Law School Discussion

Full tuition (lesser school) versus great school but 200k in debt

So I haven't officially applied anywhere yet but I am applying for Fall 2016. I got a 159 on my June LSAT, and I have a 3.83 from UCLA. I was planning on taking the December LSAT (I was consistently averaging at a 165 when I took June and got a 159), but the deadline was apparently yesterday. Oops. So as I see it, these are my options: 1. Pepperdine said they gave $45,000 per year for the people who had my LSAT/GPA, 2. Take the February LSAT and hope for the best. I would love to go to UCLA but I would never apply there with a 159, which is why I need to take the LSAT again. Assuming I magically get a 165, and get accepted to UCLA, I'm going to be like $200,000 in debt. So I guess I'm just wondering if I should retake the LSAT or just go to Pepperdine. I mean I could obviously do both, but if I don't have to take the LSAT again then that would be nice. I did however pay for a $200 online LSAT course and I've been studying like crazy for December, but whatever. I'm fine with cutting my losses. If I graduate top 5% from Pepperdine, I can still get a good job right? And I won't have that debt looming over my head if I decide I don't want to practice law or if I can't find a great job.


Re: Full tuition (lesser school) versus great school but 200k in debt
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2015, 01:45:26 PM »
There's a lot to address, so I'll try to keep it organized.

Retaking the LSAT

If you really want a shot at UCLA, then this is easy. You'll have to retake. Keep in mind that the simple act of retaking is unlikely to result in a significantly higher score. You're going to need to do something differently next time. More studying, a different program, different schedule, etc.

UCLA vs. Pepperdine

Obviously, UCLA has the bigger reputation. The question is, what do you want to do? If your goal is to be a prosecutor or public defender, or open your own family law office, then I'd say go with the option that leads to the least amount of debt. If your goal is Biglaw or a prestigious federal job (DOJ, judicial clerk, etc), then your school's reputation matters more and UCLA may be the better choice.

Keep in mind, however, that UCLA still isn't Harvard or Yale. You will still need to perform VERY WELL in law school, and will have to compete with plenty of other T14 grads for those jobs. If you graduate middle of the pack at UCLA, I'm not sure that the reputation alone is sufficient to land those types of jobs.

Graduating top 5%

Someone who graduates top 5% from Pepperdine will do just fine, but do not assume that will graduate in the top half, let alone the top 5%. Law school is much more demanding than undergrad. You will be competing against many very smart, very motivated people. I would say that you should always gauge your post employment opportunities from any given school based on the assumption that you will be an average student. Not trying to burst your bubble, it's just reality.

Other Stuff

Apply to other schools and see what happens. There is no reason to limit yourself to UCLA and Pepperdine. Check out Loyola, Irvine, even Southwestern. See what you get offered.

Scholarships are often easy to lose. You don't actually have a scholarship offer from Pepperdine yet, but most law schools will attach stipulations. Usually it's related to GPA/class rank. Pay close attention, as many people lose their scholarships in part or in whole.

Re: Full tuition (lesser school) versus great school but 200k in debt
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2015, 06:05:02 PM »
Well first and foremost realize anything I or anyone says on this board or others is nothing more than an anonymous internet poster and for all you know I could be a crackhead in the public library or a Supreme Court Justice, along with anyone else posting. So take anything you read on the internet with a major grain of salt.

With that intro I am an attorney with a bit of experience, but again I could be making it all up.

Reading your post I see several common mistakes in your logic, which I myself had as a OL.

First and foremost congrats on actually taking the LSAT and getting a respectable score. A 159 is pretty good, it puts you in about the top 25% of college graduates that were smart and hard working enough to take the LSAT. It is accomplishment although naysayers on the internet for all intents and purposes probably never took the LSAT will tell you anyone can get a 180, but obviously 99% of people don't score in the top 1% of test takers.

