Help me choose a top law school!

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cantos
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by cantos » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:41 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:59 am

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?
Kinda sorta. It says pedigree matters. A U Chicago grad likely comes from a high income family and has the attitudes, conversational style, and personal history aligned with Biglaw lawyers. Depending on the lawyer you talk to, a certain snobbery will be attached to the school at the hiring phase - you are on the "inside" should you meet a lawyer who feels Chicago is part of the pedigree story. (You might be surprised how much it does)

UVA is a fine choice. That said, your non lawyer experience about meeting mid career grads at an event is not representative. Self selecting group.

I don't think there's any argument U Chicago is the best on the list. Good points have been made about schools getting bump-ups from cities nearby. However, I agree w the pedigree book's findings and the fact that 50% or so of my fellow law school mates went into law with one intention and out with a completely different intention. While I believe OP is sincere and enthusiastic about practicing in DC, life experience taught me such early directions can be changed. If it was me - and of course it is not - I would hedge by going to the best law school available.

(If I was to REALLY give advice I'd say think hard about going into law. Law is a tough, tough, career these days. And the future of law is uncertain as well.)
Last edited by cantos on Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:01 am, edited 4 times in total.

3funder
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by 3funder » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:42 am

I'd say UVA, but they're all fantastic schools.

retire14
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by retire14 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:53 am

As an alum of UVA and father of a daughter who is applying to UVA Law, UVA is the obvious choice. Wahoowa! But seriously, you are obviously very capable and you cannot go wrong with any of the top law schools. You will do well regardless. Congratulations and best of luck!

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

Post by Nearly A Moose » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:22 am

OP, just sent you a PM with some additional thoughts. One last factor, as you're considering the total out of pocket cost. The difference between the total cost to you for Chicago versus everything else is significant. My wife and I collectively had about as much student debt as you would at one of the non-Chicago options, and while it certainly wasn't crippling on a Big Law salary, I was extremely happy from a cashflow and psychological perspective to get it paid off last year. I'm also quite glad that I don't have to pay that amount off twice. DC (and other major legal markets) are expensive places to live, and when you work 50-60 hours a week, there are things you simply have to pay to outsource. So that cost difference ain't nothing. But I wouldn't worry too much about a $5k-$15k difference over three years.

Again, as others have said, you have great options and really can't make a wrong decision. Best of luck!
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

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SecretAsianMan
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by SecretAsianMan » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:56 am

Full disclosure: I am a UChicago grad.

For regular corporate, gov't, and PI jobs, schools ranked 4-12 are going to be roughly equivalent for job prospects. There is some dropoff for the very upper reaches of those jobs and clerkships, but not a ton. You see a lot of Georgetown grads around, but that's as more of a factor of giant class sizes than of equal opportunities. There will be more competition there. Don't go to Notre Dame, Emory, BU, or a regional school since you have significant T14 scholarships. You can certainly be successful coming out of those schools, but you would be under pressure to perform in order to have access to the same opportunities that flow like water at T14 schools as long as you're not at the bottom of the class. For example, in my biglaw class every T14 was well represented while there was only a sprinkling of T30.

Given that information, I think it's a no-brainer to go to UVa since it's the cheapest of the 4-12 bunch and has great access to clerkships and the DC market. UChicago is not worth $110,000 more than UVa in any universe. A few things to note...

1) Within that 4-12 range, pay A LOT of attention to cost. I was lucky enough to get a full ride to UChicago, so after 5 years I was able to change careers (liked law school, didn't like the practice of law so much) and had enough money to pay for another year of grad school, the downpayment for a home in a VHCOL area, and have a nice chunk of retirement savings left over. I have friends whose net worth was just getting back to zero after 5 years of working in biglaw. There is a lot to be said for giving yourself that flexibility. I still wouldn't go to ND, BU, or others for free vs. T14 at half price, though, because you are unnecessarily limiting your options geographically and job-wise unless you are close to the top of those classes.

