Help with law school decision

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Tonygis
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Help with law school decision

Post by Tonygis » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:23 pm

My daughter has a few options regarding her choice of law schools. I’ll list the schools and the estimated out of pocket expenses for the 3 years.
Notre Dame 154k
Emory 100k
Arizona St. 98k
Univ of Iowa 56k
Wake Forest 70k
Univ of Fla. 56k
Wash & Lee 96k
William &Mary 76k
She is waitlisted at University of Virginia
Awaiting decisions from Duke and University of Texas at Austin
She was originally leaning towards Iowa because of her research that unless you attend a top 14 school it is not worth it to go into more debt. However on examining Notre Dame it seems that they are a nationally recognized school and have a great alumni network. Also we live in Phoenix so Arizona State is in consideration because obviously the logistics would be easier.
Any insight into this decision would be appreciated.

BarbBrooklyn
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by BarbBrooklyn » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:27 pm

Where is her undergrad degree from?

How much student debt does she have now?

Has she been out of school for a couple of years, worked and wants to go to law school because there is an area of the law shes interested in? Or is she going straight from undergrad to law school?
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."

miamivice
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by miamivice » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:30 pm

BarbBrooklyn wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:27 pm
Where is her undergrad degree from?

How much student debt does she have now?

Has she been out of school for a couple of years, worked and wants to go to law school because there is an area of the law shes interested in? Or is she going straight from undergrad to law school?
None of those questions are relevant to the ops question.

Topic Author
Tonygis
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Tonygis » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:33 pm

She is graduating in May from one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
30k in debt now..however I might take care of that.

TallBoy29er
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by TallBoy29er » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:33 pm

^^ The third question is absolutely on point.

Any idea where she wants to practice once she gets out? Some law schools are well known in their respective geographic areas, but no so much outside of their region. That should be a consideration as well. For places like UVA, Emory, Duke, etc., they are more well known, and that is less of a consideration in the decision.

Topic Author
Tonygis
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Tonygis » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:38 pm

She would prefer a warmer climate. She thinks Notre Dame or Emory would give her more choices nationwide.

BarbBrooklyn
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by BarbBrooklyn » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:50 pm

I was going to ask about climate, lol.

I'd lean towards Emory or ASU, based on ranking, name recognition and price combined. I'm hoping you get more responses from folks who've been to law school at these places.

I know far too many unhappy lawyers who were casting about for the next step after undergrad and seemed to think that law school was the answer. They ended up with crushing debt, 18 hour days and alcohol problems. Has she interned at law firms during summers?
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."

J295
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by J295 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:02 pm

In my experience (retired partner from mid-sized middle america firm with two in-laws practicing at Big Law) ......

If she's top of her class with superior undergraduate grades and superior LSAT scores she will have opportunities at many law firms. If that's not the case then with the schools on her list it will be a rougher sledding in competing with graduates from the "Top 14."

We have one Notre Dame undergraduate degree in the family and indeed they have a very strong alumni network. Assume same is true for their law school. South Bend is indeed a college town (not like going to school in Boston).

So, given that I'd lean to either (a) a school in a state where she is likely to practice (assuming that a good share of the local hiring attorneys will be alums of this school), or (b) Notre Dame (assumed strong alumni network and name recognition).

Hasten to add ... if she's not top of her class she may still be an outstanding lawyer. I know many lawyers who were not top of their class but are fantastic lawyers. It's just tougher to get hired absent a strong record or a top tier degree in my experience (or specialized knowledge or experience ... say science background for patent work, agency work for environmental, SEC, etc.).

Just my perceptions -- I'll be curious to hear what the recent law school grads have to share. Best of luck to your daughter.

samsdad
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by samsdad » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:18 pm

She needs to think of where she wants to practice, what she wants to practice, and who she wants to practice with before thinking about where she wants to go to school.

Is she trying for biglaw, with $160k-ish starting salaries? Does she like working about 2200 hours+ per year? For years on end?

Or is she preferring to go to small-law? Where billable-hour requirements are more in the 1800/year range but the salaries are less too?

Does she want to be an asst. DA, or a criminal-defense attorney?

Does she want to work in a company as in-house counsel?

Has she ever shadowed any attorney for a day? For a week? Has she even stepped foot in a law office or sat in a court house for a day, or a week?

The life of a lawyer is very, very different from what the public thinks it is. It isn’t dressing up fancy and heading to court to have everyone think you’re the cat’s meow every day and thanking you for saving the world like some of these shows make it out to be. For most civil litigators, esp. when you’re younger for example, most of your life is spent in front of a computer. And instead of saving the world, you’re typically making (or costing) someone money. It’s almost always money. Does she want to be in an office sitting in front of a computer all day?

Whereas, for most asst. DAs, a lot of time is spent carrying four feet of boxes into court and talking with judges, opposing counsel, pro se defendants (i.e. upset members of the public) for half the day, and reading police reports, evidence, and looking at sometimes ugly things. Really ugly. Does she enjoy public speaking? Does she mind blood and guts? Or harrowing stories of someone else’s misfortune?

I’d think about why she wants to go to law school first. There’s about 500 million other ways to make a living that are easier.

Then I’d think about where she wants to live. Many people who graduate from law school aren’t practicing anymore after five years. I think the stats are about 50% aren’t. She’d be better off living somewhere where she likes than not if in five years she’s no longer practicing law.

After that, I’d think about what she wants to do. See above.

