Help me choose a top law school!

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Moolala
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Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Moolala » Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:43 pm

Hi everyone,

Thanks in part to great Boglehead advice, I applied to and was accepted by seven of the top 14 law schools. I have received great scholarship offers but am having a hard time making a choice. Based on the information below, what would you advise?

Career plans:
I'm not too interested in BigLaw, but can see myself working there for about two years. My real hope is to end up working in a niche field in DC (first amendment law, campaign law, etc.).

Options — all listed with three-year scholarship amounts:
University of Chicago — $45,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $245,000)
UPenn — waiting on scholarship information.
University of Virginia — $105,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $135,000)
Northwestern — $90,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $155,000)
Duke — $75,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $165,000)
Cornell — $120,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $120,000)
Georgetown — $120,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $125,000)

I'm also on the Harvard waitlist. :happy

Outside of the T14, I also have full tuition scholarships from a few schools I would be willing to consider, including Notre Dame, Emory, Boston University, and a T60-70 regional school (I could live at home, making the total cost of attendance zero).

Assets:
I have about $25,000 in cash (which I plan to spend) and $50,000 in tax-advantaged retirement accounts (which I plan to save). My parents are generously willing to pay $25,000 and lend me about $80,000 in no-interest loans. (I plan to pay them back as quickly as I can.)

The University of Chicago is hard to pass up, but based on my interests, it seems to me like UVA is my best bet. Is there anything I'm missing here?

My prior thread, for reference, is here: viewtopic.php?t=235598
Last edited by Moolala on Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lynx310650
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Lynx310650 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:46 pm

Sure you will get a lot of good suggestions. But as you say, based on your criteria, I'd go UVA.

Random Poster
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Random Poster » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:12 pm

Virginia or Georgetown.

UVA would likely open more doors beyond what Georgetown would, but Georgetown's location might make landing a job in DC ever-so-slightly easier, as you might hear about a job opening earlier than you would in Charlottesville.

ETA: What is the local school? If you really don't care about BigLaw, and want to a DC/First Amend/Campaign law job, then what about the possibility of going to the free school and volunteering/interning with the local congressperson's office and other political campaigns and working your way into the legal field that way?

amitb00
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by amitb00 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:17 pm

Congrats for excellent choices! In big scheme of things, 100-200K will not matter that much. U Chicago is a great school and you are fortunate to get the admission. Don’t drop it just because of cost. You will have many opportunities in future to make money ..

GCD
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by GCD » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:25 pm

I think I'm in the minority around here, so take my advice for what it's worth. I'm a big fan of education in and of itself and pretty much discard financial ROI. Go to the best school you can for your interests. Pay it off later.

You'll get many differing responses. :wink:

blinx77
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by blinx77 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:27 pm

UVA seems like the obvious choice here. You're gonna need more than two years in biglaw if you incur $250k in debt to go to Chicago, and long-term nobody is going to care about the marginal difference between those two schools. (In the weird world of law, UVA is #9 and Chicago is #5. Rankings matter a lot, but not THAT much.)

I have some friends who thought they would never do biglaw that are still there now. And others that were gung ho to make partner that got fired in the recession one year after starting. So you can never be too sure where you will end up. But if you realistically think that you would like to be a lawyer, and you know how the sausage is made, and you know that the big law salaries come with big life sacrifices, then having a law degree from UVA with under $100k of debt seems like a pretty good outcome.

Nearly A Moose
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Nearly A Moose » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:47 pm

Congrats! I'm very familiar with a number of these schools. I've also recruited from some of them and work with people who went to some. All great options. I work in DC (biglaw) and also have some insights into the other areas you're looking at. If you get into Harvard, I'd just do that regardless of what it costs. Otherwise, I'd lean toward UVA, Duke, or Georgetown (I'd put Georgetown further the list than others). Georgetown's location gives it good DC access, but I don't think that makes as much of a difference as you'd think at schools of this caliber. It also draws a lot of DC-oriented people, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. All of those schools have great pipelines into DC, are good with clerkships (which may be important to you based on your interests), and look like they'll be reasonably priced in the grand scheme of things. Cost of living will be lower for Duke and UVA, unless that's already baked into your numbers.

Penn is a wildcard. I don't think it offers anything that UVA or Duke doesn't also offer, but Philadelphia is a fun town and Penn has some smart people. I would see how much they offer. You don't need to go to an Ivy League law school just to say you went to an Ivy League school.

