Law is an extremely challenging profession to find good work in if you don't go to the top tier schools. I'm on my phone, so I can't search effectively, but Google "Boston College law student Letter" or anything about law school ranking manipulation and you'll find a lot of recent material from important news sources. The gist is young lawyers are having a brutal time of it if they aren't going to schools like Michigan.
OT Law school question
This is probably not at all what you want to hear / may not even be an option for you at this point, but please for your own sake and your wife's sake and the sake of your career opportunities in both the immediate and long term, PLEASE do not go to lawl school. Not only has the deep recession & slow recovery decimated new lawyers' employment prospects, but the legal industry is undergoing a fundamental structural change. Document review - the labor-intensive, incredibly tedious job that was the only entry point for lower-tier law school graduates to snag a job with BigLaw - is going to be entirely computerized within a generation (or sooner), eliminating yet another substantial chunk of available jobs. Meanwhile, hiring freezes at DOJ and across virtually all state and municipal governments make criminal prosecution an unrealistic option for most law school matriculants, and the diminution of legal staff on the prosecutory side is having a negative externality on hiring in the criminal defense sector as well. Political movements toward simplifying the internal revenue code and bankruptcy law are still inchoate but pose a significant threat to those sectors of legal practice down the road.
Law school is basically a cash cow for universities, but even if you've got a major scholarship in the bag, I don't think it's worth the time and opportunity cost. One point on which I have to disagree with the above poster: The legal market is so bad right now that even a school like Michigan (in the elite "top 14" of law school rankings) has had an atrocious success rate at on-campus interviews the last several years. There are enough unemployed Yale, Harvard, and Stanford grads that schools further down the food chain aren't even getting a serious look.
TL;DR - There are no jobs. It's called "lawl" school for a reason. Avoid at all costs.
This is what I have been hearing more often than not and it's rather depressing. I have literally put myself through hell the last two years working crazy hours and taking a full load of classes on top of trying to raise a family. It's looking more and more like it was all for nothing. During this whole process I kept telling myself that my work ethic would seperate me from the crowd but I think I might have been denial.
You could consider taking the civil service examination. If you've been preparing for law school, your preparation would serve you well there. There are areas of government that are hiring, and while the pay may not be top-notch, a government job can be extremely rewarding and have great perks/job security.
Civil service is changing, too. Just look at how underfunded the pension and post retirement benefits are in many municipalities (e.g. Illinois). Where there are generous packages, these are under intense scrutiny like never before.
I have to agree with the others. Law school isn't the guarantee it used to be. Not only are the jobs available for new (and hell, even experienced) attorneys becoming less plentiful, but they are paying a lot less unless you get into the Big Law firms. (Put it this way: is it worth it to suffer through law school, only to graduate to a job that pays, say, $40k? Because that's the reality for a lot of grads, and those are just the ones that can find jobs.) It is possible to get hired by one of them from Wayne, etc., but it's much easier to get there from a place like Michigan.
Personally, I've advised those that have asked me to not go to law school if they have other options, unless it's their absolute dream that they don't mind taking much less than they might expect. Almost all of them have gone on to law school anyway. All but one has told me that they regret it. (The one moved to another state and I haven't kept tabs to know how she's doing.)
Great advice. I'd almost say the ONLY reason to go is if A. you get all or most all of it paid for. B. Your desired dream career path is something that could be greatly enhanced by going. and C. that career path is NOT Lawyer.
Don't be a lawyer and don't do law school unless you can come out basically debt free.
Unless you like hellish hours with super high stress and comparitively low pay where the work you do accomplishes basically nothing but inertia and acrimony. If that all sounds great, lawyer is the perfect job.
If you go to law school have a definite objective in mind for work either in the government or some other private sector job. Like the FBI for instance loves JD degrees.
Make sure you report back and tell us how it's going with your decision.
Great advice. I'd almost say the ONLY reason to go is if A. you get all or most all of it paid for. B. Your desired dream career path is something that could be greatly enhanced by going. and C. that career path is NOT Lawyer.
Don't be a lawyer and don't do law school unless you can come out basically debt free.
Unless you like hellish hours with super high stress and comparitively low pay where the work you do accomplishes basically nothing but inertia and acrimony. If that all sounds great, lawyer is the perfect job.
If you go to law school have a definite objective in mind for work either in the government or some other private sector job. Like the FBI for instance loves JD degrees.
Make sure you report back and tell us how it's going with your decision.
Your point about doc review is extremely important. And it's already taking place. Part of the reason hiring is so bad is because firms are already using far fewer associates on doc review projects. In 5 years - or fewer - the only people working on doc review will be the non-attorneys managing the software and procedures.
I know it's not what you want to hear, but I'm BEGGING you not to go with that offer sheet.
It has nothing to do with elitism either. I'm not saying you're not a smart guy or that those schools are "shitty." I'm saying that the legal profession is prestige-obsessed when it comes to hiring and even the big guys are in trouble with employment statistics. I'm a Columbia Law grad (#4 USNWR) and my class had 84% hiring. I want you to think about that. There are Ivy League educated lawyers who cannot find work.
Now that these points have been drilled in to your head by me and the other posters, please let me add a few other points to consider. First, the employment picture has been improving. Law hiring will never be what it once was because of systemic changes within law as a profession (and because of systemic changes within investment banking as a profession, which used to feed the "top" law firms) but law, as a parasitic profession (meaning that we need somebody else to make money before we make money) has bounced back about halfway I would estimate since the bloodbath of the recession. Make no mistake - if you graduated law school in 2010, you were fucked. Seriously, straight up fucked. The class of 2010 at Columbia had a hiring rate of just over 50%. The rumor I've heard from multiple people was that Harvard Fucking Law School managed to get only about 75% of its grads from that year jobs. Those grads are cooked, too - law firms aren't coming back to them when they want to hire (now diminished numbers of) first-year attorneys, they're hiring recent grads. They're a lost generation encumbered with non-dischargable debt in the six digit range, forever doomed. This isn't hyperbole. In conclusion, while the gnashing and wailing days of around 2010 are in fact gone, it's never going to be the way it was in 2003 or so.
Second, of those law schools you're looking at, MSU does by far the best. MSU grads don't have a good chance at success overall, but the top of the class at MSU gets good offers. Good is the key term - I know a guy who graduated summa in 2011 who was fourth in the class who is a Michigan state appellate court clerk. That's a good job but not a great one and it certainly wouldn't pay the debt if he had any.
Third, it is impossible to predict your success in law school. Full stop. It is not like undergrad in this regard. If your scholarship requires you to be at a certain percentile of the class to keep it, throw it away because it's just a useless piece of paper.
Fourth, remember that any debt you acquire is not dischargable in bankruptcy. While tools like IBR and your school's LRAP program might be able to mitigate your loss, you might literally make a mistake that will prevent you from ever being a financial success if you go to law school and aren't able to find a good job. Someone of the previous generation is going to read that last sentence and roll their eyes but I challenge you, dear reader - suppose you had $150K + in debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and that you cannot hope to get a job to pay off. What would you do? That is the totally real, completely unembellished position thousands upon thousands of law school graduates find themselves in.
This is a long enough post so I will conclude with this: going to law school is like entering your name into a lottery. The odds of the lottery are not terrible as lotteries go, but think about the outcomes; if you "win," you have a ticket to get a job which most people are unsatisified with but that a percentage of people love and which might pay well. If you lose your financial life is literally over and you will be unable to ever support yourself or your family for the rest of your life.
Do not play the lottery. Do not go to law school.
Twenty years after you have graduated and have a work history that shows an employer what you can do, many employers still won't consider you unless your degree is from a name law school and you were on law review.
If you're going to law school, go to the best one you can get into. I think that's Wisconsin from the list you gave. That's especially true if you will be leaving Michigan when you graduate.
Very exciting stuff! It has been 20 years since I went to law school. Turns out law was not the calling for me, but I did get to take commercial transactions from JJ White, which as one attorney pointed out is like taking religion from God, so that is something. After my second year, the country was in a recession and firms were laying attorneys off in huge numbers. Many students were having trouble finding summer work and the prospects for third year did not look much better. One classmate of mine had circumstances similar to yours: he and his wife had moved their children for the law school opportunity and they borrowed substantially to do it. The fundamental economics of the decision are the same now as they were then: will the good name of a higher ranked law school help you find better-paying work more quickly, justifying the increased expense? The short answer is, it might. The critical questions for you, I think, are how devoted and deep are the alumni in the area? Will they look out for you? Help you out? People will tell you that five years after you graduate your degree doesn't matter because you rely on your body of work at that point. I respectfully disagree with that. While you certainly need to develop a resume, I think the world always looks at the name on your diploma and the network of a strong group of alumni can support you for the rest of your life.
There is no easy answer. Congratulations on your acceptances thus far and best of luck.
I just mentioned him the other day to the lawyer handling my company's UCC 2-207 battle of the fomrs issue with a vendor. i broke out my WHite & Summers hornbook. HE is still teaching (acording to WIki he is still not retired).
Graduated from law school in 1991. The rule for law schools is, go to the best one you get into. The prestige of your degree is what will carry you throughout your career. Even 30 yrs from now, firms and other lawyers and even some clients will measure your abilities in part by asking where you sent to law school. ALSO, law school is where you meet other lawyers you will know for years-- who will be sources of referrals and clients.
The quality of your law school not only speaks to your legal education, but its a measuring stick of your inate skills. The fact that a better achool admitted you means, you were good enough to get in.
This is why lesser schools will give you scholarships. Make your decision tough. But THIS IS A CAREER-LONG DECISION. You should go to the best school you can afford, it should pay off in the long run.
Agree with this completely. If you do go to law school (which, see my comment supra, you should not), go to the top-ranked one without regard to any other factors. I've never seen a group of people with more of a prestige fetish than the legal profession.
As a recent law grad, this is bad and outdated advice. You should only go to best school you get into if you get into a T-14 school. Other than that, go to the best regional flagship law school around that gives you good scholarship money (for Detroit, Wayne State). Jobs are scarce now and the chance that you'll be unemployed at graduation is much much higher than it used to be. Avoid law debt like the plague, because there's a good chance you won't be able to find a job - period.
If you decide you want to go to law school, take the scholarship money. There is a negligible difference between the schools you listed (WSU, MSU, etc). If you're staying in Michigan and don't get into U of M, go wherever you get the biggest scholarship (except for Cooley...never go to Cooley under any circumstances...seriously).
Recent MLaw grad here. Outside of the top schools, there is not much difference. Take the scholarship, or don't go at all (and I would lean toward the latter).
If you do well, after your first year at Wayne State, you can attempt to transfer to a top school like Michigan. But even that is no guarantee as I still have friends that graduated from UM in the past couple years who have yet to find steady employment.
If you've got dreams of working at a large law firm, read this: http://abovethelaw.com/2012/04/nalp-2012-good-news-weve-probably-hit-the...
At the bottom of the story it says "comments hidden for your protection." I think that fits quite well.
A few more words of advice:
Going to Top14 always gets you in the door and is incredibly helpful. As a general matter, going to a better school helps, but graduating around 50% from the 40th law school in the country (whatever it is...I think Wisco is around 35) isn't as helpful as graduating Top 10% from Wayne or MSU. One of the biggest things you need to ask yourself is where do you want to live and practice? Outside of Top14, that is a determining factor. If you graduate from Iowa or Wisco, you probably are working in those states or possibly in Chicago. As others have mentioned, the alumni networks are crucial in helping you find a job. As a 1L, I have a summer clerkship because a firm that does some business with my uncle's firm had a Loyola guy there who took my resume and set up an interview there for me. Alumni connections tend to be the strongest where you went to school. Also, if you graduate from a lawschool in Wisco, I believe you do not have to take the Bar there (do not quote me on this, can't really remember). If you want to stay in Michigan, there is no reason to go to Iowa and really little reason to go to Wisco. As others mentioned, Michigan firms and companies tend to hire out of Wayne and then MSU. Wayne has a great reputation in Michigan, especially considering so many UofM law grads leave Michigan to go elsewhere. As mentioned above, I am a 1L at Loyola and am on half scholarship, and I can say that scholarship is really nice and will help lessen the burden on me when I graduate. I would advocate Wayne or even MSU as they have been doing better in rankings lately. I remember from judicial classes at UofM (undergrad) and working at a law firm that Wayne does really well in Michigan. Unless you have a particular subject in mind that you know you want to do, Wayne or MSU cannot do you wrong.
