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Author Topic: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?  (Read 28921 times)

pinkybella

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #20 on: April 12, 2006, 01:24:59 PM »
Does it matter where you go to school? I think it depends on what you want to do....

The top judge for the juvenile court in Orange County went a "night law school" (his words, not mine) and he said that where he went to law school was never an issue. I think in terms of government jobs, it may not be as much of an issue. DA's office may be more selective but not by much: a Whittier grad I know is working for the Long Beach DA's office.

I think in small firms/medium firms, it also may not be an issue unless the people hiring are looking to hire from the same schools they went to. In that case, it really doesn't matter if you went to a tier 1 or a tier 4.

In BIG law it does matter. A very small percentage of people who go to tier 4s are hired at those big firms. So in terms of getting a job at those firms, it does matter where you went to school.

But all in all, it's about connections and I think that people who have trouble finding jobs out of law school did not make connections while they were in law school. It's important to join clubs and associations where they have mixers and dinners with current attorneys so those attorneys can get to know you and introduce you to other hiring attorneys. Law is one of those professions where it's all about WHO you know; not WHAT you know. If you make those connections while you're in law school, where you go will become less and less of an issue.

Goodfella Aaron

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2006, 01:32:25 PM »
Does it matter where you go to school? I think it depends on what you want to do....

The top judge for the juvenile court in Orange County went a "night law school" (his words, not mine) and he said that where he went to law school was never an issue. I think in terms of government jobs, it may not be as much of an issue. DA's office may be more selective but not by much: a Whittier grad I know is working for the Long Beach DA's office.


Depends on the government job. Prestige matters big time in DC. But for local jobs you're right, my political science thesis advisor said often it's better to attend a local law school over a higher ranked one if you want to get one of those jobs.

pinkybella

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2006, 01:34:33 PM »
Does it matter where you go to school? I think it depends on what you want to do....

The top judge for the juvenile court in Orange County went a "night law school" (his words, not mine) and he said that where he went to law school was never an issue. I think in terms of government jobs, it may not be as much of an issue. DA's office may be more selective but not by much: a Whittier grad I know is working for the Long Beach DA's office.


Depends on the government job. Prestige matters big time in DC. But for local jobs you're right, my political science thesis advisor said often it's better to attend a local law school over a higher ranked one if you want to get one of those jobs.

I agree with you about federal government jobs. They are probably more selective than the local goverment so it probably matters more where you went to law school.

pinkybella

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2006, 02:55:30 PM »
What about for family law - does it matter as much where you went to school? I was looking at the findlaw.com lawyer location & it seems that many of the top family law firms in San Diego & Orange County are partnered by people who went to Tier 4s. Does anyone have any insight on this? Does where you went to school severly impact your job opportunities in family law?

Any insight would be great.  :)

Happy_Weasel

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2006, 04:27:39 PM »
In a way, it is almost as if you start choosing who you want to work for starting in 1l.

pinkybella

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #25 on: April 12, 2006, 04:35:00 PM »
What about for family law - does it matter as much where you went to school? I was looking at the findlaw.com lawyer location & it seems that many of the top family law firms in San Diego & Orange County are partnered by people who went to Tier 4s. Does anyone have any insight on this? Does where you went to school severly impact your job opportunities in family law?

Any insight would be great.  :)

Anyone have any ideas?

burghblast

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2006, 11:40:13 PM »
No one has dealt with my original question very substantively. Of course you will get better jobs more easily coming out of a top-tier law school as opposed to a lower tier one. This is also very true of college.

The study I linked to in my original post, however, showed that over time, this initial advantage doesn't mean anything. In the end, the evidence is against the idea that where you went to college matters very much for your prospects in life. The study ingeniously corrects for selection bias by comparing students who got into the same schools but went to different ones.

So the question is: does the same logic apply to law school? It seems fairly clear that initial prospects are better at some schools than others, but how true does this hold over time?

If someone were to do the same study with law schools, and look at people who got into top schools but didn't go, compared with those who did go to the top schools, what would it reveal and why?

