Law School Discussion

Choosing a School

Choosing a School
« on: February 08, 2016, 07:01:56 PM »
Hi all,
I'm having a real struggle deciding what to do.

So I'm in at:

-Chapman - 40k/year(2.9 GPA)
-Loyola Chicago - 20k/year(No GPA Conditions)
-DePaul - 24k/year(No GPA Conditions)
-Syracuse - 35k/year(2.8 GPA)
-Seattle U - 18k/year(upper 50% of class)
-Drexel - 25k/year(2.9GPA)
-Penn State Law - 40k/year(No GPA)

Waitlisted @ University of San Diego & Temple

I have strong ties to Orange County and I can live with my parents if I attend Chapman so that will cost next to nothing, but I have heard that Chapman puts all of their scholarship students in one section and lets them battle it out? Is this true? Is Chapman worth when it will cost me 8k/year to get my JD?

Also, I really like the idea of going to DePaul or Loyola Chicago because I love the city and would be okay leaving the west coast to live and work there. But the question is... Is DePaul or Loyola Chicago worth it at the $120k ill be paying?

Also, I do like Penn State's offer, but what is the deal with them? It is two schools now and apparently I applied to the lesser of the two because I did not apply to Dickinson?

I am open to attending any of the schools listed and I understand the regional implications of all of these schools and I am absolutely ok with it. I really just want to make the right choice.

Any advice is appreciated.

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2016, 09:58:41 AM »
Well first and foremost congrats on your acceptance into law school. Getting into an ABA school is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Secondly, remember that I and anyone else posting on this board or others is an anonymous internet poster that knows nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you so take anything you read my post included with a major grain of salt. Remember all it takes to post on the internet is an internet connection and I could easily be a crackhead in a public library or the Dean of Harvard Law School you have no idea.

Third you make the common 0L mistake, which I myself made of thinking a "right" choice exists. It does not I was accepted to numerous schools across the country, but you can only choose one. Obviously my life would be drastically different if I choose a different law school and there is no "right" choice, but any ABA law school will provide you with a great education and opportunity to succeed, but there is no way to make a "right" choice.

With that intro I think any law student should consider the following five factors in this order.

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

Here is a great article to explain these factors in more detail.

I have to do real work right now : ( but I will post more later. Good luck on your decision.

I will apply these factors to your situation.

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2016, 11:27:15 AM »
When you're talking about non-elite schools I think it all comes down to money and location. Personally, if it were me making this decision, I would simply go with the cheapest option in a city that I would like to live in.

Geographically you're all over the place, which leads me to believe that you're applying based on rankings. At this level, I think that's a mistake. These schools all have good local reputations but none of them are going to open up doors outside of their immediate region. If you go to Syracuse or Penn State, for example, you will almost certainly end up working in NY or western PA. It would very difficult to obtain internships or job interviews in CA if you're on the other side of the country. So, you need to be REALLY sure that you're cool with living in that area for a long time.

Secondly, the less debt you accrue the better. You asked whether De Paul or Loyola-Chicago is worth $120k.

Well, have you looked at the average starting salaries from those schools, and then factored in living expenses, a car, etc? In my opinion, no schools outside the T14 are worth six figures of debt. Even the T14 aren't really worth it unless your goal is Biglaw, a federal clerkship, something where pedigree really matters.

Again, this is only my personal opinion, but if I had a choice between Chapman for free or a similarly regarded school at $120k, it's a no-brainer. Your employment options are going to be very similar coming out of any of these schools, the primary difference being location. 

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2016, 11:32:30 AM »
Regarding GPA stipulations:

You need to find out what the curve is like at each school. A 2.9 GPA could be fairly average or it could be quite difficult to attain.

As a general rule law school (especially the first year) is very demanding. Getting a 2.9 is much more difficult than it would be in undergrad. Find out what percentage of students manage to retain their scholarships.


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Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2016, 12:50:06 PM »
The advice you have been given, so far, is good. But I need to add a few pointers. The only two things to considers, for the schools you have listed, are cost and location. Period. Unlike Citylaw, if you are young and relatively mobile, I would consider cost to be at least as, if not more, important than location. Let me explain why-

Location (other than the T14) matters an incredible amount. Yes, it is possible to get a degree at Penn State and then a job back on the West Coast. But it is very unlikely. You should realize that it is much more likely than not that you will be practicing in the same area as where you went to school.

...but think of the cost. Seriously. It's not just the cost of tuition. It's the books. Fees (there will be fees). Cost of food. Drink. Rent. Living. You need to minimize those costs. If you are young and mobile, it is likely that your geographic preference isn't worth $100-$300k of debt.

Now, I would like you to look at this article-

This is from 2013, but I think it should shed a little light on one issue. Chapman is one of those schools that are *notorious* for yanking merit-based scholarships. I believe their curve is set *under* 2.9 (2.8?), so that, in a certain way, many students are set up to fail. Well, pay.

Other things-

Penn State took over Dickinson in order to get a law school, but my understanding is that they "de-merged" recently; now there is Penn State Law (regular campus) and Penn State Law (Dickinson). I'm unfamiliar with how that has affected anything.

If I were in your shoes, I would seriously consider the PSU offer, and then look into DePaul and Loyola (Chi). But I'm not you. Remember that you will likely end up practicing in the general location of where you went to law school - east coast/mid-Atlantic (PSU) or Midwest/Chicago.

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2016, 02:47:56 PM »
Hi guys,

Thank you for all the useful advise you have given. Originally, I had the same thought as most of you. Chapman for free sounds great and that is what I wanted.