Investigate scholarship requirements since some schools screw you on it (Loyola does not which is awesome).
Rankings can be fluid (not for Top14 or even really Top25). Loyola was 82ish when I first investigated schools and now is 63ish two years later.
Cities are helpful. Chicago has lots of opportunities and that mitigates the tough market (a bit).
Also, from what I have been hearing around Chicago is that firms are hiring more now and the market is recovering. It is not what it was before but it is getting there. That being said, the law profession is changing and that is going to affect supply negatively. Add the fact that competition for spots is becoming more intense, it creates a tougher situation for lawyers than it used to be. You really need to stand out or have connections to get you opportunities to shine.
Finally, make sure you at least can stomach the people at your school. I like most people at my school, but some of the schools were not as appealling.
Sorry, I should've clarified. This is totally true, but my opinion is also conditioned on the premise that if you aren't going to a T14 school, you probably shouldn't go to law school right now at all.
I second this.
Just to emphasize, since the other person agreeing with this got moderated into gray - THIS IS BAD ADVICE. You absolutely cannot justify going into $180k-ish of debt to go to the schools you're thinking about. It's a dangerous risk at the T-14 schools, but it's batshit crazy at anything outside of them.
You've got a big enough scholarship at MSU that, if you are dead-set on being a lawyer, it would not be insane to take it. But you have to 1) deeply consider the opportunity cost, as others have mentioned, 2) understand that only 5-10 people (if that) from MSU per year get jobs paying $160k, and 3) assume that you will not be one of those 10 people.
Way too many of my classmates at Columbia figured that they would be in at least the top 1/3 of the class and would be guaranteed BigLaw (something more plausible there). Some were, but others were not, and now they face crippling debt that is essentially permanent with gov't jobs paying very little. And that's at a top 5 school. At MSU, you have essentially no chance at getting a job that pays a great deal of money, and "MidLaw" jobs (aka those that pay $80k-100k per year) are outrageously competitive and there are almost none of them.
So if you're set on law school, it would be criminal to your family not to take the money unless you're going to Michigan, Columbia, NYU, Harvard, etc. Think about any other option you might have, but if you pick law school, you HAVE TO take the money, period.
Another thing to look at is what conditions MSU puts on their scholarships. A lot of schools will place strict conditions on keeping your scholly once you're there, like a minimum 3.5 GPA or something when the grading curve is a C average. In other words, after your first semester or two, you're going to a) lose the scholarship and b) not be able to transfer out.
In third- and fourth-tier schools like Cooley, it's not uncommon to put all the scholarship recipients in the same section, thus ensuring that most of them will lose their scholarships and be stuck paying tuition for the last two years.
Class of '11 grad, solo practitioner, $100K+ in debt, and I went to a T1 school (not Ohio State).
Hello Columbia Law/Wolverine brother. I feel you.
I took a Midlaw job. I wonder if I know you in real life...
It was really only the top third of your class at Columbia going to BigLaw? I find that hard to believe. What year did you graduate? Northwestern is probably sending about half of its class to BigLaw this year, and they always have high numbers, but I can't believe there's that much of a gap.
No LJ, not saying that at all. I'd say 60% got BigLaw (estimate - 2011 grad). My less-than-clear point was that the top 1/3 are the only people guaranteed BigLaw.
Many of my friends who struggled to find anything were around the median or just above that. Once you're outside of the top third at Columbia, you're no longer a lock, and firms want other things - connections, diversity, maybe work experience, etc. It's not that people from 50% to 33% uniformly had issues, just that the guarantee disappears after 33%.
And because you can't guarantee top 1/3 going in (especially at a school like Northwestern, for example, but also anywhere), taking the necessary debt on can be more than a little dangerous.
I'm lucky to be at my first choice firm, but I recognize that it easily could have gone differently if I had screwed up a couple of tests first year. Law school + massive debt is risky at a T14, it's nuts almost anywhere else.
I can't add much else to what is said but the following:
(1) I agree with the prestige/going to the best law school you get into but if you get into two schools close in reputation, you take the money.
(2) don't even THINK about going to Cooley Law School. I can tell you my firm throws any resume from there right in the trash and I know several hiring partners from firms big and small who do the same.
(3) unless you're talking about a top 20 school, go to law school in a city because your ability to clerk/intern as a second and third year law student will likely be the difference between you getting a job when you graduate and not.
I live in St. Louis. The only 2 law schools in the area are at Washington U. and St. Louis University. Academically, Wash U. may be the best in MO overall and it's law school is very well thought of locally. SLU's law school is ok. Mizzou's law school is 2 hours away, and it's law school is probably on a par with SLU.
I have 2 friends that both graduated law schools in 2010. One went to Wash U. and one went to SLU. Both of them have advised against me getting my JD, at least for now. They both could not find jobs for the longest time. The Wash U. grad ended up taking a crappy government job reviewing contracts for GSA. The SLU grad is essentially fixing parking tickets. They both make barely enough money to cover their living expenses plus their student loans.
Mind you, they both stayed in St. Louis, and obviously didn't go to Michigan Law. But it was enough for me to rethink going to law school.
Stories of people like your friends is what scares me. I'm afraid of quitting my job and taking on a ton of debt only to end up at a lower paying job.
Yes, and another wrinkle is that it is very hard to project what the job market will look like in 3 years. I think you need to run some conservative salary projections and debt service estimates through an excel chart. If the financial aspect of the decision doesn't add up, I would be worried about putting your family through that.
The ABA is talking about accrediting foreign law schools, and firms are already outsourcing a lot of the work that traditionally was done by associates to India. If Bombay Law gets accredited, that's pretty much the death knell for associate jobs in the U.S.
I currently work as a federal contractor. I do not make a ton of money, but because the cost of living is so low in STL, I can live like a king here. If I went to either Wash U. or SLU law school, I'd be looking at 100K in student loans, and would most likely have to sell my house because I wouldn't be able to afford a mortgage plus law school debt. I graduated from the U. of San Francisco in 1997, and was immediately $30K in debt (back then, USF was $14,440/year, which is nothing when you consider the school is now something like $34K a year in straight tuition). However, it's now 2012, and I still have around $3K in federal loans to pay off. I'm really not insterested in paying off any more school loans after paying them off for 15 years.
Regarding the overall job situation for people with advanced degrees: it's a mess right now. My wife has a PhD in chemistry and currently works as a research scientist at Wash U. med school, which is one of the Top 10 med schools in the US right now. Despite having a bunch of chem companies here (Monsanto, Sigma-Aldrich, Mallincrockdt), she is basically doomed to work as a post doc for the time being because to save money, the major chem companies laid their PhD's off and outsourced the work to India.
A friend of ours is a Michigan grad who earned his PhD in astro physics last year from Wash U. He was laid of by Boeing because once he earned his doctorate, they didn't want to give him a raise. He's now teaching math & physics at a local JC and building handmate guitar amps and effects pedals.
PhD land ... what a @#$%ing mess.
Anyway, this seems like a good place to put my two bits. Every couple months or so I have dinner with a group composed mostly of lawyers who are in document-review hell. (Aside, you can read about it here and probably hundreds of other sites: http://www.temporaryattorney.blogspot.com/). All but one (including two from UMich) went to what I believe are top-tier schools. Details of their career paths vary, but a common tale involves getting jettisoned by a large firm (in Chicago) when things went south a few years ago. Salary drops from $###,### to $##,### actually happen.
OP: How is the CNC machinist market? I keep reading articles about how companies are looking for skilled workers *just like you*, but for all I know they could be corporate codswallop and part of the never-ending quest to get temporary overseas workers here.
CNC market isn't what it used to be. I work for an extemely large aerospace company (not Boeing) and when everything went to shit the company implemented a two-tier pay scale. Any hires after August 2009 make about 1/2 to 2/3 of what they normally would have. There are some companies still hiring but the majority of them are low paying, even the unionized shops. The CNC jobs that are still paying top dollar are highly competitive due to the large number of machinists that lost their jobs when the automotive market tanked.
Interesting ... thanks. Congratulations on the degree (the one you'll be getting soon) and best wishes with the challenging decision.
+1 for the GoBlue kids in the picture (yours, presumably).
I'm a Michigan grad and have been a practicing lawyer for almost 13 years. I don't think that getting anything less than a top ten or fifteen law degree in this economy is going to pay off. I agree with the previous post about prestige of law schools . . . to this day I am judged by the rep of my alma mater. You would be better of if you could find a job, any job, though preferably one that requires a high degree of skill in any field, and spend your off hours doing volunteer work in local politics or a national campaign, or otherwise dressing up your resume for a law school application in 2-3 years. You will need resume material for the year between 1L and 2L anyway, and the top tier law schools just love politcal work.
I have a job that requires a decent amount of skill and that is what is making me second guess law school. I have been a CNC machinist for the past 11 years and have been with my current employer for the past 8.
I was in your situation 20 + years ago, and well know the anxiety and pressure you face. You must ask yourself whether you really want to be a lawyer, and if so what kind. Law school sucks. The professional pressures can be daunting. And the market for new hires is rotten. Having said that, law can be an incredibly rewarding profession. People always bitch about lawyers, but whom do they call when Junior gets a DUI or when a business is crumbling? We lawyers take great pride in serving others.
Have you interned anywhere? Your major & minor suggest criminal defense law. Most lawyers will gladly accept free help and give you advice. Your local prosecutor's office should have opportunities as well. Also, go watch a few trials in person. Observe how the lawyers and judges act. You'll learn a lot simply by observing.
Consider where you want to live? If you want to live in MI, take the schollies. The first few years of practice are very stressful for you and your familiy. No sense piling debt on top of that. Very few lawyers make a bunch of money starting out. Anyone in MI / Northern OH will know of Wayne State & Sparty law. Some of my partners are still paying law school debt and they've been out for 10 - 15 years. Why put yourself in the debt boat? Once you've been out for 5 years, no one cares where you went to law school. It's all based on relationships. Your clients who know and trust you will refer others to you.
Talk to a lot of lawyers, do your research and follow your heart. Do what you want to do, and you'll always have food on the table. Good luck!
I have two pieces of advice for you to consider. First, do you really want to go to law school? Many people think that a law degree means that you will either make a lot of $$ as a lawyer or that you will have a leg up in the non-legal job market. Both are not necessarily true.
As background, I am at a large NYC law firm, have been there for over a decade, and admittedly I make a great living (although don't get me started on the high cost of living in NYC). But, I have so many frieda who have been out of law school for a decade and have yet to sniff sox figures. Many came out of law school making less than an elementary school teacher would make, while working worse hours and being saddled with law school debt. Law really is a tale of two professions. If you are at a top firm, or if you manage to ultimately become a partner in a smaller firm that is lucrative, you can do really well. But, for far more lawyers, you will not make any more than in a non-law job while working harder. So, think about where you see yourself in 5 years. If it is not at a big firm, just know that the $$ will likely not be much better than any average pay job.
Second piece of advice: if you do want to go to law school, the better shools will ion many more doors than the lower table schools. I wood go to the best school that you get into.
