Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

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huskylives
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Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby huskylives » Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:29 pm

I posted last year for some advice on choosing a law school, but ended up putting off my pursuits for a year due to some family issues that came up at the time. It's a year later now, and approaching decision time. I've just recently finished my first wave of applications so I'm still waiting to hear back from most and can't give hard numbers, but I'm assuming I will get similar offers to last year, which included decent scholarships from schools like William & Mary and the U of I, plus some huge scholarships from midrange schools (50-60s), most specifically Baylor, which offered me full tuition.

I know the automatic response from most is that I should just take the extra financial hit and go to a T20 or T30, but I feel there are a few other factors affecting my decision I wanted to lay out.

1) I am very adverse to debt. It probably comes from having parents who are drowning in debt, and will be doing so forever. I worked regular jobs and went to a state school to avoid debt in undergrad and don't regret it for a minute. However I also came out with a great resume, so going to a state school didn't hamper my career aspirations after graduating. I realize this might be different for law.
2) I have absolutely no desire to work in big law. At all. I also don't care to work in NYC or other similar big markets. I'm a small town guy and I know it. The one exception would be Los Angeles, because I've lived in L.A. and enjoyed it, and --
3) I still don't know exactly what I want to do, but I have strong interests in intellectual property and the entertainment industry. I also have interest in prosecuting for criminal law. But probably most realistically, I'd be cool with just being a small town lawyer. I'm not an underachiever, I just would rather have a steady job working law and have a family/home life than work long hours for some big firm in some big city.
4) I don't mind being some small town lawyer, but I don't want where I'm a small town lawyer to be predetermined by where I go to school. In other words, if I go to, say, Baylor, I don't want to be stuck in Waco forever. I'd like at least the option of ending back in my current area.
5) Finally, I also feel confident I can pull off a good ranking wherever I go. I had a 4.0 GPA in undergrad, and while I know that law school is obviously harder, I still feel placing near the top sounds doable. Yeah, I know: everyone probably says this.

Thanks a bunch for any advice/thoughts you can give.
Last edited by huskylives on Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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holydonkey
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby holydonkey » Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:36 pm

huskylives wrote:I posted last year for some advice on choosing a law school, but ended up putting off my pursuits for a year due to some family issues that came up at the time. It's a year later now, and approaching decision time. I've just recently finished my first wave of applications so I'm still waiting to hear back from most and can't give hard numbers, but I'm assuming I will get similar offers to last year, which included decent scholarships from schools like William & Mary and the U of I, plus some huge scholarships from midrange schools (50-60s), most specifically Baylor, which offered me full tuition.

I know the automatic response from most is that I should just take the extra financial hit and go to a T20 or T30, but I feel there are a few other factors affecting my decision I wanted to lay out.

1) I am very adverse to debt. It probably comes from having parents who are drowning in debt, and will be doing so forever. I worked regular jobs and went to a state school to avoid debt in undergrad and don't regret it for a minute. However I also came out with a great resume, so going to a state school didn't hamper my career aspirations after graduating. I realize this might be different for law.
2) I have absolutely no desire to work in big law. At all. I also don't care to work in NYC or other similar big markets. I'm a small town guy and I know it. The one exception would be Los Angeles, because I've lived in L.A. and enjoyed it, and --
3) I still don't know exactly what I want to do, but I have strong interests in intellectual property and the entertainment industry. I also have interest in prosecuting for criminal law. But probably most realistically, I'd be cool with just being a small town lawyer. I'm not an underachiever, I just would rather have a steady job working law and have a family/home life than work long hours for some big firm in some big city.
4) I don't mind being some small town lawyer, but I don't want where I'm a small town lawyer to be predetermined by where I go to school. In other words, if I go to, say, Baylor, I don't want to be stuck in Waco forever. I'd like at least the option of ending back in my current area (western New York).
5) Finally, I also feel confident I can pull off a good ranking wherever I go. I had a 4.0 GPA in undergrad, and while I know that law school is obviously harder, I still feel placing near the top sounds doable. Yeah, I know: everyone probably says this.

