Law School Advice.

greyhammer90

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This is NOT me asking if I should go. Save your fingers if you are about to type a long paragraph telling me that I should not go to law school. I'm going. I understand the job market and I have worked in law firms and understand that I won't be driving to the courthouse in my Ferrari anytime soon.

I was inspired to make this thread by ChiIrish's bar exam thread, so thanks Chi. You should get your reps in the mail shortly.

Since we seem to have a lot of law school graduates on this board, I was just wondering if anyone had any advice about attending a law school. Is there anything that you wish you had done differently while you were there? Any resources or tips that you took awhile to take advantage of that you wish you had earlier? Any type of law that you wish that you had looked into/ considered more while you were in law school? Any and all advice is welcome.

Thanks for any wisdom you can share.
 

Pops Freshenmeyer

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Don't borrow any money.

Also, obtain straight As.

My one piece of real advice is not to believe you do/don't want to practice an area of law because of your like/dislike of the class. The real differences in the areas of the law are how the practices function. Transactional law, litigation, criminal, tax, etc. all have completely different cultures and daily work routines that go along with practicing in those fields. And these differences are significant.

So don't shoehorn yourself because you really liked learning about some issues in contracts. The practice of law is vastly different from the classroom experiences and the interesting topics you deal with there aren't usually real issues lawyers have to deal with.
 

Whiskeyjack

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Good advice from Pops.

Some further pointers:

  • Try harder than you did in undergrad. A lot harder. The payoff: effort ratio is much better.
  • That said, study smarter, not harder. Law school is mostly about teaching you problem solving skills-- how to think like a lawyer. Most classes won't even touch upon practical skills. As such, treat it like a game to be mastered, and not an encyclopedia to be memorized. Many of your peers will simply throw themselves into their studies, and their endless hours spent will result in top grades. But you'll have a much better time if you focus almost exclusively on preparing for the final exam (assuming that's how the class is organized).
  • Typing and note-taking are critical skills. If you don't consider yourself very good at those things, try to get better. You've basically decided to become a professional writer.
  • This could be considered general life advice, but I think it's doubly important for lawyers. Consciously develop your social skills. The ability to talk easily with strangers, to connect with them, make them like you, etc. will have a bigger impact on your future success than your GPA.
 
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charlyp123

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Good input from the group. I would add the following three things:

1) 100% of your grade in most classes come down to the mid-term and final or just a final. A key skill in law school exam taking is issue spotting in the fact pattern given in the exam. So you always have to IRAC -- Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. So for example, the fact pattern says Person A bumps into Person B. The issue then is, if this is a torts exam, is this a battery. Then you say the rule for battery, ie the elements/black letter law of battery. In your analysis you cite case law and how some of the facts of this case are either similiar or dissimliar to the case law. Then you give your conclusion, which is the least important part of your answer.

2. Get good outlines from people that had the same class with the same professor the year before. They should have gotten an A or A- in the class, otherwise keep shopping. I always had the outline on the first day of class and would add in tweaks as necessary.

3. Do the reading and go to class. It might sound crazy but it does help. Also always look at the table of contents of the case book. That is a macro layout of the class and will touch upon the major subject areas that will be tested on the exam. Again, ISSUE SPOTTING!!! Good luck!
 
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ChiRish

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This is NOT me asking if I should go. Save your fingers if you are about to type a long paragraph telling me that I should not go to law school. I'm going. I understand the job market and I have worked in law firms and understand that I won't be driving to the courthouse in my Ferrari anytime soon.

I was inspired to make this thread by ChiIrish's bar exam thread, so thanks Chi. You should get your reps in the mail shortly.

Since we seem to have a lot of law school graduates on this board, I was just wondering if anyone had any advice about attending a law school. Is there anything that you wish you had done differently while you were there? Any resources or tips that you took awhile to take advantage of that you wish you had earlier? Any type of law that you wish that you had looked into/ considered more while you were in law school? Any and all advice is welcome.

Thanks for any wisdom you can share.

Much obliged, and good idea for a topic.

The previous posters are 100% dead on, as usual. I especially agree with the fact that you should ensure that you develop "thinking like a lawyer" skills and the social skills that go along with it. Those two things will take you further than anything else.

