is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

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Hgs412
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is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Hgs412 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:25 pm

This is less of a “what school should I attend?” question and more of a “should I attend law school at all?” question. I wasn’t sure where to post this topic, so I apologize if it is not the correct forum.

I am very passionate about free speech and privacy rights, and, in an ideal world, I would be able to make a career out of this interest. However, based on the limited research I have been able to do, there really isn’t much of an opportunity to work in this field. It seems that most people with jobs involving civil liberties issues tend to be college professors who teach and write on the subject. Unfortunately, due to my own personal strengths and weaknesses, I just cannot see myself as a professor. Outside of academia, the only other opportunities I have encountered are legal positions with organizations such as the ACLU or the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Most individuals working for such organizations have graduated from places like Harvard and Yale, but, while I consider myself to be intelligent and capable of success in my chosen career, I am just not Harvard material (3.9 GPA and 162 LSAT).

Are there many opportunities out there for someone who is interested in a legal career in civil liberties? Or is it totally naïve and ridiculous of me to think that I could some day be paid to do this type of work? I realize that I wouldn’t be making much money if I did end up working in this field, and I’m ok with that. I would be very grateful for any insight or information that board members could give me. And, in case this makes a difference in terms of how you respond, I have been accepted to Fordham, Cardozo, and Brooklyn with no scholarship offers, and St. John's with a full scholarship offer. I have already retaken the LSAT and I am not going to retake it again. If I do go to law school, it will most likely be St. John's.

CanadianWolf
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:28 pm

Politics ?

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Leira7905
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Leira7905 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:36 pm

Is this this ONLY type of law you're interested in?

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MrPapagiorgio
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby MrPapagiorgio » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:40 pm

If PI/ACLU type stuff is all that you are interested in, none of those schools in your list gives you a distinct advantage over another. It will not be impossible, and if you hustle with networking, you may be able to land a good PI gig.

Hgs412
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Hgs412 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:56 pm

This is not the only type of law I'm interested in, but it's the only thing I've ever been passionate about. I believe I could be satisfied with other types public interest work, though. I currently work for an organization assisting individuals complaining of illegal labor and housing practices, and I find many aspects of this job to be rewarding. However, civil rights violations just don't incite the same fire in that civil liberties (particularly privacy rights) violations do. If I couldn't get an actual job in civil liberties, I would still want to volunteer some of my time to some sort of privacy rights cause (if I had the salary/hours to do so, that is). But I don't even know if there's a market for volunteers in that field...

aliarrow
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby aliarrow » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:59 pm

I'm like you, the whole reason I wanted to go into law was for idealistic reasons. However, you do have to maintain some semblance of realism; try for ACLU or whatever PI fits your needs, however be willing to accept the best opportunity you can out of school. Work on that and just focus on establishing a strong career and make a name for yourself, from there it would be much easier to have more freedom and venture into other things (or even go into politics, shift to gov't work, etc)

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Wholigan
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Wholigan » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:00 pm

While most attorneys who work for say, the ACLU, have gone to good law schools, I don't think that's the most important thing if you want to do something along those lines. From what I have heard, "prestigious" public interests (read: anything dealing with free speech, right of privacy) rarely recruit people right out of law school. They want experienced, motivated litigators who believe in their cause. A career path might include PI interships while in law school and then years of work in the public defender's office, or several years of biglaw litigation experience, with some relevant pro bono work on the side while you're at it. These kind of career tracks gravitate more towards those from top law schools to begin with.

I think it will be an uphill battle from a place like St. John's. I would have to think Fordham is going to increase your chances, but at sticker, you have to ask how debt-averse you are. You also have to ask yourself if you would be happy doing something like the PD's office (not that it's easy to get in) for several years, and maybe longer if other things don't materialize. Or doing non-prestigious PI work for the long term.

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kalvano
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby kalvano » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:14 pm

Go to law school the move to LA and sue the LAPD any chance you get. Cast yourself as a defender of the downtrodden and you will get the label "civil rights lawyer".