I would pass on Chicago. It's dramatically more expensive than the others and - I don't have a better way to put this - I've almost uniformly found the people I've met from U Chicago Law to be a bit weird. I feel like a middle schooler saying that, but I've met others in professional circles who have said the same thing, unprompted. (I don't mean weird and quirky.) That's of course a broad generalization based on a small sample size, but since you asked anonymous internet people to comment, comments you shall receive. But the broader point is to make sure you visit any school on your short list and spend some real time in classes and with the students. You'll spend three years on campus and you'll spend lots of time with the people at the school, so culture should be part of your decision.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like more specific feedback or want to see if I have answers to specific questions.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

Gill
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:54 pm

Here’s a vote for my law school - Cornell. Smaller law school in wonderful location and beautiful campus. Much more personal relationships with professors than many law schools.
Gill

youngpleb
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by youngpleb » Wed Apr 11, 2018 5:01 pm

Congratulations on all of your hard work! I'd trim it down to UVA, Georgetown, or Cornell personally, and then proceed from there. Have you taken tours and such yet? That really opened my eyes when I went to grad school, and made it easier to cross certain schools off of my list.

My completely 100% biased opinion as a former Wahoo is that you should pick UVA.

WAHOOWA
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2012heel
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by 2012heel » Wed Apr 11, 2018 5:22 pm

First, CONGRATS! You can't really go wrong. Unless Penn gives you a comparable scholarship offer, this is a two horse race between UVA and Duke. And as much as it pains me to write this as a recent Duke Law alum, UVA is the best choice based on the information you provided. If you wanted to do big law anywhere outside of DC, Duke would be the best choice. But for your current interests, and the difference in costs, go to UVA. I absolutely loved Duke and I am sure you would too. That said, UVA is an equally great school and offers better opportunities for your interests in DC.

Do not go to Georgetown. The class size is massive, everyone wants to remain in DC, which results in a cutthroat atmosphere. Keep in mind the size of the pond and that there is no guarantee that you will make Law Review, etc. (even though you've clearly had great success thus far).

PS. Analysis also changes if you get into Harvard.

ETA: Don't give short shrift to the full ride at ND. Schools heavily invest in recipients of full scholarships and this can really make a difference. A friend of mine accepted a full ride at UNC over other schools and ended up finishing top 5 in his class and clerked for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Granted, he's pretty brilliant and likely would have had the same outcome had he attended T14 schools.

simple man
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by simple man » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:13 pm

Echo on Harvard, if you get in, need to go.

I would also not undervalue class rank. If you have it down to a few good schools, you may want to go where you think you will end up in the top 10%. To me, top 10% Notre Dame is more attractive as a hire than unranked Cornell. I want to hire a lawyer that is hungry and competitive. If I see unranked Cornell, I might think the last difficult thing you did was get into Cornell. Seriously, I see this a lot. Top 10% almost anywhere tells me a lot about you.

Gill
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:23 pm

simple man wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:13 pm
Echo on Harvard, if you get in, need to go.

I would also not undervalue class rank. If you have it down to a few good schools, you may want to go where you think you will end up in the top 10%. To me, top 10% Notre Dame is more attractive as a hire than unranked Cornell. I want to hire a lawyer that is hungry and competitive. If I see unranked Cornell, I might think the last difficult thing you did was get into Cornell. Seriously, I see this a lot. Top 10% almost anywhere tells me a lot about you.
What do you mean by “unranked Cornell” :annoyed
Gill

simple man
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by simple man » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:30 pm

Sorry Gill. Writing too quickly. I meant a student at Cornell or any other good school that is not officially graduating top X% OR, if the school sets honors levels, with some level of high honors (magna cum laude, summa cum laude). That student may be a great student, it will just be hard to tell how sharp/hardworking they are from a resume - especially if they are competing against another student who maybe went to a lower ranked law school but that student graduated top 10% or magna cum laude. That's all.

Chuck5781
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Chuck5781 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:42 pm

My opinion is that of a parent of a student with an essentially similar decision a few years ago, for what it’s worth.

The best advice offered by many people spoken to, was if the desired destination was DC, attend UVA. Fortunate enough to be also admitted to Harvard Law, we made a couple trips there, but the advice remained UVA. Much higher quality of life, more congenial/collegial classmates, excellent education and faculty, were among the biggest reasons the advice was hands-down UVA.

Earlier comments were made about U of Chicago - we also visited there couple of times and were told their motto is “where fun goes to die” - by the student guide, no less.

The final decision was Duke, based on number of things, one large item being the spouse’s ability to obtain professional employment. Could not be happier, great place, very high quality of life, and superb employment outcome.