Then I’d look up everybody that does that type of law in the area on the internet and see where they graduated from. Then I’d start calling them. See if she can convince one or more of them to join her for lunch and interview them.

I wish I had done most of these things before going to law school 20 years ago.

I thank God every day that I don’t have to practice law anymore to put food on the table.

Those federal loans are still around however. I’d go to the cheapest school that met my needs if I were her.

RedCedar14
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by RedCedar14 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:18 pm

Fiance is graduating from ND law this year and will be headed to a big law job in Minneapolis afterwards. The sense I get from talking with her is that ND typically punches above their "rank weight" because of their the strong alum network. This isn't to say she will automatically get a job wherever she wants, but rather any city she wants to end up in there will at least be an enthusiastic individual willing to have an initial coffee/lunch with her.

A lot of the decision comes down to what market does she want to end up in. If she's unsure, ND is a great option because every door will still be open. I won't comment on the other schools listed, because frankly i don't know.

While the sticker price is high at ND, please encourage your daughter to negotiate a higher scholarship. I'm guessing she would have at least gotten some scholarship, but she can certainly get more by asking. My fiance ended up with about about 75% scholarship with decent LSAT scores and a good state school GPA (Go Green!). Then she worked her ass of her first year which opened all of the big law doors.

miamivice
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by miamivice » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:52 pm

I really can't imagine that the ROI of spending $150k on one school versus $54k on another school will ever pay off. The sunk cost from Day 0 is a huge hurdle to overcome, even if she has a slightly larger starting salary with a degree from the expensive school.

bernoulli
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by bernoulli » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:55 pm

I agree with almost everything everyone says here, especially "samsdad" and the retired partner. Things I'd add to their comments:

The business of law practice is divided based on state and federal. In my exclusively federal practice, I have met one lawyer from Emory but none from the other schools listed. To me, Emory seems to have better name recognition - at least based on my experience in federal practice working with lawyers from across the US.

The business of law is divided based on civil and criminal matters. Criminal law attorneys have been observed to be happier with their jobs - relatively. But whether you are in the public sector (DA's office, public defender) or in the private sector ("call this number when you need defense for your DUI"), you are unlikely to make the "big law" salary. Civil law attorneys are divided into corporate and litigation - this is something a law student will need to decide very quickly. After the first year of law school, unless you are set to practice criminal law, you typically apply for a summer associate position with law firms and that summer associate position is a strong indicator of whether you will be a litigator or a corporate attorney.

A civil litigator's life can be lucrative but short. I know many good litigators who made a lot of money early on and got burned out and left the practice in their 30s and 40s. Let me emphasize that to the extent that civil litigators at big law firms make good money, the firm/client owns you, every minute of your life for that money.

A corporate attorney's life is also generally lucrative but it is very different from what "practicing law" is portrayed in popular culture. You make deals happen. Mergers and acquisition, SEC filings, etc. You will likely never see the inside of a courtroom (but you will see many board rooms), never appear before a judge, never make any arguments in court, never write a brief, never depose a witness. I'd also add, very rarely would you feel like you are helping anyone - you are helping with mergers and acquisitions of mega corporations after all.

If a young person has a concrete idea as to which of the paths in law she'd like to pursue, then choose the school with the strongest program in that area. For example, if she is leaning towards criminal law, then choose the state in which she wants to practice criminal law and go to that school. Local roots (peers, judges, DA etc.) is essential to the success of a criminal law career. If she is not into criminal law and if civil litigation appeals to her, go to the school with the best recognition and also with the strongest emphasis on litigation. If corporate law interests her, I'd suggest going to the school in a city with the most commercial activity - Atlanta would be near the top of the current list; William and Mary might also work for its proximity to NYC and DC and it is reputable at least in that part of the country. Another option is to be a law professor, if that appeals to her, go to the highest ranked law school on US News and World Report.

And lastly, congratulations on being accepted and having lots of options!

4nwestsaylng
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:07 pm

A decade ago, liberal arts grads thought law school was the answer. They watched "L.A. Law", "Suits", etc.

It is usually not the answer. Be sure that she really wants it, not you.

petulant
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by petulant » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:08 pm

Agree with the law school alums posting above--it would be helpful if she had an idea what she wanted to do specifically. I would also advise taking on less debt and rethinking the whole thing unless there's a very specific purpose for going to law school.

mcraepat9
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by mcraepat9 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:22 pm

Do not go to law school.
Amateur investors are not cool-headed logicians.

MoneyBlawg
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by MoneyBlawg » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:56 pm

When I did recruiting for my Biglaw firm, law school ranking mattered in terms of (1) whether my firm would recruit there and (2) how far down in the class we would consider candidates. For the latter, the lower ranked the school, the higher your grades/class rank needed to be to get an interview. It was an imperfect system, but that's how the firm did triage. Out of your daughter's list, UVA, Duke and UT-Austin (and maybe ND) probably send the most graduates to jobs throughout the country as opposed to a concentrated region. If your daughter were looking to practice in Arizona, which it sounds like she may given your warm weather comment, I would definitely pick ASU over the others - just the connections with classmates, professors, local externships, alumni, etc. will provide a huge leg up for her career.

Valjean
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Valjean » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:58 pm

The OP’s daughter really should consider taking 2+ years off before going to law school. She would be a better candidate, have real-world experience to relate to her law school classes, and have better job prospects when she graduates. Students who go straight from college to law have a hard time differentiating themselves from all their classmates.

