Law School Discussion

No more beating around the bush

No more beating around the bush
« on: January 02, 2013, 08:53:02 PM »
I want to make 120 -160k out of school...I have a 4.0 and in top 2% at STCL but have been accepted for transfer at SMU...what gives me the best chances of making that salary?

Re: No more beating around the bush
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2013, 08:41:08 AM »
What gives you the best chance of making that salary is getting hired by a big firm. Here's what gives you the best (but not the only) chance at biglaw:

1) Transfer somewhere other than SMU, someplace higher ranked, like UT. (I assume you want to stay in TX?) SMU is a good school with a good regional reputation, but biglaw jobs are incredibly competitive. You'll be competing against others who are also top 2%, law review, etc and from bigger name schools. Those firms are snobby, and pedigree matters.

I'm sure that some SMU grads get hired into biglaw, as I said SMU has a good regional name. But if you want to know what gives you the best chance at biglaw, try to transfer to someplace like Harvard, Yale, Penn, etc. In this market I'm sure that big firms in DFW get applicants from those schools, and you'll have to compete against them.

If you want to live outside of TX, try to get into a nationally recognized school.

2) Remain in the top 5-10% (at least) after you transfer. This is not as easy as it sounds, as you'll be competing against a different, higher performing class. Try to get on law review, if possible (sometimes not open to transfers). 

3) Obtain a biglaw summer associate position, and do a great job. Most of the people I know who went into biglaw worked summers at a firm and made connections. The only potential snag I see here is that your first year and half worth of grades are from a lower ranked school. I'm not sure how biglaw would view that.

With that said, here are a few other things to consider. Biglaw is not the only satisfying or even lucrative area of practice. Plenty of lawyers who are solo practitioners or small/mid-sized firms partners do just fine, comparable to biglaw partners. I've met a guy who has a small firm that specializes in class action suits, and could buy and sell most biglaw partners with the change in his pocket. Being a DA or federal attorney isn't too bad, either.

Biglaw is one of the few areas, however, where you can make that kind of money straight out of law school, so I understand the attraction. The hours required and the stress level are high, and many burn out quickly. That's one of the reasons you should do a summer biglaw job, to get a flavor of the practice. 

It's also possible that yo could get hired into biglaw coming from a smaller name law school, like the one you're at. I went to a local school, and some of my classmates were hired by biglaw. You have the grades to be competitive, but I admit I don't know the TX market at all. If you could negotiate a better scholarship at your current school, however, it might be worth it.

You have to accept that even with awesome grades you may not get hired into biglaw. These jobs are limited in number, and you won't be the only applicant with a high GPA. Make alternative plans, scope out smaller well-paying firms, and gain as much marketable experience as possible.

 Hope that helps, and good luck!

Re: No more beating around the bush
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2013, 09:58:56 AM »

I responded to your prior thread and you also mentioned Tulane so I will include their information in this post. As the title of your posts suggest I will not beat around the Bush the odds of getting a biglaw job from any of these schools is minimal. SMU will give you more of a chance than STCL, but maybe a 5% increase and it is 14,000 more a year sticker price and as I mentioned you can likely obtain a large scholarship from STCL if you ask. If they don't give that to you then SMU might be worth 14k more. However, if STCL offers you free tuition the rest of the way that is a savings of 52,000 combined with the additional cost of SMU at 40,000 a year. So you would get out 132,000 less in debt. These are serious numbers considering your odds of big law out of SMU will not be much better than STCL. You also have to consider moving from Houston to Dallas this may or may not be a big deal to you, but the reality of changing cities can have a significant impact on how you perform in law school.

The simply reality is the life of a lawyer is not how T.V. makes it out to be. Firms do not wine and dine students for the 48th best school because they were on law review. Many recent grads from schools of the caliber you are mentioning start out making 50-60k and after a few years of experience often make in the six figures, but it takes time.

Many people strive for this few get it and those that do often do not enjoy it. I have several friends from Harvard who worked at Cravath for a few years and said it was awful. They went to work as in-house counsel at various tech companies and took a paycut, but love what they are doing. Simply put biglaw is not for everyone it could easily be for you, but before spending $100,000 and changing schools you way want to research more if you have not done so already.

This is a great site where you can essentially see the job postings that every law school is offering. Here is the link username jobfind password fall2012. South Texas, SMU, and Tulane are on there so it might worth looking at the jobs they are posting before spending 100,000+ more dollar accruing interest and changing from an environment you are doing well in.

Law school transparency is a really good site that shows actual reported salaries of students coming out of each school. You will notice most schools have huge gaps of unreported scores which I assume means unemployed, but I cannot say for sure. There is also a chart that shows student debt/salary ratio which might of help. I have attached the links for SMU, Tulane, and South Texas below. SMU does account for most of their students which is great, but it does not appear that one graduate made over $130,000. (SMU REPORT) Pretty good accountability, but not one graduate made more than $130,000. that is 2010 info nobody reported 2011 so that is a red flag)  (TULANE) (SOUTH TEXAS)

If you really know what biglaw entails and there is nothing else you want other than that then SMU will give you a better chance than STCL. However, it will be a 5-10% chance increase and you will be paying a lot more money for that 5-10% and you may not like the switch from Dallas to Houston and being away from the people you met during 1L. 

If the money and potential of not liking the new school are worth a 5-10% chance increase to work in biglaw then go for it. However, be prepared to spend a lot of extra money and end up working alongside people from STCL in the future. It is your call.

Good luck.

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