I'm at Michigan Law right now, and only got an internship this summer because I had connections. I didn't do well in the first year, like 50% of the class, and it was nigh impossible to get even a sniff from firms (even local ones). The legal market is brutal right now. The massive debt just isn't worth it anymore. Visions of 160K a year out of the gate are just that - visions, not reality. My advice? Get an accounting degree, get your CPA, and put in your time with an accounting firm for a few years. Then, go do whatever you want. A MAcc and a CPA is far more versatile than a law degree.
OT: Questions for Mgolawyers
ypsituckyboy is right... The debt law school puts you in outweighs the reward in this economy. I, for one, am graduating with my MAcc in a couple months at age 22 (albeit from OU, not U of M) and am starting full-time at a firm this summer. Can't do that with a law degree. I actually know a few people who recently graduated from law school and sat on their asses for a year or two before finding work*.
*However, they did not graduate from U of M Law. I still think a Michigan degree is your golden ticket.
I actually just finished my MS in Acc at MSU and will be starting with a firm in Detroit. I agree with ypsituckyboy as well, a degree in accounting and getting your CPA can open up so many windows. I have been really happy with my choice to be a CPA, I have had many opportunities for employment where as alot of my freinds who are good students in finance, supply chain, etc are really struggling to get jobs...
UM undergrad, UM law (December 07- summer starter). I will say this: do what area of law you are interested in, if you can. In reality, when you're looking for a job, you won't necessarily get to choose what "area" you go into- i.e., health law, civil rights, labor and employment, etc. If you have those options, that's great, but I feel like it's more likely that you get a more general option, such as "litigation vs. non-litigation", really.
Personally, I am struggling under the debt load. My loan payments are around $1600 a month. That's not chump change. I don't work at a massive firm, so I don't get paid "market," which makes this difficult. I would say, go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that nothing is guaranteed, and there's been a paradigm shift in the market. It isn't 2004 anymore or whatever, where biglaw firms were falling all over themselves to hire like crazy, and there was an arms race for associate's salaries. It has cooled significantly since then.
However, I do disagree that a CPA or MAcc is a better choice for versatility, but, of course, I am biased. I realize a CPA can't be a lawyer without the degree, and a lawyer can't be a CPA without the accounting backgroung. In my opinion, anything between the two, both CAN do, but I just have this (perhaps unfounded and/or based on personal biases) view that the law degree is more versatile. You can be a CEO with either degree, obviously.
Okay, I'm sort of rambling here (imagine that, a lawyer being long-winded and full of hot air), but I guess I'd say that I do not regret my decision. If nothing else, you know your career earning trajectory is always going to rise, and, over the long-term, at a better rate than in most other professions. And the degree is very versatile. I realize you can say the same thing about the MAcc, MBA, etc; I just am more familiar with the attorney income arc from looking at studies on it, etc. It's pretty much (supposedly) a straight slope of 1:1 when you average it over, say, 30 years.
I would say, though, as a caveat: when I went through law school, I had the benefit of having worked at a law firm beforehand, and having a father who was an attorney. I thought then (and still think) that a TON of my colleagues were incredibly naive and didn't really know why they were there. I'd say be sure before you make the decision. If your heart's not in it, or you're not certain it's the right choice in your mind, don't do it. It won't be worth it, nor fruitful.
As a sidenote: I feel that law school does an awful job of teaching the curriculum. The Socratic Method is stupid, because after awhile, most profs don't use it, and then the class time is spent hearing gunners espouse their views which may/may not be correct, with the professor never really adding much clarity. The best classes are the hands-on classes, in my opinoin, where you actually DO things. Also, of note, I found my classes as an LS&A undergrad in Poli Sci at UM generally to be far more engaging and enjoyable. I kind of became disillusioned with the law school process, mainly because I knew that a lot of it was just b.s. and wasn't teaching useful skills (yes, I know- "thinking like a lawyer" is part of it and a useful skill, but that's kind of a cop-out).