Good luck and enjoy the journey.
The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.

ChrisC
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by ChrisC » Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:50 pm

simple man wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:13 pm
Echo on Harvard, if you get in, need to go.

I would also not undervalue class rank. If you have it down to a few good schools, you may want to go where you think you will end up in the top 10%. To me, top 10% Notre Dame is more attractive as a hire than unranked Cornell. I want to hire a lawyer that is hungry and competitive. If I see unranked Cornell, I might think the last difficult thing you did was get into Cornell. Seriously, I see this a lot. Top 10% almost anywhere tells me a lot about you.
When did Cornell get unranked -- this is news to me? At least in NYC, Cornell Law generally enjoyed a very good reputation during my years of active practice (1978-2013). But Cornell, unlike the other schools on the list, has a a better undergraduate reputation than law school reputation, in my opinion.

I have my biases here. Wife and I are NYU Law alums and daugher is UVa Law grad now practicing in NYCa and our family has undergraduate educations at Cornell and UVa. The last few years of my career I spent managing professional development and training at a large legal organization of over 700 plus lawyers. UVa is an excellent law school with a national reputation, especially on the East Coast, and it has a vey strong alumni network in NYC and DC, especially if Biglaw were a career pursuit. But the rest of the law schools on the OP's list appear to be at the same level (though some would argue that University of Chicago is slightly ahead of the rest academcially and Cornell slightly below the rest).

I recommend you base your decision to select one of these schools on financial considerations, quality of life at the schools, and employment statistics. Of course, if you do well in one of these schools, you'll be off to the races in your career path.

Gill
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Gill » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:14 pm

ChrisC wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:50 pm
simple man wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:13 pm
Echo on Harvard, if you get in, need to go.

I would also not undervalue class rank. If you have it down to a few good schools, you may want to go where you think you will end up in the top 10%. To me, top 10% Notre Dame is more attractive as a hire than unranked Cornell. I want to hire a lawyer that is hungry and competitive. If I see unranked Cornell, I might think the last difficult thing you did was get into Cornell. Seriously, I see this a lot. Top 10% almost anywhere tells me a lot about you.
When did Cornell get unranked -- this is news to me? At least in NYC, Cornell Law generally enjoyed a very good reputation during my years of active practice (1978-2013). But Cornell, unlike the other schools on the list, has a a better undergraduate reputation than law school reputation, in my opinion.

I have my biases here. Wife and I are NYU Law alums and daugher is UVa Law grad now practicing in NYCa and our family has undergraduate educations at Cornell and UVa. The last few years of my career I spent managing professional development and training at a large legal organization of over 700 plus lawyers. UVa is an excellent law school with a national reputation, especially on the East Coast, and it has a vey strong alumni network in NYC and DC, especially if Biglaw were a career pursuit. But the rest of the law schools on the OP's list appear to be at the same level (though some would argue that University of Chicago is slightly ahead of the rest academcially and Cornell slightly below the rest).

I recommend you base your decision to select one of these schools on financial considerations, quality of life at the schools, and employment statistics. Of course, if you do well in one of these schools, you'll be off to the races in your career path.
He clarified what he meant above. Actually Cornell Law is ranked between 8th and 13th, depending on the source.
Gill

EddyB
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by EddyB » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:19 pm

If I have any bias among those schools, it is against UVA, but I'd still say UVA (excluding Penn until you know cost), although with the right reasons I could see Georgetown.

DC3509
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by DC3509 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:33 pm

First -- congrats. You really can't go wrong with any of these choices. I think the differences between all of these schools is so minimal that this should really be a gut decision as much as anything else. Perhaps slight edge to the non-Georgetown schools for the reasons other have mentioned.

But I do question -- you say you only want to work in Biglaw for a year or two and then do something like campaign finance law or first amendment law. These are extreme niche areas and have very few jobs. People want to hire the undisputed "experts" in these areas and pushing yourself off as an expert on quirky subjects such as these takes many, many years of practice. You would almost need to tutelage under one of these experts for a long time, and pray for the best. People are still hiring and quoting Floyd Abrams about First Amendment law for a reason. To the extent there are jobs in these areas, they are usually found in biglaw too (big media companies are very interested in First Amendment law), or sometimes in government, but those jobs are very hard to find as a new or newish graduate because you are competing against everyone else who is a few (or many more) years out and looking for the same type of job. I just think the OP should be realistic about why he/she is going to law school in the first place.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:40 pm

ChrisC wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:50 pm

When did Cornell get unranked -- this is news to me?
You misunderstood.

