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VIETgrlTerifa
10-26-2011, 07:46 AM
Hey everyone! I got my LSAT score yesterday and though it's pretty good/respectable, it's below what I wanted. I decided to register for the December test in hopes to improve my score in order to strengthen my chances at bigger schools or at least increase my chances of receiving financial aid at the schools I have a chance at getting in at the moment.

I've been reading through various websites like

http://www.top-law-schools.com/

and have google searched various key words and was a bit...well, surprised at the amount of negative and "doomsday" type of posts I read on those sources.

Apparently, according to posters on those forums/blogs, law school is not worth attending unless you can get into a top 14 school:

http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html

As of right now, my numbers indicate I can realistically hope for a school from rank 35 down. I have read that anyone else who can't get into one of top 14 schools just shouldn't bother considering the weak job prospects and looming student loan debt I will be incurring. There is also a huge emphasis on getting into biglaw, or a top 250 law firm, which sort of took me aback because what are people to do if they wanted to go into public interest work?

I just wanted to hear from the posters who are knowledgeable about the subject regarding the situation of whether you think law school is simply not worth the investment or if the negative views are simply too pessimistic. Yes, I know the job market is dire and the competition for jobs are cut-throat, but I just want to know if it's as bad as some out there are making it out to be for those outside the Top 14.

The problem is that I seriously want to go to law school and want to be in the legal profession. I also made it hard for myself because I want to be in a school where I have a chance at working in the NYC market, which will mean I'll most likely competing with graduates from Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, etc.

kwanfan1818
10-26-2011, 08:18 AM
I've known a lot of JD/MBAs over the years, and to a person, they all said that if they had known, they would have skipped the JD and just done the MBA, but by then they had too much sunk cost in the JD. That's how much they hated law school.

reckless
10-26-2011, 08:37 AM
I've been at Biglaw firms for most of my career, including for the past 10 years. Job prospects for law graduates right now are the worst I've ever seen. While it is possible to get a Biglaw job from a school other than the top-10 (or top-14), you had better be top of your class and have someone really pushing for you, like a connected professor or a judge with whom you've clerked/externed.

Even public interest jobs are scarce, because most organizations have lost funding in this economy and legal aid services have been slashed in budget-cutting. Competition for what jobs are out there is almost as strong as it is for law firm jobs, because everyone is trying to get something to put on a resume for when the economy improves.

My advice is two-fold. First, don't go to law school unless you really are interested in the law and law practice. Too many students go to law school because they can't think of what they really want to do and think a law degree is a good fallback for other careers. They then begin practicing and hate it -- and the reality is that early years of law careers tend to involve a lot of drudge work.

Second, don't underestimate the power of debt. I went to law school thinking I would do public interest work (as did a large number of my peers). When I graduated with nearly $100k in debt, that biglaw salary of $70k (that was in 1994) looked a lot better than what public interest jobs paid.

Also be aware that there are a lot of people applying to law schools right now because they don't have jobs and can't figure out what else to do. That means increased competition for places at the schools.

If you are seriously interested in public interest law and working in New York, you might want to investigate CUNY. It is geared toward steering its graduates to public interest jobs. Its tuition is lower than most schools, particularly for New York residents. (Of course, you still have to pay to live in New York.) One of my former classmates is the Dean there, and they really emphasize clinical programs and other ways of getting students involved in helping underserved populations.

Japanfan
10-26-2011, 08:39 AM
Yes, I know the job market is dire and the competition for jobs are cut-throat, but I just want to know if it's as bad as some out there are making it out to be for those outside the Top 14.

The problem is that I seriously want to go to law school and want to be in the legal profession.


While it's certainly worthwhile to be pragmatic and consider your future job possibility, it's also important to consider what your passion is. You are only looking for one job after all. If you truly have a calling, maybe you should follow it. Otherwise for the rest of your life you might be wondering 'what if' you had gone to law school. . .



I also made it hard for myself because I want to be in a school where I have a chance at working in the NYC market, which will mean I'll most likely competing with graduates from Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, etc.

Are you willing to settle for something/somewhere else if that market proves too competitive?