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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby sbalive » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:26 pm

PM if you have any questions; I know a little bit about this area. Bottom line, you need to get to at least a top 10 (or 12 or 14 or whatever) law school, HYS is great, CCN is solid, and then expect to have to go through clerking (possibly), BigLaw for at least a year or two (probably), fellowships (almost certainly), and possibly you will have to go into academia. You can do these things out of a lower-ranked school, but you'll need to have great grades + Law Review, maybe get an LLM or other grad degree post-JD, hustle a ton (though you'll need to hustle from anywhere), be in either New York, DC, or the Bay Area, and probably should only really go if you get a giant scholarship (which likely means better numbers). Anyway, retake & apply with a better LSAT.

(Also re: going to law school versus other routes -- the only other realistic routes as I see them are journalism --> advocacy or non-legal academia (i.e. PhD). And, even if you do end up being either an advocate or academic, I think in either case you're better off having gone to law school. That said, your current options aren't good enough to recommend unless you were already established & just wanted to go back and pick up a JD. But to start out... ouch.)

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romothesavior
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby romothesavior » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:32 pm

Very few lawyers practice this kind of stuff, and almost no one works for the ACLU right out of law school. To have any real shot at this type of stuff, you need to go to a REALLY good school and do very well. (sba live pretty much covered this.) Organizations like the ACLU are hyper-competitive. They also typically have small field offices and try to hire people with experience. If this is all that drives you, you are likely to be in for a disappointment.

Your best shot at getting to do constitutional issues is to work for the government (in like an Attorney General's office in the appeals division), but even that is pretty competitive and it will be a while before you are actually running the show on these types of cases. Plus it sounds like you want to be on the other side of the fence.

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Veyron
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Veyron » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:37 pm

Depends, do you have a killer resume (like Fullbright level killer or above). If so, you maybe could snag a job in this field from a TTT. You will make no money after paying off loans if you do. Not that you are likely to get a job. This is one of the most competitive fields. You think BIGLAW cares about prestige??? Its got NOTHING on the ACLU.

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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby flcath » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:41 pm

romothesavior wrote:Very few lawyers practice this kind of stuff, and almost no one works for the ACLU right out of law school. To have any real shot at this type of stuff, you need to go to a REALLY good school and do very well. (sba live pretty much covered this.) Organizations like the ACLU are hyper-competitive. They also typically have small field offices and try to hire people with experience. If this is all that drives you, you are likely to be in for a disappointment.

Your best shot at getting to do constitutional issues is to work for the government (in like an Attorney General's office in the appeals division), but even that is pretty competitive and it will be a while before you are actually running the show on these types of cases. Plus it sounds like you want to be on the other side of the fence.

This is conventional TLS-type wisdom, and it applies perfectly to ppl who are only kind of interested in civil rights law (who isn't at least kind of interested in going to trial and accusing the government of oppressing poor people?), but aren't willing to be making $38K/yr. doing it.

But as someone said above, it's not that hard to set up a plaintiff's firm, or (at the type of school OP's looking at) get a job at an existing firm. It just won't pay very well relative to other work you could get.

These cases tend to be (a) very long and (b) very low yield (expect lots of straight-up adverse verdicts) relative to, say, personal injury cases.

Edit: IF you are cool with being poor, then be aware that federal debt is a pretty friendly form of debt, given IBR.

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Veyron
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Veyron » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:44 pm

I should also add that it depends on whether you are democrat, republican, or libertarian. Hiring requirements are different for each type of organization.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby TatteredDignity » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:45 pm

Veyron wrote:Depends, do you have a killer resume (like Fullbright level killer or above). If so, you maybe could snag a job in this field from a TTT. You will make no money after paying off loans if you do. Not that you are likely to get a job. This is one of the most competitive fields. You think BIGLAW cares about prestige??? Its got NOTHING on the ACLU.


Good thing you ninja edited, cuz that was mean and ignant.

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Veyron
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Veyron » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:47 pm

0LNewbie wrote:
Veyron wrote:Depends, do you have a killer resume (like Fullbright level killer or above). If so, you maybe could snag a job in this field from a TTT. You will make no money after paying off loans if you do. Not that you are likely to get a job. This is one of the most competitive fields. You think BIGLAW cares about prestige??? Its got NOTHING on the ACLU.


Good thing you ninja edited, cuz that was mean and ignant.