One more thing: I did unpaid internship 1L summer for a Federal agency, then a biglaw summer associate gig, and got an offer, but turned it down (the firm was in bad shape). I work at a "mid-size" firm, and it has its benefits (better hours, more freedom, more hands-on work), but it has its downside, too: less money. It's a catch-22 because of the debt load, and I'll probably be looking to leave to go to a bigger firm, simply because of the economics of the situation. Just know that the economics will have a big, big impact on you, but that being said, I wouldn't do it differently- not go to UM law and instead go to a less prestigious school with lower tuition- because I think the UM law degree is very helpful in getting a job, and has given me the flexibility I have in choosing where to work, to an extent.
One of my really good friends just finished his first year at Michigan and just got a job for the summer a few weeks ago. (The job is in Chicago.)
A JD is a far more valuable and respected degree, and you can do a lot with it. I have friends who went to Michigan Law School w/ me that branched out and are doing other stuff such as banking, real estate, etc.
With that saying, you need to weigh the benefits versus the costs of going. I'd really make sure that this something that you truly want to do. Ypsit was right in the sense that whatever 'glamor' or excitement there was in going to law school has completely evaporated. Where you do go to school does really matter, if you're going to accumulate a massive amount of debt by going to a lower rung law school, you need to evaluate whether it's really worth it to you (and perhaps you want to get into some public interest and loan forgiveness program). I'd try and contrast that with schools who are giving you the most scholarship money. Getting out of law school with minimal debt would be amazing particularly to hedge your bets in this economy.
Yeah the legal market has been tough lately, but remember you're not evaluating how the market is now, but projecting what it will be like in 3 years when you graduate. Remember, these things are cyclical. Gone are probably the days of the summer associate getting wined and dined (to a certain extent), but I'd expect it to pick up and be reasonable to find a job in 3 years.
And along the same line, I would amplify my precautions ten-fold if you're thinking about going to a lower ranked school. Whether anyone like it or not, firms are resume snobs - they look at the USNews rankings just like everyone else does. That means if you go to one of the lower ranked schools, you have to finish far higher in your class to get the same opportunities that people at higher ranked schools get. To that you might say, "Well, I plan on finishing in the top X% of my class, so I'll get an offer". And I respond, "False. Everyone thinks they're going to finish high, but statistics are a bitch."
"And along the same line, I would amplify my precautions ten-fold if you're thinking about going to a lower ranked school. Whether anyone like it or not, firms are resume snobs - they look at the USNews rankings just like everyone else does. That means if you go to one of the lower ranked schools, you have to finish far higher in your class to get the same opportunities that people at higher ranked schools get."
I would say that this is true insofar as we are talking solely about "the same opportunities". Otherwise, it's a vast generalization and really isn't as true as you'd like to think it is with respect to landing a good job. It probably is for a certain class of firms, but I can unequivocally say that for the vast majority of firms it doesn't mean much at all and it means even less for every job after your first. Also, it depends a lot on which state you are practicing in (or plan to practice in). My personal opinion, from experience, observation and everything that I've read, is that the graduates who went to the highest rated law schools have actually been hurt worse by the downturn in the legal market than others who went to lower ranked schools. The type of firms that graduates of those schools typically go to have been the ones who have shed the most weight in the last couple of years.
Clarence, you're on to something here. This is an excellent point. I have a TON of friends who are highly competent and intelligent who have been laid off by their BigLaw firms.
On the flipside, though, when you are competing for a job at a smaller firm, and your resume has a top-10 law school on it, people stop and look. It often gets you in the door. I know I was told that this was the precise reason I was given my interview at my current firm, which only has about 45 lawyers.
Oh, no doubt that's true that it gets a lot of firms to stop and look, but I think that's virtually all that the top name schools get you at the end of the day: a stop and look that people that went to lower ranked schools don't get. Once you get in the door for the interview it stops mattering.
then a pick a cheaper law school with a good local reputation, as opposed to a national law school with a national reputation. The extra money for the "better" school is rarely worth it. Believe me, I know.
Or you can go to law school, spend all the money, graduate, decide you never want to practice law, go back to school, become something else, and spend the next decade paying off your law school debt with only a piece of paper to show for it. Been there...still there...
I have practiced employment law in Dallas for 13 years. Graduated from UM in '92 and SMU Law in '97. In anwer to your first question, I would recommed employment law. Employment law is factually interesting (sex harassment vs. remedies available under the UCC for being sent non-conforming widgets?....no brainer). It is also recession-proof. In good economic times when there is lots of hiring, there are failure to hire claims. In bad times, when there are layoffs, there are wrongful termination claims. Plus, given the constant change in terms of new federal and state employment laws, employment lawyers are needed to sort that out and stay on top of it. Family law is another area that is recession proof and can be lucrative.