More than that, try things you don't necessarily think you would like or be good at, along the lines of what someone else said as well. I personally come from a strong history writing background so I felt that I was destined for that sort of work. And while I did get on Law Review and publish an article, I had an absolute blast doing mock trial work. So there's that dichotomy to play with.

Above all, work at it. And try to get the most out of it. If you're already past the point where you are definitely sure you want to be there, then embrace it. I ended up being miserable half the time because frankly, the process blows.

Good luck man. You'll find that with some hard work there's some things you'd never thought you were capable of.
 

NCDomer

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I agree a lot with the above posters. A few more things:

Unless you have good grades and/or attend a great school and/or have family connections, you'll need to network to obtain a job. Most people don't bother, but it pays dividends. Start contacting alumni who work in the city and area of law you're interested in. You'll usually find some who are willing to talk to you. Remain in contact with these people. That way when 2L comes around, you've already demonstrated that you're interested in that area of law, you've basically interviewed with the firm on far more casual terms, and you have a better shot of having a few people at the firm trying to get you a job.

Or you can go the typical route and bust your butt trying to make top 20% or whatever. It doesn't take statistician to figure out that you'll need more than grades to find a decent paying job out of school.

People disagree about reading Examples & Explanations and the other cliff note type books before starting law school. I think most should start reading them ahead of time. It gives you a framework in which to think about the issues before you go to class. You're already spending thousands of dollars on law school, so a few hundred on books isn't a big deal. Buy the books. Read them early. Try to understand how to apply the rules and you should be ahead of the curve.

Also, going back to the interviewing part, make sure you pick 2L classes that fit into why you went to law school and are interested in practicing in X area of law. If you say litigation and aren't taking evidence, trial ad, etc.; you're bullsh_tting the interviewer.
 

Emcee77

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All good points. Here are my two cents:

When I started law school, I had this intellectual-macho idea of working hard by reading all the assigned cases super carefully. As Whiskey touched on, although the professors encourage you to do that, and you'll need to get good at knowing everything about a case to be a practicing lawyer, you don't actually have to know much about the assigned cases to get a good grade in the class. You just have to know and understand the rule that the case explains so you can apply it to the fact pattern on the exam, and the cases are not the only or always the most efficient way of learning that rule. Experiment with commercial supplements like Emanuel's and Examples and Explanations (they are NOT a shortcut for lazy people; they can be really helpful) and get outlines from 2Ls and 3Ls. You have to "work smart" in law school to find the most efficient way to learn the assigned material.

I emphasize that it's very important to make connections with other law students, especially 2Ls and 3Ls. In college I was the type of guy who preferred to do everything alone so I could do it my own way, but law school is a different animal and you need help. Make friends. Seems obvious but I would have never had as much success in law school without the personal connections I developed ... I was able to get great outlines, learn study techniques I had never thought of, and get job opportunities I didn't know about.
 
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NDLS_USMC

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IE can be so awesome!

IE can be so awesome!

Totally agree with the excellent advice others have shared.

My adds:

1. Understand how all the pieces fit together (a big fat schematic) in any subject area as early in the semester as possible. It is so easy to get lost in the cases, rules and the exceptions to the rules if you don't get the big picture first.

My two tricks were to get and study the Bar Review notes/outlines. Yep, I ponied up and bought BARBRI materials. My second one was to create a timeline of developments (common law and statutory) for this particular area.

People spend way too much time in the weeds and not enough trying to see the forest during the semester.

I also did thes two things: ask an alumni to lunch and quiz them on the high level organization of whatever subject you're lost in, and read 2 or 3 books about the particular area of the law (I loved "nutshells" and BARBRI outline) w/in the first month of class.

This changed my law school life second and third year.

2. Be intellectually curious!! Ask lawyers, judges, alumni, professors all the time about the subject matters you are studying. So many law students get myopic about their cases, outlines, old tests, professors habits, etc. The hugest difference to me between lawyers and law students is that lawyers, by year 3 or so, start to figure out what they want to learn. Try to get ahead of that. Reading contemporary cases can help too.

Both of those help your IRAC writing and thinking.
 

Emcee77

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Totally agree with the excellent advice others have shared.