He meant an "unranked student" at Cornell. His point was a top 10% student from anywhere trumps an unranked student from T14.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

jodydavis
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by jodydavis » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:57 pm

Lawprof here at a top-30 school. They're all great schools, and you can't really go wrong. I'd echo the others who say, given your stated goals, UVa seems like the best choice, both financially and for career purposes. If you do well, you will have access to BigLaw, and UVa places well in DC. Congrats!

ChrisC
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by ChrisC » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:02 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:40 pm
ChrisC wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 6:50 pm

When did Cornell get unranked -- this is news to me?
You misunderstood.

He meant an "unranked student" at Cornell. His point was a top 10% student from anywhere trumps an unranked student from T14.
Fair enough. I didn’t see his clarification when I posted. I’m not sure I agree with the point you say he’s making. I do believe graduating number one in your class from a tier 3 or tier 4 school could trump someone graduating in the lower half of your class at the bottom end of tier 1 school, But other than rankings for law review, I didn’t think there were precise rankings for the rest of a graduating class at most law schools. I could be wrong about that too.

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TxAg
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by TxAg » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:15 pm

I don't have much to add other than congratulations!! I don't have that kind of brain power, but I love to follow along as others make their choices and give their comments. Fingers crossed my kiddos got their mom's brains and have similar opportunities down the road.

Moolala
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Moolala » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:20 pm

Wow! I really appreciate the depth of these amazing responses — they are very helpful and I also enjoyed the humor intertwined. :happy It is great to hear perspective grounded in such extensive experience. Offline, I have very little access to "insider" information as I do not come from a family of lawyers (and do not really know any, either!). While I know it isn't that much in the grand scheme of things, the prospect of debt can feel overwhelming and it's good to hear affirmation of the benefits a great school can bring.

As I've looked at these schools, I've noticed that many focus heavily on their alumni networks — from your experience, what impact do networks (and school names) actually have on attaining not only a first job in biglaw but transitioning later to a job in a specialty field? Ideally, I would love to land in a challenging career that provides opportunities for analytical thought but also allows for some balance or quality of life. I realize this is hard to achieve in a law career, but with so many great options to chose from, are there any that might provide the best shot?

Again, thank you so much everyone!!

HEDGEFUNDIE
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:26 pm

Everyone I have met who went to UChicago Law absolutely hated the experience. But they are all making bank now, so take that for what it's worth.

Moolala
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Moolala » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:33 pm

DC3509 wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:33 pm
First -- congrats. You really can't go wrong with any of these choices. I think the differences between all of these schools is so minimal that this should really be a gut decision as much as anything else. Perhaps slight edge to the non-Georgetown schools for the reasons other have mentioned.

But I do question -- you say you only want to work in Biglaw for a year or two and then do something like campaign finance law or first amendment law. These are extreme niche areas and have very few jobs. People want to hire the undisputed "experts" in these areas and pushing yourself off as an expert on quirky subjects such as these takes many, many years of practice. You would almost need to tutelage under one of these experts for a long time, and pray for the best. People are still hiring and quoting Floyd Abrams about First Amendment law for a reason. To the extent there are jobs in these areas, they are usually found in biglaw too (big media companies are very interested in First Amendment law), or sometimes in government, but those jobs are very hard to find as a new or newish graduate because you are competing against everyone else who is a few (or many more) years out and looking for the same type of job. I just think the OP should be realistic about why he/she is going to law school in the first place.
Thank you! I appreciate your candor. I know they are definitely niche. I've identified quite a few more realistic places I could land and be happy. I am realistic about the opportunities I may have, and am very open to finding new things.

Bogle_Bro
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Bogle_Bro » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:43 pm

I say uva... Best mix of big law placement, dc career path , & cost

Bogle_Bro
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Bogle_Bro » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:48 pm

Now's the time to leverage the scholarship against each other too...

All law schools are desperate to keep medians up

CriticalCareJunkie
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by CriticalCareJunkie » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:52 pm

So I’m a doctor, not a lawyer, but I come from a family of lawyers.

If I were in your shoes, I would go to the best school that leaves me with no debt. I cannot say this strongly enough.

If you fall in love with something in law where you don’t get paid extremely well, you’re choosing to give that up. And the law market is certainly over saturated right now with depressed salaries. Top grads are somewhat sheltered from this if they’re willing to put in 80-100 hours/week, but maybe that’s not your deal. Also, you could end up hating law. Let’s say you figure this out three years into practice, or worse, two years into law school.