I would just add that even if you get that big law firm job that many law students dream of, prepare to be disappointed. Some people are cut out for it but most people I knew at my firm were, like me, desperately trying to get out or lateral to another firm where they thought they would be happier (which almost always turned out to not be the case). It is a tough industry, yes you make good money but until you make equity partner (not income partner) it is a stressful lifestyle. I can only speak of my biglaw experience since i joined one in Chicago doing corporate law right out of school and thankfully got out after 3 years to start a business. That being said, having a legal background has helped me tremendously in my life and business and I do know some lawyers who are happy with their job, though again not usually in a big firm. If you know what you want do with your degree, I would do as much research now into what the job entails and if you would thrive in that environment, and just be very real with yourself. Unfortunately, I didnt do my diligence before going to law school and thought id just be happy getting into biglaw and making six figures. That was far from the case. Plus my friends in business and real estate were making far more than me, many with just their undergrad degree. Sorry to be so negative, just wanted to relay my experience. I do wish you and your family all the best with your decision.
Edit: Just for some context, this article pretty much summed up exactly my sentiments when I left my firm job. If you're going to law school to "be somebody," don't do it.
I graduated from Michigan Law in 2006. I loved the experience and felt so blessed to be at a great law school (and that I was able to watch Mike Hart live every other weekend). The real reason (and not the reason in my essay) that I went to law school was because I (sort of) enjoyed the idea of being a lawyer and I grew up poor. I thought that being a lawyer would be a pretty good way of getting myself and my family into the solid middle class. I was lucky to find a very good job coming out of law school and am very thankful to have survived the recession.
My wife also graduated from law school (but a third tier law school). She paid a similar amount as me for law school (and she graduated with significantly more debt). She works as an assistant prosecutor now and makes a salary that she could have made with just a college degree, but she is very happy and she loves her job. Overall, I would say that our different choices worked out fine for each of us. That being said, we both work a TON of hours, but we're both very caffeinated and highly energetic people so it works for us.
Since I have a family of my own now, I totally understand how tough it must be to risk your family's financial well-being to undertake the venture of attending law school. My opinion would be to have a realistic idea about what type of job you will get out of law school and how much more money you would make with that job than your current job. Obviously, if you get substantially more marginal utility by being a lawyer, I would take that into account as well. In addition, have you considered staying at your current job or trying to move up in your career with a lateral position in your current industry (without having to expend resources for further education)? Congratulations again and I wish you the best of luck in making the right decision for you and your family!
Coastal Elite has it right. It's just a nightmare out there right now, and is unlikely to get better anytime soon. The placement stats are abysmal - even at places like Iowa and Wisconsin, which you mentioned specifically - and law schools are doing everything they can to hide this from you. (To give one example: my office had an intern last summer. Nice kid, and editor of the law review at a top 30 law school. And his job search has been a real struggle. If that's true of the law review editor, you can only imagine what it's like for his classmates.) Meanwhile tuition is absolutely through the roof, b/c there's no limit on the loans you can take out. All you're really doing is putting yourself 100K or more into debt so that the facutly at your school can make huge salaries (UM's law dean makes close to 500K). Given that you have a family to support already, IMO it'd be nuts to take on a 6 figure debt load that you may never be able to pay off (and which isn't dischargeable in bankruptcy) simply b/c you're unlikely to get a job that will pay enough to pay off your debt. Sorry to be such a pessimist, but I would strongly advise against taking any of the offers you've mentioned.
I would also highly recommend spending some time reading Paul Campos' blog, Inside the Law School Scam:
Campos is a professor at Colorado's law school (and a UM alum), and he has documented everything you're reading in this thread in extensive, depressing detail. Should be required reading for anyone considering law school.
WSU is far superior than msu and not all that expensive. Great education and name recognition if you are going to practice in Michigan. It has zero name recognition outside the state but msu law is in the same boat. When I went to WSU it had made a momentary appearance in the second tier and that's evened to help when I moved out of state after practicing a bit in state. I would recommend it, very solid professional education minus name rec outside of state. Go to msu if you have not gotten enough of the bar scene and undergrad.
I have been a lawyer for the past 20 years and faced this exact decision. I opted for the scholarship money from a "lesser" school and have had an awesome career anyhow. Notwithstanding graduating from Miami Law School (yes, THAT Miami), I have worked at NYC BigLaw and am now a Managing Director at the largest asset manager in the world. I'm not sure I could have had a more challenging and engaging career had I gone to one of the more highly ranked schools that accepted me upon graduating from Michigan.
I think the best decision depends on your specific circumstances...what type of law do you want to practice (if you have no desire to practice in big law firms, the law school cred matters less)? Where do you want to practice? What are the relative reputations of the schools in question...while the difference between HLS and U of Florida might be two or so tiers, if you live in Florida, the difference won't be as great...however dropping down two tiers from U of F might be too much of a drop.
As suggested above, I think the first and most important question is whether you really want to be a lawyer...if yes, you can take the scholarship money and still have an awesome career, but it will be harder to get into BigLaw (doable but harder) as hiring partners are and always will be resume snobs. If law school is just an attempt to put off getting a job right away...take the scholarship money.
Best of luck.
Tough calls all around. I graduated almost a year ago, and I'm not sure how much helpful advice I can provide. The legal job market has improved, but is still nowhere near where it was four years ago (F*CK YOU LEHMAN BROTHERS). Good jobs exist, but the competition is fierce and the supply of lawyers outstrips the demand. It helps to go to a better school, but it's "safer" to graduate with less debt.
If you go to a school for the scholarship, be sure you know what the criteria are for keeping the scholarship. Some schools (and I would include MSU in this) put all of their scholarship students in one section, and condition future years' scholarships on staying in a certain percentile in one's section. The result is that some scholarship students are mathematically guaranteed to lose their scholarships after semester 1.
My biggest advice is that if you want to be a lawyer, go to law school. It can be a very rewarding and interesting profession. But if you want to make more money, and THAT'S why you're going to law school, I would reconsider.
Best of luck.
I did go to MSU and can say that they put about 2/3 of scholarship students in one section, which did lead to kids not keeping their scholarships after that first year. Though to be fair, the kids who lost it were the types that didn't put nearly enough effrot into school to do well; an "easier" section probably still would have had them at the lower end of the class.
Only go if you really want to be a lawyer, not because it's a ticket to a lot of money. If you're staying in Michigan to work, go to law school in Michigan. I don't think Wayne and MSU are that different - so take the one that offers you the most money. The student loans are the most crippling thing. There are jobs out there if you don't have to pay back $100k in loans. Also, if you do go, get on law review or graduate at least cum laude if you can.
Disclosure: I'm an associate at a top Michigan firm. Went to a lower tier top-25 school not unlike some of the schools that have you waitlisted. Have 120K in loans.
I did exactly what several of the posters above are suggesting that you do: Went to the highest ranked law school to maximize job prospects. It worked out for me, but that was in 2008. If I had graduated in 2009 with the same grades and education, I'd be screwed--massive debt and no means to pay it off.
With the market the way it is, and your job prospects a little dodgy, you'd be totally insane to make the decision I made. Take the money and go to Wayne or MSU. You going to have to work harder to earn the respect of your peers and get good job opportunities, but you'll have the financial flexibility to either: (i) make law a career that you enjoy; or (ii) quit and go back to your current profession. In short: If you go to Wayne, your worst case scenario is being an overeducated CNC machinist. If you go to Wisconsin, your worst case scenario is being an unemployed lawyer who has defaulted on his student loans.
Note: My advice would be somewhat different if you were talking about Michigan/Northwestern/Chicago v. Wayne/MSU. I think there is a large enough gap between the job prospects and reputations of these schools to justify rolling the dice and taking on the debt. At my firm, top 15 will get you in the door even if your grades are only decent. Top 50 really doesn't unless you don't also have stellar grades, which is basically the same for Wayne and MSU grads.
I think that the doom and gloom is a little bit overstated for the T14 schools. I'm graduating from Northwestern in a few weeks, and I think it was a pretty good investment for most of the class. Just guessing, but I think at least half of the class has jobs at Top 250 firms, and they'll be making 160K the first year out of school. I looked at the 2011 numbers and 115 of of a class of about 250 went to firms with more than 500 attorneys. Now, they might hate those jobs, but that's an indictment on becoming a lawyer generally. But money-wise, it was definitely a good choice to go. I know of only a few people in my class looking for work, and many of those choosing not to go the big firm route is because they wanted to do something else (e.g., clerkship, public interest), not that they couldn't get the firm job.
But I completely agree that the world changes outside those Top 14 schools, so it might be worthwhile to wait for a year and try to beef up the resume.
2008 WSULS grad here. After graduating I worked at large law firm here in Michigan and now work as an AUSA. I assisted with hiring at both places and currently sit on the hiring committee at my current job.
Your question on selecting a lower ranked school over a higher ranked school should depend on where you see yourself practicing over the next few years. WSULS is an excellent school. Great professors, administrators, and your classmates will be instaters who just fell short of getting into U of M. WSULS students that do well are 1b to U of M students who opt to stay in state. MSU students still have a hard time getting in state jobs. On the down side, it just doesn't have the out of state appeal of the higher ranked school. MSU, because of its name and sports program, has much more national pull than WSU, which is indicated in its move up the rankings.
All that said, If you plan to practice in Michigan for at least five years, WSULS is an excellent option; not so much if you plan to go out of state.
I disagree with those who commented that law school itself stinks. I enjoyed it, and I know others who enjoyed it. Not everyone does, and I believe people when they say they hated it, but it's not a terrible experience for everyone.
That said, I'm in full agreement that the schools you're looking at are not worthwhile investments for you. The fact that you already have a good job means that you're not just taking on debt, you're foregoing three years of experience and earnings. Think about how that will affect your entire future income stream. Now, some lawyers rake in.a lot of dough after graduating, but there's a sharp dividing line between the haves and have nots. You could end up with a starting salary at 160,000 (for a top firm in Chicago) or 50,000. And at the schools you're looking at, you'll need to finish at or near the top of your class to even get an interview at the top firms.
If you do decide that you'll be really happy as a lawyer, then I'd go to the best law school in state where you want to live. Detroit firms are more likely to hire from Wayne State than from Kent. And then do two things: work your ass off, because you'll need excellent grades, and network like crazy. Start thinking about getting your foot in the door at good firms before you even walk onto campus. Get coffee with alums of your school to ask them about their experience. You can also build up your resume by participating in a journal, clinic, or moot court competition.
Good luck. You're doing the smart thing by reaching out for advice.
The job market is still tough. I'm a 2L at Michigan STILL looking for a summer associate job after being strung along by a big firm (that I met with at on campus interviews in August) with assurances that I would be receiving an offer that clearly never came.
If you do end up going, do everything you can do to beef up your resume while in school, even if the particular activity doesn't really track your interests. I figured I would do moot court rather than law review to give myself a chance to feel out if I wanted to be a litigator, and couldn't be any unhappier with my choice. By the time the competition came around, I was too stressed about finding work (which law review would have certainly made easier) to concentrate and get the most out of the experience.
Good luck, and study a ridiculous amount your 1L year. An extra week or two's worth of work per class that year could make all the difference in the world.
Back to finals studying.
Take it from someone who took a scholarship at a lower-ranked law school; of you're going to a law school that's not in the top 20 or so, get a huge scholarship. That's what I did and it allowed me the freedom to be a little gutsy in my job search and it's paid off.
However, I'm not sure I would have left a steady job to go to law school. I went here straight from undergrad, where I double majored in "I know I want to go to law school" and "I'd better get into law school."
Wayne State dominates Detroit for sure, so if you are going to law school, I go there. I would not go to Kent or Iowa, and I'm not sure I know enough about how Wisconsin does out of its market.