Work your butt off, and network all you can. Many firms might be resume snobs, but they're also achievement snobs. I didn't go to the greatest law school in the world, but I worked hard, made top 10% of my class, was Editor in Chief of Law Review, did competitions each year, and traveled to Austria for three weeks for a moot court.
I also got to pick my job upon graduation.
I can't stress this enough. WORK. YOUR. BUTT. OFF. FIRST. YEAR. Be prepared for everything before you show up. Outline like crazy. Study 18 hours a day. That first year will brand your entire career, good or bad. Be ready or it or don't bother going to law school.
Very true. The first year will determine your place in the class if the grading is anything like TUOOS. First year was a strict curve while the second and third year courses seemed much more lax in their grading. It became progressively harder to stand out both from the easier grading perspective and by the second year most students have figured out how to be law students. Also, dont try to work full time and go through in 3 years...it will take ten years off your life and make you not want to practice.
with jg2112. Be prepared to work harder than you've ever worked before during the first year--it is all important, especially in the current economic climate.
As for "recession-proof" practice areas, product liability defense is more recession proof than most. The major downside of product liability is the size and duration of the typical litigation, which involves hundreds if not thousands of individual cases, and often drags on for the better part of a decade. An upside is that it is always interesting to learn about the scientific and technical aspects of whatever product is at issue.
However, I would also seriously consider doing something else, at least until the legal market improves. Get a CPA if you think you might want to do tax law someday, get a scientific or engineering masters if you think you might want to do product liability law, etc.
I agree completely with jg2112. Another area that is pretty recession proof is anything having to do with older people. First, people continue to get older. Second, older people generally have their financial portfolio structured more soundly and have been hurt less by the economic downturn and still need legal services to protect what they have. Third, it's an area where you can do really well and do good at the same time and still maintain somewhat of a normal life.
jg2112 has it right. The one thing I wish I someone had told me before my first year of law school is that you have to treat law school (or at least your first year), as a job. You have to be committed to busting your ass in that first year, even if it doesn't look like other people are. Your first year matters more than you can possibly imagine. Get good grades, get on law review, and distinguish yourself from your peers, and you'll be alright, even in a tough economic market.
That being said, you should also be aware that the study of law is oftentimes a lot more interesting that the actual practice of law. The practice can be tedious, especially if you want to work at a firm immediately out of school (and not knowing any better, most people do). If it's possible, talk to as many lawyers you know and find out exactly what it is that they do, and what they do and don't like about their practice areas. I litigate, and I generally like it (mostly because I enjoy writing a ton), but the are aspects of the job (discovery, dickhead opposing counsel) that make my want to shoot myself.
Finally, and this is a sad statement to make, but where you go to school does matter, at least to an extent. I work in DC, and the school-snobbery is palpable. I went to a school at the bottom of the top-20, and still oftentimes feel like I have to prove that I'm equal to my Ivy league-educated peers. And I'm 7 years out of school. That might not be how it is everywhere, but that's certainly how it is here.
Don't go unless you have a full scholarship, or are going to a top 5ish school.
Some schools (Michigan State University College of Law for one) offer a dual JD/MBA program. It takes a full-time student 4 years to complete, but from what I've heard, it is well worth it. That being said, don't pick an area of law just because the future looks bright. Pick an area of law that you love (or at least tolerate enough to spend the next 30+ years of your life doing). I spent 2 years practicing litigation in a large Charlotte, NC law firm, making GREAT money, but hating my life (or lack thereof). Now, I am back in Michigan practicing what I love - M&A, commercial transactions and general business law. Good luck!
... when I first read this I though you were already in law school. If you're not, and you are already in $175k of debt, then question #1 is rather irrelevant, and #3 a tad jumbled (any issues about applying are just transitional).
There's a lot of good stuff in the replies above, but the bottom line to me is this: you have to decide whether you want really to be a lawyer by talking to lawyers. Then look hard at your qualifications, the market and your financial situation. Don't just talk to law school admissions people (they want the tuition) or law professors (most never practiced law).
