Shoot me an email, srsly.
Shoot me an email, srsly.
To the firm or is there another email address you would prefer?
its sdahman at dahmanlaw.com
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 ernestwp@umich .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.