I also told OP that his terrible numbers were a disgrace to liberty minded attorneys everywhere. I don't know why people who can't hack biglaw think great con-law organizations would want to take them.

Actually, I said it nicer than that.

Seriously if you are passionate about something, at least have the decency to work hard at it.

P.S. WTF does ignant mean?

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romothesavior
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby romothesavior » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:52 pm

flcath wrote:But as someone said above, it's not that hard to set up a plaintiff's firm, or (at the type of school OP's looking at) get a job at an existing firm. It just won't pay very well relative to other work you could get.

Uh, we're talking about constitutional law here, not just standard PI/civil rights stuff. Very, very, VERY few lawyers do free speech cases for a living.

And have you ever looked at constitutional law boutiques? First of all, there are VERY few of them. Second of all, most successful constitutional boutiques are made up of top notch, top school attorneys. I almost applied to one in Chicago, and then I looked at their attorney pages. It was composed solely of HYSCCN, Order of the Coif types of folks and maybe one from that crappy school in Ann Arbor. They would wipe their ass with my lulzy WUSTL resume.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby TatteredDignity » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:55 pm

Veyron wrote:
0LNewbie wrote:
Veyron wrote:Depends, do you have a killer resume (like Fullbright level killer or above). If so, you maybe could snag a job in this field from a TTT. You will make no money after paying off loans if you do. Not that you are likely to get a job. This is one of the most competitive fields. You think BIGLAW cares about prestige??? Its got NOTHING on the ACLU.


Good thing you ninja edited, cuz that was mean and ignant.


I also told OP that his terrible numbers were a disgrace to liberty minded attorneys everywhere. I don't know why people who can't hack biglaw think great con-law organizations would want to take them.

Actually, I said it nicer than that.

Seriously if you are passionate about something, at least have the decency to work hard at it.

P.S. WTF does ignant mean?


It's a hick-ish way of pronouncing "ignorant". It's ironic.
Last edited by TatteredDignity on Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Veyron
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Veyron » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:55 pm

romothesavior wrote:
flcath wrote:But as someone said above, it's not that hard to set up a plaintiff's firm, or (at the type of school OP's looking at) get a job at an existing firm. It just won't pay very well relative to other work you could get.

Uh, we're talking about constitutional law here, not just standard PI/civil rights stuff. Very, very, VERY few lawyers do free speech cases for a living.

And have you ever looked at constitutional law boutiques? First of all, there are VERY few of them. Second of all, most successful constitutional boutiques are made up of top notch, top school attorneys. I almost applied to one in Chicago, and then I looked at their attorney pages. It was composed solely of HYSCCN, Order of the Coif types of folks and maybe one from that crappy school in Ann Arbor. They would wipe their ass with my lulzy WUSTL resume.


Meh varies by ideology as I said. Libertarian/Conservative ones often tend to evaluate candidates more like a business would. School is important but so is the resume. Ditto with the WE tho.

It's a hick-ish way of saying pronouncing "ignorant". It's ironic.


*Drinks PBR*

flcath
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby flcath » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:57 pm

Veyron wrote:
0LNewbie wrote:
Veyron wrote:Depends, do you have a killer resume (like Fullbright level killer or above). If so, you maybe could snag a job in this field from a TTT. You will make no money after paying off loans if you do. Not that you are likely to get a job. This is one of the most competitive fields. You think BIGLAW cares about prestige??? Its got NOTHING on the ACLU.


Good thing you ninja edited, cuz that was mean and ignant.


I also told OP that his terrible numbers were a disgrace to liberty minded attorneys everywhere. I don't know why people who can't hack biglaw think great con-law organizations would want to take them.

Actually, I said it nicer than that.

Seriously if you are passionate about something, at least have the decency to work hard at it.

P.S. WTF does ignant mean?

Dude, no one thinks that the OP will be working for the ACLU (at least I hope no one is under that impression).

But if OP is willing to work for shit $$$ under (possibly 30 year, maybe 10 year) IBR, he could find a way to pursue his passion.

Channel your irritation into collecting signatures for a petition to the ABA (seriously, this might be something useful TLS could do). I agree that poli sci UGs with 3.4's and a 158 on the LSAT shouldn't go to LS; but don't hate the playa...