Feel free to email me if you have more questions. It's my username at utk.edu
And sorry for the random typos. I'm on my phone.
Is one of those professions where rank of the law school and class rank actually matters. If you are smart enough to get in to M Law then go.
If it's your dream to be a lawyer, go to the top-ranked law school you can. It will give you the biggest leg up in the job market. You'll have big loans to pay, and it may not work out, but it gives you the best chance of reaching your dream.
If you care about anything else, though, get your law degree without loans. You'll have a tougher time in the job market, but the freedom to choose any job, legal or non-legal, without all that debt hanging over your head. If you're at the top of your class at a low-ranked school, you'll still have a chance to build a career, though via a different path (solo or small firm, local work) than you might have otherwise.
I'll be making a similar decision in the next year or so (taking the LSAT in June) and I just want to say that this was VERY, VERY useful for me. I just find I never can believe those Law School messageboards, etc. It's nice to hear realistic opinions from people actually in the field.
Look, you can make a great career even if you don't go to a top law school. It's just a lot easier if you do.
I didn't have as many options as some people here. My options really came down to Notre Dame at full price or a bunch of other schools with scholarships. I chose Tennessee, as you can tell by my sig, and it's worked out nicely for me. However, it was always a little more difficult to find a job in MI because so many people questioned why I had left the state. From my perspective, though, it made more sense to go to a decent law school with a scholarship (since I didn't get into M) than to go to WSU, MSU, or Cooley. I'm not sure if I made the right choice, but it's working out nicely for me and I'll be working in AA post-graduation.
Not a lawyer, but my cousin is an assistant chief in a section at DOJ after leaving a top NYC law firm. He's a Harvard law grad.
He has classmates that are unemployed. At social gatherings with him and his Ivy-trained colleagues, none of them want their children to be lawyers.
That, in and of itself, would scare the sh*t out of me.
Also, the entire paradigm of corporate law remibursement have shifted dramatically. Fewer clients are willing to allow for firms to bill associate hour work as partner hours, some clients are negotiating flat-fees rather than billable hours. Finally as multiple people noted above, the entry-level position of an associate at a firm is in jeopardy now that discovery has become a commodity rather than a skill.
Good luck, OP. I don't envy the position you are in.
I'll sell you a slightly-used Michigan Law degree at a really nice discount.
Not really a joke; a friend had an administrative job at an industrial chem company, wanted to goto law school, when to Michigan.
Did not go into patents as planned, went into general practice in a small firm. After two years, returned to his old company.
His UMich law degree makes nice wallpaper.
In this economy, don't underestimate the value of having a job in hand.
As many of the posters have indicated, that is the key. I graduated from UofM, went to Boston University Law, and practiced for three years in Manhattan-I hated ever minute of it. I ended up in commercial real estate in NC and have loved virtually every minute of it. My law degree and experience has been essential in my job. I only wish I had a JD/MBA which is a phenomenal combination for my business and many like it.
I understand that the legal job market is very tough right now, but the recession will end and there will ultimately be jobs for those who are hard working and committed, regardless of the name on the degree. Does a prestigous degree make everything easier-no question. If you are otherwise a high quality job candidate and graduate from the top of your class from a "lesser" school", you will get there anyway, though it might take longer. The cream generally rises to the top in any industry.
Someone above mentioned interning. I highly recommend it. Since you do not like your current job (though it pays well), it would be tragic to spend three years and major dollars to end up in another career where you can't find contentment. I believe that if it turns out that you love the practice of law, the loans (if you go that route) and the three years of studying will be worth it. I wish you good luck no matter what you decide.
I would give you a lot of advice on why not to go to law school, (which I agree with others I don't think it is for everyone in this economy.)
One thing to consider is what kind of law you want to practice. If you want to be a solo-practitioner then it doesn't matter what kind of school you attend really as it will be what you make of it in the end.
But what I will tell you is, out of the schools you listed, none is a particularly elite school, in other words, all of those degrees will be looked at pretty much equally from an employer's standpoint. Some doors will frankly be automatically closed to you coming out of those institutions.
That said, I would choose the most economic option.
It is bad enough out there already, without putting yourself into extra debt.
And, there is always the possibility you can do what I did, which was to take the best scholarship deal (full ride) at a lesser school, perform well first year, and transfer into a bigger and better situation.
At any rate, good luck.
I disagree with almost every other response on here. For the most part, employers hire from local schools. If you want to live in Chicago, go to Kent (you will need $200k to do so b/tn tution and living expenses). If you want to live in Wisconsin, go there. If you want to stay in Michigan, go to either MSU or Wayne.
Next, do you think you are more of an engineer or entrepuer? If you want to hang out your own shingle, then it doesn't matter where you go, so go with the cheepest place you can get into. If you don't think you can hack it eating only what you kill and feel working in a firm is for you, go the the most presitgious of your options. I think Wayne and MSU are about equal. If you kick ass and really lear International Shoe and The Rule Against Perpetuities, you will be highly ranked and can get a job in any firm in the area. If you don't go to your 8am classes and end up i the bottom 50 (like me) it will serve you best to have as little loans as possible.
None of my clients ever ask where I went to law school, although it was a big ten school. But I do still have 80k in debt eight years later. While I make a great living, my student loans are still a hinderence.
This is the best post I've read in this thread of comments. Particularly the part about about identifying what type of person you are and what type of practice you want to have, and where. I also think it's important question to ask whether you are making your decision based upon getting a job or making a career. If you are just looking to go to law school so that you can graduate and go where ever you can find the best job, the analysis will be different than if you want to go to law school, graduate and live somewhere in particular. If you're not looking to work for
I'm not a lawyer, although I once had interest in going to law school, so I won't offer any personal advice. But, one of the better and more candid responses to the questions, "Should I go to law school" can be found here (written by someone who graduated from law school but no longer practices): http://artofmanliness.com/2012/02/27/faq-should-i-go-to-law-school/
The summation of the above link is:
- Law school costs a lot of money/requires massive debt that can take many years to get out of.
- Scholarships can disappear much faster than you think.
- Lawyers no longer make as much money as they used to and a lot of firms are now contracting out jobs instead of hiring people full-time.
- You need to be the right kind of person to go to law school- you know what the law really is (not just what you think it is), you can afford it or at least truly believe that you're good enough to keep your scholarship, you're an extremely hard worker, and you're willing to work hard to get a relatively low paying job when you first graduate.
Possibly the single most interesting thing I read in the above article relates to #4:
"According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions survey of 330 pre-law students, 52% report that they are “very confident” that they will find a job in the legal field after graduating law school and passing the bar, but only 16% say they are “very confident” that the majority of their fellow aspiring lawyers will do the same. In fact, only seven percent of respondents indicated a lack of confidence in their own ability to secure employment upon graduation. Pre-law students’ attitudes are in keeping with research showing that students aged 18-29 are more optimistic about their economic future – despite a sluggish job market – than past generations."
Everybody going to law school thinks that they're different and better- that kind of attitude is required but you must also truly be better at studying, test taking, memorizing, connecting cases, etc. than the majority of your class in order to keep a high GPA (which I'm told is the single most important item in getting a job).
Based on the article, I'd suggest taking the largest scholarships offered so as to minimize your debt. Talk to your various advisors though and have them figure out what is best for you personally- all other advice is based on generalizations and may not be applicable.
A lot of good advice in the opinions above. I went to a top-25 law school and graduated 10 years ago. I summered for top NY and DC firms, went to work for the DC firm for a limited amount of time and never practiced again. I have friends who went to Wayne and DCL and are partners in MI firms and have successful careers. Law school is a tool.
When I was interviewing I interviewed at a top DC firm where one of the associates got in my grill about if I thought I was special. He said when he interviewed he was top 3 in his class at Georgetown and lived with his parents for a year after graduating because the market was so bad. He was bitter because I was graduating in a good market and he graduated in a bad market. I got an offer at that firm.
Now is a bad market. I was part of an interview panel at a firm and it was very depressing. People were dying for any sort of job.
I will say this. Wayne State is well-respected as a top law firm in the region. If you can go there for 75% cost that is a pretty good deal. Iowa and Wisconsin are very good schools. MSU has a good school where you can make a go at it. Hopefully the market will be better by the time you graduate.
There is no right answer. You have a tough decision to make. But if you work hard, good things will come to you.
It's a question of risk/reward, with the risk far outweighing the reward.
I'm set to graduate from a bottom-end top 25 law school in a couple weeks. Full disclosure, law school has worked out for me, as I was able to secure a big law job post graduation.
However, the employment numbers truly are scary. A friend of mine at school was asked to be put on the student committee seeking post-graduation donations from graduating students. She was told that only 31% of our class has secured post-graduation legal employment.
31%, and we're set to graduate in 13 days. At a top-25 (granted bottom end of the top-25) school.
I am still glad I went. It was fulfilling and I'm really excited to get started in September. But I don't think I'd have that same, fuzzy warm feeling if I was part of the other 70% of my classmates. Just some real numbers to chew on.
Yes, the part of the other 70% can be rough. OP just go into it knowing that one outcome may be a paralegal job in this economy. And, ask yourself if you're comfortable risking that. The answer may be yes, I'm not saying don't go. But, just know that this is a possible outcome and a reality for several people I know.
I would ask yourself is it the law that you love and want to work with, or is it the prestige of the title attorney and the big bucks? The former is attainable the latter may or may not come.
Since you have a job, not only do you have the cost of your three years of tuition to consider, but also the three years of salary you're giving up to attend law school. That is likely going to be a tremendous cost, and it will probably take a decade to get to the point where your earnings after law school surpass what you'd have earned if you never became a lawyer. That is true I think even if you land a decently paying job. There are too few legal jobs that pay well enough to enable young lawyers to repay their loans.
I went to a school which at the time was ranked 25th by US News, after attending Michigan for undergrad (I was out of state at Michigan). The school I went to was in-state for me tuition-wise. I graduated with the lowest honors about 5 years ago. My first job out of school was in a defense firm, and it paid me $45,000.00.
I went straight from undergrad to law school, and did so because I didn't have another job. There was basically no oppotunity cost in terms of giving up a paycheck, since I couldn't find a job anyway, and I went to an in-state school. Still that job was barely worth it.
I think law school still makes sense, but the circumstances in which it does are shrinking. I don't think changing careers to become a lawyer is the wisest choice these days.
You have already done well for yourself. I will be very candid because this is a huge decision.
- Do not go to law school unless you are sure you want to be a lawyer. The schools you are looking at will not put you on a path to riches. (To be clear: the sky is the limit for what you can accomplish after school, wherever you go--but it will have to be your own hustle, it will not be there for you just because you're holding a degree from Wisconsin, Kent, etc.)
- If you are certain your want to be lawyer, and certain you want to practice in Michigan, it is probably not worth leaving the state, even if you could get in to Wisconsin or Iowa.
- If you are looking to move to a large city in another region of the country go to the school with the best national reputation among your options (i.e. Iowa or Wisconsin).
I graduated from Michigan and work at a firm in DC. To be very candid, if I had a relative or close friend considering law school I would not suggest it unless (1) you can go to a top 15 school or (2) want to practice local criminal/family law. And let me be clear that local law practice can be a great life. Fine pay and much more fun/entertaining than what I am doing. But make sure that's what you're after.
Best of luck to you whatever you choose.
I'm a Junior in college right now and I was pre-law for a grand total of one semester my freshmen year. All of these reasons (Cost, admissions to top schools, salary disparities, long hours, job uncertainty) led me to stop considering law school and focus in on Public Policy, either doing a PhD program straight out of college (no additional debt) or to find a job that would (help) pay for me to get my masters. From everyone that I've talked to, this route is much less risky and as or more rewarding than law school.
Hillbilly, I'm a prosecutor out in Los Angeles. I have a few thoughts on your situation (as a lot of people apparently do).