VIETgrlTerifa
10-26-2011, 08:43 AM
I've been at Biglaw firms for most of my career, including for the past 10 years. Job prospects for law graduates right now are the worst I've ever seen. While it is possible to get a Biglaw job from a school other than the top-10 (or top-14), you had better be top of your class and have someone really pushing for you, like a connected professor or a judge with whom you've clerked/externed.

Even public interest jobs are scarce, because most organizations have lost funding in this economy and legal aid services have been slashed in budget-cutting. Competition for what jobs are out there is almost as strong as it is for law firm jobs, because everyone is trying to get something to put on a resume for when the economy improves.

My advice is two-fold. First, don't go to law school unless you really are interested in the law and law practice. Too many students go to law school because they can't think of what they really want to do and think a law degree is a good fallback for other careers. They then begin practicing and hate it -- and the reality is that early years of law careers tend to involve a lot of drudge work.

Second, don't underestimate the power of debt. I went to law school thinking I would do public interest work (as did a large number of my peers). When I graduated with nearly $100k in debt, that biglaw salary of $70k (that was in 1994) looked a lot better than what public interest jobs paid.

Also be aware that there are a lot of people applying to law schools right now because they don't have jobs and can't figure out what else to do. That means increased competition for places at the schools.

If you are seriously interested in public interest law and working in New York, you might want to investigate CUNY. It is geared toward steering its graduates to public interest jobs. Its tuition is lower than most schools, particularly for New York residents. (Of course, you still have to pay to live in New York.) One of my former classmates is the Dean there, and they really emphasize clinical programs and other ways of getting students involved in helping underserved populations.

Thank you.

Your post definitely echoes what I've read at other sources.

Yes, I definitely know I want to go to law school. My best friend finished law school recently, so I got to see the many hours and work she had to put into it and how draining it all was. Despite everything, I do want to go to law school.

The schools I was looking at were Cardozo, Brooklyn Law, CUNY, and Rutgers-Newark. I was told at another forum that only Rutgers-Newark was worth attending in the above list, but again, I am not sure how reliable that is. I was interested in CUNY for a long time, but I heard some negative things regarding job opportunities for CUNY grads.


While it's certainly worthwhile to be pragmatic and consider your future job possibility, it's also important to consider what your passion is. You are only looking for one job after all. If you truly have a calling, maybe you should follow it. Otherwise for the rest of your life you might be wondering 'what if' you had gone to law school. .

Are you willing to settle for something/somewhere else if that market proves too competitive?

Thanks for the reply, Japanfan. I think the reason why I'm worried about it is because the amount of debt that I will take on will be huge, especially if I decide on a NYC school where you know the standard-of-living is especially high. I am willing to settle for something/somewhere else if that market is too competitive, but the problem is that in order to move, I will most likely need to attend a school that has national name recognition or at least stay in the region where the school's name is known.

Anita18
10-26-2011, 09:48 AM
My friend recently graduated from a law school ranked #40-ish, which isn't bad, but she regretted not waiting and getting more experience because she thinks she was too young for the better-ranked schools to seriously consider her. Since you're our age, it won't be as much of an issue. :lol:

But yeah, she passed the California bar this year on the first try, and still only found a secretary job thanks to connections through her father, and it doesn't require a law degree. The only reason why she can afford to pay back her law school debt now is because she lives at home with her parents, because her monthly repayments are almost like another rent check. (We're in Los Angeles, where rent is high but not NYC-high.) The job prospects for law school grads here is so dire that my Asian mom was actually glad my sister, who's a genius and could probably get into a top 14 school, decided not to go to law school and to stay at her current non-profit. When you're five-figures in the hole and your monthly student loan repayments is equal to your monthly rent, you can't afford to do non-profit law work. :(

I'm not familiar with cheaper schools that send graduates to public interest work, but if that's what you want to do, I second reckless's suggestion looking into it. I mean, why go for the astronomical debt at a top school just to compete with classmates who only want to go into biglaw when you want to do public interest work?

I'm not sure how the job market is in NYC, but the cost of living will be astronomical, and may be what ultimately stops you if the five-figure debt doesn't. I wish I had better news for you, but that's how it is right now. :( If you truly want to practice law and you know that's your life's mission, go for it and make as many connections as you can. You're going to need them!