Yes, it’s easy to go down the prestigious route, but think about the freedom you’re giving up.

Ragnoth
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Ragnoth » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:02 pm

Congratulations on your acceptances!

Considering the finances and the career goals, I would lean towards Virginia. The school is well ranked, has good job placement, and the scholarship is quite generous to boot. From an academic/prestige perspective, Chicago is slightly better. That said, the job prospects are going to be very similar at either school, and they send similar numbers of graduates into both big-law and federal clerkship positions. The only reason why the extra $100k might be worth it is if you were looking to do research with specific professors and break into academia.

If you have the chance to attend Harvard, I would consider it as well. As far as I'm concerned, all of the other schools you listed are largely interchangeable in terms of academics and job prospects (and price tag). They all have their own unique charm, but it would boil down to your personal preferences more than anything else.

As a final comment, I wouldn't poo-poo Big Law immediately. Even if you don't have ambitions to make partner, you gain an incredible amount of knowledge/connections over ~4-5 years. Find a practice group that works in an area you are interested in (e.g., a government regulatory or strategic affairs group), and you are likely to have plenty of exit opportunities doing similar work elsewhere.

Leemiller
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Leemiller » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:04 pm

With the area you are aiming for without Harvard/Yale that will be very challenging. For your current options, I’d say Georgetown has the best location for what you want and location is very important. Also, are you thinking of a LLM or doctorate? What is it you find attractive about that area of law, and what do you expect to actually do? Work at the ALCU? Teach?

I chose a lower ranked but still top 15 over Chicago because my school gave me a full ride. No regrets because Chicago doesn’t in my opinion have the same cache as Harvard/Yale. Although I think most Yalies I’ve met are odd. I don’t think 245k is easily payable even on a biglaw salary, and I’ve made a biglaw salary. That is years of pain. Assuming you can even make that. I have some smart friends whose careers didn’t go as hoped.

Edited to add, I’m surprised at all the UVA comments. Not really sure why? It’s a good school sure but so are the others.

ChrisC
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by ChrisC » Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:01 pm

Leemiller wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:04 pm
With the area you are aiming for without Harvard/Yale that will be very challenging. For your current options, I’d say Georgetown has the best location for what you want and location is very important. Also, are you thinking of a LLM or doctorate? What is it you find attractive about that area of law, and what do you expect to actually do? Work at the ALCU? Teach?

I chose a lower ranked but still top 15 over Chicago because my school gave me a full ride. No regrets because Chicago doesn’t in my opinion have the same cache as Harvard/Yale. Although I think most Yalies I’ve met are odd. I don’t think 245k is easily payable even on a biglaw salary, and I’ve made a biglaw salary. That is years of pain. Assuming you can even make that. I have some smart friends whose careers didn’t go as hoped.

Edited to add, I’m surprised at all the UVA comments. Not really sure why? It’s a good school sure but so are the others.
I think it's hazardous to choose an undergraduate law school on the basis of a student's perception of the type of law practice he or she might engage three year's later. That perception might be flawed in that it might not be based on the actual demands or rigors that a practice might entail. And career choices could change, while in law school or after some exposure to practice during law school summers. But I would give greater weight to attending a law school in a city where you hope to practice; thus, if you wish to live and practice in San Francisco, then Boalt Hall might be a better fit than Georgetown, and Georgetown might be a better fit than Cornell if you wish to live and practice in DC.

I'm surprised that you're surprised by UVa. It has a strong pull in the DC area -- many law firms, public interest groups, and governmental agencies in DC recruit extensively from UVa as Charlottesville is so close to DC. UVa has a very strong record in placing judicial clerks at U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps better than all the schools listed by the OP except U of Chicago. Between Georgetown and UVa, I'd pick UVa for quality of life for three years -- besides last time I looked UVa had such a smaller class size than Georgetown.

gr7070
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by gr7070 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:01 pm

I'd give serious consideration to a free ND degree. Quality ranking school with a significant loyal alumni.

The poster above commenting about debt driving future decisions and limiting your options is a reasonable point.

Also is their point about potentially not liking law. I know of a number of lawyers who aren't enamored with being lawyers. Especially since you also commented about your aversion to debt and desire for quality of life.
Last edited by gr7070 on Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

midagelawyer
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by midagelawyer » Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:38 pm

If you want to end up in DC, you basically have to start in NY or DC (or maybe Chicago). To get the best job prospects in any of those cities, I think you go with Chicago or Penn. Regardless of which schools you are deciding among, first decide without regards to price. If the school that leads you to is materially more expensive after scholarships than a very close second, call the admissions office of the first and note your predicament and ask if there is anything they can do. Then make a final decision.