First, I'd like to know if you've considered going to law school part time? I believe this would probably take care of some of your concerns. Going part time will greatly reduce the financial burden on your family. You'll be able to keep your job (presumably) so you'll still have your income and you'll only be paying out a fraction of the amount for tuition. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it might not be the experience you're hoping for socially (btw, law school is NOTHING like college), but it would greatly reduce your exposure to some of the dilemmas you are worried about.
Second, you really should consider whether you are interested in law or whether you're interested in making more money. Nearly every person I know from law school hates being a lawyer. That's because we almost all did it for the same reason: we didn't know what else to do. There's only one guy I know from law school who went because he loved the idea of being a lawyer and I don't think it's a coincidence that he is the happiest guy in the world actually being a lawyer. It sounds like you already make good money. If that's the case, ask yourself why you really want to go to law school.
Third, if you decide to push forward with law school then your decision of whether to go to a higher prestige vs. lower cost school should be informed by a couple of factors.
A. First, do you plan on going out of state to work as a lawyer? If so, you should go to the higher ranked/prestigious school. If, for instance, you came to Los Angeles to get a job and told people you went to Michigan State's law school, they would recognize the name and it would at least start you off on a good vibe. If you said you went to Wayne State, you'd get blank stares and they might even wonder if that was a real place. If, however, you stay in state then I don't think it matters much where you go. In my office, we have a TON of grads from Southwestern. Ever heard of it? Didn't think so. But because people are so familiar with it in the area, it doesn't matter whether a person graduated from Southwestern vs. UCLA vs. Stanford. We've had experience from grads at each of those schools and some are good and some suck, regardless of which school they attended.
B. What do you plan on doing with your degree? If your end game is to work at a giant law firm and make partner, you'd be better served with the Big Name Law School. If it's virtually anything else, I don't think it matters much.
Finally, please keep in mind that having a law degree is certainly no guarantee of a bright financial future. My office is the largest prosecutor's office in the country. A little over a thousand prosecutors. We are hiring this summer for the first time in six years. We received something like two thousand applications for 40 spots. We've had people interning here (for free, of course) for a couple of years who didn't get one of those 40 spots. Having a law degree does not mean you're going to get hired to be a lawyer. You should be ready to hang out your own shingle and spend a couple of years building a client base (and living in the red) if you decide to be a lawyer. Also, if you are young enough you could consider being a cop. I know a couple of officers who went to law school and they are great cops, largely because they went to law school. And cops make good money.
I have a close friend who worked in the insurance industry (adjuster) while attending law school in the evenings. I took him 5 years to graduate IIRC, and the work-load between job and school was extreme, but he graduated and practices in NYC in the insurance defense area. He makes a very good living and the situation worked out well for him. A person would have to be very committed for this approach.
I debated doing the part-time thing but decided against it. For the last 2-3 years I have been living on 3 hours of sleep a day (I work nights) and loads of energy drinks I have been working like 60 hours a week and taking a full load of classes, summer included, and it was all I could handle. I can't image law school on top of working that much.
My wife just graduated from duke last year, she is a lawyer here in Michigan. I would add that the people saying if you are going to stay here, then go to a Michigan school a correct, if not then go to the highest ranking school. The market is recovering. Things are not great, but they are getting better. Schools also have bridge to practice programs that help if you can't find anything by graduation. Also, the income based repayment will give you some freedom to make a choice not centered around student loan debt.
In the spirit of this blog, let's look at some actual data. Here are 2010 placement numbers for some of the schools being discussed:
Iowa (the highest ranked school under consideration): 25% of its grads had no long term employment 9 months after graduation. I'm tempted to say that this should pretty much end the discussion, but let's continue. Roughly another 12% had jobs in "business or industry," i.e. something you probably didn't need a law degree for. Now, some of those jobs may be actual business jobs, but most of them are probably things along the lines of working for Home Depot, which you obviously don't need a JD for (and which probably aren't paying enough to eat into your debt at all). Another 20% are employed in small firms (under 50 lawyers). Nothing wrong w/small firm practice, but those jobs are unlikely to afford you a salary high enough to pay off the enormous debt load you'll carry. Less than 20% of the class has big firm jobs. Again, this is at a top-50 law school, at the state's flagship university.
Wisconsin: 14% unemployed, 7% in "business/industry." Roughly 30% in small firms or solo practitioners. 20% in government - those jobs may or may not pay decently, but obviously don't pay extravagantly. Roughly 10% of the class in large firms.
Wayne State: Roughly 1/3 of the class unemployed. 14% employed in large firms.
Michigan State: Roughly 27% unemployed. 6% employed in large firms.
So, basically at any of these schools, you have somewhere between a 5-20% chance of coming out w/a job that will give you a good shot to pay off your debt. As well as other luxuries like, y'know, clothes and food for your kids. Your chances of not finding a job at all are considerably higher. Oh, and as someone else alluded to - many of the scholarships that schools give out are contingent on your attaining a certain GPA thru your first year, otherwise they may be cut off. The only problem w/this is that law schools grade on a curve, so they give out scholarships knowing that some people will lose them no matter how hard they try. So even getting a free (or close to free) ride may not be quite the deal it sounds like.
Have you considered an evening program? You could maintain your employment, which would reduce your risk factor.
The student loan situation is a scary one - it is a fact that student loan debt has outpaced inflation and family income. This, combined with the fact that there are a glut of lawyers in the market makes it imperative that you find that job that will simultaneously support your family and pay back your student loans. Something to consider is that getting a top notch job is basically committing yourself to working 60-80 hours a week (unless you work for the govt). Do you want to spend your time working and being a slave to student loans or watching the kids grow up? I live and work in DC and all lawyers who work for firms are overworked and hate it (hell, one lawyer even jumped out off the top of a ten story building and killed himself), but many can't escape it because student loans are are hanging over them. Even if you get a high-paying job it may be hard, depending on where you live. I was lucky to get a good job with the govt and make six figures, but unfortunately that doesn't go very far in the DC metro area.
I can't offer any advice on the school reputation/ranking piece, as I am not in law. However, in my field (and many others), it doesn't matter where you go as much as what you do on the job. Like some others have said, the cream will rise to the top regardless of where you came from or where you went to school. Law school may be very different - I know around DC Georgetown law students get a lot better opportunities than, say, students from American University.
The thing that shocks me is how few lawyers responding on here are fessing up to what a crap and stressful profession it is.
It really really sucks. I don't know anybody that likes it. I know plenty of people that tolerate it because they make decent money. Mostly because they don't know what else they could do to make anywhere near that money, they stick with it. They are mostly all out of shape, drink too much, miserable and would give anything to hit a lottery so they could quit.
Rather than focusing on drifting into that hell, spend your time learning about emerging businesses and industries that sound interesting and provide real value to people instead of tearing things down and sucking things dry like lawyers do. You'll be so much happier and make way more money in the long run.
I am a Michigan State law grad so I can probably give you insight there too. Absolutely look me up on social media and drop me a message. I'll tell you everything you wanna know about the school, practicing law, why I quit doing it, and how to find better more lucrative things to do when you do quit.
You seem like a good guy with good intentions. You will definitely hate being a lawyer.
Exactly. Every lawyer is a fat, miserable alcoholic living in hell who provides no value to society. Nobody likes the profession, and nobody ever will.
But we are fat, miserable alcoholics with the power to change avatars.
Thank you. I love it.
I know a lot of guys who hate the practice and some who love it. Some people are very interested, some are bleeding hearts who really believe in what they're doing. I've always found a larger paycheck certainly seems to be related to happiness in some.
I will say this, the smartest thing anyone ever said to me was my first day of law school when one of the professors said "what is a lawyer?" after a few answers with rather lofty points the professor told the class the answer was simple. "lawyers are people who others pay to deal with their life issues that they are either incapable of or not interested in handling themselves. Accordingly, if you're not up for adding other people's problems to your plate, you're probably in the wrong place."
I say this in relation to the stress comments. Yeah, it can be stressful. People who are stressed out about their own situations are paying you to deal with it. But life's full of varying levels of stress. By the time you reach law school you should know yourself enough to know whether dealing with that is something you want. Often those who don't mind a little stress step into the breach and those who don't stay away from the gun. That's life. Think about all the cases in life where that's true. Think it's not stressful being a surgeon with someone's life in your hands? What about a quarterback with 100,000 people hanging on your every move. If you hear something like that and say "bring it on" the stress won't get to you long term. If you cringe at that thought, it will turn you to a life of alcohol or misery or both.
Current 1L here. I was faced with a somewhat similar choice, between the likes of GW Law full pay (gag 75k/YEAR) vs. Wake Forest with a substantial scholarship. Took the money, but even with 30k a year, I'm going to come out 90k in debt (rest of tuition, living expenses, books). Luckily, I do have strong ties to the legal world for jobs, but there are no jobs out there. None.
Do Not Go. Law School is NOT a guarantee of anything anymore, except debt. And pain. And sadness. There's a MASSIVE oversupply of lawyers.
Of course, I do feel terrible for quashing your dream. If being a lawyer is truly your calling with 100% certainty, then do what you must to pursue it. But I warn you, as others here have, it's an expensive, soul-crushing, mind-numbing experience in and of itself, and you have 0 guarantee of employment after school. Not even a strong chance of employment, at this rate.
PLEASE READ THIS SITE IF YOU ARE EVER CONSIDERING LAW SCHOOL: www.abovethelaw.com
It's not my site at all, but it's extraordinary in reporting employment stats & the goings-on in the law school world. Hint: lots of fraud going on.
So you are 6 months in, and yet you know there are no jobs, it's not a guarantee of anything, and it's a soul-crushing experience? Sounds like you just made a bad choice.
Sounds like you're just a little butthurt because you invested an excessive amount of time, energy, and money into an occupational field that most would concur is a horrific minefield, a fact only exacerbated by today's economic climate.
I'm not doubting that your viewpoint is an honest one, but it likely is an outlier, the exception to the rule. Most of the anti-law school (and, let's face it, anti-lawyer) sentiment expressed herein represents the opinion of the majority as I've heard it communicated to me time and time (and time...and time) again. People in general tend not to have a high opinion of it, but when those in the field themselves seem to by and large lament the choice they made, that should tell you something. The incidence of such thinking seems to be much higher than amongst, say, those in the medical field. This is because doctors, nurses, etc. are, you know, helping people. What they do has a positive, tangible impact on the world. Lawyers...trade in excessive amounts of fiat currency. They push paper from one side of a desk to another. If 90% of practicing attorneys disappeared off the face of the Earth tomorrow, only their families would likely notice, and given the hours, even that's less than an assurance.
You are right about one thing- some people, such as myself, make the horrible, regrettable decision to attend law school. The fault there is our own. What I learned, and I hope what others understand likewise, is that you don't have to further punish yourself for that mistake by forcing yourself into a career promising you decent money (maybe) and not much else for the next 30-40 years. It's your life, do with it what you want. I had a scholarship, so I stuck it out even though I held the sneaking suspicion ten minutes into day one (which was just a legal writing seminar!) that I had made a wrong turn somewhere back down the road. The time I spent in law school represented the greatest period of unhappiness I ever experienced in my life. I walked out on the last day of school and promised myself that would represent the extent of my legal career. It has, and I have not regretted it for one second.
Unless you're a civil rights attorney or otherwise doing something to further the public interest, you are likely just dead weight, taking a lot of money out without putting much of anything back in. That's not an attack on you as a person, but rather lawyers as a whole.
That being said- if you enjoy what you're doing, that is all that matters, fuck the opinions of those like myself. If the law is for you, that's great. If it's not, that is also great. The problem is that a lot of us just don't know what we want, and law school is the ultimate "fuck it" option for those in that position who can read and write and otherwise think critically to an at least decent extent. When making a choice that's going to define your remaining years, my advice based on acquired experience would be to never just say "fuck it."