Aceon6
10-26-2011, 01:15 PM
Can't speak to NYC, but in Boston, one of the reason the market for new grads is so depressed is the number of lawyers with years of experience now seeking public interest jobs after layoffs at big firms. The only new grad openings are in IP (requires a science or engineering undergrad) and healthcare (most require joint masters of healthcare administration or similar).

attyfan
10-26-2011, 02:49 PM
IMO, minimizing the debt is key. I did not attend a "big name law school", but the cost when I attended (25 years ago) meant that, between my husband and my parents, I graduated debt free. I never got the paychecks that the grads from the top schools earned, but I never had to worry about the number of billable hours I was putting in, either. Check out whatever programs the law schools may have. Also, find out if they can help get you a law clerkship or similar job while you are in law school, and/or if there are any part time programs that will allow you to work while you are in school.

Louis
10-26-2011, 03:34 PM
VIETgrrl, could you consider getting a job as a paralegal and going to law school at night? Perhaps with your firm picking up part or all of the bill?

I know several people who have done that here in NYC. A few have actually ended up in Big Law, believe it or not. Others get jobs with boutique firms or go into public interest work. Our co-op lawyer did this - went from being a secretary to owning the firm and makes a really nice living where she controls her own schedule.

Sweets has a lot of paralegals interested in law school. About half end up going to law school even more gung-ho than before, and the other half decide that the law isn't for them after a year or two at a firm.

Agree with others that minimizing debt (and only taking on debt you're confident will lead to positive ROI) is key, above all else.

agalisgv
10-26-2011, 05:03 PM
If you really want to be a lawyer, I think you should seriously consider looking outside the NYC area (and I don't mean NJ). In other parts of the country (think Midwest or maybe the South), going to a lower-tiered school won't be the kiss of death it would be in NYC. Also your job prospects across the board will be greater and your COL much lower.

JMHO, but if you don't have the test scores to be competitive enough to get into a top-tiered law school, you likely won't be able to compete against the graduates of those top-tiered law schools when you finish. And from what I hear, firms in NYC only hire from a few law schools. If you haven't attended there, you're SOL.

So you could apply to those schools and see if you get in. If you don't, that should tell you something.

VIETgrlTerifa
10-26-2011, 05:14 PM
Thanks for the responses Anita, Aceon6, attyfan, and Louis.

Anita, your friend's story sounds like what many recent law school grads are facing at the moment. A friend of mine who is working as an immigration lawyer in Arizona jokingly told me that worst comes to worst, I can move down there and we can start our own firm together with 3 of her other law school friends. Ah, the dream, lol.

Aceon6, I actually received a nice email from a Northeastern in Boston that offered me a fee waiver and it seems that they get their students practical experience while in school, which of course is important. However, like you said, the job market is certainly lacking at the moment and am not surprised to hear what it's like in Boston as that seems to be the case in many major cities.

Louis, I wouldn't mind being a paralegal while attending at night, especially if the firm offers to pick up part or all of the bill. In fact, that sounds like a dream, haha. However, with me being from New Orleans, I am not sure about the probability of getting a paralegal job in NYC and being able to move there for said job and sustain a living. All of your stories, sound wonderful though and you are definitely echoing what others are saying. Best to minimize debt unless the debt I'm taking on will lead to big returns after graduation, and from what I've been reading, the best chance for a big return is a T14 school (but even their chances aren't the best right now either).

GarrAarghHrumph
10-26-2011, 05:27 PM
Northeastern is one of the few non-top-tier law schools in Boston that students do get hired out of. You'd end up working in Boston, not NYC. You'd probably be the only Northeastern grad they'd hire, and they'd only hire you if you brought something special to the table. For example, one NE law school grad had been an officer in the Marines, serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan - he ended up in big law. Another had done years and years of work with battered women at Framingham State Prison - she ended up in a good public service job.

VIETgrlTerifa
10-26-2011, 05:28 PM
If you really want to be a lawyer, I think you should seriously consider looking outside the NYC area (and I don't mean NJ). In other parts of the country (think Midwest or maybe the South), going to a lower-tiered school won't be the kiss of death it would be in NYC. Also your job prospects across the board will be greater and your COL much lower.