2) The odds you end up going into something like 1st Amendment law is vanishingly small. Declaring such intentions when you arrive on campus will draw a knowing smirk from 3Ls. Such jobs are in very short supply and generally require sparkling resumes, including a high ranking at a top school, a prestigious clerkship, and getting hired at a boutique DC firm, with perhaps a prestigious government job or two thrown in there for good measure. That's great if that's your goal and I have former classmates who have their dream jobs (e.g., one is chief of staff to a senator while still in his early 30s, a few others parlayed Supreme Court and top-tier federal clerkships into practicing constitutional law), but they were rockstars and I would be realistic about the odds of it coming true. In the end, almost everyone ends up in biglaw before fanning out to a wide variety of jobs and other careers, few of which are probably as interesting as what they dreamed of going in to law school.

3)As for culture, UVa and UChicago are noticeably more conservative than every other T14 (that may be good, bad, or neutral depending on your point of view). Conservatives are still outnumbered by liberals at both, but there is a difference between their culture and that of other schools. There was still lots of good rapport and bonhomie at UChicago regardless of political affiliation, however, and of the (admittedly few) conservative friends I have, most date from that time.

4) If you go to UVa, practice popping those collars! :wink:

As an aside, and despite the fact I think it should be near the bottom of your list, I feel the need to defend UChicago from all the hate on this thread :annoyed

1) After working with graduates from every school imaginable, I didn't find UChicago students to be any weirder than others (of course, perhaps my own weirdness prevented me from seeing it...). I came from a very typical undergrad atmosphere (not-highly-ranked state school more concerned with football than academics) and probably spent more time at rugby parties than studying, so I'd like to think I'm well-equipped to judge UChicago on this metric. I think this misconception is more a product of confirmation bias than reality.

2) Although everyone does joke about it being "where fun goes to die," I doubt the experience is any different than any other school. That basically means a really stressful first year followed by an easy last two years full of interesting seminars and whatever classes interest you. I think both the weirdness and fun thing are more applicable to the undergrads than the professional schools.

Good luck making your decision! You have some great options!

BigLaw Survivor
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by BigLaw Survivor » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:59 am

I graduated at the very top of my class from one of the schools that has offered you a full ride. From there I landed a prestigious federal court of appeals clerkship and then a job with one of the best firms in DC, where I eventually made partner and then retired early. I've been out of the law business for three years now and couldn't be happier.

I'm not going to try and dissuade you from going to law school because clearly your mind is already made up. I'm also going to have to agree with others who are advising you to go with T14 even though you have full ride offers from very good schools falling just below them. My thinking is simple: it's absolutely the case that a top graduate from any of those schools will have equal or better opportunities than all but the top T14 graduates. I'm living proof of that. The problem is that there are no guarantees that you will be a top graduate if you go to one of those schools even though your numbers going in are high enough to lead them to offer you a full ride. How things actually shake up in law school is really a crap shoot. Some of the smartest students in my class, with numbers much higher than mine, ended up only doing so-so . . .

My bottom line is that if you really must insist on going to law school, I'd go to U-Va. Not only does U-Va make the most sense financially, outside of Harvard/Yale/Stanford, it's probably the most highly respected law school in DC. It's definitely more highly regarded than either Duke or Georgetown.

vk8216
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by vk8216 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:12 am

I went to the University of Chicago Law School and some of the best things in my life came from that school including a great job, a wonderful spouse and great friends. It is a more academic and nerdier school (I went to a big state school for undergrad so it was very different from my undergrad experience) but I agree with the other posters that prestige matters and unless you get into Harvard, Yale or Stanford, I would pick Chicago. You would probably have more fun going to law school at UVA but I think the value of a Chicago education is worth it. It may cost you more money but it will pay out in dividends throughout your life. My classmates have gone on to be federal judges, professors, biglaw partners and successful general counsels. I would also pay attention to the size of law school classes. Georgetown has 600 students per class so law firms have many more people to look at from Georgetown than a school like Chicago with 180 people per class. I also work in DC and Chicago grads have ZERO problem getting hired in DC because a small percentage of the class interviews here so they end up with many biglaw offers. Good luck with your decision. These are very good problems to have :)

BigLaw Survivor
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by BigLaw Survivor » Sat Apr 14, 2018 12:14 am

Respectfully, there is nothing that the previous poster said about Chicago that wouldn't also apply to U-Va . . .