Work the hardest you've ever worked in your life your first year. Interview broadly at the best firms in the city you want to live in for what you want to do (or if you think you want to try out a few things, find the best generalist large firm in that city).

If you do start in BigLaw (which I highly recommend you do), do not go in with the attitude that you will leave in x years/as soon as you pay off $X in loans, etc. Go in there, give it a shot, and leave when you're no longer growing/being trained/the comp. isn't worth the lifestyle, etc. That might happen after 6 months, it might happen after 2 years or it might happen after 7.

Oh, and when making long term plans about what careers/cities you want (I'm pretty sure you're predicting at 29 that at about 34 you want to live in DC practicing first amendment law), keep in mind you might learn something new, realize you're awesome at something you hadn't tried before, meet someone and fall in love, be given a ridiculous opportunity at just the right time, etc. I think it's worth a lot to have yourself set up to be able to take advantage of those things, while still heading in your intended direction.

Those are the tidbits of advice I'd give to myself before law school.

HAF-VA
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by HAF-VA » Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:45 am

As a UVA Law grad, I'm biased. But for practicing in DC after graduation, Virginia is great. All the top DC firms will recruit there. And living in Charlottesville for three years will be a nice break before you have to deal with the traffic of DC. I just moved back to Charlottesville after a 30 year career to retire early here.

maggsmaggs
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by maggsmaggs » Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:52 am

I would do the fullride at Notre Dame. Do well there and you could defnitely land a big law job in Chicago. Work in Chicago for a couple years at said big law job, transfer to said big law job's NY or DC (if they have one) office. And then plot your move to the DC niche firm.

patrick474
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by patrick474 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:38 am

Congrats on a lot of great choices. I'm biased as a Duke Law grad, but I would highly recommend it.

If you do well (or even ok) at any of the T-14, then you're going to be well-situated in the job market. I know a number of former Duke Law classmates who are pursuing interesting work at high-level firms and agencies in DC.

My pitch for Duke Law would be that you get to be part of a community of students and professors that is much more intimate and close-knit than the larger schools. And you get to be in a really exciting -- and affordable -- community. It's a beautiful, serene campus that exists in a very dynamic and rapidly-evolving town. I think the student atmosphere and location eases what can at times be a very stressful experience. You can enjoy your academic year in Durham, and you have professors and career services that will go to bat for you to help you get the opportunities in DC, NY, etc.

Happy to discuss further by PM if you'd like.

themesrob
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by themesrob » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:29 am

Congratulations on some great choices!

HLS is the obvious choice if you get in off the waitlist (good luck).

I was in a similar boat as you -- I was choosing between UVA with a big scholarship, NYU with a medium scholarship, and Columbia with no $$. I wanted to be in NYC longterm, so I went with NYU. This turned out to be prescient; when my class was interviewing for jobs during law school, during the tail end of the financial crisis, it was very difficult to get offers from DC firms. They were basically only hiring from the closer elite schools (UVA, Duke, Georgetown). One of the primary obstacles to overcome when interviewing with firms somewhere outside your school's natural market is selling the firm on why you want to work in that city, and why you didn't go to school there if that was the case (rightly or wrongly, they don't want to hire people who are going to show up in that new city and say "ugh, I hate this place, I'm leaving" after six months).

I think your primary determining factor should be where you want to end up afterward -- if you want to be in DC, doing the type of work you mentioned, go to UVA. Good luck!

EddyB
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by EddyB » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:00 am

midagelawyer wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:38 pm
If you want to end up in DC, you basically have to start in NY or DC (or maybe Chicago). To get the best job prospects in any of those cities, I think you go with Chicago or Penn.
I agree with the broader advice, but I think these pieces are a little too tight. I don’t think practicing at BigLaw in Silicon Valley/SF, Boston or LA generally closes the door to relocating to DC, nor that the BigLaw job opportunities coming out of UVA (or Duke, Cornell or GULC) are substantially different than coming out of Penn. I wouldn’t pay extra for Chicago without particular reasons that I haven’t heard expressed here. Just a different opinion.

peseta
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by peseta » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:48 am

The difference between Chicago and Penn and the other schools you name is how well you have to do in law school in order to get recruited by the fancy-pants firms. At Chicago or Penn, as long as you are not flailing about grade-wise, you'll get recruited by at least some. At most of the others, you'll have to be in the top 25% or 10% (the percentage falls as the perceived (not real, mind you) value of the school declines).