If it matters which school you went to even long after you graduate, there can only be three explanations, as I see it. One, it could be that the law is just a more prestige-oriented profession than any other and therefore people will always judge you first by where you went to school, even if you have the same career accomplishments as someone else.

Two, it could be that the quality of the education you get and the connections you make in the three years of law school is so important that it fundamentally changes your capacity to succeed in the legal profession.

Three, it could be that your initial post-law school job is vitally important to your future career prospects. In other words, the legal career is like a race in which it a small head start at the beginning makes a huge difference.

None of these reasons sounds super compelling for me, which is why I question how much it matters which school you go to in the first place.


I'm at NU and I know being here has opened up doors that would have been closed if I'd gone to a lower ranked school.  I got a BigLaw firm job this summer as a first year student - in a market in an entirely different state.  While I'm in the minority among my classmates, those of us who have paying summer jobs as first years students are by no means rare. The numbers I've heard have around 20% of our class getting paying firm jobs as 1L's.  This is a pretty significant windfall, since you can earn $25,000-$35,000 over the course of the summer - that's almost like a full scholarhip for next year's tuition.  Also, from what I've been told, having a firm job on your resume going into fall interviewing next year is very advantageous.  This is but one example of something "tangible" that a top school buys you.

Another example: Judicial clerkships.  NU is a very respectable school, and I'm sure I'll have a shot at clerkship positions in 2 years that would be totally out of my reach if I'd gone to a less presitigious school.  A federal appellate judge who spoke to our class a couple months ago flat out told us that he only hires his clerks from "the top 10 or 15 schools, according to USNWR."  Beyond the perceived "prestige," I think you're much more likely to come in contact with faculty who did SCOTUS and/or appellate clerkships themselves at higher ranked schools.  This is a significant advantage since letters of reccommendation play a huge part in getting a clerkship, and if you're tight with a professor who clerked for Justice Roberts 20 years ago, then that's just money in the bank.

Now the other perspective from my point of view: I realize that I'm at a significant disadvantage here relative to YHS and, to a lesser degree, CCN students when it comes to clerkships.  One of the few NU professors who clerked on the Supreme Court gave a talk today about the process, and the jist of it was that the absolute minimum requirements for an NU grad looking to do a SCOTUS clerkship are:

* Top 10 percent of the class
* Law review, preferrably an editorial position
* A 50-100 page writing sample that reflects serious academic research done for a journal or a professor
* 3-5 very enthusiastic letters of recommendation from professors
* A lot of luck, because even with all these requisites getting a SCOTUS clerkship is like being struck by lightning

They didn't give us exact numbers, but I believe only a handful of NU students get SCOTUS clerkships (On average less than 1 per year, I assume).  I don't want to say that YHS students can take SCOTUS clerkships for granted, but I bet the "lightning" factor is reduced or eliminated for them.  Maybe the editor in chief of the YHS Law Reviews can take a SCOTUS clerkship somewhat for granted, while the editor in chief of the NU Law Review has a shot but still needs a lot of luck.   

Similar analysis holds true for appellate and district court clerkships, which are much easier to obtain for YHS students than NU students, although a couple dozen NU students do go on to federal clerkships every year. 

So I guess my answer to your question is:  If you want to work for BigLaw, then going to a "top" school matters.  If you want to work for any size firm in a different region than the region where your school is located, then going to a top school matters.   You can take getting a BigLaw job almost anywhere in the country for granted at any of the top 10 or 15 schools, but might have to work your ass off and be a little lucky to get it elsewhere, especially in regards to the geography aspect if you're applying out of state.

If you want to do a judicial clerkship and/or work in academia, then going to a top school matters, and going to a REALLY top school matters even more.  But if your goal is only to work in BigLaw - or even in another field entirely like public interest or government work - then the difference between going to a T6 and a T14 school is probably minimal as far as career prospects go. 

If your goal is to work outside of BigLaw in the same city where you go to school, then going to a top school might not be that beneficial for your career.  However, I will say that there are certain other intangible benefits to choosing the most "challenging" school you can.  I feel like I push myself harder than I ever have in my life at NU, and I feel like everyone around me has so much to offer that I'm constantly becoming a better person just by being in this environment, almost through osmosis.  I'm not sure that I would have had that same feeling if I'd gone to some of the "lesser" schools that offered me scholarships, and I definitely wouldn't have the same career opportunities. 