Next as to your 165 on practice tests, that is all well and good, but practice and the real thing are different. Most people score a little lower on the real thing. I pulled a few low 160's and high 150's and ended up with a 155. Nothing to write home about, but enough to get me into an ABA law school, take the bar and be one of the only 305,000 people in the past 90 years to be licensed to practice law in California. (Totally random sidenote the Bar is up to 305000 that is highest bar number right now.) There is no harm in retaking it, but odds are you still probably score a 159 again give or take maybe a 157 maybe a 161. As far as I know schools no longer average LSAT scores so you have nothing to lose by applying to schools and taken the December LSAT. However, if UCLA is your dream school check with them and make sure that is the case. The UCLA Law School Admissions Department, knows a lot more about UCLA's admission policies than I or anyone else on the internet does.

I also you think you will be in the top 5% at Pepperdine, but again the reality check has to come and it is important to realize at any ABA school student are very smart, hard-working and motivated and everyone assumes they will be in the top 10% or 5% and they only reason that are at X school, because the LSAT wasn't a fair metric of their intelligence and they should have been able to get into a "better" school, but certainly at this "lower" school they will excel. Again, these are all very smart people, but during 1L their math skills seem to trail off, because if 100% of people think they are going to be in the top 10% then 90% are wrong.  This is nothing against you, because I have never met you, but there is a 95% chance you will not finish at the top 5% at Pepperdine or any law school you attend. There is 5% chance you will finish in the top 5%, but I and any logical person would bet against you being in the top 5%.

If you don't finish in the top 5% at Pepperdine or you doomed to giving out handj**bs on the Street? Uh. No.

If you graduate from an ABA Law School, Pass the Bar and are remotely competent and responsible there are jobs for you out there. Your first job is unlikely to be ridiculously high-paying, glamorous, etc and you will have to work to get your first job and suffer some rejection, but you will get a job if you graduate from Pepperdine, pass the bar and don't develop a heroin addiction. Furthermore, this job search is likely to be the same from UCLA.  Getting your first job out of law school sucks, and frankly getting your first job out of school in any profession is difficult, law is no different in fact it is probably a little easier, because you are either a licensed attorney or you are not, which means there are only about 100,000 in the entire state capable of filing an attorney job. However, law students typically aren't used to getting rejected and when it happens they rant on internet boards about how unfair everything is.  Lawyers are typically opinionated and complain more than most other professions, after all their job is mostly filing Complaints and responding to Complaints

As for the money this is important to consider as are the scholarship conditions. Frankly, if you want to be in L.A. and Southwestern or Chapman offer you full scholarships I would take that over Pepperdine or UCLA. Law School debt is real and the less of it you have the more options, you have.  However, check the SCHOLARSHIP CONDITIONS. They typically require you to maintain 3.0 GPA to keep, but in your 0L head like everyone else of course you will get a 3.0 at the "lower" school. I mean your going to be in the top 5% after all if not Valedictorian, because you are special. (This is what I myself thought). However, getting a 3.0 in law school is difficult, because of the curve and at most schools only 33% of students can have a 3.0 at the end of the first semester. This means there is a 67% chance you are losing your scholarship 2L and 3L. Again, nothing against you just the reality.

If I were you, which I am not it sounds like you want to be in L.A.. Therefore, apply to all the So-Cal Schools Chapman, LMU, Pepperdine, UCLA, USC, Southwestern, La Verne throw in University of San Diego, Cal-Western and Thomas Jefferson and I might be missing a few, but apply to them all with your current numbers. Retake the LSAT and if you get a 172 then maybe UCLA will come through, hell maybe you should hold off and apply to Harvard and Yale, but odds are you will get a similar score and you will get accepted to most of those schools some with scholarship money and some with substantial scholarship money.