My adds:

1. Understand how all the pieces fit together (a big fat schematic) in any subject area as early in the semester as possible. It is so easy to get lost in the cases, rules and the exceptions to the rules if you don't get the big picture first.

My two tricks were to get and study the Bar Review notes/outlines. Yep, I ponied up and bought BARBRI materials. My second one was to create a timeline of developments (common law and statutory) for this particular area.

People spend way too much time in the weeds and not enough trying to see the forest during the semester.

I also did thes two things: ask an alumni to lunch and quiz them on the high level organization of whatever subject you're lost in, and read 2 or 3 books about the particular area of the law (I loved "nutshells" and BARBRI outline) w/in the first month of class.

This changed my law school life second and third year.

2. Be intellectually curious!! Ask lawyers, judges, alumni, professors all the time about the subject matters you are studying. So many law students get myopic about their cases, outlines, old tests, professors habits, etc. The hugest difference to me between lawyers and law students is that lawyers, by year 3 or so, start to figure out what they want to learn. Try to get ahead of that. Reading contemporary cases can help too.

Both of those help your IRAC writing and thinking.

This is great, great advice. If you know what state you will be taking the bar in, consider signing up for BarBri your first year. You get a discount, and you get access to at least some outlines and lectures right away, which I've heard are really helpful in 1L courses. I didn't do it, in part because I wasn't sure what state's bar exam I was going to end up taking, but I wish I had at least thought more seriously about it.
 

greyhammer90

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Currently working on my open memo. Lots of pressure guys! But my spirits are still up so far! Right now I'm having the most difficulty with Contracts and having the best time with Civ Pro. All we do is talk about jx in that class but I like it because it's so much like a game with interlocking rules. It makes the most sense to me so far. Contracts is difficult because my professor doesn't give much context as to how each reading fits with the others. So I have to do a lot more "syllabus" thinking where I have to figure our why the rule is important for the class.
 

ChiRish

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Currently working on my open memo. Lots of pressure guys! But my spirits are still up so far! Right now I'm having the most difficulty with Contracts and having the best time with Civ Pro. All we do is talk about jx in that class but I like it because it's so much like a game with interlocking rules. It makes the most sense to me so far. Contracts is difficult because my professor doesn't give much context as to how each reading fits with the others. So I have to do a lot more "syllabus" thinking where I have to figure our why the rule is important for the class.

Glad you're enjoying it thus far man! I liked civ pro as well. Try to remember it, and definitely remember how important it is. In my opinion it can make or break how competent an attorney is, and it is on the bar exam guaranteed everytime.

Soak in the three years man. I just started my law career and it's intense to say the least. And it is severely impeding my treasured IE time.
 

Kaneyoufeelit

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All great advice. It can't be understated how demanding law school is, assuming you want to excel. The beginning will feel like you're in over your head; don't panic. It gets easier as it goes along and anyone who says it isn't a grind is either lying or is superhuman.

Ignore all of the people who say that using supplements and other people's outlines will take away from your ability to learn the subject are full of ****. Use any and all valuable information you have time to use. Like someone said: work smarter not harder. You don't need to reinvent the feel in each class. Find a good outline or supplement and use it with your class notes to make it work for you.

Oh, and don't be a gunner. Nobody likes a gunner.
 

ChiRish

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All great advice. It can't be understated how demanding law school is, assuming you want to excel. The beginning will feel like you're in over your head; don't panic. It gets easier as it goes along and anyone who says it isn't a grind is either lying or is superhuman.

Ignore all of the people who say that using supplements and other people's outlines will take away from your ability to learn the subject are full of ****. Use any and all valuable information you have time to use. Like someone said: work smarter not harder. You don't need to reinvent the feel in each class. Find a good outline or supplement and use it with your class notes to make it work for you.

Oh, and don't be a gunner. Nobody likes a gunner.

This x 100000000.

I'm sure you've already figured out by now who the pretentious dbag attention-driven gunners are. Those kids just plain suck.
 

greyhammer90

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This x 100000000.

I'm sure you've already figured out by now who the pretentious dbag attention-driven gunners are. Those kids just plain suck.

Lol we call him "suit guy". Dude shows up everyday in a suit wearing aviators. Talks of how to best kill him have already begun.
 