PowderDay9
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by PowderDay9 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:59 pm

It's much better to finish at the top of your class at a state school than middle at a top tier school. I went to Notre Dame and wouldn't recommend their law school. South Bend is a college town but is very focused on undergrad and grad student life is a very different experience. You mentioned warm weather. Have you ever been to South Bend between October and April? It's very cold, windy, and you often don't see the sun for weeks.

I'd suggest a lower cost state school in an area of the country that she eventually wants to work. My brother went to a state law school, graduated top 5% of his class, got a job at a big firm and is 7 years in making over $300k. I know many ND grads who were middle of their class but making much less. I think middle of ND could be top of most state schools. You're competing against some of the smartest people at the top schools. Most of the undergrads at ND don't even bother applying to law school there. Florida is a great law school that I had multiple friends attend and go onto very successful careers. I've also seen many law school graduates switch careers but I'm assuming your daughter has explored law and is dedicated to pursuing it.

Minty
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Minty » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:03 pm

These are great options, and if for programmatic or personal reasons she had her heart set on any of these schools, I don't think there is a bad choice among them. I think the key considerations are:

1. Does she have an idea why she wants to go to law school?

2. Is this strictly financial/ROI decision, or are parental subsidies available?

Of the schools on the list, all other things being equal, ND's reputation will open the most doors, so if cost is not a consideration, go there. Yet I doubt that the difference will be worth 100K more than Iowa if she winds up working in government somewhere. There is also the possibility of transferring.
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4nwestsaylng
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:05 pm

Valjean wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:58 pm
The OP’s daughter really should consider taking 2+ years off before going to law school. She would be a better candidate, have real-world experience to relate to her law school classes, and have better job prospects when she graduates. Students who go straight from college to law have a hard time differentiating themselves from all their classmates.
I think this is the best advice.If she is interested in criminal law, work a year or two in criminal justice, eg. as a secretary in the public defender's office, it is like being the "fly on the wall". If corporate, work in a corporate law office, not as the lawyer, but again, the "fly on the wall" secretary. Or do something like the Peace Corps, or a non profit. But again, she does it because she wants to, not because it looks like a good resume enhancer for that final push to law school or whatever. Take two years off, do something different; the maturity will show later, she will have more dimension, whether in law school or something else.

The "career" is not the answer to life. It is only a part of life. Unfortunately most of us don't learn that until mid-life.It is amazing how the world gets along just fine without you when you are no longer in the "career :D

ohai
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by ohai » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:34 pm

mcraepat9 wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:22 pm
Do not go to law school.
Underrated comment... the worst thing about law is the billable hours requirement. No matter what you do, it will suck your life, and NPV after considering all things, is likely not better than just getting a job. There's very little upside as well, as everyone is paid the same salary and bonus for like 10 years. Anyway, I don't think that's what people want to hear.

I agree that taking time off to work is a big advantage. When you are applying for law firm jobs, there is demand for people with some professional background. For instance, special recruiters will come for people backgrounds in accounting (for tax), engineering and science (for IP), finance (for compliance or M&A), and so on. You'll also likely get into a better law school, as you will be able to submit a more convincing application based on your background.

To OP's list - I advise that you choose the highest ranked school on the list. If daughter is committed and successful in any way, she should be able to pay back the extra $50k you'd spend quite easily over a couple of years.

Minty
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Minty » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:45 pm

4nwestsaylng wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:05 pm
Valjean wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:58 pm
The OP’s daughter really should consider taking 2+ years off before going to law school. She would be a better candidate, have real-world experience to relate to her law school classes, and have better job prospects when she graduates. Students who go straight from college to law have a hard time differentiating themselves from all their classmates.
I think this is the best advice.
If anyone has research on this, I'd love to see it. In my experience, though, the real question is whether a student is ready to commit to a challenging program. Some of my most outstanding students came straight through, others took time off. All of them were ready to focus and engage. In terms of admissions, work experience at a D.A.'s office or something will be of marginal interest at top 40 schools in the ordinary case, although tremendously useful if it lets a student know they are (or are not) interested in law.
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supalong52
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by supalong52 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:39 am

It would help to know what she wants out of her law degree. Not to be a snob, but I didn't know most of those schools even had law programs, except ASU and Emory.

Philip_Marlowe
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Philip_Marlowe » Tue Mar 26, 2019 2:40 am

Tonygis wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:23 pm
Notre Dame 154k
Emory 100k
Arizona St. 98k
Univ of Iowa 56k
Wake Forest 70k
Univ of Fla. 56k
Wash & Lee 96k
William &Mary 76k
She is waitlisted at University of Virginia
Awaiting decisions from Duke and University of Texas at Austin
Mid level big law associate here, if she is interested in biglaw I’d say UVA, Duke or UT if she gets in but otherwise would defer a year and reapply. Plenty of people get biglaw from ND but not enough to make it worth the $150k. When it comes to getting biglaw the biggest factor is how many firms come to on campus interviewing and ND doesn’t draw nearly as many as a T14 school would. None of the others are even close to worth it if she wants biglaw.

Taking a year off is actually a great asset when applying (and for some schools like Northwestern it’s practically a requirement), schools have another data point to look at, she’ll have time to retake the LSAT (which she should unless she got a score in the 170s) and she’ll have time to make sure law is what she really wants to do. For biglaw the hiring is based entirely on first year grades and the placement rates of different schools is enormous. The lifestyle can be brutal at times but the financial rewards (starting salary is $190k plus bonus and you earn more every year) are huge and the training is unparalleled.