If you haven't done this level of due diligence, then there's probably a slot for you at a good school in 2011 if you're ready then.
The legal industry is changing fast. If you think you're in a tough spot now, imagine you are finishing up third year, with $250k+ in debt and not even having an internship possibility while you are gearing up to study for the bar exam.
Many people I meet in your situation seem like they just want to be a law student. They have no real compelling reason to go to law school save for a way to ride out the recession or because they couldn't hack organic chemistry.
A pause now before you write that next check is a sign of maturity, not instability.
I graduated from UM with a mechanical engineering degree and just graduated from a middle-of-the-road law school. My law school grades weren't great, but I had my pick of jobs because I worked as a patent agent at a law firm during law school. It's a difficult profession, but all of the patent attorneys I know are doing very well and making big money.
You probably remember my "Should I go to law school?" thread from a few weeks ago and I've been weighing things carefully for the past couple months or so.
I am just wondering how you came to the decision to go to law school in the first place and what the most important factors were in making your decision. I understand if you don't want to disclose too much information, but did you just finish your undergraduate education or have you worked/done other stuff for a few years?
I just finished my undergrad. I basically decided to go to law school/be a lawyer because I think I'd be good at it and I figure I'd like it as much as any other job I'd be doing.
... I wish you had said this at the outset; I wouldn't have wasted my time.
I'm sending you a bill calculated at $500/hr.
Your rationale also applies to lumberjack.
Actually, I made my decision in a similar way. I would actually strongly suggest you work a year or two before going. I think it is good in a ton of ways, and also actually bolsters your resume. Personally, I had worked in television for a year, decided I wanted a career change, and made the decision to pursue law because I thought I would be good at it and that it would be intellectually challenging. That was about 6 years ago. I think it was the right call. I'd really, really suggest going out there in the real world for a year or two first, though. You will grow as a person (as lame as that sounds) and learn a ton about life, and it will help you to make your decision with a more clear head/heart, and a better grasp on the realities of non-school life. This isn't to sound condescending or anything, I'm just saying some time in the real world really is helpful and it's hard to understand unless you've been there. Think about it: from age 5 until 22, you had everything essentially planned, for the most part. You knew you were going to school, knew you were going to college, etc. I'd say if I were you and interested in the law, work at a firm as a paralegal or project assistant for a year, and decide if you still want to do it. If nothing else, you'll have a much clearer understanding of what you're getting into, and feel more comfortable with your decision internally.
This is a pretty depressing thread.
A bit off-topic: how do people feel about pursuing an MBA? I was considering getting my MBA in the next few years, and I know the debt is significantly less than the ~$175k people here are discussing, but would any mgobloggers advise against it in the current economic climate?
I have a couple friends who work at jobs that reimburse them (at least partially) for tuition and are earning their MBA that way. It is taking them longer because their employers will only pay a certain amount per semester. Another friend is looking for a job at a university specifically for tuition assistance with an MBA.
Are you in a business-related field now or would you be earning the MBA to get more business-oriented experience?
I graduated from Ross in '08 and it was the best career decision of my life. Granted, I graduated just before the economic horror we see now. There was a good amount of law students jumping ship into the MBA program at Michigan, and these were not originally JD/MBA students. These were law students who were disenchanted by the whole law school thing and decided to try out business.
If you go full time, you will still incur a lot of debt (over 100K). And, like law, business school can be a bit name whore-ish. There are about twice as many MBA programs as law schools so differientiating yourself can sometimes be driven more by the school you went to than by your achievements.
I am telling you this from personal experience so take it FWIW.
Location, Location, Location -> This is far more important that "reputation" of school. If you are in Chicago, Boston or NY, you are much better off (for internships and full-time, than say the horribly depressing state of Michigan (Kills me to say it, but it is true).
Scholarships rule -> If you don't get at least 50% schollie, run don't walk, away from the school.
Networking is everything -> Most people take this to mean, going to a bigger more reputed school == networking. WRONG. Networking is all about how much you are willing to bust your ass, going "out to Starbucks" with folks and how much you have worked on your speech to impress (yes, unless you are gifted, most people NEED to practice).