Thanks a bunch for any advice/thoughts you can give.


I think Notre Dame would be a good choice. National reach but not really geared for only big law. Works in Texas and New York. Other T20s-T30s seem regional.....but no matter your choice in the T30-T40s it seems like if you get a good job in Mid-law in one market and then want to move to a new market it wouldn't be crazy hard.

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jcl2
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby jcl2 » Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:42 pm

If you want to end up in a small to mid sized city in New York, I would not go to Baylor. Go to a school in the Northeast or at least somewhere that you know will be respected in the locations you are looking to practice. Also, if you have no undergraduate debt I wouldn't be to afraid to take on a little to go to a better school even if you don't have any biglaw aspirations. For example, if William and Mary is offering you enough assistance that you could graduate with only 60-80k in debt, that would be very manageable on even a salary in the 40-50k range, especially if you are not planning on living in a major city with high cost of living. IMO it would be worth that debt to go someplace like W&M over Baylor.

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Dick Whitman
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby Dick Whitman » Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:46 pm

You will be effectively prevented from working in entertainment law if you want to work in a small market (unless you consider Nashville a small market).

With ties to Western NY, going back will probably always be an option. If you wind up going to law school in another small-town area, that will open up another market.

Despite feeling the same way about most of your points, I still wound up turning down lower-ranked schools closer to where I eventually want to wind up for a T14.

huskylives
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby huskylives » Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:52 pm

Thanks to everyone who's responded so far. Keep it coming.

Whitman - Agreed. If I did entertainment law, I'd want to do it in L.A. You mentioned:

"Despite feeling the same way about most of your points, I still wound up turning down lower-ranked schools closer to where I eventually want to wind up for a T14."

May I ask why you ended up doing that?
Last edited by huskylives on Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

insidethetwenty
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby insidethetwenty » Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:26 pm

I'm not sure what to tell you about where to go, but when you compare the scholarship offers, make sure you know all the stipulations of keeping your money. At some T2 schools you'll get a full-ride contingent on staying in the top 1/3 or top 40% of your class. It's really hard to predict whether or not you will be able to do that or not, and it would suck to be at a T2 school and have to pay sticker, graduate with similar debt to having gone T20, and not having nearly the job prospects.

I'd say that if your T2 scholly offers are firm and aren't tied to grades, I would advise you to take the money and run, so you'll have the no-debt freedom. If they are, I'd say take guaranteed, if smaller, scholarships at higher-ranked schools.

huskylives
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby huskylives » Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:01 pm

Good point, insidethetwenty.

The scholarship from Baylor is contingent on grades, but on maintaining a 2.5 GPA. Again, I realize law school is harder than undergrad, but if I can't maintain a 2.5 GPA at Bayor (see rankings below) I will probably drop out and/or kill myself since no one will touch me to hire after graduation anyway.

Baylor rankings:
http://law.baylor.edu/pdf/CSO/ClassRank ... 09_1Ls.pdf
http://law.baylor.edu/pdf/CSO/ClassRank ... 09_2Ls.pdf
http://law.baylor.edu/pdf/CSO/ClassRank ... 09_3Ls.pdf

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Dick Whitman
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby Dick Whitman » Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:23 pm

huskylives wrote:Thanks to everyone who's responded so far. Keep it coming.

Whitman - Agreed. If I did entertainment law, I'd want to do it in L.A. You mentioned:

"Despite feeling the same way about most of your points, I still wound up turning down lower-ranked schools closer to where I eventually want to wind up for a T14."

May I ask why you ended up doing that?


Two reasons:

1) I went the cheaper, lower-ranked route for both undergrad and grad school (and haven't second-guessed those decisions). To a certain extent, I wanted to prove that I could achieve at the highest level academically, if only to myself.

