Am I Boned?

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PotatoMonkey
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Am I Boned?

Postby PotatoMonkey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:09 am

So I've been doing some thinking, and reading on TLS, and I wanted to see what other people think.

Currently a senior, going to graduate with near 90k in debt (!#$%). No real work experience, some full-time summer jobs, and regular extracurriculars, 170/3.77, non-URM. Applied to NYU, UVa, Mich, Duke, Cornell, GULC, and a handful of non T-14s.
What I think I really want to do is appellate litigation (I realize doing so right out of law school is unlikely), CoA stuff, etc.

My biggest question is how screwed would I be to take any of those at or near sticker, compounding my debt to probably 250k? I mean, I'm going to go with probably screwed, but if I for whatever reason was to get some money at say Cornell or GULC, could I take them and not significantly impair my long-term goals?

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Columbia Law
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby Columbia Law » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:17 am

Holy shit.

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superhands
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby superhands » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:19 am

You wouldn't be boned if you paid sticker at any of those schools. Even if you end up mired in debt, with only meager employment prospects, there is still a way out. You can always decide to pursue plan B, running away to Mexico to spend the rest of your years getting drunk and banging prostitutes.

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PotatoMonkey
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby PotatoMonkey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:19 am

Phew!

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superhands
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby superhands » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:23 am

Also, rolling gringos can be just as rewarding and lucrative as a legal career.

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Ragged
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby Ragged » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:48 am

Its a tough situation. Your best bet would be to up your LSAT and try to get more money from the schools. Even T6 at sticker does not look good for you, espessially since you are not interested in big law.

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PotatoMonkey
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby PotatoMonkey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:54 am

I'm not opposed to biglaw by any means to start, unless it could be a hindrance to my goals? Would it be better to forgo school for a few years, work off some of my debt, raise my LSAT and GPA (working to graduate with at least a 3.8 ) and then reapply? Or would it not make too significant a difference to bother?

As I write this, I think I have a feeling of what most opinions would be, but any comments are welcome, esp. if you've been in my position.

The Real Jack McCoy
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby The Real Jack McCoy » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:30 pm

Here is my advice:

Do not apply this year--it sounds like you aren't, but just in case. Worry about your GPA for now. And strongly consider retaking the LSAT. Take next year to work full time and do whatever possible to pay off a chunk of your debt. Re-evaluate come Fall 2011--it might be worth it just to apply and see what offers you get, especially if you raise the LSAT by 2 or more points. If you can get a half-tuition or more offer to a top school, you are close to "sticker" debt.

I believe some schools help pay off some undergraduate debt with their LRAP plans (IIRC Harvard allows for 30k to be included). Research each school's plan to see which do or don't, as you'll need a fallback if biglaw (for a few years to pay off the debt) doesn't work out, or if you transition out of private practice at a later date (whether you can and still use LRAP does, I think, vary with schools, so make sure to check this too).

But I certainly wouldn't assume 250k debt. It is a crippling number.

The good news is that you have a very good GPA, your LSAT abilities are in the range of the best schools, and law schools aren't going anywhere. Good luck.

tldr version: retake.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:48 pm

Okay, I'm going to jump in and attack this from a different direction: Your current goals aren't just unlikely, they're unreasonable. Your odds of getting to do "appellate litigation" for a living are lower your odds of winning the lottery. Actually, they might be equal odds, because the easiest way to become an appellate litigator these days would be to win the lottery and then use the winnings to finance your own pro bono appellate practice.

Let me explain.

1) Everyone wants to do appellate lit. It's glamorous and attractive in the legal world because you're arguing before the most important courts, creating precedents that have future effect, and solely doing pure academic analysis of law. It's also simpler because you don't have to deal with juries or witnesses, all the evidence and testimony is already entered. Anyone who enjoys legal research and writing considers appellate lit their ideal job, and there's a lot of those people in the law. I don't mean literally everyone wants it, but there's far more people wanting it than jobs offering it.

2) Appellate internships are a prerequisite here. It's not always 100% true, but generally people who get the desirable jobs in appellate lit have all done some kind of appellate clerkship when they graduate. That experience is so valuable and insightful, and the number of job openings are so few, that folks who have such internships (at the federal or state level) can often fill any openings. If you want a good early estimate of your chances in the field, look at how hard it would be to get an appellate clerkship from the school you're attending. Going to MVP? You need to be in the top 10% range to even have a shot at federal COA there, and while state appellate clerkships will be less competitive than that, they're still rather competitive because they're full of people who couldn't quite make federal COA and wanted to clerk in appeals somewhere.