Once, you have your acceptances go visit the schools see how you like it. Although, each school will literally teach you the same thing, because ABA schools require each ABA school to follow a specific curriculum and (believe it or not the law does not change whether you went to UCLA or La Verne). Walk into a courtroom anywhere and see how many times an attorney says what school they went to. For all intents and purposes court is about you present yourself, today in court I saw a lawyer with a suit two sizes to big that was rambling on about god knows what. He could have gone to Harvard for all I know, but he looked like an idiot and the court sanctioned him for not following the rules of court in his filings.  I didn't know this either, but in California you need to file a specific judicial council form (Notice of Related Case) if you have other litigation. This guy had filed multiple lawsuits for one guy, but didn't file the Notice of Related Case $300 Sanction. I have no idea what school the lawyer went to nor does it matter, the Judge was pissed. What school did the judge go to? No idea, believe it or not it didn't come up, nor does it ever.

If you don't follow the rules of court do you think the Judge will say oh will I see you went to UCLA say you are excused, but opposing Counsel went to Pepperdine therefore he has to follow the much more detailed California Rules of Court. That is not what happens, but back in my OL and even while in the law school bubble I thought your school meant so much, but it doesn't.

I don't know anything about you and couldn't possibly tell you what the best decision for YOU is.  From your post you sound like the common OL, which I myself was and think this whole big world of rankings, schools, etc exists, but the legal system is far from perfect. Once you get through law school and pull off the curtain you will feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

I personally love being a lawyer, but can't believe how much time and energy and bad decisions regarding what "school" to attend and what a for profit unregulated magazine known as "U.S. News" thought.  Here is a hypo if U.S. News told you that New Mexico was the #1 place to live would you pack up and move there? I assume you would not. However, if U.S. News said Pepperdine was the #1 school you would probably choose it over UCLA? Right.

Well U.S. News did rank New Mexico as the #1 Place to Live. . Should you apply to University of New Mexico Law? Should you just give up law all together, to get to New Mexico? No, it would be crazy to make a life altering decision based on a magazine's opinion.

However, law students with the same illogical thinking of they will certainly be in the top 5%, clearly the LSAT was a fluke and they should have scored in the top 10% of test takers,  and anyone that had enough great breaks in their life to attend law school will be unable to find a job when they obtain a license that only a few hundred thousand people in the history of California have ever obtained. This same logic is used when making a life altering decision based on a magazine.

So, use your common sense and this article might also be helpful when choosing a law school.

Again, you should be proud of a 159 and having the opportunity to attend law school. It can be a very rewarding profession and I wish you the best of luck.

End of Rant.



Re: Full tuition (lesser school) versus great school but 200k in debt
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2015, 06:44:27 PM »
I honestly never heard of anyone giving either of those schools a better rating than the other
I guess US News might have, but no one in real life even knows what those rankings are unless they look it up (and still don't care)

Take the debt, then join the military to pay it off, or just let the school laugh their asses off at how another sucker fell for their scam.
I don't care. Its your life.

Re: Full tuition (lesser school) versus great school but 200k in debt
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2015, 01:28:55 PM »
I honestly never heard of anyone giving either of those schools a better rating than the other
I guess US News might have, but no one in real life even knows what those rankings are unless they look it up (and still don't care)

I live and work in LA, and UCLA is definitely viewed as the top dog in town. USC is a very close second. Pepperdine has a good local rep and the education offered at either school will be nearly identical. Generally speaking however, a UCLA grad will have better job opportunities throughout California.

Re: Full tuition (lesser school) versus great school but 200k in debt
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2015, 01:38:20 PM »
Yea UCLA & USC are definitely top dogs in L.A. and frankly schools with nationwide reputations.

If you could have UCLA v. Pepperdine for the same costs etc then take UCLA, but I don't even know if UCLA is a top-top school.

I recommend to the OP watch the documentary movie lawyer walks into a bar. It follows six or seven recent law grads dealing with taking the bar exam.

Some people are really annoying, others are cool and they are from various schools and the ones that are successful aren't surprising once you get an insight into their personality, vs the ones that are not successful.