First year is the ONLY year that matters -> Because if you don't land a good internship (or any), you are screwed. You have to have great grades and network your ass off. If you ned to take lets say 10K more debt in order to work fewer hours and use that time for networking, it is more than worth it.
If you go to a good school (top 15-ish), then I would have to disagree with most of the things you said. I understand things have changed a little with the current ecomomic mess, but I don't think that has change the MBA landscape too much.
Location does not matter. Ross, Tuck, Fuqua are great examples of this.
Scholarships. Are you trying to tell me if you don't get a scholarship to HSW, you should run? Scholarships are not given out much anyway, so expecting 50% of your bill to be paid is a little outlandish.
Networking. Agree with you here.
First Year. I think I would agree with you a few years ago, but even then, your second year is still very important if you did not land your dream internship in your first year or your dream internship sucked ass. I would say at least a third of the second years are looking for work upon graduation and need a good second year to obtain one.
Not trying to say you are wrong, I just disagree. And, like you, its from experience.
This is a little off topic of the MBA question, but there was a fantastic article in the ABA Journal this month (maybe it was last month) about the trend in favor of lawyers (instead of MBAs) as CEOs of big time corporations.
As I have said many times on this board, I am a law student at ND, just finished my 2nd year. I have an internship at the firm I wanted, but feel very lucky to have one. A LOT of kids with good grades struggled to get jobs. But, with that being said, you are talking about needing a job 3 or 4 years from now. Surely the economy will have improved by then, it already is improving now. So I'm not sure that should be your domineering concern.
The only major piece of advice I will give is try to go where you think you want to work. Firms make a huge investment in you by giving you an internship and they want to know you are someone who wants to stick around so that their investment pays off. If you are from there or moved to go to school there or whatever other connection you can give them, it really helps.
I can also say that a lot of kids at law school in my class wish they weren't in law school after the fact.
I have no debt now, I'm considering taking on like 200k in debt for law school.
Sorry for long post - trying to be helpful.
My advice if you go to law school, from having recently been in in the labor market, to now being at a firm and having interviewed law students for our summer program is this: treat law school as a career audition, not as a learning experience.
One question to ask, unfortunately, is whether you are a minority or a woman. If so, the legal job market will be wide open, and you'll find little trouble getting job offers if you finish in decent standing in your graduating class. I'd ask also what you want to do (defense, plaintiff, government) but given your debt, it sounds like you need to end up with a large-ish firm doing defense work and billing by the hour.
The difficulty finding a job was the thing that shocked me the most by far. I graduated law school in 2007, and have been practicing in a law firm for 2+ years now. I went to a top tier school located in the same state as the city I wanted to live in. The upper eschelon of law schools was unavailable to me, due to less than stellar grades at UM, so I went with what I thought would help me get a job.
Nothing helped at first. I was unemployed from graduation in May until October that same year, at which point I jumped at the very first offer I received because I was in no position to be picky. That doesn't seem like a long time, but I had been applying for jobs solidly since the end of my first year summer, meaning I really spent 2+ years without an offer. I was not alone in this either, it was a challenge.
Every single thing you do in law school should be with the goal of getting a job in mind. Finish as high in the class rankings as you can, participate in any activities you can, take a job (ANY job) in your first year summer, publish a law review article, etc. Don't bank on good grades and a good personality getting you a job. There are too many people in the job market, you really have to make it impossible for a firm to pass you up.
Also, the money isn't as good as they make you think it is, unless you end up at a big law firm in a big city, or until you've been an attorney for a good 5+ years.
I have been practicing law for 10 years (first 5 in Detroit, the last 5 in Washington) and I love it. I work for a legal aid program. I went to law school because I wanted to practice public interest law and the most important issue to me is poverty, so I am doing exactly what I set out to do. The pay is terrible, and the six-figure student loan debt I graduated with is indeed a harsh burden. But, in return for those sacrifices I have the opportunity to work on almost exclusively on important cases and legislation that, I feel, makes a significant impact on public policy in my state. I never have to worry about representing clients I loathe just for the money or even about devoting my labor to matters I find unimportant or uninspiring.
What others have written about law school not being worthwhile is true, if your goal is just to make money. But if you have deeper aspirations, I would not abandon them simply because the financial rewards might not be as great.