Ragnoth
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Ragnoth » Tue Mar 26, 2019 2:50 am

My usual advice it to avoid law school entirely unless you are in a T-14 school, or have some special guaranteed job waiting for you. I also wouldn’t recommend paying full price unless you are in the top ~5 or so schools. Lawyering can be a brutal and thankless profession with high burnout rates—and the starting salaries are dismal if you can’t land a big law position.

There are exceptions. But I would take a cold hard look at the average job placement rates and salaries for graduates of these schools (this is normally available online), and take stock realistically if you are going to stand out from your class.

With a gun to my head, I might take Iowa over Notre Dame just to be $100k in less debt. But at this point I would either start negotiating the ND scholarship or keep my fingers crossed for Virginia/Duke.

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galawdawg
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by galawdawg » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:14 am

I echo the comments of samsdad above. Your daughter will find the practice of law much more satisfying if she has thought through how she plans to use her law degree. That should help her decide what law school is the best fit for her. If her passion is public service or public interest law, it makes little sense to incur $100k+ in student loan debt to practice in a field whose income cannot support such a debt burden.

MDfan
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by MDfan » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:29 am

TallBoy29er wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:33 pm
^^ The third question is absolutely on point.

Any idea where she wants to practice once she gets out? Some law schools are well known in their respective geographic areas, but no so much outside of their region. That should be a consideration as well. For places like UVA, Emory, Duke, etc., they are more well known, and that is less of a consideration in the decision.
I think this is the right answer. If she has a general idea of where she wants to practice/live, that would help the decision. I grew up in in MD and had a choice between attending law school at Univ. of MD, and schools like GW and Georgetown. I knew I wanted to be in the Baltimore area after law school, had zero interest in "big law,' and ended up choosing UM because of geography and cost. Came out with minimal loans, got a good job with a decent-sized regional firm in Baltimore, and stayed there for about five years before taking an in-house job in my field. Then transitioned to a fed position to spend more time with family when my kids were growing up. Have not regretted it one bit although I certainly could've made more $ in private sector. But I haven't worked a weekend in 15 years.

You said she prefers warm weather so If she thinks she wants to stay in Arizona, I'd go for ASU. if Florida is where she wants to live, I'd seriously consider UF over an expensive school like Notre Dame.

ModifiedDuration
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by ModifiedDuration » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:33 am

There is a big difference in job placement stats between ND and Iowa.

ND has almost half the class go into Big Law (if you define Big Law as a firm with more than 100 lawyers), while Iowa has a little over 10% going into Big Law.

On the flip side of that, Iowa has a much higher percentage of its class going into smaller law firms than ND does (about 40% vs. about 15%).

Also, about 40% of Iowa’s class stays in Iowa after graduation, while the most common states for ND graduates to end up is Illinois and California (with less than 10% of the class remaining in Indiana).

https://law.nd.edu/assets/302516/class_ ... ummary.pdf

https://law.uiowa.edu/sites/law.uiowa.e ... -16-54.pdf
Last edited by ModifiedDuration on Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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djpeteski
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by djpeteski » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:55 am

Unless she plans to practice in Florida, I would stay away from University of Florida. In most of Florida, its the equivalent of going to Harvard, but outside the state, not so much. If she does plan to practice here, provided she is a decently north of Miami, then UF is the right choice.

bsteiner
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by bsteiner » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:00 am

ohai wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:34 pm
... When you are applying for law firm jobs, there is demand for people with some professional background. For instance, special recruiters will come for people backgrounds in accounting (for tax) ....
You no more have to be an accountant to be a tax/estates lawyer than you have to be a nurse to be a doctor. We've had a few tax/estates lawyers who were accountants or accounting majors. On average, they were about equal to those who majored in other subjects. Everything else being equal, I would prefer someone who majored in a subject involving more critical thinking and writing, though someone whose verbal score was substantially higher than his/her math score might prefer a different area of law.

staythecourse
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by staythecourse » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:21 am

miamivice wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:30 pm
BarbBrooklyn wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:27 pm
Where is her undergrad degree from?

How much student debt does she have now?

Has she been out of school for a couple of years, worked and wants to go to law school because there is an area of the law shes interested in? Or is she going straight from undergrad to law school?
None of those questions are relevant to the ops question.
I disagree. All are important. Even the OP and daughter know this which is why they commented on it isn't worth going into debt unless you come from a top 14 program AND listed all the prices for each option. The third is likely the most important as it may sway the OP daughter choice. If a school is a leader in her area of interest she may pony up more money to go to it and/ or be willing to move somewhere random to put it on her resume.

My answer is best to go talk to folks in her area of interest in the real world who recently graduated, take them for a coffee, and ask them. What may seem important to us or even an established lawyer may not be important in today's era of being hired.

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

ModifiedDuration
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by ModifiedDuration » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:24 am

My daughter is currently in a Top 3 Law school (and got into 11 T14 law schools).

You would probably be better off going to the Law School Life forum with your post. There are a lot of current applicants and current law students on that forum and responding to a post like yours is their forte:

https://www.lawschool.life/forums/index ... b1ed2e9b9e

It is probably too late for this, but my daughter would definitely recommend, as others already have, getting a couple of years of work experience, which is what she did. In the past 10 years, there has been a major change in how the top law schools view work experience. The top law schools have made it apparent that they prefer work experience and your daughter would also be more mature and better prepared for law school:

https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/ ... applicants

Also, if your daughter were to go that route and she does not have a least a 170 on the LSAT, retake and prepare for the exam for the 6 months prior like it was her job - have a disciplined study program, use one of the online courses, get a tutor - whatever works for her. The difference of just a couple of points on the LSAT can make a big difference in admissions results and merit scholarships.