UVA is kind of in the middle. If you're in the top half of your class, you can get a good job in DC especially.

The big question is, where do you want to live? If it's DC, UVA is a much stronger candidate than if you want to go to NYC, SF, or LA. UVA has a much bigger name in DC than those other spots.

Also, Emory is a sleeper if you are willing to consider Atlanta. They have the same "batting above average" reputation in Atlanta that UVA has in DC. It's worth strong consideration on a free ride. That might be the one I would pick, were I in your shoes (but I like Atlanta).

Finally, consider that where you choose to go have have more of an impact on where you end up living than you think. I went to college and law school on the east coast, and thus the huge majority of my friends were also from the east coast. Some friends met an east-coast spouse in college or law school. Your choice of school affects where you end up more than you think.

peseta

fantasytensai
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by fantasytensai » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:46 pm

You probably know this, but you are in a great position to succeed in life no matter what you pick. FWIW, Top 3 schools - YHS are in a league of its own. The following 3 schools - Columbia, Chicago, and NYU, are in another league. The difference is visible, as you never see YHS fall out of the top 3, and you never see CCN fall out of the top 6. The others are pretty much interchangeable.

So my vote is for Chicago, because prestige is really everything in the legal business. No matter what you want to do later on in life, a degree from Chicago will go further than any of the other ones you listed.

I would also pick Harvard with no scholarship over any of them.

Edit: oh, and whatever you do, do NOT pick a T2 school to live at home. I did exactly that 8 years ago and regretted it every day of my life. I would trade away my debt-free status in a second if I can go back and attend a T14. DON'T DO IT!!!!

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TinkerPDX
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by TinkerPDX » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:17 pm

You'll probably do well, congratulations!

If you expect to go into Biglaw, I'd go with UVA and try waiting for HLS (where you'll probably get less/no money offered).

If you aren't planning to go into something highly lucrative (and even if you are), give some serious thought to the better money offers, even your local/regional school with the full ride, as long as it's within the 100 ranked schools. In any market (at least outside of the majors), being at the top of your class at a respectable local school positions you well even for the top tier jobs. And while a starting salary of $160k or $180k or whatever it is makes paying of six figure loans easier, it's still better not to have them.

Also, if you really want to hustle it, you'd probably be able to go to the cheap school at least for year 1, then transfer into a more prestigious school. You'd pay full freight for years 2-3, but you'd save a chunk in year 1. (Not ideal socially though--and part of the value of going to a t14/national school is the network you'll build while there.)

wstrdg
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by wstrdg » Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:48 pm

+1
Everyone I have met who went to UChicago Law absolutely hated the experience. But they are all making bank now, so take that for what it's worth.

Super Hans
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Super Hans » Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:08 pm

+1. This is basically my analysis, too.
fantasytensai wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:46 pm
You probably know this, but you are in a great position to succeed in life no matter what you pick. FWIW, Top 3 schools - YHS are in a league of its own. The following 3 schools - Columbia, Chicago, and NYU, are in another league. The difference is visible, as you never see YHS fall out of the top 3, and you never see CCN fall out of the top 6. The others are pretty much interchangeable.

So my vote is for Chicago, because prestige is really everything in the legal business. No matter what you want to do later on in life, a degree from Chicago will go further than any of the other ones you listed.

I would also pick Harvard with no scholarship over any of them.

* * *

DC3509
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by DC3509 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:18 pm

midagelawyer wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 10:38 pm
If you want to end up in DC, you basically have to start in NY or DC (or maybe Chicago). To get the best job prospects in any of those cities, I think you go with Chicago or Penn. Regardless of which schools you are deciding among, first decide without regards to price. If the school that leads you to is materially more expensive after scholarships than a very close second, call the admissions office of the first and note your predicament and ask if there is anything they can do. Then make a final decision.

Work the hardest you've ever worked in your life your first year. Interview broadly at the best firms in the city you want to live in for what you want to do (or if you think you want to try out a few things, find the best generalist large firm in that city).

If you do start in BigLaw (which I highly recommend you do), do not go in with the attitude that you will leave in x years/as soon as you pay off $X in loans, etc. Go in there, give it a shot, and leave when you're no longer growing/being trained/the comp. isn't worth the lifestyle, etc. That might happen after 6 months, it might happen after 2 years or it might happen after 7.