It looks like it is totally about the money.
If you want to be a lawyer. If practicing law seems like the greatest thing in the world to you, then do it and work your butt off. If law school is a means to some other end or you are not sure what you want to do with your career, then I would say rethink it.
The legal market is brutal right now but that is not to say that there aren't jobs for those who work hard and make the most out of their law school experience.
If you are paying your own way, do whatever it takes to minimize the cost.
You have your first year grades at this point and know where you will stand re: the things the financially rewarding firms will be looking for. If you are going to be Law Review and/or top 15% of the class, congrats and keep putting the money into the Registrar's account - you'll be fine. If you aren't in the top 15% (and not at a top 25 law school) then it's time to do some serious thinking (been there myself).
The way I see it, options are:
1) Quit - don' throw good money after bad. Upside is you dont wind up grossly in debt; bad news is no law degree and bruised pride.
2) Stick it out - if you want to stick it out (as I did) you need to keep in mind how to minimize the resulting financial carnage. Debt service on loans $300k will eat up too much of any salary under $75k to make live palatable. So start looking for creative financing ideas:
- Work through school - Don't worry about the effect on your grades, just treat everything as pass fail to graduate and get to the bar exam (night jobs are good if your school is daytime only).
- Look for public interest debt forgiveness programs - pursuing certain areas of public interest law may offer opportunities to help get out from under the debt.
- Beg, Borrow but don't steal - family members, employers - anyone which may have funds and an interest in you completing school.
Whatever you do, steer clear of private loans and make sure that when you get to the other side, you are not crushed by debt.
Good luck with your decision.
If you're doing it to make more money, I'd say don't do it. The $175k isn't enough of an investment without the guarantee that it'll pay out. If you are doing it to make more money, I'd suggest sticking with something in your field now. If you don't have a background that's marketable, I'd suggest working towards getting an MBA, or even looking into post-bach programs to try to get into med school (I know plenty of people who've been able to do this, it's not as hard as people make it out to be). I know that in this economy, most industries are down, but I think that there is a fundamental difference with the legal recession because the business model of the legal profession, top to bottom, is at a tipping point.
As for me, I'm a patent laywer here. Patent law is relatively recession proof, but that's no gurantee. I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and went to a middle of the road law school. I didn't have a problem with finding a job (in fact, I was able to switch jobs during the height of the recession), but that has more to do with the fact that I'm lucky enough to be in a niche area of the law that corporations will still pay for, regardless of the economic times.
Going into 6 figure debt b/c a law degree MIGHT be useful in the future is not a good strategy IMHO. So if you don't really want to be a lawyer 1) don't go to law school or 2) don't go to a law school that will put you in so much debt that your only option to pay off the debt is to work as a lawyer.
I'm taking the LSAT in a couple weeks and am scoring on my practice tests in a range that could probably get me into a borderline top 10-15 school, but not high enough to yield much in the form of scholarships. The common advice a couple years ago when I graduated was that you should pretty much go to the best school you are accepted into, regardless of whether or not you do get a scholarship but the vibe I'm getting through this incredibly depressing thread is that maybe scholarship money is more important. Anybody have an informed opinion on this?
with the convential wisdom that you should go to the "best" law school you can (and I went to a top 5-6 law school). If you have no idea what type of law you want to practice and where you want to practice, then the convential wisdom probably applies. If you know where you want to practice, it probably does not (unless you want to practice in a top market NY/LA, etc.).
It depends on the size of the scholarship and the ranking of the two schools. Personally I was accepted to schools in the 30-60 range. I did not attend the top school I was admitted to, instead I accepted a substantial scholarship to attend a lower school. I would make the same choice again, without a doubt.
If I had gotten accepted to a top 15 school, then the choice would have been harder.
I'm not sure anyone can help you out with this one. It just depends on your finances and what you're comfortable with. It also depends on what schools you get accepted to, and which schools offer you scholarships. Until you have that info, there's no point stressing over which school to choose. Just do as well as you can on the LSAT.
But get your score back and then ask what you should do. I've known people practicing in the 170's that scored in the low 160's, and vice versa. Taking the test under pressure is a whole different ball game.
