Law School Discussion

UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications

UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« on: January 11, 2017, 10:00:10 AM »
A little background. I am an active duty Marine and will be leaving service in April. My wife and children already moved back to our home town of Vero Beach to establish our homestead while I am going to school. She has a good job as a teacher there and has a support network of family and friends to help her while I spend my time studying. I plan to stay in Florida after graduation and practice in family or criminal law, maybe as a general practice attorney.

Now, I am trying to decide between University of Florida, Florida State, and Stetson based on three criteria: quality, location, and price.

Location
Stetson 3 hours from my house, in Tampa which is a major market
University of Florida 4 hours from my house, close to Orlando and Jacksonville
Florida State 6 hours from my house, in Tallahassee which is a major market

Quality
University of Florida Ranked 48th overall, has a concentration available in family and criminal law, no area specific accolades in areas of my interest
Florida State Ranked 50th overall, has no concentrations of interest, no area specific accolades in areas of my interest
Stetson Ranked 103rd overall, BUT has a concentration in advocacy, also ranked 1st in advocacy and 3rd in legal writing

Price
I have the Post 9-11 GI Bill which will pay for full tuition at any public school, $1,000 per year for books, and a monthly housing stipend based on location.
Florida State All cost will be covered, and they are offering a $15,500 per year scholarship with no strings attached. The housing allowance in Tallahassee is $1,218 for 2017, which will total approximately $10,962 over a 9 month year.
Added together with the book stipend, I will make approximately $27,462 per year, and have to pay for housing, food, and other personal expenses.
Stetson Most costs will be covered by the GI Bill, and they are offering a $38,000 per year scholarship to make up the difference. There is a rider that I must maintain a 2.25 GPA, but that seems easily achieved. Their scholarship is fenced to tuition, but they will use excess to pay for housing in university owned property meaning I should have little to no out of pocket cost for housing. The housing allowance in Gulfport is $1,791 for 2017, which will total approximately $16,119 over a nine month year.
Added together with the book stipend, I will make approximately $17,119 per year, but I will not have to pay for housing and the cost of transportation to see my kids will be significantly less.
University of Florida All cost will be covered by the GI Bill, but they are not offering a scholarship of any kind. The housing allowance in Gainesville is $1,377 for 2017, which will total approximately $12,393 over a 9 month year.
Added together with the book stipend, I will make approximately $13,393 per year, I will have to pay for all housing, food, and other expenses, and the school rates those costs at $17,990 per year. I could make this work, but it would be hard. I might even be stuck pulling out a small loan.

In review
Stetson L = 1, Q = 2?, P = close 2
UF L = 2, Q = 1, P = distant 3
FSU L = distant 3, Q = 2?, P = 1

On balance, this all leaves me leaning pretty strongly toward Stetson, but that 103 number is really getting to me. Is UF that much better that I should give up $17,119 a year plus room? Is FSU good enough that I should ignore their lack of concentrations and the distance from my family?

Your reasoned thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Hermeneutic

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Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2017, 04:14:36 PM »
Hey battle buddy. Sounds like you want to keep living in your current home. Apply to all but plan to go to the one closest.
Law School is more stress on the family as is then you likely are expecting (I know you are prior service, but not same type of stress-you'll see) Plus ANY commute time drains you and takes away from studies too.........you want FULL AND CONSTANT access to that law library as well.

Just map it, and go closest (no matter what)

Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2017, 10:07:25 AM »
Hermeneutic,

I appreciate your response, and being as close to home as possible is definitely a strong consideration.

Just to clarify though, I do not plan to stay in the house with my wife. Even with Stetson (the closest) being three hours away, there is no way that I could commute there. My wife wants to stay where she is so that she has support while I go through the stresses of law school. I would be looking to commute only on the weekends two or three times a month.

I could still do this at UF, being four hours away, but they would be more expensive since there is no scholarship.

I was hoping to hear from some lawyers or other interested parties in Florida weigh in on whether the UF was worth the drawbacks. Or if I am stupidly underestimating a great opportunity at Stetson. I feel like it is the latter, but there are three good options overall.