ChiRish

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Lol we call him "suit guy". Dude shows up everyday in a suit wearing aviators. Talks of how to best kill him have already begun.

Well done good sir, well done.

m1C1E.gif
 

Emcee77

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Currently working on my open memo. Lots of pressure guys! But my spirits are still up so far! Right now I'm having the most difficulty with Contracts and having the best time with Civ Pro. All we do is talk about jx in that class but I like it because it's so much like a game with interlocking rules. It makes the most sense to me so far. Contracts is difficult because my professor doesn't give much context as to how each reading fits with the others. So I have to do a lot more "syllabus" thinking where I have to figure our why the rule is important for the class.

Good luck bro! When it comes to legal writing, it's particularly important not to get down on yourself in the early going. Sometimes the best writers have to work the hardest in the beginning because they think they already know how to write, so they have to make more of an effort to un-learn old habits and re-learn new ones. If that's you, just bear in mind that you are learning a form of technical writing. It is and should be very unlike any writing you have done before, so be humble and coachable and just focus on getting better at it. DO NOT lose heart if you feel like you're struggling; you are learning something TOTALLY NEW and it's hard for everyone. Just keep swimming.

Hopefully you killed it on the closed memo so you don't need that advice, but I thought I'd throw that out there anyway. One kid in my class had a master's degree of some kind and thought it made him God's gift to writing. When we got our first memos back he CRIED. Lol. He ended up doing fine, great in fact, but I guess legal writing seems easy and familiar to some people at first and it shocks them to realize that it's as much a new thing as all the rest of it.
 

ChiRish

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Good luck bro! When it comes to legal writing, it's particularly important not to get down on yourself in the early going. Sometimes the best writers have to work the hardest in the beginning because they think they already know how to write, so they have to make more of an effort to un-learn old habits and re-learn new ones. If that's you, just bear in mind that you are learning a form of technical writing. It is and should be very unlike any writing you have done before, so be humble and coachable and just focus on getting better at it. DO NOT lose heart if you feel like you're struggling; you are learning something TOTALLY NEW and it's hard for everyone. Just keep swimming.

Hopefully you killed it on the closed memo so you don't need that advice, but I thought I'd throw that out there anyway. One kid in my class had a master's degree of some kind and thought it made him God's gift to writing. When we got our first memos back he CRIED. Lol. He ended up doing fine, great in fact, but I guess legal writing seems easy and familiar to some people at first and it shocks them to realize that it's as much a new thing as all the rest of it.

I don't know why I loved it so much when this stuff happened. Karma is a b!tch I guess.

Other than that, spot on man. I particularly enjoyed legal writing. Even though law school teaches you to do it in a formulaic way, there really is a lot of room for creativity when making arguments. Get good at it; it's a moneymaker.
 

Rhode Irish

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Big difference between being a good writer in a story-telling context and being a good legal writer. Being concise and mechanical with your approach to constructing the argument is always better than "beautiful" writing. Its not something that people are born good at. Its definitely an acquired thing and its acquired on an ongoing basis.

Sometimes I write something that I think is good, and somebody that has been doing it for forty years reviews it and hands it back to me and I feel dumb, because they said what I was trying to say more effectively and in half as many words.
 
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PraetorianND

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Volunteer. Work at the legal aid clinic, juvenile justice center, etc. This will give you great experience and will make you feel like your time in law school was valuable beyond learning a trade. Also, it will be great stuff to have on your resume and stuff to talk about in interviews. It is also fun.

If you get a large scholarship in a market you want to work in, take it. Don't rack up too much debt if you can avoid it.

Do all the practice exams for all of your classes. This will help you 1000%

My favorite class and area of law I wish I would have gotten into was International Human Rights. Fascinating.
 
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ChiRish

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Big difference between being a good writer in a story-telling context and being a good legal writer. Being concise and mechanic with your approach to constructing the argument is always better than "beautiful" writing. Its not something that people are born good at. Its definitely an acquired thing and its acquired on an ongoing basis.

Sometimes I write something that I think is good, and somebody that has been doing it for forty years reviews it and hands it back to me and I feel dumb, because they said what I was trying to say more effectively and in half as many words.