Also, my daughter would say apply early - by the end of October. Many schools have a form of rolling admission, where the earlier you apply, the earlier you get a decision (and the better your results). She got into one of the T14 in early October and into 4 of them before Thanksgiving.

There is a lot of information available on-line:

The law schools publish Form 509, which has a lot of admissions data (just google “Notre Dame Law 509”):

https://law.nd.edu/assets/302865/std509 ... _57_50.pdf

There is also a lot of self-reported admissions data at Law School Numbers and mylsn:

http://lawschoolnumbers.com

https://mylsn.info/r/pre-law/admissions/search/

Good luck to your daughter, whatever she decides to do!
Last edited by ModifiedDuration on Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

Super Hans
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Super Hans » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:28 am

Having gone straight through from college, I'd strongly advise taking some time off and thinking more on this law business. I raced through school, taking no time off and was the youngest in my law school class. I would've gotten much more out of the experience had I spent even a year or two in the real world. Most of my classmates had taken at least a year away from academia, and a large number spent a year or two as an analyst in an investment bank. I clerked and went to BIGLAW for a few years like basically everybody else, but many additional doors would've been open to me had I spent time at, say, GS and understood things a bit better (e.g., I might have enjoyed a career in a bank instead of hating BIGLAW litigation and petering out into the civil service). If you're coming out of Swarthmore, say, it shouldn't be hard to find an interesting job for a while. Then, if you're still interested in law, reapply with the new perspectives and go to a top school--or something else with a particular pathway in mind.

Chadnudj
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Chadnudj » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:36 am

Tonygis wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:23 pm
My daughter has a few options regarding her choice of law schools. I’ll list the schools and the estimated out of pocket expenses for the 3 years.
Notre Dame 154k
Emory 100k
Arizona St. 98k
Univ of Iowa 56k
Wake Forest 70k
Univ of Fla. 56k
Wash & Lee 96k
William &Mary 76k
She is waitlisted at University of Virginia
Awaiting decisions from Duke and University of Texas at Austin
She was originally leaning towards Iowa because of her research that unless you attend a top 14 school it is not worth it to go into more debt. However on examining Notre Dame it seems that they are a nationally recognized school and have a great alumni network. Also we live in Phoenix so Arizona State is in consideration because obviously the logistics would be easier.
Any insight into this decision would be appreciated.
My two cents:
If she wants to practice nationally (i.e. she doesn't know where she wants to end up after law school in terms of city) go to the best/highest ranked/big name school on the list (that would be Notre Dame on the list you gave, but UVA/Duke/Texas if she gets in to any of them in that order).

If she knows she wants to end up back in Arizona to practice, then absolutely go to the local school (by the same token, if she wants to end up in Atlanta go to Emory, if she wants to be in Miami/Tampa go to Florida, etc.). Generally, a law school will have the most extensive alumni network in/near their location, which will help in finding a post school job, etc. And if she could save money by living at home, all the better.

T14/nationally ranked schools serve those who aren't sure where they want to end up best, and overall are worth it. But if you have a local area you're focused on, you can go to a school in that location and do very well.

EDIT: I'd also echo the other posters suggesting your daughter get a year or so work experience before going to law school. I worked 2 years as a paralegal before going to law school, and it gave me (a) confirmation that law was what I wanted to do, and (b) practical experience that made me a better student and gave me a better understanding of the law.
Last edited by Chadnudj on Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

greenback
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by greenback » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:43 am

samsdad wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:18 pm
Is she trying for biglaw, with $160k-ish starting salaries? Does she like working about 2200 hours+ per year? For years on end?
Thats only 42.5 hours a week? Doesn't sound to demanding.
You shouldn’t retire until your money starts making more money than you made in your best year.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Chadnudj » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:49 am

greenback wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:43 am
samsdad wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:18 pm
Is she trying for biglaw, with $160k-ish starting salaries? Does she like working about 2200 hours+ per year? For years on end?
Thats only 42.5 hours a week? Doesn't sound to demanding.
That's billable hours -- hours you work that a client is actually paying for....which means it doesn't include time spent on pro bono cases, articles, firm marketing, firm meetings, networking, business development, reading the news/keeping up on the law unconnected to a case but relevant to your practice, continuing legal education, commuting to and from work, lunch, water cooler talk with colleagues, vacation time/personal time/sick time, etc. etc.

To bill 42.5 hours per week, you're probably working 60 hour weeks, at minimum.

And even in busy firms, there's no guarantee you'll be given enough work by partners to meet that billable hour requirement (I know plenty of attorneys at busy firms who were in a group with partners that didn't push down enough work to associates, who missed billable hour targets and corresponding bonuses/advancement as a result).

greenback
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by greenback » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:58 am

Chadnudj wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:49 am
greenback wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:43 am
samsdad wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:18 pm
Is she trying for biglaw, with $160k-ish starting salaries? Does she like working about 2200 hours+ per year? For years on end?
Thats only 42.5 hours a week? Doesn't sound to demanding.
That's billable hours -- hours you work that a client is actually paying for....which means it doesn't include time spent on pro bono cases, articles, firm marketing, firm meetings, networking, business development, reading the news/keeping up on the law unconnected to a case but relevant to your practice, continuing legal education, commuting to and from work, lunch, water cooler talk with colleagues, vacation time/personal time/sick time, etc. etc.