When I applied to all three, I expected to only be accepted by one. Lucky me. I guess this is a good problem to have.

loki13

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Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2017, 01:21:35 PM »
Hermeneutic,

I appreciate your response, and being as close to home as possible is definitely a strong consideration.

Just to clarify though, I do not plan to stay in the house with my wife. Even with Stetson (the closest) being three hours away, there is no way that I could commute there. My wife wants to stay where she is so that she has support while I go through the stresses of law school. I would be looking to commute only on the weekends two or three times a month.

I could still do this at UF, being four hours away, but they would be more expensive since there is no scholarship.

I was hoping to hear from some lawyers or other interested parties in Florida weigh in on whether the UF was worth the drawbacks. Or if I am stupidly underestimating a great opportunity at Stetson. I feel like it is the latter, but there are three good options overall.

When I applied to all three, I expected to only be accepted by one. Lucky me. I guess this is a good problem to have.

So here's the gist- Stetson is a good school, but is decidedly "less good" than UF and FSU in Florida, and while both UF and FSU can place regionally (Atlanta, etc.) Stetson doesn't.

Now, let me be more specific. Stetson does have an excellent advocacy program (trial team, classes). But that's ... not a whole lot. Florida basically has the following legal markets-
Tampa (incl. St. Pete, Clearwater)
Orlando
Miami
Other S. Fla. that is not Miami (think W. Palm Beach, Boca, etc.)
Tallahassee (esp. for government jobs)
Jacksonville
SW Florida (Naples, Ft. Myers)
Every where else (from Daytona to Lakeland).

UF and FSU both have excellent reputations throughout the state. They place everywhere. You can't go wrong with either. I'd give a slight edge to UF, for reasons, but it's slight enough that money, etc., could easily make FSU a better option.

Stetson is much more of a gamble. Ignoring the GPA requirements (but don't ignore them completely; Stetson, IIRC, curves on a 2.9-3.0 scale, so there isn't the GPA inflation you might remember from undergrad), I would still view Stetson as a distant choice. IMO, it's only a good choice for the following reasons-
1. You have money to burn and you didn't get into UF or FSU. Yes, a rich kids school.
2. You already know that you will be going into advocacy.
3. You want to practice in the Tampa market.

I say this not to slight Stetson, but to be realistic. There are Stetson grads that are some of the finest advocates that I have met. Stetson has great connections in Tampa, and there are some Stetson grads throughout the state. But the simple fact of the matter is that you have to do better at Stetson do get an equivalent chance for a job than you would at UF/FSU. If you don't have a particular reason to go there, don't.

I would finally add (pace what I wrote above) that if you ever hope to practice out-of-state, then UF/FSU are known, if for no other reason than the rankings and the football teams. People will assume (out of state) that Stetson is a hat.

Hermeneutic

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Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2017, 02:14:45 PM »
Didn't think of this until right now, but have you used up all of your post 9/11 GIBILL?
If not, then tuition isn't really a factor as much.

How many years out of school are you? you may want to go to a part time program if its been awhile. The transition back can be more than many are expecting for non k-jd.

Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2017, 06:37:54 PM »
Hermeneutic,

Yes, I will be using the GI Bill, but I will still have personal expenses and a family. So the money issue is about maximizing payouts from scholarships.

Loki13,

If I am looking to get into advocacy in either family or criminal law, you would recommend Stetson under reason 2 if I follow correctly.

I have been trying to figure out why Stetson is ranked so lowly. The US News and World Report explanation of scoring is a cobbling of numerous items that do not seem to relate to the quality of education directly. Is there a reason that you view them in lower regard?

Hermeneutic

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Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2017, 07:47:13 PM »
". She has a good job as a teacher there and has a support network of family and friends to help her while I spend my time studying"


Does your family not plan to move with you? Does SHE plan to commute the 3 plus hours? Or do you plan to not use the support structure and ask her to quit the job?

Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #7 on: Yesterday at 05:09:50 PM »
This should be a no brainer for you to decide--since you have a family...

Go to Stetson...it is closer to your family.

Hermaphrodite is correct....loki is still loki Ing for answers..

Tampa bay....big market as well

Peace and thank you for your service to our country...

Trump won this puppy and real change is welcome change to our semp fi!

Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #8 on: Today at 10:17:45 AM »
I have been trying to figure out why Stetson is ranked so lowly. The US News and World Report explanation of scoring is a cobbling of numerous items that do not seem to relate to the quality of education directly. Is there a reason that you view them in lower regard?

Hi OP.

Don't get caught up in the USNWR rankings. There are a million threads on this which you can explore, but in short I think most lawyers are skeptical of these rankings. This skepticism is especially true when you're talking about schools like Stetson, which are low(er) ranked.

Here's the thing: everyone already knows that Harvard and Yale are prestigious, we don't need a magazine to tell us that. Once you get outside of the elite schools (say, top 10 or so), then get past the non-elite but still nationally recognized schools (top 25 or so), the rankings are pretty useless.

There is no meaningful distinction between a school ranked 67 versus a school ranked 89. At this point, you need to look at LOCAL reputation, placement, alumni networks, etc. These schools place almost exclusively within their immediate geographic regions, so who cares whether or not USNWR says that a school in Oregon is ranked higher than a school in Delaware?

This would be true for Stetson. Look at it's in-state reputation and placement.

Additionally, the education you receive at any ABA accredited law school (apart from a few elite schools with highly qualified student bodies) will be substantially similar. I seriously doubt if a Torts class at Stetson is distinguishable from a Torts class at UF.

That said, UF is definitely the big dog in Florida and a UF degree will open more doors than a Stetson degree. I live and work in California and neither degree would be sufficient to land you job here based on pedigree alone, but in-state I suspect that is a different story.

UF has a good regional reputation and if you can make it happen it would be an excellent choice.

Last point:

Are you prepared to not see your family for three years? Obviously, I know that it's not an absolute, I doubt if you fully understand how intense law school is going to be. It is nothing like undergrad, and will require a far greater time commitment. Your spare time will not be spent driving between home and law school. It will be spent reading, briefing, and preparing for exams from day one. It is a stressful experience without having to work in trips to visit the family. If there is any way that you can convince your wife to join you, I would make the effort.   

loki13

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Re: UF, FSU, or Stetson with qualifications
« Reply #9 on: Today at 11:38:48 AM »
What MaintainFL wrote is mostly correct, with some caveats. The USNWR can tell you two things-
1. The things you already know (hey, Harvard is a good school!).
2. A rough idea of the relative "merit" (using the term loosely) of various schools, in general.

The second point is a difficult one to understand. The difference between a school ranked #35 and a school ranked #75 isn't as great as the difference between a school ranked #3 and that ranked #20. Nevertheless, it gives you a good idea both of where schools place (T14 = national, rest of "T1" = regional, T2 = state (usually) T3 = state or local (usually)) as well as, roughly, how the schools compare to each other.

In this case, I can tell you that USNWR does a good job at ranking the Florida legal market. UF is a little better (at most) than FSU- people aruge round and round, but either they are equal, or UF is slightly better (most people would say it is top in the state). Miami is just a little bit below them (but has a slight advantage in SE Fla.). And then there is a significant reputation drop before Stetson (Tampa market) and FIU (SE Florida). And then there is a big drop before the rest.

That said, given you have a generalized preference for either criminal or family law, I don't think it really matters. There are no special degrees, and all the schools offer clinics that allow you to either clerk with a judge or work in a local office. The more important issue is lowering your total cost of attendance; while you might be set on family law/criminal law now, that opinion might change (or might not).

Finally, if you are set on Tampa, Stetson is a fine choice and provides the best way to network while in-school (UF is second, FSU is a distant third due to distance). If you're not certain that you want to practice in the greater Tampa area, then you should consider your options.