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Author Topic: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take  (Read 3114 times)

xl3ill

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #20 on: June 29, 2007, 11:10:21 AM »
To OP: I had a similar decision, and made the same choice that I think you will make: take the $$$ and stay flexible even if it means giving up the chance to be biglaw's female dog right out of the gate.  (Obviously I'm not gung-ho about biglaw, either)  Most of my rationale has been posted on this thread.  I just want to add that the lawyers I've talked to told me that no one cared where they went to law school after they had only 2-3 years experience under their belts.  I guess the caveat is that maybe your initial experience at your first job out of a t-1 will be amazing, but there's little guaruntee of that.  Law school is three years, but law careers last decades.  There will be time to change your path down the road, so my .02 is to pursue what you think you want now, take the $$$, and try your best to find a job that you think you will actually like. 

Don't let people tell you you're selling yourself short just because you don't go for the most "prestigious" schools and jobs...  Prestige and wealth are not the end-all, be-all for everyone. 

vap

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #21 on: June 29, 2007, 11:29:29 AM »
The less prestigious degree and the big debt load both do the same thing: they reduce the number of opportunities you have.  Both close some doors, while the lack of debt or the prestigious degree open a lot of other ones.  Law students just need to be cognizant of that.  I think a lot of people have preconceived notions about this, and don't recognize that it's always going to be a trade off.

excellent post

very true, but also consider that you can pay off debt in five years while the name on your degree will be there forever.

Famous last words.


If you stay longer or cultivate an extravagant lifestyle and feel *obligated* to stay that's a different issue and probably indicative of problems you'd have in any field.

You can't pay off $150,000 loans in five years if you are an average student at a T1.  You probably won't get a job that allows you to do so.

Depends on what T1, where you live, and how well you can budget. It's not easy, but if you're dedicated to paying off your loans, it's certainly not out of the question. 

I suppose there are some schools in the 22-35 range (OP's range) that you could do it from. Median private sector salaries from those schools in high-cost locations are reported to USNWR as about $100,000 (which for the purpose of ease, I'll assume is the salary for someone graduating at the median of the class, not just the median salary in the private sector - so, actual numbers should probably be lower than $100,000 for an average student).  If OP could name the schools, we'd have a better idea.  Loans of $150,000 at 8% over 5 years require annual payment of about $37,000. 

Suppose starting salary of $100,000
$100,000 - $8,450 (exemption / standard deduction) = $91,550 taxable income.
Federal income tax on $91,550 is $19,973.
Social Security tax on $91,550 is $5,493 (assuming about 6% tax).
State and local income tax on $91,550 is $7,324 (assuming about 8% for a high-COL area).
Rough post-tax, post-loan income: $30,210
Depending on your level of comfort and if you live alone, a reasonable expectation for living expenses in a high-cost area is $2,600 a month or $31,200 a year. (about $1,400 rent, $300 food, $200 utilities, $200 phone/cell/internet/tv, $450 car/gas/transportation/parking/insurance, $50 clothing/medical/misc. - probably more when you're just starting out if you need a new wardrobe of business attire).***

The biggest areas that can be cut are rent (by living with roommates) and, if living in an area with access to public transportation, the car/transportation expenses.  Add the fact that you are unable to put any money away for savings/investment/retirement (and you're giving up the interest you could be earning on such savings) and that the above figures don't account for luxury expenses (plane ticket to see family, gifts for the holidays, a 3-day trip to the beach, replacement furniture/appliances/etc.).  Additionally, you put your life on hold for 5 years.  You likely can't budget for a wedding or down-payment on a house.  These considerations are why I am suspicious of being able to pay off $150,000 loans in 5 years with a median private sector salary in a high COL area.

I'll admit that it's possible, but why would you want to work at a firm if you have no desire to do so and you could do your desired job right away?  The only reason I can see working at a firm is to work longer than it takes you to pay off your loans so that you will have enough savings to cushion yourself when you take a lower-paying job.  If you can manage to pay off your loans in 5 years, you'd still want to work another 2-3 years so that you can afford all the luxuries in life (a house, etc.) that you deserve after working 60-70 hour weeks for the previous 5 years.  Of course, that's just my two cents.