Happy_Weasel

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #27 on: April 12, 2006, 11:50:26 PM »
So the big clerkships are totally out of the question for those out of the top 20.
 
But is local big law out of the question for those from average schools?

burghblast

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #28 on: April 13, 2006, 12:18:20 AM »
So the big clerkships are totally out of the question for those out of the top 20.
 
But is local big law out of the question for those from average schools?

Out of the question? Hell no.  Harder to get?  Hell yes.  I'll explain why, instead of working on my property outline like I should be doing right now:

Exampe: Chicago.  The city has almost half a dozen law schools: Loyola, Kent, John Marshall, UoC, and NU (Am I forgetting any?  If so, my bad).  Students at any of these schools have "a shot" at working for most of the firms in Chicago.  But at the extreme end, the absolute biggest and most competitive firms might only interview at NU and UoC.  As far as I know every major firm in the city interviews at both.  But firms like Skadden and Kirkland Ellis might not even interview at the other Chicago-area schools.  This is pure speculation on my part, and I would assume that the majority of firms, even BigLaw firms, probably do.  But you might be "locked out" of the top 1 or 2 firms unless you go to NU or UoC.

Secondly, and more importantly, NU and (I presume) UoC don't publish class rank, so the interview process is done by lottery.  You select the firms you want to interview with and bid on them using a points system.  Interviews are then assigned somewhat randomly, but with some regard for student preference.  If all of a firm's interview slots don't fill up, then any student can just sign up for an interview with them.  At lower ranked schools, BigLaw firms will come in and say, "We want to interview the top 10% of your class."  So the same 15 or 20 people who got the highest grades will be the only ones competing for the BigLaw jobs.  Those in the middle, or God forbid, bottom of the class won't have a shot. 

Finally, I think it is next to impossible to get a BigLaw job outside of the city or region where you went to school unless you go to one of the "national" schools (This is where the term "T14" comes from - these schools offer their graduates employment opportunities throughout the entire country).  I read Law School Confidential, and they advise that if you only get accepted to law schools outside the city or state where you want to practice, and you don't get into a top 10-15 school, withdraw all your applications and reapply next year.  The odds of getting a job in an entirely different area coming out of a lower ranked school - apparently even a T1 school - are not in your favor. 

An anecdote:  I have friends at Loyola and Kent.  One night last week a bunch of us went out to dinner and the topic turned to summer plans.  The Kent and Loyola people debated the importance of doing something "law related" your first year summer, as opposed to taking the entire summer off or flipping burgers.  They seemed to believe it was entirely acceptable and normal to do so.  I was a little shocked, because I only know one person at NU who isn't doing something law related (either a judical externship, faculty research, public interest, government work, or a firm job) this summer.  I knew most people didn't get paying firm jobs, but I didn't realize it was even an option to do something entirely unrelated to law your first summer, and apparently a lot of people at the lower ranked schools can't find anything law related at all, paid or unpaid. On top of that, one of the Loyola guys was a 3L on Law Review and the Moot Court team with outstanding grades.  He doesn't have a job lined up yet.  He has no idea what he's going to be doing in a couple months.  Almost everyone at NU secures a full time job very early in their 3L year - you typically end up at the firm you summered with as a 2L.  As a result, almost no 3L's even participate in the on-campus-interview program here, because they already have jobs.  And here's this brilliant Loyola kid - on law review - graduating in less than a month, with no job. 

That's it, I'm done - I really have to accomplish some outlining tonight. 

Alamo

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Re: Does it Matter Where you go to Law School?
« Reply #29 on: April 13, 2006, 08:21:33 AM »
Burgh, thanks for the info . . . you did, however, forget Depaul.  Any tips for getting in off the waitlist?  I'm planning to visit NU next week, then hopefully write a letter of continued interest about how special my visit was. 
I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God . . . and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.  I don't believe such doubts make me a bad Christian.  I believe they make me human . . .