3) BigLaw "appellate" work isn't where it's at. I interviewed with a law firm with one of the top appellate practices in the country, which regularly argues before the Supreme Court, and I talked about wanting to do appellate lit. What I was told was that appellate lit is just one specialty that you can do while you're there, but even people who were in the appellate practice only ended up working on appellate cases maybe 1/3 of the time. A lot of that work was on pro bono cases in order to build up appellate experience so that you could be useful on the rare significant appeal for a paying client. But to justify the costs of putting you through all that, they're going to take it out of you elsewhere. When you're not doing your pro bono appeals work, you'll still have to grind out nearly 2000 billable hours per year doing document review and trial prep for their more traditional work.

4) Boutiques exist, but not for you. There are dedicated appellate boutiques that take paying clients to do appeals, but they're rare, don't hire people fresh out of law school, and will often hire people with existing appellate experience (such as those who worked the grindstone as an "appellate" associate at a BigLaw firm above) ahead of someone who doesn't. You can't expect to go work somewhere for a few years and then work in a boutique.

5) Appellate public interest is a unicorn. It exists, you will hear people say it exists, but you're not going to ever find it in your lifetime. I've worked in appellate offices of PI organizations, and that experience has gotten me more internships in PI appellate offices that I'll be doing this winter and next summer. But everywhere I go, what I see are offices that are underfunded and not creating new jobs, and full of people who're staying put because they're already doing their dream work. The turnover at these places is extremely low. The last place I worked had 50 attorneys, but between budget cuts and lack of turnover, hadn't hired a new appellate attorney in eight years. And they didn't even do very much federal work, they mostly handled state-level appeals and argued before the state appellate courts and supreme court.

Oh, and by the way, they lose 95% of the time. That's the way it works. Very rarely are appellate courts sympathetic to broke defendants in the civil or criminal realm. If you lost at trial, it's very hard to overcome a presumption that you deserved to.

6) Fellowships are just a taste, but still hard to get. The closest you may get are fellowships or short-term positions with built-in end dates; these will give you a year or two of experience, but again, you're facing an almost non-existent job market when you get out. And you also have to keep in mind that when you're applying for that fellowship, you're competing against someone like me, an HYS student with appellate lit experience on his resume who would gladly give anything to get even a one-year fellowship with $40K/year stipend.

The line ahead of you is long, and the openings are few. Going into law school anywhere because you want to do "appellate litigation" is a bad, bad idea. If you want to do any kind of appellate lit at all, your best hope is to develop an interest in a specialty (you don't have to be set on this now, you could discover it while you're in law school) and then try to find a job in an office that doesn't have an appellate section and lets you handle your own appeals, in the rare case where one is actually warranted.

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JG Hall
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby JG Hall » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:08 pm

Isn't it closer to $300k?

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AreJay711
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby AreJay711 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:29 pm

vanwinkle wrote:5) Appellate public interest is a unicorn. It exists, you will hear people say it exists, but you're not going to ever find it in your lifetime.


Terrible analogy! Unicorns don't actually exist.... or do they!?! :shock:


Anyway @OP: See what Vanwinkle bc he knows more than me but as for the overall debt issue, 250k isn't that much more if you take the super extended payment time and pay off as much as you can as you go. With biglaw you COULD afford to slap down 40K a year to your loans and knock it out in a few years. You would live like a pauper but w/e. After about 8 years, you will be in great financial shape (at around 32 so still relatively young) and be getting ready to either leave biglaw or make partner. Over a life time

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PotatoMonkey
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby PotatoMonkey » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:03 pm

Thanks all for the advice, esp VW. Quite a few things to consider, to say the least. Lets say for shits and giggles I had applied (cough)- if it came time to make the choice between the two, what would be better: withdrawing apps or waiting out the cycle?

ran12
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby ran12 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:31 pm

PotatoMonkey wrote:Thanks all for the advice, esp VW. Quite a few things to consider, to say the least. Lets say for shits and giggles I had applied (cough)- if it came time to make the choice between the two, what would be better: withdrawing apps or waiting out the cycle?


Obviously waiting out the cycle. You've already spent the money to apply so might as well see what happens.

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northwood
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby northwood » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:33 pm

OP: with that amount of debt, I would suggest working for a few years and paying off some of the loans. Right now, with 90K in debt, you allready have a significant monthly payment. If you can pay off even 10K, you will be better off. If you are dead set on law school, and allready know where you want to practice, maybe set your sights a bit lower ( top 20-30?) Im sure with your numbers you will be offered more money. However, with that said, the chances at biglaw are going to be very slim at a lower tier school.

I think you need to get your applications sent out the first week of the cycle. ( early September) That way the scholarship money is all there, and schools will be more willing to part with it. IF you send your apps out mid december- later, the chances and amounts diminish.

As for your last question. since you sent your apps out allready, why not see what happens? Maybe you will get a good scholarship. If its not the greatest, you can always decline and try again in September.