Despite this novel, there is actually only one relevant sentence in the entire thing: "Fuck the opinions of those like myself."
100% serious: I'm not sure if that agreed or disagreed with what I wrote.
But I'm not "butthurt" about going to law school; I've wanted to go forever. I'm pretty pleased that I ended up where I did, but the overall picture in the legal "industry" is kind of grim right now.
And I was directing OP to a website that discusses the legal industry & law schools. It specifically has been covering how many law students have come out of school and been screwed badly because there were no jobs. Add $100,000+ debt coming due after graduation (often on top of other student loans).
Also, there's been a spate of lawsuits and hubub about law schools publishing fraudulent employment data on as a way of advertising law school as a "sure fire investment." Obviously someone should do some sort of diligence, but the schools make the numbers and you can't access their admissions on your own.
All of which is to say, there's more to the picture here.
She is on a couple of committees which have occasion to hire lawyers. Two recent experiences may provide insight. The first was a clerk position with a salary of under $35,000. It drew over 150 applicants, including at least one from Harvard. The other was for a staff lawyer for a commission with a salary of $50,000. I don't know how many applicants there were in total for this, but there were multiple Ivy League applicants. There was also at least one Umich applicant, because he was given the position. He was an Ivy League undergraduate and had a wealth of relevant experience before and after law school. That is the market in an area with living expenses quite a bit higher than most places in Michigan.
Accept the offer of the school that offered you the biggest scholarship. Even as an MLaw grad with good grades, I can tell you that the job hunt was a miserable, humbling experience. Not having tons of loans to pay back takes the sting out the job struggle.
Always wondered what became of you Cowbell. I used to read your blog which I believe you shut down upon starting law school. What became of the Commander?
... a corporate lawyer for a law firm in New York.
Find out what the requirements for keeping the scholarship are, and then find out the percentage of the class that meets those requirements. If the requirement is 3.0 or above, don't be suckered into thinking it's the same 3.0 you've seen elsewhere. Grade inflation has not hit law school. Try to find out what percentage keep their scholarship through their full law school career.
It is not likely that this is readily available information, or information the school will be happy to give you.
My wife graduated from a Tier 3 law school 10 years ago and is now a partner in a large, Michigan based firm. I'm sure a better ranked school would have opened more doors initially, but she's achieved success with the degree she holds. I believe, very strongly, that it was her hustle and attitude that put her in this position. If you decide you want to practice law and are willing to be patient as your career develops, any school (within reason) can get you there. Finish near the top of your class, participate in Law Review, and, fergodsake, interview well. When I asked her about her houghts on this thread, the first thing my wife said was that so many students and young attorneys interview poorly. I've noticed the same in my profession - young professionals don't want to build careers anymore. They want high pay, short paths to partnership, and easy lifestyles along the way. Be smart, work hard, and be patient - you'll do fine with a degree from any of these schools (if it's what you truly want to do).
You don't have to go to a top 25 law school to be successful (you just have to work hard and be savy). I've worked with some of the top attorneys in the state who are partners at 400+ attorney firms and two of them came from Tier 4 law schools. The only benefit from going to a top 25 school is the mere possibility at getting a job as an associate at a large firm. But do you really want to do that, seriously (maybe you don't, maybe you do)?
Keep in mind out-of-state vs. in-state tuition too. That can be just as valuable as a partial scholarship.
Also think about which metro are you want to practice in. Law school location can help your pactice. So if you want to live and work anywhere in Michigan, go to a Michigan school. If you want to work in Chicagoland, go to Wisconsin or Chicago-Kent.
I do think that you need a graduate degree to get ahead though, so perhaps you're just debating betwen a JD, MBA, or something else...
Random selfless plug here: I'm an attorney in Columbus, Ohio and Google just did a YouTube video abot my new firm (which I hope to be expanding back into Michigan this fall). You can check it out by clicking on my signature or here.
Well done video but it sounded more like a plug for Google than for your law firm.
But like a few others have said, you have to set yourself apart because there are so many good lawyers, just being good isn't enough anymore. So if Google wants to pay for a producer and film crew to make a story about my little biz that clients find interesting,I'll take it.
So if I end up going to Wayne State or MSU and graduate near the top of the class can I count on a job offer?
Shoot me an email, srsly.
Hillbillyblue, maybe you can get a job at Dahman Law, LLC - as a web designer.
Thoughts/feedback via the site, honestly.
UAUM, the video made a good first impression about your practice, but the plug for Google left a more lasting impression.
~30 sec of the video explains why you started the practice but ~1:10 of the video is spent promoting Google. It reminds me of an American Express commercial where a small business owner talks about how the AMEX card is integral to their success.
The other thought that I have about the video is that you may want to emphasize your experience/expertise rather than why you are starting a new practice. Clients are more concerned about your expertise than why you decided to start your own firm.
When we filmed it, they took about 5 hours of film with probably 2 hour spent interviewing on what makes the firm different, our practice areas, other stuff about us, but since Google paid and produced the video, they chose what went into the final version of the video.
Thougts on the website generally are welcome too. Sometimes it's tough to view it from an outside perspective since I design it and view it all the time.
Hard work is a necessary but not sufficient condition of success. Successful people are often oblivious to that fact.
Your wife worked hard. That's to her credit - most people are unwilling or unable to. She was also very very lucky.
There's no question, a part of success is still "right place, right time". But to say someone's "very very lucky" to complete a 7-year partnership track is a stretch. My point was that there are successes from lower tier schools and failures from top tier schools. Neither the school nor the degree makes the person. It's also a bit insulting to say that successful people are oblivious to the work involved to be successful. I'd say that less successful folks are oblivious to the work, time, and sacrifice to achieve the "luck" you speak of.
I just want to push back on a couple of the more dire things that have been said - in particular, the BC Law student letter and abovethelaw.com are both really exaggerated sources of data, so please don't take those as fact. They have purposefully sensionalized many aspects of law school and the process, and abovethelaw.com is often times flat out wrong or misleading. I also know plenty of lawyers who do enjoy their work, even with some long hours. I don't think it's unreasonable to have to expect to work hard, especially for the few years out of law school. If you don't want to work hard, I wouldn't become a lawyer. That being said, I think you just have to ask yourself where you want to practice law.
If you want to be in Detroit, Wayne State should get you there, provided you work hard. MSU should probably get you there too. If you want to work in Chicago, then Kent is a good bet. Plus, those schools will teach to the bar exams in Michigan and Illinois, respectively, rather than a kind of "national" outlook. If you have significant work experience, that will help you greatly in your job search. Employers are increasingly looking to work experience not necessarily as a requirement, but certainly a huge boost to applicants.
The market is tough, but having a law degree can open up a lot of doors, and the economy IS getting better. Scholarships would certainly make it easier, and I like the insight of some of the above posters on the possiblities to go part time. Don't be scared or enticed by any one stat; there are exceptions to every rule, and you have to decide if the risk is worth it. So far, I'm happy with my decision.
You don't know what you're talking about. I went to a top tier school, wrote onto a journal, and graduated in the top half of my class. Like the majority of my classmates, I am working as a solo practitioner trying to get court appointed cases.
The market is so bad right now that even document review jobs only want the top 30%.
This is going to sound a bit patronizing, and I apologize, but you're just a 1L. This thread is not about whether you're liking law school so far and are happy with your decision, it's about whether it's worth it to go to law school in the first place. And the important question certainly isn't "where" you want to practice law. The most important question is "why"...in the past a lot of us couldn't answer that other than "I couldn't think of anything else and I wanted the prestige and pay of being a lawyer." Coming from a someone who practiced, and worked hard, at a large law firm for years, my piece of advice would be, if that's your answer to the "why" then stop right there. Hopefully, that is what the hugely negative response from practicing lawyers on this thread has proven. It's an even trickier question to answer nowadays with the state of legal employment than it was when I entered law school years ago.
Also, if you're hoping to go to a big firm and think you will only have to work especially hard only for the first few years after law school to succeed, you're kidding yourself. Apart from a business opportunity arising for me, one of the biggest reasons I left was that I saw non-equity (and even some equity) partners working insane hours and basically being treated as a glorified senior associates by the firm rainmakers (there were A LOT of other reasons as well).
There is a huge opportunity cost to going to law school. Now that I've been out for a while, I'm not sure what doors having a law degree opens (other than actually working as an attorney) that you couldn't open without a law degree with some hustle. I realize you're excited about your future and I definitely don't know your situation..I just think some of the advice you're giving is because you haven't actually experienced practicing. In the end the OP will make the best decision for him and his family, but I think the whole point of this thread is to explain the reality that sometimes blinds law school applicants and enrollees.
I don't disagree with your sentiment much about law school, but as a counter-point I would argue that sometimes people attend law school for different reasons, and that someone closer to the current job market (like a 1L) may have a better idea of what drives students today compared to a more experienced (but necessarily distant) member. I've only been practicing about 5 years, so still a young pup to many, but I do think there is a place for attorneys who understand that those shiny employment statistics you find in the brochures are exaggerated.
I have been a criminal defense lawyer for 34 years in Chicago, IL. I went to UM on a football scholarship and graduated in 1970. I then spent 3 years in the Marines as an officer and went to law school on the GI Bill. I had no debt when I finished, and that was when tuition at both UM and law school was $2500.00, a semester (big money back then).
Two things jumped out at me when I read your post. 1) You wasted your time in undergrad by taking criminal justice and social work courses. Your time would have been better spent taking business courses and any course that teaches critical thinking, i.e. philosophy. history. creative writing. literature, etc. Being a lawyer is not a job. It's a calling. It's a classical profession, along with being a medical doctor and a clergyman. Undergrad criminal justice courses are ok if you want to be a cop or work in the security field. Buisness courses are necessary now because law is now more of a business than as a profession. Any chance you may have at a job may be to open your own law firm. I learned this at a time before advertising was allowed in the legal profession. I also had a mentor for the first 5 years I was a lawyer. I learned more about being a lawyer from him than I ever did in law school.If you don't have political connections you can't even get a job as a Public Defender or Prosecutor.
2) I have a thriving criminal defense practice and have hired several lawyers recently. I hired lawyers who are retired from the Public Defenders Office or the State's Attorney Office. The reason is twofold. First, they have at leasd 18 years experience in trying criminal cases. Second, they have a pension and all their benefits paid for by the county. I don' t have to provide them. I save money that way.
It's tough out there, kid. Unless you're absoluetly sure that you want to be a lawyer and can weather the financial shitstorm, and have political connections to get that first job, don't do it.
This is way too many posts for this thread, and we have way too many lawyers on this blog.
There are way too many lawyers in America, which is why these jobs are so scarce
Does Brian know how many lawyers read this blog? He must be horrified. There are lots of careers and opportunities for lawyers and there will continue to be. As a past president of the Washtenaw County young/new lawyers, I can tell you there aren't a lot of young lawyers in Ann Arbor! Suprising since we have two law schols in town and three more within a 45 minute drive. The problem with law school is that they only train you to get a job at a big firm. A large percent of lawyers end up as solos or in small firms, bu law school do nothing, absolutely noting to prepare people for this fact of legal life.
Afte a summer at firm whose name sounds like birkland and smellis, I knew if I were to work in a firm, I would get fired. IMO, after seeing several firms (even some fairly big Michigan firms) implode in the last few years, every lawyer should be redy to practice as a sol at a moments notice.
1. There is a lot of really good advice above. I graduated Michigan Law over 30 years ago. It was a different law world then. Don't go to law school today UNLESS you really want to be a lawyer. Don't do it because you think it might be a good idea or you think you will make a lot of money.