To bill 42.5 hours per week, you're probably working 60 hour weeks, at minimum.

And even in busy firms, there's no guarantee you'll be given enough work by partners to meet that billable hour requirement (I know plenty of attorneys at busy firms who were in a group with partners that didn't push down enough work to associates, who missed billable hour targets and corresponding bonuses/advancement as a result).
Thanks for the clarification! Clearly I missed a large piece of it.
You shouldn’t retire until your money starts making more money than you made in your best year.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by apple44 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:24 am

I'm an attorney in big-law for 8 years now, graduated from a top 14 law school, so I may be biased. I'm from the class of 2010, which means I graduated during the deep of the financial crisis, and even from a top 14 law school, we had a hard time finding good paying jobs. The NYTimes even had an article about the class of 2010 -- the lost generation, it called us. Now it's about 10 years after the last recession, and I wouldn't be surprised if another recession is coming.

I agree that getting into a top 14 law school is probably the golden ticket to law practice -- you have a lot more choices and opportunities, and it's arguably worth it to spend $150K for the degree if you go into big law for a few years to pay off that debt, then if you don't like it anymore, you could do something else -- a law degree doesn't hurt. I have many classmates and colleagues who did just that, and then they went off to pursue their passion.

So I would consider the following options:
(1) Go to UVA or Duke if you get in.

(2) If not, take or retake an LSAT prep course, retake the LSAT, get 170+, then apply and go to a top 14 law school. If you have a good enough grade, law schools offer you scholarships. I had a scholarship for half of the expenses and with summer internship (which pays about $30,000 for a summer), I paid off my debt after one year of law practicing. Also, you could negotiate with schools. My law-school boyfriend did just that -- he showed School A the scholarship he got from School B and asked School A to match, and School A did. He practiced for three years in big law, and then quit with a good amount of savings and started to pursue his fiction writing career.

(3) Go to Notre Dame or Emory, and study really really really hard (I mean stop doing anything else kind of studying hard, like your life depends on it kind of studying hard) during the first semester (it's really just four months! buckle up and endure!), and get a super good GPA, and then apply to transfer to a top 14 law school.

(4) If you don't want to commit to one of the above 3 choices, then choose a school that's cheaper and with a network where you might find a job.

I disagree with a few points made:

(1) A few people suggested that having one year off could help distinguish her from her classmates -- No, it won't. In law school application and law firm/clerkship application, the things matter are: Grade, grade, grade, and then other things. Law firms have cut-off grades for different law school, so if you didn't have the grade, you just won't get in. It's that simple.

(2) Some say you should think hard about what law you want to practice and where to practice: that sounds wise, but, to be honest, most people have no idea when they go into law school because you don't know what practicing law is really like, and you could change your mind from year to year, and change your concentration after you join a law firm or clerkship/internship, and I have colleagues who changed their practice after a few years in -- that's all normal. Truth is you don't have to know what law you want to do or where you want to do it. What you need to do is find a school and a market that provides the most opportunities.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by ScroogeMcDuck » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:46 am

apple44 wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:24 am
I'm an attorney in big-law for 8 years now, graduated from a top 14 law school, so I may be biased. I'm from the class of 2010, which means I graduated during the deep of the financial crisis, and even from a top 14 law school, we had a hard time finding good paying jobs. The NYTimes even had an article about the class of 2010 -- the lost generation, it called us. Now it's about 10 years after the last recession, and I wouldn't be surprised if another recession is coming.

I agree that getting into a top 14 law school is probably the golden ticket to law practice -- you have a lot more choices and opportunities, and it's arguably worth it to spend $150K for the degree if you go into big law for a few years to pay off that debt, then if you don't like it anymore, you could do something else -- a law degree doesn't hurt. I have many classmates and colleagues who did just that, and then they went off to pursue their passion.

So I would consider the following options:
(1) Go to UVA or Duke if you get in.

(2) If not, take or retake an LSAT prep course, retake the LSAT, get 170+, then apply and go to a top 14 law school. If you have a good enough grade, law schools offer you scholarships. I had a scholarship for half of the expenses and with summer internship (which pays about $30,000 for a summer), I paid off my debt after one year of law practicing. Also, you could negotiate with schools. My law-school boyfriend did just that -- he showed School A the scholarship he got from School B and asked School A to match, and School A did. He practiced for three years in big law, and then quit with a good amount of savings and started to pursue his fiction writing career.

(3) Go to Notre Dame or Emory, and study really really really hard (I mean stop doing anything else kind of studying hard, like your life depends on it kind of studying hard) during the first semester (it's really just four months! buckle up and endure!), and get a super good GPA, and then apply to transfer to a top 14 law school.

(4) If you don't want to commit to one of the above 3 choices, then choose a school that's cheaper and with a network where you might find a job.

I disagree with a few points made:

(1) A few people suggested that having one year off could help distinguish her from her classmates -- No, it won't. In law school application and law firm/clerkship application, the things matter are: Grade, grade, grade, and then other things. Law firms have cut-off grades for different law school, so if you didn't have the grade, you just won't get in. It's that simple.