My advice if you get a solid score? Apply to a ton of places. I'm talking 20-30. That way you cast your scholarship net more broadly. Even though each applications costs like $100, it'll be well worth it if you get lucky on a few schollies. Looking back on things, I should've tried to get a full ride to places like Vandy, WUSTL, Texas, or ND. Those are great schools, with decent national name recognition, and I should've tried to go there for free instead of paying full price at UM. If you score in the high 160's, there's also a high likelihood that you'll be able to get a full ride to a school with decent regional name recognition (i.e. Indiana/Minnesota in the Midwest). Take an offer like that if you get it. Don't pay full sticker price.
I'm aware that I could choke on test day. I'm taking a prep course and out of the four proctored practice tests we've done I bombed the third one because it's getting close to test day and my nerves overcame me. I went and took another one a couple days later on my own and scored the highest I had to that point, went in the other day and improved it even further on our last proctored test. I don't think nerves will be the issue, just a matter of not getting a game or reading passage that fucks me up.
Thanks for the replies though.....reading articles on the market and then hearing stuff like this has been brutal as a prospective student/lawyer....I can only imagine what you guys are going through right now. I just want to go to a solid school, get a degree and achieve at least a good amount of success. It's scary to think that it's almost becoming too much to ask!
I scored higher on the real LSAT than on any prep test I took before it. It really comes down to whether your real LSAT test gives you logic problems you can solve or not.
My advice to you is assume you are going to score about 5-10 points lower than your practice test, at least that was my experience.
IME your undergrad grades/school prestige are just as, if not more important than your LSAT score (assuming that your LSAT score is pretty good but not outstanding).
Once you get your LSAT score you'll have a good idea of which schools to apply to and which not to apply to.
It goes without saying, but the LSAT is massively important. And, personally, I was scoring mid-to-high 170's the two weeks before the actual test, taking 6 practice tests in that time, and scored high 160's on the real test, and I don't really think I "choked." A lot of it has to do with the questions you receive on the test. It was the difference between (I think) schollies to M Law and paying full price (although I may be mistaken and overly confident in the idea that a higher LSAT in the mid-170's would've gotten me a nice schollie)
From my experience at Michigan (Ross '06) much of the advice above applies for an MBA, but there are some significant differences. First, networking matters even more at a top MBA program. We used to joke that b-school is a $100K job placement service, and if you want, you can skate through as no one washes out of b-school. At many schools (including Ross) you won't even know your class ranking, as the idea is to reduce destructive competition and prepare students for a teamwork focused business career. You have to work the alumni and club network from day one, particularly when aiming for banking, management consulting, and consumer goods jobs. First year Ggrades still matter for these traditional MBA channels, but much less than Law, it seems, and school reputation matters even more for the big jobs. You will not see McKinsey or Goldman Sachs at MSU or OSU, and many won't consider part-timers.
If considering an MBA, I would recommend following a traditional track to IB, consulting, or CPG, even if you don't plan on making a long term career of it. Having a "name" on your resume will open doors for the rest of your career, no matter what you decide to do. Any corporate frecruiter will respect a few years on wall street, or at Procter & Gamble, or BCG. Plus, you will probably learn more in a year than you do in 2 at b-school.
I am in my 20th year of practice. I went to law school only because I knew I was not ready to settle into a job after completing college. That said, I would not change a thing. My career started as a peon at a 450 lawyer firm, which meant big salary and little lawyering. I left after two years and now am now the the CEO of a 20 lawyer firm. I have had hinring/firing responsibilities for 12 years. A few observations:
1) you do not need to choose a practice area before or even during law school; 2) few lawyers end up practicing at one firm or even the same area of law for their entire career; 3) your pedigree may get you in the door, but your ability and effort will determine your success -- e.g., I have worked with some Ivy leaguers who I would not trust to get a warm cup of coffee, and others who are tremendous lawyers (FWIW, my experience has been that class rank comparisons are a better predictor of success than comparing schools attended); 4) a legal career is a marathon, not a sprint.
Best of luck.
I advise you to get a really fast car with no top.
1) If you could go into any area of law, knowing what you know now, what would it be?
If you have a science background go into Patent Law. Despite the sluggish economy, I see many job openings for Patent Lawyers.
2) What if you had a lot of debt (like 175+k worth)?
If you already have that much debt law school will tack on another 100 grand.