2) I didn't want to close any doors. I still want to eventually be small-town lawyer, but right now I still have the possibility of a good clerkship, academia, BigLaw, a good government job, consulting, etc. It's nice to have those options, although my decision-making in the intermediate future will be pretty heavily affected by the level of debt I chose to take on.

bahama
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby bahama » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:56 am

Take some time over the next few months and figure out what you want to do and where you want to live. This will make ypur school decision much clearer.

huskylives wrote:3) I still don't know exactly what I want to do, but I have strong interests in intellectual property and the entertainment industry. I also have interest in prosecuting for criminal law. But probably most realistically, I'd be cool with just being a small town lawyer. I'm not an underachiever, I just would rather have a steady job working law and have a family/home life than work long hours for some big firm in some big city.


Some thinsg to think about:
- IP and entertainment law are really hard to get into, even for people from Yale, Harvard, Stanford etc. Take a look at the firms that are in these practice areas and see where they hire from and what it takes to get hired. This will help you focus your list of schools.
- Being a small town lawyer DOES NOT = a steady job and having a life outside of work. Working at a mid-size or small firm in a smaller town does not necessarily mean better job security or significantly lower hours than a big firm in a big city. If you are running your own practice or in a very small firm you "eat what you kill" which means you need to put a lot of time and effort into getting business and you have to take what walks through the door if you want to get paid. Again, not particularily stable or compatible with work/life balance.
- Prosection might be a good fit, but take a look to see if the prosecutors where you want to work are hiring, and if so from which schools.

If you can figure out more specifically what you want to do it will help you focus your list of schools.

huskylives wrote:4) I don't mind being some small town lawyer, but I don't want where I'm a small town lawyer to be predetermined by where I go to school. In other words, if I go to, say, Baylor, I don't want to be stuck in Waco forever. I'd like at least the option of ending back in my current area (western New York).


Even good schools like U of I or W&M are fairly regional. Look at the lawyer jobs in western NY and where the attorneys went to school. If you don't see some of the schools you are considering that is a good sign those schools don't have much portability to your region.

Figure out your preferences on where you want to live and it will narrow down your list of schools a lot.

Good luck!

huskylives
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby huskylives » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:48 am

Thanks, bahama. Good advice; I really should try to get a firmer idea on what/where I want to be in the next couple months.

Here's my next question:

Is the reason a firm hires locally because they want to be inclusive to lawyers in that area, or is it because mostly only lawyers from that area apply? For example, I'm currently working at a nonprofit in Rochester. When we put out a notice for a job (non-law), we're be flooded by hundreds of applications from western NY, and a few from out of state. (Simply put, not many people are looking to relocate to Rochester.) But we didn't even consider geography when choosing the best candidate. We just didn't care, as long as they were most qualified. Still, the chances of a Rochester local being hired were much higher simply because they were the highest number of applicants. But just two weeks ago we hired a girl from New Jersey because she was the best candidate. We asked her during the interview process if she'd be OK with relocating and she said yes. End of story.

Of course, I'll say again: it's a nonprofit. Different rules may apply.

But I guess my way of thinking is, if I go to school at, say, W&M, get a great class ranking and hands-on experience in internships, etc., but decide I want to work in San Francisco, will law firms really assign a handicap against me because I'm not from a local school?
Last edited by huskylives on Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

huskylives
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Re: Not looking for biglaw... where to go?

Postby huskylives » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:01 am

Whitman -- makes sense, and admirable, IMO. I can totally understand the desire to prove that to yourself.

I'm interested in your thoughts on academia. Is it generally believed that you need to go to a top school if you wanted to eventually get into teaching? This isn't a definite career goal of mine, but it's something I could see myself wanting to do some years down the road.

Also, the note you made about how "decision-making in the intermediate future will be pretty heavily affected by the level of debt" is pretty much dead-on with my current way of thinking, and why I'm still considering lower-ranked schools like Baylor or even Buffalo. I'd like that freedom to not have to pursue a big-paying job after graduating. Wow, I sound arrogant... not my intention by any means.




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