(2) Some say you should think hard about what law you want to practice and where to practice: that sounds wise, but, to be honest, most people have no idea when they go into law school because you don't know what practicing law is really like, and you could change your mind from year to year, and change your concentration after you join a law firm or clerkship/internship, and I have colleagues who changed their practice after a few years in -- that's all normal. Truth is you don't have to know what law you want to do or where you want to do it. What you need to do is find a school and a market that provides the most opportunities.
My background is similar to apple44 and I agree with every word of this.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by samsdad » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:54 am

greenback wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:43 am
samsdad wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:18 pm
Is she trying for biglaw, with $160k-ish starting salaries? Does she like working about 2200 hours+ per year? For years on end?
Thats only 42.5 hours a week? Doesn't sound to demanding.
From a 2012 post at Above The Law:
Typical associate chargeable hours in mega firms and large firms are 2,000-2,100 per year. However, the typical associate who is “in the hunt” for partnership – an ambitious-prime-time-player – are likely to bill 2,300-2,400 hours per year. Typical partner hours for the same firms are at the same level — and when one includes the time that partners spend developing business, managing clients, and administering the firm, their total time is typically higher than total time for associates. The message for students: when one becomes a partner, one will work harder. And the best will work harder than that. Tough but true facts that students should understand before they dip their toes in the professional pond of private practice.

Even the best, hardest working and most focused lawyer can’t bill more than 80-85 percent of their time in the office. It’s just not possible. Interestingly the battle to do so does not get easier with age because as you become more senior your administrative distractions (all of the above plus the development of clients and the management of the law firm) become greater.
https://abovethelaw.com/career-files/la ... eal-story/

So, say a laser-focused lawyer can “only” bill 80% of “their time in the office.” Doing some calculations: 8-5 is 9 hours; 9 x 0.8 = 7.2; 7.2 x 5 days = 36 hours/week, or 1872 hours at 52 weeks.

So, let’s try 10 hour days, or 8-6. 10 x 0.8 = 8; 8 x 5 = 40; 40 x 52 = 2080. Still not good enough. I’ll spare you the math: 11-hour days (8am to 7pm) 5 days a week at 80% billing at 52 weeks equals 2288 hours. That’s getting closer and would likely keep you barely in the hunt for biglaw partner.

Keep in mind a few things. Robots and human beings are two different things (despite what the partner might insinuate). The equivalent of 11-hour days, week in and week out, is not sustainable for long periods of time. And, with fatigue comes mistakes—that’s why pilots, truckers, and even the occasional doctor must take time off to recuperate. Do you want your lawyer dog-tired and working on what might be a life-altering case for you? You ever “drift off” when you’re absolutely exhausted? Do you want your lawyer billing you for 2 hours on a task that would’ve taken them 1.5 hours if they had been awake the whole time?

Also keep in mind that this supposed 80% efficiency is highly unrealistic every day. Remember, we are talking billable hours. Not every minute of a lawyer’s day is billable (ethically). There are a myriad of things that a lawyer does that is simply wasted time from a billable-hours perspective. Associate meetings with the partners where the associates are lambasted for not being robotic billing machines are, unfortunately, not billable to a client, for example, but definitely required attendance for the associates.

Some trips to and from various case-related locations aren’t billable because an insurance company says so, and some firms differ on whether the time you “billed,” despite not being paid for, counts for your billable-hour requirements. And, insurance companies nickel-and-dime you by cutting the hours you billed on doing various tasks. Again, firms view these cuts various ways. I could go on and on. Wanna take a two-week “vacation”? Nothing was “vacated,” you simply deferred or pre-packed those hours in before or after your “break.” Remember, we’re talking 11-hour days every single week of the year. Every year. And that’s just to barely make the grade for consideration as a biglaw partner.

I never envied the biglaw folks who were paid 2+ times as much as I was when I was practicing. They worked 2+ times as much as I did. It takes a certain type, and I decided it wasn’t worth it to me. Perhaps OP’s daughter is different.

Think of it this way: $160,000/2288 billed hours is just shy of $70/hour. When looked at with actual “time in the office” the amount of hours spent is actually 2860/year (11 x 5 x 52). $160,000/2860 is about $56/hour. Not bad, but with a regular full-time job (2000 hours) in the “civilian” world as it were, that’s about $112,000/year. I’d take that every day over biglaw associate or, worse, partner.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by montanagirl » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:00 am

mcraepat9 wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:22 pm
Do not go to law school.
If law schools had a screening exam more like the MCAT than the LSAT these things wouldn't happen. 😉

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by galawdawg » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:06 am

samsdad wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:54 am
Think of it this way: $160,000/2288 billed hours is just shy of $70/hour. When looked at with actual “time in the office” the amount of hours spent is actually 2860/year (11 x 5 x 52). $160,000/2860 is about $56/hour. Not bad, but with a regular full-time job (2000 hours) in the “civilian” world as it were, that’s about $112,000/year. I’d take that every day over biglaw associate or, worse, partner.
Not long after graduation, I learned through keeping in touch with some of my law school friends who went on to biglaw that my hourly wage (as a young Assistant DA) was about the same as their hourly wage. They just worked twice as many hours each week. :shock:

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by hirlaw » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:25 am

I agree with everything Apple44 above said. Going to the most prestigious law schools open up doors unavailable to many other law grads. So, I agree with a preference for UVA, Duke and UT, if she gets in. If she goes to other schools, its fine and she can still grab a great job, but grades, important at any school, will become even more important at a lower tier law school to grab a top paying job (think Law Review/top 5-10%).

Top tier firms also have starting salaries near $200k vs. $70k-$80k at smaller firms. So, while loans are a burden, they are more manageable with the higher income. If she ends up hating the big firm life, she can always move to a smaller firm or in-house in a few years. She will be very marketable coming from a major firm.