3) What's the most important thing you didn't realize until after the fact about applying/attending law school?
Don't do it unless you want to be a lawyer. A classmate of mine told me that he wasn't even sure he if ever wanted to practice, don't do it if you are sure.
Other than that, entering law school now would be a good time as the economy sucks and should be better by the tme you finish in three years.
What if you don't want to be a practicing attorney but would like to do work that would be much easier to get with a JD (like policy)?
IME you shouldn't go to law school unless you are set on being a lawyer or want the use the degree in the scenario you described.
Either way you are going for the purpose of getting the degree which will help you enter the field you want.
If one is not sure of what they want to do career wise, law school is not the place for them. IME.
1/2) It is hard to predict and sometimes even harder to choose what area of law you want to specialize in. Sometimes you go where the work is and that may not be your preference but you have to pay back your loan$. Patent/intellectual property is lucrative but specialized. For a patent practice you need a science or engineering degree and pass the patent bar if you want to be in patent court. Ambulance chasers can make lots of money but I don’t know who goes into law school with that goal.
Your 1L year is critical. Get good grades so you can have a summer internship. Try to get on law review, participate in moot court, competitions, and work for a law firm even if it is mindless copying. You should go into an area of law that you enjoy and can make $$ practicing. To decide what you like or what makes $, work while in law school and during the summers. I worked for large, medium, small firms and with the feds while in law school. By the time I was 2L I was certified to go to court and was doing simple hearings.
3) If you don’t get into a top 20 school, choose a school that is in a good job market or in an area you want to live. Obviously, go to any school that awards you grants or scholarships.
Many people go to law school expecting that “corporate” large law firm job to bail them out and help pay the bills. First of all it is difficult to get one of those jobs. Second, even after getting it, you work like a slave and you could be fired at any time. If you stay and are invited to be a partner, guess what you have to buy-in to the partnership (at least in my market). So, for my market & the previous firm I was at, it was a $50k+ buy-in (8 yrs ago).
So now what? Conveniently, they offer a loan for it b/c what 5 yr associate has $50k+ lying around?? So let’s add this up: you have the $200k debt ($1500+/mo), maybe a mortgage ($3-5k+/mo), maybe a loan for that new hybrid car ($600/mo), and maybe a wife and kid(s)/daycare($1-2k+/mo), and now add another $50K+ debt. At this point, it is too late, that seemingly simple decision you made to go to law school just X yrs ago has forever changed your life or soul.
But don’t let this sour your choice, it’s not meant to. It's just one example. On a good note, there are tons of other options and luckily I chose another. Talk to other lawyers as advised here.
In a big firm, partnership at year 5 is simply unheard of. At most, you are eligible at year 8 for income partner (i.e., not sharing in the profits), then if you make that, in 2-5 years you can make capital partner (actual ownership).
And, holy crap, if you can't save 50k after 5 years in a big firm, you are doing it wrong. Regardless, most will take the loan because it is on favorable terms.
I graduated two weeks ago today.
Not taking the bar.
Is not taking the bar becoming more common? What kind of work are you looking to find/have you found?
Personally, I don't think going to law school with no intention to become an attorney or at least a member of the bar is a good idea. Now, if you decided while IN law school, that's different. If you don't want the accreditation, get a different degree because I'd think you can likely get the same results for less debt.
I went to MLaw on zero scholarship. I got into better/comparable schools, and schools that were in more appealing areas to me, and I never have second thoughts about not going to those. I frequently have second thoughts about not having gone to the schools that offered me gobs of scholarship dough.
You're likely to feel more trapped by your debt than by your alma mater's lack of prestige. See if you can find a middle ground, with a reasonably good school that offers to take care of at least half of your tuition.
Even in this economy, if you absolutely work your ass off first year, you'll be able to find a job, almost regardless of school.
Also, take a look at bankruptcy law- if you can stomach it, it's one of the very few areas that's in high demand at good firms, and having a preference for it will make you stand out.
The legal market is really tough right now, and the schools are all over full.
I would look seriously at another option.
If you don't mind blood and other people's pain then dental school is best. The dentists I do work for are always at least upper middle class with the shortest work weeks. They also have their girls clean the teeth before they get into them so they seldom get yuck breath in their faces.