I definitely agree. At a point it's almost like constructing a proof in math, where you know the point you're trying to make but you have to do it in a certain building block sort of way. My point was more along the lines of creativity in argument choice. I think it does walk a fine line, though. I'm sure some partners love it, and reward you for thinking out of the box, while others think it's reckless and showing off. Depends on the situation I guess.
 
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PraetorianND

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+1.

I never did this in law school, did it a ton of times for the bar, and I was infinitely more prepared for not only the bar exam, but each subsequent practice bar exam. You can't even fathom how much your brain retains, let along the methods in which the exam is given and you respond to it.

Many times fact patterns are reused. They are usually altered and disguised but generally similar.
 

Rhode Irish

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I definitely agree. At a point it's almost like constructing a proof in math, where you know the point you're trying to make but you have to do it in a certain building block sort of way. My point was more along the lines of creativity in argument choice. I think it does walk a fine line, though. I'm sure some partners love it, and reward you for thinking out of the box, while others think it's reckless and showing off. Depends on the situation I guess.

Yeah, for sure. That kind of creativity is the difference between good writers and average writers. I wasn't responding to you; I think you posted while I was writing. I agree with what you said 100%.
 

Fbolt

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spend the 3 years learning how to be an effective manager of your time.
 

mick2

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bringing this thread back up, I am in the process of applying and deciding on where to go to Law School.

Hoping to get into one of the public schools in Florida, did undergrad at UF, crossing my fingers for that one.

I have been accepted at a private school down here, but damn is it expensive. I was reading through the thread for advice, I see that pops said not to borrow, but I don't know how I would be able to go if I don't have a few loans.

GreyHammer any advice or wisdom you could send my way would be much appreciated!

Thanks guys, Go Irish!
 

Jason Pham

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bringing this thread back up, I am in the process of applying and deciding on where to go to Law School.

Hoping to get into one of the public schools in Florida, did undergrad at UF, crossing my fingers for that one.

I have been accepted at a private school down here, but damn is it expensive. I was reading through the thread for advice, I see that pops said not to borrow, but I don't know how I would be able to go if I don't have a few loans.

GreyHammer any advice or wisdom you could send my way would be much appreciated!

Thanks guys, Go Irish!

My advice to law school applicants errs on the side of being risk-adverse, so adjust the following according to your own risk tolerance and circumstances.

Law school makes sense only for a few groups of applicants and the decision depends on balancing the following factors: (1) the employment numbers for the school in question, (2) the cost of attendance, (3) their career objectives, and (4) your tolerance for risk.

Generally, law school makes sense if the job that would be available to you as a median-ranked student coming out of the school in question is sufficient to service your loan burden.

For example, if you have the kind of loan burden that would result from receiving little to no financial aid, you'd need to land a job with a big law firm (and would be comfortable with that lifestyle) or you need to attend a school with a sufficient loan repayment assistance program for public interest (i.e. government and NGOs) work (and are comfortable with public-interest level salary as well as being locked in for the ten years of public interest work public interest repayment programs require). This means that, if you are receiving little to no financial aid, you should only attend school ranked in the top 7-10 since only at these schools will you find (1) a somewhat realistic chance at landing in big law (numbers provided below) or (2) a sufficiently generous LRAP program (an overview of some of these programs can be found here).

If your loan burden would be minimal, your options open up considerably. Still, you should only attend if you are comfortable with the jobs available to you if you ended up at median. This generally requires you to attend a school with at least strong regional placement numbers (numbers for Emory, which has some reach in Florida, and for Florida schools provided below). If you go to a school with weaker placement numbers, even if you finish without any debt, you run a high risk of not being employed in a JD-required, full-time, long-term job and you've now spent three years away from the job market, you've added a three year experience gap to your resume, and you run the risk of carrying the failed-JD stigma with you when you apply to non-JD related jobs.

Finally, if you're somewhere in between no scholarship and full scholarship, as with the two prior situations, you should still only attend if the jobs available to median students at the law school in question is sufficient to service that debt. Thus, the higher your eventual loan burden, the better your job prospects from median needs to be.