Oh, and when making long term plans about what careers/cities you want (I'm pretty sure you're predicting at 29 that at about 34 you want to live in DC practicing first amendment law), keep in mind you might learn something new, realize you're awesome at something you hadn't tried before, meet someone and fall in love, be given a ridiculous opportunity at just the right time, etc. I think it's worth a lot to have yourself set up to be able to take advantage of those things, while still heading in your intended direction.

Those are the tidbits of advice I'd give to myself before law school.
This response is completely, 100%, totally right.

PFInterest
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by PFInterest » Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:20 pm

Moolala wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:43 pm
Hi everyone,

Thanks in part to great Boglehead advice, I applied to and was accepted by seven of the top 14 law schools. I have received great scholarship offers but am having a hard time making a choice. Based on the information below, what would you advise?

Career plans:
I'm not too interested in BigLaw, but can see myself working there for about two years. My real hope is to end up working in a niche field in DC (first amendment law, campaign law, etc.).

Options — all listed with three-year scholarship amounts:
University of Chicago — $45,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $245,000)
UPenn — waiting on scholarship information.
University of Virginia — $105,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $135,000)
Northwestern — $90,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $155,000)
Duke — $75,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $165,000)
Cornell — $120,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $120,000)
Georgetown — $120,000 (total cost for me after scholarship: $125,000)

I'm also on the Harvard waitlist. :happy

Outside of the T14, I also have full tuition scholarships from a few schools I would be willing to consider, including Notre Dame, Emory, Boston University, and a T60-70 regional school (I could live at home, making the total cost of attendance zero).

Assets:
I have about $25,000 in cash (which I plan to spend) and $50,000 in tax-advantaged retirement accounts (which I plan to save). My parents are generously willing to pay $25,000 and lend me about $80,000 in no-interest loans. (I plan to pay them back as quickly as I can.)

The University of Chicago is hard to pass up, but based on my interests, it seems to me like UVA is my best bet. Is there anything I'm missing here?

My prior thread, for reference, is here: viewtopic.php?t=235598
only top 10 matter. dont look anywhere else. even biglaw for 2 years is important. its where you meet people who know other people.

cantos
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by cantos » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:12 pm

I have found the book, Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs, to be 100% on the mark, and you may find it helpful.

Pedigree matters. If it was me, I'd choose the absolute best school I could get into - so U Chicago.

https://www.amazon.ca/Pedigree-How-Elit ... 0691169276

Casey Ryback
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Casey Ryback » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:24 pm

I would go to the most reputable school to which you receive a full ride. Finish in the very top of the class. There are plenty of people graduating the T14 with less than impressive prospects.

Valuethinker
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:55 am

HAF-VA wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:45 am
As a UVA Law grad, I'm biased. But for practicing in DC after graduation, Virginia is great. All the top DC firms will recruit there. And living in Charlottesville for three years will be a nice break before you have to deal with the traffic of DC. I just moved back to Charlottesville after a 30 year career to retire early here.
I attended a course for mid career people at UVA. (I am not a lawyer).

Many of them were UVA law grads.

An impressive bunch, almost universally.

I think the advice about Harvard is universal and probably correct.

Valuethinker
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:59 am

cantos wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:12 pm
I have found the book, Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs, to be 100% on the mark, and you may find it helpful.

Pedigree matters. If it was me, I'd choose the absolute best school I could get into - so U Chicago.

https://www.amazon.ca/Pedigree-How-Elit ... 0691169276
I think though that book makes a point about social capital? We hire in our own image?

U Chicago sounds, like the university itself, very hard work, very "nerdy". My guess is if you want to teach law, it's not a bad place to start? They were the home of Law & Economics as a discipline-- although that aspect of legal academia seems to have declined in the last 25 years? Probably Law & Economics at its peak about 1985-90?

UVA is geographically closer to the OP's eventual destination, and probably has a pretty good culture. Your classmates will be your future peer group.

Also in terms of hiring, Chicago grads will hire in their image - intense, academic in focus? UVA sends a signal of a more rounded individual?

Cruise
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Cruise » Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:58 am

Congratulations on your success in the application phase. Now comes the decision phase.

Hopefully you find law school and law practice to be stimulating and a good fit. Are you aware that there is a significant percentage of law students who hate school, and that lawyers are a professional group with high rates of depression and suicide? I mention these facts because it is important that you find a school that fits your learning style and filled with students and and faculty who will inspire you.

Please take the advice to visit your top choices, meet with faculty, staff, and students, and determine which school best inspires you. If that ain’t Harvard, or any of the others, don’t look back.

Good luck in your decision.

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