*** I live in DC, so I'm using DC figures.  I assume locations such as NYC or LA would be more expensive, and places like Chicago and Houston would be less expensive.

queencruella

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2007, 11:39:29 AM »
As I said in my post, it depends on where you live. I am generally NOT referring to high COL areas, but if you work in Texas or other places with low COL and high salaries, $30K will get you by just fine. I know people in Texas and other states that have bought homes and live quite comfortably on $30K pre-tax because it's just that affordable there. FWIW I lived in a medium COL area for 2 years on $30K or so post-tax and was able to save 1/3 of my income most months. Sometimes people spend their money in silly ways they don't even notice, and if you can cut out on that spending, you'll save quite a bit of money.

vap

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2007, 11:53:36 AM »
As I said in my post, it depends on where you live. I am generally NOT referring to high COL areas, but if you work in Texas or other places with low COL and high salaries, $30K will get you by just fine. I know people in Texas and other states that have bought homes and live quite comfortably on $30K pre-tax because it's just that affordable there. FWIW I lived in a medium COL area for 2 years on $30K or so post-tax and was able to save 1/3 of my income most months. Sometimes people spend their money in silly ways they don't even notice, and if you can cut out on that spending, you'll save quite a bit of money.

I agree with you about the lower COL locations.  It's certainly viable to pay off loans with pre-tax salary of $100,000 in TX.  I'd assume salaries there are somewhat lower (though arguably not enough to really be noticeable - you'll still be living better in TX with a lower salary).  Rent is insanely cheap and no state income tax.  With $100,000 salary, post-tax, post-loan, post-living expense income is about $18,000 - $20,000.  However, I'll still contend that graduating near the median of the class probably won't allow someone to grab a $100,000 job in TX.  Admittedly, not being a graduate from a 22-35 school that is near the median of the class and seeking employment in TX, I really have no idea what a reasonable salary would be.

xl3ill

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2007, 12:05:27 PM »
Quote
I'm no prestige whore... but the fact remains that you had better be one hell of a student at your lower ranked school or just be willing to face the facts that many more doors (not only BIGLAW) will be closed to you during your initial job search.

But how much does your choice of school really affect your job search 2-3 years after working as an attorney in what might not be your dream job?  I've got to think that a PI group would take someone with a little experience over a newbie with a fancy degree.  Training a new attorney is expensive and takes time, and PI groups in theory aren't as hung up about their new hires having t1 degrees, they're more into getting their work done.  This is my thinking, anyway; anyone have any insight on that?

queencruella

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #25 on: June 29, 2007, 12:12:44 PM »
As I said in my post, it depends on where you live. I am generally NOT referring to high COL areas, but if you work in Texas or other places with low COL and high salaries, $30K will get you by just fine. I know people in Texas and other states that have bought homes and live quite comfortably on $30K pre-tax because it's just that affordable there. FWIW I lived in a medium COL area for 2 years on $30K or so post-tax and was able to save 1/3 of my income most months. Sometimes people spend their money in silly ways they don't even notice, and if you can cut out on that spending, you'll save quite a bit of money.

I agree with you about the lower COL locations.  It's certainly viable to pay off loans with pre-tax salary of $100,000 in TX.  I'd assume salaries there are somewhat lower (though arguably not enough to really be noticeable - you'll still be living better in TX with a lower salary).  Rent is insanely cheap and no state income tax.  With $100,000 salary, post-tax, post-loan, post-living expense income is about $18,000 - $20,000.  However, I'll still contend that graduating near the median of the class probably won't allow someone to grab a $100,000 job in TX.  Admittedly, not being a graduate from a 22-35 school that is near the median of the class and seeking employment in TX, I really have no idea what a reasonable salary would be.

Texas is known for its high salaries and low COL. Biglaw firms pay $135K+ to start so you don't even have to be going into biglaw to get to around $100K. I have quite a few friends aiming to go to Texas because they know it's a good way for them to pay their loans off quickly and still live a comfortable lifestyle.

big - fat - box

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #26 on: June 29, 2007, 12:15:25 PM »
As a current law student, I can say I agree with some of the sentiments of this post. However, If you do a school not in the top 15 and get average or below average grades, you may be stuck working in a small firm...forget about the Department of Justice or some competitive public interest job like the ACLU or something. Try living comfortably and paying off $180K on a small firm salary of $40-60K.

Schools ranked 22-35 represent some risk. You'll have to get good grades or you'll be in trouble. You'll have to decide if the risk is worth it to you personally. Can you get in-state tuition at any of these schools for the second and third years, if so, the risk is reduced, and going to such a school for more money may be an easier pill to swallow for you.


