask for more money. Run the numbers. Check out the differences in likely salaries and job outcomes at other websites so you understand the cost/benefits of each. Don't forgot to factor in living expenses (if you can stay rent-free, for example).

I agree. Hastings definitely has the strongest local rep among these three schools. Is that increase in academic profile worth the additional money? That can only be answered by the individual.

As between USF/SCU I think it's murkier. Like I said, SCU may be perceived as slightly higher on the food chain than USF, but it's not as stark as the difference between both of those schools and Hastings.

Funny enough, my wife is a Hastings grad and tells me that everyone she knew from USF, Golden Gate, etc had an inferiority complex about Hastings. Conversely, her Hastings classmates had inferiority complexes about Berkeley and Stanford. No matter where you go (unless it's Harvard) these things will come up.     

Re: SLU vs. Case Western (and other schools)
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2015, 02:44:05 PM »
Thank you for your responses guys. I'd like to share the insight of a healthcare lawyer I've been speaking to who works in BigLaw (graduated about 2 years ago I believe).

"SLU is a fantastic health law school, and I firmly believe that health law is one of the few "speciality rankings" that truly matters. Yes, you'll have to do really well, because many people choose SLU solely for the health care program and put all chips on black, so to say. But, you'll emerge from the program (at least from what I've heard), knowing your stuff. Neither law firms nor healthcare entities that hire law firms want to waste much money on training associates. Knowing the difference between Stark and anti-kickback and False Claims is expected on day one, as is knowing that Medicare and Medicaid are different and that there is more to the Affordable Care Act than the Exchanges. The examples are myriad, but illustrative. Practicing health law is already like drinking from a fire hydrant. Having a more controlled environment in which to take a few sips (like a good health law program with many classes rather than just a single overview class) puts you well on your way to digesting the copious information.

However, going to SLU will not make returning to the East Bay easy. The hive mind is not incorrect in saying you should go to school where you want to practice. Perhaps 5-10 years after you have substantive experience you can relocate back to the Bay area (and I don't blame you for wanting to try). I scattered my resume far and wide but got very few sniffs outside my local (Atlanta) area, despite having fairly lofty academic credentials.

Lest I scare you off with my first paragraph, your current exposure to health care is more than adequate. You speak the language to some extent. Anything else that needs to be taught to you, you will learn.

And, one last thing, working ungodly hours comes with the profession, and is certainly the rule rather than the exception during your first few years. It is somewhat firm/practice dependent, and healthcare is more forgiving than others because there seems to be ample work to go around so associates are scrambling to find things to stay busy. However, this is not a 9-5 job. I'm in the office from 8-7, billing most of the day. You learn to adapt quickly and still have time for family and friends and philanthropy, but do not go to law school thinking that you'll be making bank right away AND will have time to spend it. This is, ultimately, a service profession, and we operate at the whim and mercy of our clients - whether that client is an indigent pro bono immigrant petitioning for a green card, or a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical drug company seeking FDA approval for an AIDS breakthrough drug, to that individual, NOW is not soon enough. Lawyers epitomize almost all of the negative stereotypes of the American workaholic. If that's not your interest, then an MBA/MHA may be more in line with your interests. You'll also probably make more money earlier, have a more portable degree (in that you don't have to take a bar exam that only qualifies you to practice in one state), and will get to tell lawyers what to do."

But yeah, if Hastings were to say yes, I doubt it would be with any money. And frankly, I believe being a successful lawyer in a subject that I'm very passionate about is a better deal than sticking around in California and not knowing where to take my education or how to use it properly. I don't have the chops to be a doctor/surgeon like I wanted to as a kid, but I believe SLU can prepare me to be a reputable healthcare lawyer. As the above lawyer mentioned, healthcare law is such a huge subject with a current population of lawyers that still has room to expand. It's not like most other specialties, which I would wholeheartedly agree mean nothing.

But perhaps if by getting a JD/MHA from the best program offering them in the country, even if I did end up working in St Louis, I could hopefully demonstrate my qualities beyond that of a name on a piece of paper. Having said that, it's all very shaky and dependent on luck to an extent.

If Hastings or W&L were to accept me (I would consider religion if that were the case), I would then have to decide whether W&L's reputation on the east coast, or Hastings' convenience overcome the high costs. I've also emailed SLU to see if they would consider raising my half-tuition scholarship because I would be staying 4, rather than 3 years.