2. If you really want to be a lawyer, going to a top school only matters a lot if you want a job at a big law firm. Those jobs aren't what they once were. It is much harder to become an equity partner (almost everyone now has an underclass of salaried partners), there is far more dreary work at the lower levels, and the chance to acquire skills at an early age is more limited. The pressure to produce big hours is enormous, and after awhile there is pressure to generate meaningful new clients also.
3. Even if you want to go to a big law firm, going to a halfway decent law school and being at the top of your class will be you noticed, perhaps more so than going to a renowned law school and getting mediocre grades. This is especially true if you have a story of why you went to the smaller school--like you got a full ride and needed it because you had a family. (I have been on my firm's hiring committee for over 10 years; I am not making this up.)
4. if you want to be a prosecutor or practice criminal defense work, or even be a plaintiff's personal injury lawyer, having the personality for it and a bit of acting flair will take you a long way. And it won't matter so much where you went to law school. It is, however, helpful to have contacts to get into a prosecutor's office or get a start with a small firm. Do your very best to apprentice with someone during law school to get that foot in the door.
I enjoyed law school, and I enjoy what I do. But if I were coming out of college today, I would really think twice about whether I wanted a career in law given the way things have evolved.
...and if someone hasn't recommended doing this, I would recommend giving B-school a thought. If your heart is set on law, then disregard my post.
Compared to law school, B-school is:
2. less time
3. better on families (i.e. less academically rigorous)
4. offers more career versitility
5. seems to have better % of people who graduate with jobs
Same rules apply in that I would go to a top 10 or not go at all (although this seems less strict in b-school compared to law school)
As a Ross full-time MBA grad, I can say that it was the best career move of my life and I graduated during the shit economy. Many of us kept our jobs, some were impacted, but all of us landed on our feet right away. If you are interested to know more, let me know.
Very interesting thread, too long (with so many long posts) for me to read in full but I agreed with a lot of what I read.
I went to UM law (and undergrad) and am a partner at one of the top 10 firms in the country. So I'm easily a 1%er when it comes to law school grad success. My advice generally to people is dont go to law school. If you are smart enough and hard working enough to have great success in law, you can make more money and/or have more satisfaction/better lifestyle in other professions.
If people really want to give law a try I say go to a great school or dont go. Now note thats a big city big law perspective. So I would say if you're not going to a great school than yeah take the scholarship. My firm for example wouldnt care if you went to Wayne St or MSU. You'd probably have no chance at either but you'd have to have absolutely killed it (like be 1st in your class) at either. At someplace like Iowa, you would have a little better chance but if you're not top10% at a place like Iowa, again no chance.
To be clear there will always be exceptions, always be success stories from small schools and failures from the best schools, but the percentages are stacked against you in a big way from a lesser school.
The best advice coming from current 2L is just make sure you want to go to law school. It's too much of a time/stress/monetary investment to not entirely buy-in.
You'll also want to take into consideration where your family is. I assume since you're at Western, that you live in/around the Kalamazoo area? If true, are you going to relocate the fam during school or commute? If you already live in the detroit area, then staying in the area and going to Wayne may be your best bet that way you won't have to reacclimate everyone to a new area. Chicago will be tough just because the legal culture sucks here right now and is over-saturated with lawyers and law students, but there are opportunites there for the right people.
At the end of the day, you need to make the decision for yourself though. Folks on here have been through the trenches, but no one can get inside your head. Wherever you go and whatever you decide to do, just make sure you've done your own work and don't rush your decision.
Best of luck!
Not a lawyer. Teacher actually. I was on a hiring comittee for one of our administrative positions and of the 20 or so resumes we seriously considered, I would say 7ish had JDs. Might be a sign, might not be worth anything.
But, I guess you could say that private-sectors still will appreciate a JD and if you decide to not go the lawyer route you may have other options.
Just to echo this, I was on a grad school admissions committee for doctoral work this year. Saw about 30 applicants with JDs out of the 140 candidates in my particular subfield, including applicants with JDs from Boalt, Penn, Columbia, and Harvard. And the JD did not benefit them, as none were admitted (we made only 5 offers).
Just as a counter, I'm currently an MS student at Columbia and they cited my law background (both degree and experience) as a positive for my admission. So it does work both ways. What doctoral program were they applying to, if you don't mind me asking.
History PhD. And it could have been total coincidence, given the horrid numbers.
I turned down a 75% scholarship to Depaul Law to go to Villanova Law... totally regret it. As several others have said, unless you're at a T-14 school, you'll likely need to finish top 5-10% of your class to even get interviews at firms that start first-year attorneys at a six-figure salary. I graduated in 2009 and just recently started a job in NYC where I can comfortably make my monthly loan payment, which now, with interest, is about $200,000.
Your monthly loan payment with interest is $200,000? I'm hoping you only have to pay that for one month.
Kidding, of course, but this has to be one of the most depressing threads I've read on MGoBlog in ages and this is a crude attempt at levity...
I hear ya - I have friends in the city making decent salaries (mid-70's/80's) who still struggle to pay back their loans just because of interest accrueing during their less-employed years.
Hillbilly, don't let people scare you from your dream. You'll always regret it. But, having said that, be wise in your decision whether to go to law school. It's a tough, demandind, stressful, overglutted profession. And don't think biglaw is the way to go. Here in Chicago, many solo and small firm lawyers make as much or more than biglaw lawyers. Many are starving, as well. If you go solo or small firm (your own, not as an employee) be sure you are schooled in business and marketing as well. In the "old" days, being a good lawyer was enough. Today, there are so many lawyers out there no one will know who you are unless you market yourself wisely. If you decide to attend Chicago Kent College of Law in Chicago, become involved in local politics. (Be a democrat as republicans have almost no power in Chicago.) That will greatly enhance your chances of becoming an ass't public defender or ass't state's attorney when you graduate. Intern in the summers with local solos, also to enhance job opportunities upon graduation. The Cook County Public Defender's Office and Cook County State's Attornys Office have what's called a 7-11 program. That's for 3L law students who work free and get courtroom experience (under the supervision of an atttorney). That's under Rule 7-11 of the Supreme Court Rules.
Hillbilly, don't let people scare you from your dream. You'll always regret it. But, having said that, be wise in your decision whether to go to law school. It's a tough, demanding, stressful, overglutted profession. And don't think biglaw is the way to go. Here in Chicago, many solo and small firm lawyers make as much or more than biglaw lawyers. Many are starving, as well. If you go solo or small firm (your own, not as an employee) be sure you are schooled in business and marketing. In the "old" days, being a good lawyer was enough. Today, there are so many lawyers out there no one will know who you are unless you market yourself wisely. If you decide to attend Chicago Kent College of Law in Chicago, become involved in local politics. (Be a democrat as republicans have almost no power in Chicago.) That will greatly enhance your chances of becoming an ass't public defender or ass't state's attorney when you graduate. Intern in the summers with local solos, also to enhance job opportunities upon graduation. The Cook County Public Defender's Office and Cook County State's Attornys Office have what's called a 7-11 program. That's for 3L students who work free and get courtroom experience (under the supervision of an atttorney). That's under Rule 7-11 of the Supreme Court Rules.
Legitimately fascinating thread to read through, but probably in need of some levity:
Late to the party, but my 2 cents.
Went to MSU law school (graduated in 2007) on a 75% scholarship. Made law review, did reasonably well grade-wise, was published a couple of times, etc. Had a technical degree (UM CE), some work experience, passed the state bar, the whole shebang, and struggled to get even interviews. Ultimately took a job as a programmer, then moved to NYC and worked as an attorney for a couple fo years before going back to software development at a small company, which has worked out well so far.
My advice is that unless you plan on being a "BigLaw" lifer/can deal with crushing debt, only go to law school if you see it furthering your career in some meaningful way. In my case, I was having a hard time finding a job as a programmer and liked the IP aspect of law, so it made sense for me given the relatively low amount of debt I accrued. And if you plan on staying on the west side of the state, MSU makes good sense because their hiring presence out there is solid. But it is a sad state of the profession that there are simply more attorneys being minted every year than the market can handle. In my case, I made it work by going back to my earlier profession and then using my legal background to supplement my utility.
But if you are just graduating and have options, try to work/branch out before investing in law school. Many of my classmates were fresh graduates who viewed law school as a "holding pattern" area of study while they figured out what to do next. Many of them wound up struggling to find employment and are still suffering under 6-figure debt. They would probably say they stand behind their decision to attend law school, but I know with me I have had to put off some life decisions temporarily while I work off my debt, with that being a fraction of their's. So my perhaps jaundiced advice is if you have doubts about whether or not law school is for you, consider that even 25% of law school tuition and room/board/living expenses will run you north of $40k. If you can handle that, then by all means go for it (and MSU is a good school - it jumped from T3 when I was there to top-100 now), but if not then hold back and figure out if you love law or just the the prestige/paycheck.
I'm a patent attorney, and while there are more jobs there than other specialities, it still isn't full of opportunities. Most firms I interviewed with/know of want an attorney with years of experience in a specific technical field (for example, most bio/chem attorneys you see have Ph.D.'s), and that might not make sense for the OP.
Umm so I'm not reading this entire thread but I'm in a similar boat. I applied senior year of UG, got into some schools, none great, retook the LSAT and got some money out of the schools I got into the next cycle. Will be going to Wayne in the fall, a little bit of money from Wayne (not a whole lot) for my first year but I'm thankful that my parents are willing to help me out with some expenses to help keep my debt load down. Unless I plan on moving out, I won't have to take out COL loans. Take the money from the best school in the market you want to work in. For me, I have no dreams of NYC/Chicago/DC BigLaw, want to live in and work in SE Michigan, have wanted to go to LS for a while, don't exactly have the most marktable degree in the world (lolPoliSci) and the thought of selling insurance for the rest of my life makes me want to blow my brains out. I've read all the horror stories above elsewhere and tbh it impacted my decision to take a year off and reassess if LS was right for me. I decided it was am scared shitless. I came here to check out some playoff stuff for the NHL games, saw this thread, and decided to post. Not sure I've actually said anything of substance or helped anybody. Just wanted to post. Good luck OP.
I am a bit late here - I was working this weekend.
My bio is a U of M BA in the early 90s, UM law degree in the mid-90s. I have been with the same mid-sized Michigan firm since, and I now have a good bit of input on hiring. My wife is an attorney as well. She went to Wayne State. I hope I can bring some perspective to your decision.
First, do make sure that you want to go to law school. That is covered very well above.
Second, Wayne State is an excellent law school which produces very good attorneys. The only issue is that it is not well known beyond Michigan. If you want to stay around the area, Wayne is a great bet. I still know people that my wife went to law school with - all top notch attorneys
Third, I wouldn't be too sure about walking into a lower rated school and dominating. Most schools set their curve so most will get B+s, but is it really hard to pull all As. Also, really smart people end up at "lower rated" schools for a number of reasons. You could end up with a lesser known degree and the typical 3.33 GPA.
Fourth, as a guy who is invovled in hiring, the law school that you go to matters - and not just for "Big Law." My firm is under 30 attorneys and a resume from a good school, like Wayne, gets more attention from a "lesser" school. Full disclosure - I have no information on most of the other schools you name. So please take this as a general point, not a negative on the other schools.
Finally, school loans suck. However, if you are going to committ to a law degree, I would go ahead and go for the best school you can. You will eventually pay off the loans (trust me, you will). However, you will have the same JD for your entire career. This is a long term investment.
Good luck to you. Tell your wife to brace herself for the fact that you will be a little nuts. Don't even ask me about the bar.
If you do go to law school, treat it like a job, not like undergrad. Get there at 8 and start working on your case books. Classes are your meetings. Bring your lunch and keep working until 6:00 p.m.when you can put it all away and go home to the family. This way you can stay up in your classes and still live a normal family life. I learned this the hard way from classmates who had families and jobs and knew the deal. I tried to do law school like undergrad (waking up 15 minute before class, cramming for exams, etc) which made for a very tough end of the semester.