JMHO, but if you don't have the test scores to be competitive enough to get into a top-tiered law school, you likely won't be able to compete against the graduates of those top-tiered law schools when you finish. And from what I hear, firms in NYC only hire from a few law schools. If you haven't attended there, you're SOL.

So you could apply to those schools and see if you get in. If you don't, that should tell you something.

I have a good chance of getting into the lower ranked tier 1 and the tier 2 schools. It's just I'm out of luck with the top 30, though I hope my score on the LSAT retake will give me a score that is more competitive. To be honest, I'm not sure what constitutes Tier 1. I've ranges from Top 14 to Top 50.

I read this chart of employment outcomes in the NYC area that compared schools in the metro NYC area and of course the 10 of the T14 schools were on top of the list (UPenn, NYU, Duke, Columbia, Cornell, etc.). After those ten, however, were Fordham, Howard, Rutgers-Newark, Cardozo, St. John's, Brooklyn, etc.


Northeastern is one of the few non-top-tier law schools in Boston that students do get hired out of. You'd end up working in Boston, not NYC. You'd probably be the only Northeastern grad they'd hire, and they'd only hire you if you brought something special to the table. For example, one NE law school grad had been an officer in the Marines, serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan - he ended up in big law. Another had done years and years of work with battered women at Framingham State Prison - she ended up in a good public service job.

Thanks for the information. I don't really know much about Northeastern. As for being the only grad from Northeastern "they'd" hire, were you talking about NYC?

GarrAarghHrumph
10-26-2011, 05:35 PM
The schools I was looking at were Cardozo, Brooklyn Law, CUNY, and Rutgers-Newark. I was told at another forum that only Rutgers-Newark was worth attending in the above list, but again, I am not sure how reliable that is. I was interested in CUNY for a long time, but I heard some negative things regarding job opportunities for CUNY grads.

If I am to be quite honest, I have heard negative things regarding job opps for grads of all the schools on your list. You're right to be concerned. If you did choose to go to a school at this level, you'd need to be prepared to come out of that program having done stuff that makes you extremely attractive to employers - top of the class, law review, moot court, clerkships, etc. Even then, I'd make you no promises.


Thanks for the reply, Japanfan. I think the reason why I'm worried about it is because the amount of debt that I will take on will be huge, especially if I decide on a NYC school where you know the standard-of-living is especially high. I am willing to settle for something/somewhere else if that market is too competitive, but the problem is that in order to move, I will most likely need to attend a school that has national name recognition or at least stay in the region where the school's name is known.

That last thought is a good one. If you live in, say, Oklahoma, you don't need to go to Harvard Law to get a job. You need to go to the best law school in Oklahoma or its immediate region. If the reality is that you can't get into a good enough NYC law school to get the type of NYC law job you want (or *any* NYC law job), then consider what your priorities really are - is it practicing law, or being in NYC? If it's really practicing law, then go to the best law school you can get into, in a region that isn't "ranking sensitive" like NYC and Boston are.

GarrAarghHrumph
10-26-2011, 05:40 PM
I read this chart of employment outcomes in the NYC area that compared schools in the metro NYC area and of course the 10 of the T14 schools were on top of the list (UPenn, NYU, Duke, Columbia, Cornell, etc.). After those ten, however, were Fordham, Howard, Rutgers-Newark, Cardozo, St. John's, Brooklyn, etc.

Fordham is hard to get into. It's got a very good rep in the NYC area. It's top 30. Howard is the best law school at an HBCU (is it the only HBCU law school?), and as such, firms recruit out of there, looking for high potential minority candidates. It might be an excellent, excellent choice if your LSAT and GPA combo aren't high enough for Fordham, but could get you into Howard. They're unique, and are recruited out of as if they are higher ranking than they are.

Rutgers is best for working in NJ, in a firm that doesn't normally recruit out of the top law schools.


Thanks for the information. I don't really know much about Northeastern. As for being the only grad from Northeastern "they'd" hire, were you talking about NYC?

No, I was talking about Boston. You would - in general - not be hired into NYC out of Northeastern. That's *in general*, not absolute - some NE grads do work in NYC, but it's really more of a Boston regional law school. You'd go there intending to work in New England, and you could also try for NYC, but don't count on it.