As a 3L, I can tell you the biggest flaws in this particular dilemma involve the perceptions regarding PI law.  If you are not successful in school or your school has a less than stellar reputation, you aren't just going to get the PI job of your dreams.  Having no interest in BIGLAW is great, but the idea that Y/H/S grads (or just plain higher ranked schools' grads) don't compete for those jobs is ridiculous.  The cache of your degree in your first job search matters in ALL fields, public and private.  Who cares if you have no debt, if your resume is never read by the recruiter at the job of your dreams because there are other numerically successful students from more highly regarded schools who will get the initial interviews?

I'm no prestige whore... but the fact remains that you had better be one hell of a student at your lower ranked school or just be willing to face the facts that many more doors (not only BIGLAW) will be closed to you during your initial job search.

sno

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #27 on: June 29, 2007, 12:18:32 PM »
As a 3L, I can tell you the biggest flaws in this particular dilemma involve the perceptions regarding PI law.  If you are not successful in school or your school has a less than stellar reputation, you aren't just going to get the PI job of your dreams.  Having no interest in BIGLAW is great, but the idea that Y/H/S grads (or just plain higher ranked schools' grads) don't compete for those jobs is ridiculous.  The cache of your degree in your first job search matters in ALL fields, public and private.  Who cares if you have no debt, if your resume is never read by the recruiter at the job of your dreams because there are other numerically successful students from more highly regarded schools who will get the initial interviews?

i disagree with this...based on my assumption about op's position...what you say is true if you're looking for a job where there are a lot of people competing for them from many schools, but based on the op saying that there's really only 1 t3 that places well (and the fact that they were able to get into a t1) i'm assuming that the t3 is one of the few schools in that state...by that i mean 2 or 3, possibly even the only one...if there are few schools in the state, then it's probably not a state with a huge legal market just drawing grads from all over to move there...thus most of the attorneys in the state probably went to a local, in-state school...if that's the case, then the significance of that t1 degree just went down significantly...many employers probably graduated from the school op is thinking about and they probably won't say "i'm not going to interview this guy, that school sucked"...and if they didn't go to that school, i'm sure they have a lot of experience working with alums from that school and i'll assume they're not bad experiences...since i don't know of any one school where the alums are so bad that people won't hire new alums...a lot of assumptions, i know, but i think they're all fair
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vap

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #28 on: June 29, 2007, 12:18:59 PM »
This is a good point regarding PI jobs. However, would you not agree that...

As a 3L, I can tell you the biggest flaws in this particular dilemma involve the perceptions regarding PI law.  If you are not successful in school or your school has a less than stellar reputation, you aren't just going to get the PI job of your dreams.  Having no interest in BIGLAW is great, but the idea that Y/H/S grads (or just plain higher ranked schools' grads) don't compete for those jobs is ridiculous.  The cache of your degree in your first job search matters in ALL fields, public and private.  Who cares if you have no debt, if your resume is never read by the recruiter at the job of your dreams because there are other numerically successful students from more highly regarded schools who will get the initial interviews?

If you have high debt, the PI recruiter will never read your resume because you won't be able to submit an application for a job that doesn't support you financially.

I'm no prestige whore... but the fact remains that you had better be one hell of a student at your lower ranked school or just be willing to face the facts that many more doors (not only BIGLAW) will be closed to you during your initial job search.

Whether or not the doors are closed matters very little if your financial situation precludes searching for those jobs.

queencruella

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Re: Lesser ranked school w/ money vs. T1: a different take
« Reply #29 on: June 29, 2007, 12:42:39 PM »
Texas is known for its high salaries and low COL. Biglaw firms pay $135K+ to start so you don't even have to be going into biglaw to get to around $100K. I have quite a few friends aiming to go to Texas because they know it's a good way for them to pay their loans off quickly and still live a comfortable lifestyle.

Unless a candidate has higher grades and/or has some personal connections to TX, I'm doubtful to the career prospects of a 22-35 graduate getting a $100K+ job in TX.  Anecdotally, I've been told that an out-of-stater coming to TX has to have a better answer to the "why do you want to work in Dallas" question than "low cost of living and I like the weather."

I'm guessing that an out-of-state median candidate from a 22-35 school probably has the same career prospects as median to slightly-above median grads at SMU, Baylor, and Houston.  Median private sector salaries for those grads are roughly $70K-$80K (according to USNWR data).  Of course, I'm just BS-ing here.  What do you think?

That's the same as it is anywhere- what's your point? I doubt that the median salary in Texas for people coming from 25-35 is going to be the same as median from SMU/Baylor. My school's median salary is lower because people go to lower-cost/lower-paying markets, but it isn't anywhere near $70K.