What you say about treating law school like a job is why I think I will do well if I decide to go. I treat undergrad like a job. I usually spend about 6 hours a day studying and that's with working full time. If I do decide to go at least I will only have to focus on one thing.
The thing about law school (and again not to discourage you) is that most everyone will be treating it like a job and more. Most everyone puts in 6+ hours a day (10 being more like it). Effort alone will get you great results in undergrad. Not really true in law school.
I didn't mean to imply I thought 6 hours of study would be adequate for law school. I know I'm probably going to have to put in double that amount. I mentioned it because I think it is a little excessive for undergrad but I usually push myself harder than most.
Than you can shake a stick at. If any of you are looking for an expert witness in the field of psychiatry this is a shameless plug to contact me at [email protected] .edu
You probably won't get this from lawyers who have been practicing for 10+ years, but the Income based repayment plan for US Dept of Edu loans is a life saver. Don't listen to all these people that say, "you will struggle to cover your loan costs". Simply not true. As I said, my wife graduated from Duke Law (and again the name matters a lot), and she comfotably makes the loan repayments. Of course you won't pay them back as quickly on IBR, but it will give you time to catch your breath and get yourself in good financial standing before you have to make full repayments.
My wife also had full scholarships to tier 3 schools (Drake, Capital) and even tier 1 Ohio State, which she turned down thank God! She is in the same boat as everyone else, but people respected she went to Duke, and if you want to stay in Michigan go to a Michigan school, but a note worthy name can make all the difference.
Forget about responsibility and just take out as many student loans that you can so big brother government can cover the leftover after 20 years. that will end well for the taxpayer.
I graduated from UM and went straight into a JD/MBA program at BC (back 20 years ago). My advice comes from that experience. Going to school with law and business students at the same time provided an interesting perspective. I was in business school with many people who wanted to attend law school, decided to be a paralegal first, then saw they did not like working in law. They saved themselves the headache and money of attending law school by getting real exposure first.
On the other hand, I was on a law review at the law school during my3rd and 4th year while interviewing with law firms. A couple people I knew on the journal were asking why I was interviewing with law firms. They were miserable in law school and questioning why become a lawyer. They were envious that I had options (i.e. my MBA).
I did end up taking an IT job, left that for law, then went back to IT for the last 16 years. I do not regret getting my law degree, but a bit of a luxury at the cost.
If you can defer, take some time, be a paralegal, see what the real world of practicing law is like and see if that is really what you want to do. If it is, you probably were a good paralegal and will have a good "in" to get hired later . . .
Good luck with your decision.
Last year I read an article in the New York Times decrying the practice of awarding "renewable" scholarships to law students which come with conditions that are hard to meet. The schools COUNT on some number of students failing to qualify after the first year. Then the students are invested enough that they can't leave, but are paying more tuition than they counted on.
Any of you who are offered (or swayed by) scholarships, ask hard questions about how many past recipients met the conditions to renew them.
ETA: I see that MULTIPLE respondents to the OP have mentioned this. It's a real phenomenon; glad the word is getting out because it strikes me as super slimy.
If we're allowed to link, here is the article in question: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?_r=1
Several of the schools the OP is considering are mentioned.
I'm a second year law student at MSU. I also decided between Wayne State and MSU, they're both very similar in many respects. It came down to not wanting to live in Detroit, or live outside of Detroit and commute to school every day. MSU's rankings have been rising steadily, into the upper 80s this year, though I didn't check where Wayne falls on the list.
I've honestly enjoyed the experience thus far, and I would certainly do it again, but I've wanted to go to law school for a large portion of my life. Like everyone else has said, the job market sucks right now. I got a decent job last summer, but I'm still waiting on responses for this summer. I didn't get a summer associate position or anything, and I probably won't next year either. I will be graduating in a year with almost $200k in debt, between undergrad at UM and law school. Right now I feel like my best option financially is to join the military immediately upon graduation and put in twenty as a JAG Officer, an option I will be examining very closely over the summer.
If I was in your position, I don't know if I would leave a good paying job. But if you really want to do law school, MSU isn't a bad place to be.
I'm a U of Mich law grad, out about 9 years. I'll echo a lot of the sentiments about the devaluation of the law profession over the course of the past few years. When I walked in the early 2000s, even with the 2001 recession, there were enough law firms jobs to go around. That's changed pretty radically since, oh, 2007 and has not really come back yet. To some extent, I think that actually cuts towards taking the best scholarship offer available, rather than going to the best prestige school. Less student loan debt means less financial pressure in the future, and, to some extent the deteriorating job market seems to cut across the tiers of law schools (that is, the job market seems pretty crappy whether you're at UCLA or at Loyola Chicago). If you had Yale or Harvard on hold while pondering a financial aid offer from Wayne (an excellent school that only suffers from, as some people have pointed out here, a lack of branding outside of Detroit), I could see putting off Wayne for either. But I don't think that Wisconsin or Iowa are so good that you should incur the full $120,000-$150,000 student loan debt (no disrespect to my fellow Badger or Hawkeye JD holders).
The frustrating thing is that the market could change in three years (it's happened before; there were small luls in the mid 80s and 90s that were followed by hiring booms), but I have a sinking feeling that the profession as a whole has gone through a restructuring which de-emphasizes route tasks done by junior lawyers.
I'll echo the sentiments below about treating law school as a job. More importantly, I would think of it as an investment whose ROI is difficult to gage. Your students loans (and their interest) will be your buy in; what you get out of it will be determined by some many factors, least of which might be your effort. Being the risk-adverse guy that I am, I would invest (bet?) with the least amount of my own money given the variables in play. I can completely respect the argument of prestige (and it has never hurt me to put Michigan Law on my resume), but I wonder if things have changed so much in the profession that the incredibly high tuition is not worth it, at least on your dime.
My two cents...
The consensus seems to be "take the most money from the best school you can in your region," and I'd agree. The only other thing I wanted to suggest would be to research the faculty in the area you'd like to practice. I went to a mid-tier school in a big city and really appreciated that the instructors in many electives were practitioners and well respected in the community. I didn't retain a lot from the core classes, but getting the "hands on" teaching from experienced litigators made a difference when it came time to practice law. Check out which schools have a clinic or other training in the area you'd like to pursue.
Good luck with your decision!
First off, everything said upthread about no jobs, six figures of nondischargable debt, brutally difficult and competitive profession- all true. Do not become a lawyer.
But another point - I see talk about treating it like a job, or effort. This is bullshit. You cannot "work" law school. One of the oddest aspects of law school is that the ability to get good grades is, essentially, random, and very poorly correlated with past academic experience. I was a diffident UG student with middling grades, got to LS, and basically could not get lower than an A- unless I tried to fuck up. I worked -1hr a day, got a great job, and am now a happy, successful lawyer.
All of my close friends were harder working than me -by multiples. All are as smart as me. All had better pre LS records. It didn't matter. LS exams don't reward hard work. They reward some ineffable knack which you either have or you don't, and if you don't, you're screwed.
Some people say that if you really want to be a lawyer, you go anyways. This is wrong. There are some thing you want to really do that you don't do out of consideration for the collateral damage you cause to those around you. You don't go home with the pretty young thing at a bar once you're married. You don't ride a superbike when you have a kid at home. And you don't go to law school and play the lottery, when the odds are you will be nothing more than a burden on your loved ones for years after.
I was at a top school, with my tuition paid for by an inheritance, no career and single. Maybe I could justify it. You so affirmatively cannot. Please, please, don't go.
I haven't read all the posts on this thread, and don't really have anything new to add, except that I think adding yet another voice does have value. I agree with the initial opinions that say go to a (very) top-ranked school, or go for as close to free as possible wherever do you go.
About me: I graduated from a school in the 15-20 range, was on law review, and worked for a few years at a very highly-ranked east coast Biglaw firm. I now work in-house for a company in Denver. By most measures, I'm one of the fortunate ones, with a good resume, and a job I generally like. That said, I still have a six-figure debt over my head that I think about constantly. I'm lucky that I graduated at a time when the interest rates were still low enough that I was able to consolidate them at a pretty low interest rate, and although they are daunting, I should be able to pay them back as long as I stay reasonably well-employed. But my debts still limit my options and will for a very long time.
I'm not as jaded as many lawyers I know, and I genuinely liked law school, but even now I question the decision to go. I know a lot of people that don't have jobs (or at least not the type of jobs people who go to law school think they will have), and they are truly screwed by their debt loads.
Basically, I would say this: if you have a true sense of what it is lawyers actually do, and you think you will enjoy the actual day to day of going to law school, then do it if you can go for basically free. If you have a family especially (I don't), you need to be extremely careful about your decision. Success in law school is very much a crapshoot, so don't in any way assume you will do well.
I'm not quite to the point of recommending people don't go to law school at all, but the profession has changed drastically from what it was even 5-10 years ago, so it's something you need to be very sure of before you start.
No matter the forum, these threads are always the same. T-14 or bust, work in big law or you're a fool, etc. As a counter-point, I will say that I went to (gasp) Cooley on a full scholarship so I graduated debt free. The majority of the people in my first-year classes should never have gone to law school (I thank them for going into debt to fund my scholarship) but everyone that graduated who I keep in touch with has found work. No, they are not working in large firms in NYC or Chicago, but most of us weren't in it for that sort of things. Most of us were planning to go back to our small home town and either start a solo practice or work for one of the three or four firms in that small town. Temper your expectations and there is work to found even in this economic climate, even in Michigan. You don't HAVE to go to a T-14. Going to a bottom tier school and graduating with greatly reduced debt is a perfectly valid option although you will have to lower your expectations accordingly.
At the moment I am doing document review (work that a junior high school kid could do). I have been doing if for a few years now. I share the work space with grads (classes ranging from '05 to '11) from Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, Northwestern, USC, UVA, Michigan, Georgetown, George Washington, Washington U (St. Louis), Emory, and other schools in the top 50, in addition to schools from the second, third and fourt tiers. There are people here who did moot court, people who were on journals (including law review), people who were associates at large prestigious firms (and lost their jobs because of lay-offs), people who clerked for federal judges, people who worked for the government. In other words, the job market for attorneys at the moment is VERY VERY bleak.
Unless the ABA starts limiting the number of attorneys being pumped out every year into, what is already, a super saturated market (understatement) the problem of normal full-time employment will continue to compound. For many attorneys, these days, there are a few options: (a) doc review, (b) pitching their own shingle, (c) trying to join the military, FBI, or other gov't agency, in a civilian/non-attorney capacity, but in a position where one could at least be able to utilize some of the skills acquired in law school, (d) get out of law altogether.
Just to illustrate how difficult it is to land a job, my friend who is an attorney at the DOJ used to review apps for the entry-level honors program. He told me that a few years ago, when he was doing this, they received close to 20,000 applications for 35 spots. Keep in mind that 10-15 years ago, there were more than enough jobs in the fed gov't to absorb new graduates, including at the DOJ. In fact, at some agencies, they had a hard time filling positions. Today, they are turning away people who are more than qualified, from top notch law schools, and with impressive resumes, simply because there are not enough spots. If you don't believe me and some of the other posters, just google "job prospect for attorneys" and you will find articles from the likes of Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, NY Times, etc.
I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer and disuade you from pursuing your dream, if being an attorney is really a dream of yours. If you really want to be a lawyer, have the luxury of rolling the dice (if it does not work out you can try something else without making a substantial change in your life and taking too much of a hit), and get a substantial scholarship, I don't see that much of a problem of taking a risk and seeing if you can make something of it. However, if risk is something you cannot afford, I would consider other options.