Cash
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Cash » Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:40 pm

I agree with the others in recommending UVA, but be aware that they have an odd OCI process to be as highly ranked as they are. I forget the specifics, but I believe employers are allowed to choose which students to interview. At my t-14 school, employers had to interview everyone who got a slot (there was a lottery system based on student preference for high-demand employers). So that hurts students in the bottom half of the class. Nevertheless, pretty much everyone can get a biglaw job, but lower-ranked students might not be considered for the most selective employers.

Moolala
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Moolala » Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:08 am

Thank you everyone for your insights! I’ve learned so much from each and every one of you.
I’ve decided on UVA! :sharebeer

markesquire
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by markesquire » Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:38 pm

Congratulations. Perhaps I'm too late to the conversation, but I'll offer a less conventional perspective.

Instead of going into six-figure debt at a T20 school, I accepted a full ride scholarship at a mid-tier school that provided a stipend for living expenses, which means I made money going to law school. I read the same cases, learned the same rules, outlined and memorized the same content, and ultimately, passed the same bar exam(s) as my friends attending top schools. Like most people, I quickly found that I hated law-firm life, but unlike most people, I was completely free to do something else. I now work in D.C., surrounded by colleagues from Ivy League schools, but I'm able to invest and own a home while others are still paying toward student loans. It's not a common path, but it worked well for me, and I think it should at least be on the radar for people considering different schools.

DidItMyWay
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by DidItMyWay » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:21 pm

Moolala wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:08 am
Thank you everyone for your insights! I’ve learned so much from each and every one of you.
I’ve decided on UVA! :sharebeer
Am late seeing this and replying, but wanted to say congrats on the many great options! I'm sure you will be successful at UVA.

fantasytensai
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by fantasytensai » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:36 pm

markesquire wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:38 pm
Congratulations. Perhaps I'm too late to the conversation, but I'll offer a less conventional perspective.

Instead of going into six-figure debt at a T20 school, I accepted a full ride scholarship at a mid-tier school that provided a stipend for living expenses, which means I made money going to law school. I read the same cases, learned the same rules, outlined and memorized the same content, and ultimately, passed the same bar exam(s) as my friends attending top schools. Like most people, I quickly found that I hated law-firm life, but unlike most people, I was completely free to do something else. I now work in D.C., surrounded by colleagues from Ivy League schools, but I'm able to invest and own a home while others are still paying toward student loans. It's not a common path, but it worked well for me, and I think it should at least be on the radar for people considering different schools.
That is a dangerous advice. I'm glad it worked out for you. But I would not bet on replicating those results. In the legal industry, prestige matters too much. It shouldn't. But it is.

DouroBound
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by DouroBound » Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:48 pm

Congrats. Great to have so many good options.

My two cents as a former big-law lawyer who shifted relatively early in my career into a somewhat "unconventional" career in international development and policy. Law school for me was the first time I really understood the range of opportunities available to me. My plans going into school (big law/lots of $) gradually changed through my interactions with amazing classmates who had jobs both before and after law school that I never could have conceived of prior to going. So I would guard against the potential for your career plans to change.

Having done recruiting for my law firm, I second "simple man" that students in the top 10% from Notre Dame (or similarly ranked schools) are very attractive to, and successful in, big law. Extremely hard workers, ambitious, smart, etc. If I needed a lawyer for myself, no question that's what I'd look for first. Having also done recruiting for an international NGO with a dynamic legal team, I can also say that I didn't see too many 10% Notre Dame lawyers apply for a job on my team ... I mostly saw (and thus hired) lawyers and students from a few elite schools, all of whom had followed unconventional paths compared to typical big law.

As others have said, prestige matters in law; I would argue that it matters even more if you want to use your law degree for a highly competitive job outside the mainstream. This is as much for the people you'll meet and the perspective you'll get as for the name on your resume.

DouroBound
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by DouroBound » Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:09 pm

Moolala wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:08 am
Thank you everyone for your insights! I’ve learned so much from each and every one of you.
I’ve decided on UVA! :sharebeer
I missed this before posting my two cents, so all my brilliant insights are for naught (haha). Anyway, congrats ... good choice.

Moolala
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Re: Help me choose a top law school!

Post by Moolala » Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:55 pm

DouroBound wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:09 pm
I missed this before posting my two cents, so all my brilliant insights are for naught (haha). Anyway, congrats ... good choice.
Not for naught! Thank you for your response. I'm learning a lot from all of these replies and really appreciate the perspective.

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