The lower your tolerance for risk, the lower your perspective needs to be in terms of the class rank you're expecting. For example, someone with a low risk for tolerance ought to look at the jobs available to students who find themselves below median at the school in question. The reason I wouldn't look at the jobs that students in the top quarter or top third are getting is that almost all students go to their respective law schools believing that their combination of work ethic, intellectual ability, study strategy, and luck is somehow unique and will put them in the top quarter or top third. Invariably, at least 2/3 of the class will be disappointed.

With that in mind, if I were to take on a not insignificant loan burden and I were looking only at law schools in Florida, I would only consider attending Florida State or Florida and only then if the jobs coming out of median paid well enough to service my debt. The unbelievably high costs of Miami and Stetson are not justified, given my tolerance for risk, by the jobs available to students at or just below median at those schools. If I were receiving little to no financial assistance, I would be very unlikely to attend at all unless the school had a generous LRAP program and jobs qualifying for LRAP are obtainable by students at median or I had a job lined up before attending (e.g. at a family-owned firm).

I will be graduating from law school this May and am happy with my decision to attend primarily because my risk-reward calculus has worked out so far. That's not to say that there aren't other benefits to attending law school; it certainly can be good professional training and can at times be intellectually stimulating. The decision to attend, though, should come down to whether your investment made in cost of attending and time will result in a desirable return at a risk that you can tolerate.

Law School Transparency Employment Scores said:
This list indicates the percentage of students finding JD-required, full-time, long-term jobs at each school:
Emory ~73%
Florida State ~65%
Miami ~59%,
Stetson ~59%
Florida ~56%

Source: Law School Transparency

NLJ250 (largest law firms) placement for C/O 2013 said:
Columbia 65.5%
NYU 54.9%
Harvard 53.6%
Chicago 53.0%
Penn 52.5%
Northwestern 51.1%
Duke 48.6%
Stanford 47.1%
Cornell 45.1%
Berkeley 44.9%
UVA 44.2%
Michigan 41.3%
Yale 38.8%
Georgetown 37.8%
Texas 31.8%
Vanderbilt 31.6%
UCLA 30.4%
USC 29.6%
Fordham 24.5%
Notre Dame 24.5%
 
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Irish8248

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10 years in public service and the last 20 years of debt payments are forgiven
 

greyhammer90

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bringing this thread back up, I am in the process of applying and deciding on where to go to Law School.

Hoping to get into one of the public schools in Florida, did undergrad at UF, crossing my fingers for that one.

I have been accepted at a private school down here, but damn is it expensive. I was reading through the thread for advice, I see that pops said not to borrow, but I don't know how I would be able to go if I don't have a few loans.

GreyHammer any advice or wisdom you could send my way would be much appreciated!

Thanks guys, Go Irish!

jpham said it better than I could. If you want to go, pick somewhere that has low costs unless you cant get into a top 10 law school.

I go to UGA, which is considered by most to be a top ten value school. I would recommend at least applying there. They offered me in-state tuition for my first year and I applied for in-state status and (thankfully) received it. Add in my savings and my parents generously helping me out, and I'm probably going to graduate with around $600 in student loans. Not thousands, hundreds.

Unfortunately, if your situation is not like mine, I wouldn't recommend going to law school. Unless you fall within a very small range, it's not a good investment.

If you choose to disregard my advice, and decide to try your luck at an expensive school in the top 50's (if you can't get into one of those, again, it might be a good idea to think about what else you could do), for God's sake work HARD the first semester. If you get your grades back after the first semester and you're not above the middle of your class, drop out immediately. There is no money in being stubborn and the first semester WILL dictate your job offers for 1L summer. A successful 1st semester of law school = a successful law school career.
 

gkIrish

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This is implied by Pham's post but if you want to go to one of those Florida schools, you are pretty much limiting yourself to working in Florida. If that's not your goal (it seems that it is), then you need to consider where you do want to work/live and apply to other law schools accordingly.

Minor tip: don't send out a bazillion applications. I made the mistake of applying to over 20 law schools and spending nearly $1,000 on applications hoping to get into a reach. It's very easy to predict what schools you will get into based solely on your LSAT and G.P.A. so applying to reaches is kind of pointless unless you are a minority.

Welcome to LawSchoolNumbers.com | Law School Numbers
 
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