One negative of a large firm can be building your own client base. You may be representing large corporations and financial institutions who may not follow you to another firm. At a smaller firm, you will be encouraged to develop your own book of business and as you mature as a lawyer those clients become more important than the school you attended.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by c.coyle » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:34 am

Tonygis wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:23 pm
My daughter has a few options regarding her choice of law schools. . . . She was originally leaning towards Iowa because of her research that unless you attend a top 14 school it is not worth it to go into more debt.
I guess that depends on what "worth it" means to her, and what type of practice she envisions. I graduated from Pitt Law in 1979 and retired at the end of 2018. If she is anything like I was when I enrolled, she may think she knows what kind of practice she wants to have, but she probably doesn't. She probably won't have a much better idea when she graduates. I thought I did, but 5 years after getting out I woke up one day and realized that I had gradually slipped into a practice area that I never foresaw in law school.

If she's interested in a prestigious big law firm with big corporate clients (usually in a big metro area), or in some sort of academic setting, the law school probably still makes some difference. If she's interested in general practice in a big or small town, probably not. If she's interested in plaintiff's personal injury, government work, criminal defense, insurance defense, estate planning, prosecution or public defender, or pretty much any kind of small town practice, her legal and marketing ability and her industriousness are likely to mean more than her law school. Some of the sharpest and most successful attorneys I ever practiced with or against went to 3rd and 4th tier law schools.

Small town practice, and "blue collar" practice in big cities are no longer licenses to print money, if they ever were. I enjoyed small town practice, and I got regular chances to actually help deserving people and my community. But, there is no bottomless money well in the office basement.
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apple44
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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by apple44 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:46 am

Also, consider posting your question on this forum or do some digging there (your daughter may already know about this):
http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/index.php

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by ohai » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:48 am

"(1) A few people suggested that having one year off could help distinguish her from her classmates -- No, it won't. In law school application and law firm/clerkship application, the things matter are: Grade, grade, grade, and then other things. Law firms have cut-off grades for different law school, so if you didn't have the grade, you just won't get in. It's that simple. "

It depends. If you're going to take a year to do Peace Corps or travel, that is next to worthless. However, on the other end, I saw someone with 21 interviews with law firms in the time range where you graduated. The difference - engineering MS and work experience. Grade matters for sure, but people who fit this kind of profile are rare and valuable.

Wife had I think 17 big law firm interview invitations and probably 5-6 job offers out of law school. She had natural sciences research background. Grades in law school were "just ok" - maybe 60th to 65th percentile - although this was in a quite selective law school. However, the experience added tangible value and differentiated her from other candidates. A random person could never compete for the same jobs.

So, quality of gap experience is what matters. Law firms care about usable and marketable industry skills, not feel good experience. They are about money in the end.

Of course, all these people are miserable as lawyers. So, maybe that's not a good end to the story.
Last edited by ohai on Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by financiallycurious » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:06 am

Iowa is a good choice in my opinion because there is a strong Iowa alumni network at the top Phoenix firms and she would incur the least amount of debt. Assuming she wants to practice in big law in Phoenix after graduation, as long as she finishes at or near the top 10% of her graduating class and makes law review, she could likely work at any firm in Phoenix.

I am grateful to have made a similar choice in that I did not go to the top rated most expensive law school where I was accepted and as a result I was able to save quite a bit more of my salary than most of my peers starting at 25, and I've always known that I could leave big law at anytime because I do not have any student loan debt and never have.

Many of my friends planned on working in big law their entire life and even loved law school, only to find out big law was not for them, so no matter how excited your daughter is to become a lawyer, this is at least a possibility worth considering when deciding how much to spend on law school.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Weston » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:12 am

c.coyle wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:34 am
Tonygis wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:23 pm
My daughter has a few options regarding her choice of law schools. . . . She was originally leaning towards Iowa because of her research that unless you attend a top 14 school it is not worth it to go into more debt.
... she may think she knows what kind of practice she wants to have, but she probably doesn't. She probably won't have a much better idea when she graduates. I thought I did, but 5 years after getting out I woke up one day and realized that I had gradually slipped into a practice area that I never foresaw in law school.....
Ditto. When I was in law school a friend and I clerked for two civil litigators in a small labor law firm. When we graduated they only had one associate position available and it went to my friend solely because he clerked for the more senior of the partners (unfortunately for him and the firm he flunked the bar on his first try and couldn't start work until almost a year later).

My boss felt so bad about the situation he immediately started hitting the phones in an effort to get me a job. He finally got me a position with a friend of his who did Immigration law. I never took Immigration law in school. Knew nothing about it and never had any intention of practicing it. A couple of years later I apparently had a good enough reputation in the field that I was lecturing on the topic for the Florida Bar and The American Immigration Lawyers Assoc.

Thirty eight years later I'm still practicing in a specialty that wasn't even on my radar, but which has provided me with a lot of satisfaction and a very comfortable lifestyle.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by Jayhawk11 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:15 am

Attorney here.

Of those options, Notre Dame, but be prepared to practice in Chicago not Tucson. If the cold is a dealbreaker, don't got to ND.

Better option: one year work experience, retake the LSAT, get more $$$/off the waitlist.

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Re: Help with law school decision

Post by c.coyle » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:33 am

ohai wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:48 am
. . . Of course, all these people are miserable as lawyers. So, maybe that's not a good end to the story.
:happy
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