After reviewing their 2014 handbook I found that, "All courses required to be taken by full-time students in the first year are subject to a 2.8 maximum median" and after 1L "For all other courses, the mandatory maximum median grade is 3.0" which is not something I want to be subject to. 48,000 in tuition a year would force me to drop out.

For that reason I am going to try to negotiate the stipulation with Chapman, but if they don't budge I can't think of any reason to take that deal.

Also, in 2014 they took away or reduced 70 scholarships, but in 2015 only 39. 39 still seems insane to me, but is this a good sign?

Lastly, I would like to live and work in the mid-atlantic, actually more like Philly even though there's probably to much competition to land there from PSU. Realistically what placement look like from Penn state to Philly or the rest of PA, NJ, DC, MD?

Penn State does not have a profile on LST which is where I have been going for all of my employment research. Is there anywhere else I can go to find out more about Penn State's employment?


Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2016, 04:02:34 PM »
Lastly, I would like to live and work in the mid-atlantic, actually more like Philly even though there's probably to much competition to land there from PSU. Realistically what placement look like from Penn state to Philly or the rest of PA, NJ, DC, MD

Just by researching scholarship retention rates you're already ahead of most 0Ls, and that's good.

If you really want to be in the Mid-Atlantic/Philly area, then I would definitely be looking at law schools out there. Chapman, Seattle, etc are not going to be very helpful with landing a job in Philly.

One question: have you ever lived back East? It's really, really different from CA. The winters suck. It's fun for about a week, and then digging your car out of snow and slogging through frozen mud loses it's charm. Seriously, this is something to consider if you're from OC. If you go to law school in PA, it will be difficult to return to CA.

Let's say you get a job in PA, then decide a couple of years later that you want to be around your family. This means that will have to take the CA bar and start looking for a job with no local experience. This may not seem like a big deal now, but it is. Really think this one through.

As far as Penn State's placement in Philly, I don't know. I would imagine that it's OK but not great. Philly is pretty well stocked with Temple, Penn, and Villanova students. Rutgers and Widener are not too far away. A large part of landing an internship and later a job is your own moxie. If you are a motivated go getter you'll probably be alright. If you're relying on your school's career services office and/or the school's name, you're going to be disappointed. I would check with PSU and see how many students end up interning and working in Philly.

If you're really sold on Philly, check out Drexel's scholarship retention rates and see what Temple offers. Being in Philly would be a huge bonus.

If you are open to other states like MD, NJ, DC etc, then I would apply to schools there, too. See what happens. Even if it means waiting a year, it may be worth it if you can score an awesome offer.

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2016, 09:17:05 PM »
I've joked around on here about rankings and stuff, but I agree with the other posters. There are a lot of factors, but remember ABA can practice ANYWHERE so the idea that going to school in the state you plan to practice having a ton of extra value is really just not that huge of a deal with ABA. Go to a cheap place if you can, but make sure its a town you LIKE (visit the town, read up on the demographics, etc- if you cant afford rent you may not want to move to it for example)

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2016, 02:48:18 AM »
On your journey to law school, deciding where to apply and where to ultimately attend are some of the most important decisions that you will make. While a school's reputation and ranking certainly should represent significant components in your decision making process especially with today's job market they cannot be the only considerations.
Here are four other key factors to help you choose the right law school for you:
1. Location: If you are going to a top 14 or even a top 25 school, national brand recognition will often outweigh the importance of location. Otherwise, however, location is absolutely essential.
You should try to decide where you want to live after law school and aim to attend a school in that same geographic area. This will give you access to many more job opportunities, as the majority of law firms recruiting at your school will be local.
You will also have a much larger alumni network at your disposal if you remain in the same region. For example, if you know you want to live in Boston but you go to law school in Chicago, you will have dozens of connections in Chicago after graduation but likely very few in the Boston area.
2. Specialized programs: If you already know what kind of law you want to practice, find a school that specializes in that sub field. If you know that you want to pursue a career in intellectual property law, for example, you should seek out schools with exceptional intellectual property law programs.
Even if these schools are slightly lower in the overall national rankings, they will likely be the better fit for you. Your commitment to focus your law school education early on will likely impress future employers and can thus be very useful in helping you secure your first job.
3. Campus: You can only learn so much from glossy brochures and flashy websites. Visit the schools you are considering to discover what the culture and community is really like on each campus.
Talk to students to find out more about the environment. How competitive is it? What is the social scene on weekends? You should also explore housing facilities, looking into on-campus and off-campus options.
Lastly, experience some of the extracurricular activities. While you should be able to easily find a list of student organizations on each law school's website, actually attending a meeting of a group in which you're interested will be much more revealing and informative.
4. Opportunities: In the current economy, it's essential to obtain pragmatic, hands-on experience to supplement your classroom education. For each of the schools you are seriously considering, research the academic and professional opportunities offered outside the classroom. These might include clinics, journals, or externships (with firms, companies, or judges) that you can complete during the school year.

Re: Chosing a School
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2016, 12:17:56 PM »
Employers judge you based on what school you went to. Is it fair? I don't know. But they do. Factor that in.
People love to say "4.0 lower ranked vs 2.5 at Ivy" (etc) but the reality is that your GPA will remain whatever is, your brain is what your brain is. The only variable when you are the only person in the scenario is where you go.

That being said, living 3 years in some place you don't want to live would impact you psychologically and defacto impact your study ability and thus grades. So, don't go someplace that you 100% would hate. I'd say don't go to Alaska if you hate snow as an example, but I honestly don't think they even have one in that entire state (business idea for anyone crazy enough to try it I guess)