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mapnoren
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby mapnoren » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:56 pm

You are not boned. The schools to which you are applying will most likely allow you to start with a six figure salary (or close to) if you can get on with a big law or even a mid law firm. Also check into the schools loan forgiveness program, in the off chance you don't land a good job. If you are not opposed to the military, you could also do a small stint as a jag lawyer to cover your loans.

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Adjudicator
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby Adjudicator » Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:05 pm

If vanwinkle keeps this up, we're going to have to create a new TLS slang term for when someone posts a long, thorough, and thoughtful answer to someone's question.

OP, you just got vanwinkled!

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chrisbru
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby chrisbru » Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:55 pm

PotatoMonkey wrote:So I've been doing some thinking, and reading on TLS, and I wanted to see what other people think.

Currently a senior, going to graduate with near 90k in debt (!#$%). No real work experience, some full-time summer jobs, and regular extracurriculars, 170/3.77, non-URM. Applied to NYU, UVa, Mich, Duke, Cornell, GULC, and a handful of non T-14s.
What I think I really want to do is appellate litigation (I realize doing so right out of law school is unlikely), CoA stuff, etc.

My biggest question is how screwed would I be to take any of those at or near sticker, compounding my debt to probably 250k? I mean, I'm going to go with probably screwed, but if I for whatever reason was to get some money at say Cornell or GULC, could I take them and not significantly impair my long-term goals?


Why not go to a school where you can get a full-ride? Sure, third tier isn't glamorous, but if you really want to practice law and already have that much debt, it would make sense.

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chrisbru
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby chrisbru » Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:29 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
chrisbru wrote:Why not go to a school where you can get a full-ride? Sure, third tier isn't glamorous, but if you really want to practice law and already have that much debt, it would make sense.

170/3.77 shouldn't have to dip into the third tier for a full ride.


Yeah, good point. I guess I'm so blinded by the splitter thread that I refuse to accept that anyone with a 170+ has over a 3.2 :-)

justadude55
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby justadude55 » Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:33 pm

if you get into a top school and wind up 250k in debt, the world is not over. you'll be paying it off well into your 40s, but will be able to leave a decent lifestyle in the interim. if you have another realistic option to have a realistic shot at 100k starting salary, do that. however, the schools you'll be getting into with your #'s will give you a very realistic shot at a high salary as long as you do well in LS.

a lot of people posting here probably were born into moderately wealthy families, and had backups, but if you're not, the best finaicial investment you can make is one in yourself.

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Shaggier1
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby Shaggier1 » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:25 am

OP: with that amount of debt, I would suggest working for a few years and paying off some of the loans.


But does it not make sense to defer repayment until OP has higher earning potential (i.e., post-JD)?

I entered law school with similar debt, and that was my rationale.

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4for44
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby 4for44 » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:37 am

AreJay711 wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:5) Appellate public interest is a unicorn. It exists, you will hear people say it exists, but you're not going to ever find it in your lifetime.


Terrible analogy! Unicorns don't actually exist.... or do they!?! :shock:


Only at YHS...

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tttlllsss
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby tttlllsss » Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:59 am

Nightrunner wrote:
chrisbru wrote:Why not go to a school where you can get a full-ride? Sure, third tier isn't glamorous, but if you really want to practice law and already have that much debt, it would make sense.

170/3.77 shouldn't have to dip into the third tier for a full ride.


True, 170/3.77 can get full rides at many T30s, let alone T1s. T2 is of course out of the question.

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thexfactor
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby thexfactor » Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:04 am

you might have so much debt that it might be worth it to work for the government for 10 years and get all of it paid off. Go to the best school possible. Then apply for a government position. 300k debt over 10 years is't bad.

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Spinozist21
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby Spinozist21 » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:24 am

Imma throw my 2cents in here...I think you should go to law school...consider a place like UIUC or OSU places where you are likely to get HUGE money...you will not be completely screwed. You will have to make some sacrifices both while you are in law school and possibly immediately after law school.

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thexfactor
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Re: Am I Boned?

Postby thexfactor » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:33 pm

Spinozist21 wrote:Imma throw my 2cents in here...I think you should go to law school...consider a place like UIUC or OSU places where you are likely to get HUGE money...you will not be completely screwed. You will have to make some sacrifices both while you are in law school and possibly immediately after law school.


I think it s too big of a risk to go to OSU or UIUC. OSU prob places 10% or so in biglaw/midlaw. UIUC prob like 20%. Even in this economy T14s place 1/3 or more. Besides the only way you would be able to pay off your loans is if you get biglaw or midlaw anyways. WIth the IBR plan, if you end up making 30k a year you have a maximum payment percentage anyways and you wouldn't be stuck on the street.

I think you should go to USC or above. They will give you the best chance to get a job so you might actually get an opportunity to pay back your loans.




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