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Veyron
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Veyron » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:59 pm

flcath wrote:
Veyron wrote:
0LNewbie wrote:
Veyron wrote:Depends, do you have a killer resume (like Fullbright level killer or above). If so, you maybe could snag a job in this field from a TTT. You will make no money after paying off loans if you do. Not that you are likely to get a job. This is one of the most competitive fields. You think BIGLAW cares about prestige??? Its got NOTHING on the ACLU.


Good thing you ninja edited, cuz that was mean and ignant.


I also told OP that his terrible numbers were a disgrace to liberty minded attorneys everywhere. I don't know why people who can't hack biglaw think great con-law organizations would want to take them.

Actually, I said it nicer than that.

Seriously if you are passionate about something, at least have the decency to work hard at it.

P.S. WTF does ignant mean?

Dude, no one thinks that the OP will be working for the ACLU (at least I hope no one is under that impression).

But if OP is willing to work for shit $$$ under (possibly 30 year, maybe 10 year) IBR, he could find a way to pursue his passion.

Channel your irritation into collecting signatures for a petition to the ABA (seriously, this might be something useful TLS could do). I agree that poli sci UGs with 3.4's and a 158 on the LSAT shouldn't go to LS; but don't hate the playa...


Link to con-law jobs that pay shit money and take bottom tier talent?

Most con law is practiced by either (a) Biglaw (b) l33t PI shops.

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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby flcath » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:16 pm

Veyron wrote:Link to con-law jobs that pay shit money and take bottom tier talent?

Most con law is practiced by either (a) Biglaw (b) l33t PI shops.

--LinkRemoved--
http://www.hornsbylaw.com/our-people.aspx
http://www.jlondonlaw.com/biography.aspx

I mean, think about it: its not like anti-trust or securities law where you just can't practice it on a low level. I knew the director of Legal Service of North Florida (a graduate of the prestigious Cleveland-Marshall Law School), and he would handle cases like these fairly regularly. The stakes were just really low (I suspect).

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Veyron
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Veyron » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:19 pm

flcath wrote:
Veyron wrote:Link to con-law jobs that pay shit money and take bottom tier talent?

Most con law is practiced by either (a) Biglaw (b) l33t PI shops.

--LinkRemoved--
http://www.hornsbylaw.com/our-people.aspx
http://www.jlondonlaw.com/biography.aspx

I mean, think about it: its not like anti-trust or securities law where you just can't practice it on a low level. I knew the director of Legal Service of North Florida (a graduate of the prestigious Cleveland-Marshall Law School), and he would handle cases like these fairly regularly. The stakes were just really low (I suspect).


Dude, labor and employment, family law, and personal injury law aren't con-law EVEN if you call it civil rights law. :roll:

And MED-MAL for the love of G-d? Really?

I guess the most that you could say is that all law grows out of the constitution and so every type of law is con-law. I find this to be a stupid rationalization.
Last edited by Veyron on Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dood
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby dood » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:21 pm

tl; dr. no dont go.

aliarrow
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby aliarrow » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:23 pm

Education:
• J.D., The John Marshall Law School, Chicago
• M.S., Computer and Information Science, University of Michigan
• M.S., Mathematics, University of Michigan
• M.S., Financial Engineering, University of Michigan
• M.A., Applied Economics, University of Michigan
• B.A., Economics and Math, with Distinction, University of Michigan


Jesus...

Hgs412
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Re: is it reasonable to go to law school for this?

Postby Hgs412 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:24 pm

Thank you to everyone who has responded.

I’m trying to take a very realistic view of my credentials and my capabilities, and I am under no impression that I will be the next big thing in constitutional law, or anything even close to it. I’m not trying to get advice as to how I could land a job with the ACLU (I know I almost certainly won't), but rather trying to determine whether, coming from a school like St. John’s, there would still be any way in which I could make some sort of meaningful contribution in this area of law.

Are you all saying that even someone graduating near or at the top of the class in St. John’s (or a comparably-ranked school) would have zero chance at even modest success in this field? I know that even if I graduated at the top of the class (and I realize that’s a big “if” at this point), I would have to work much harder to network and make myself stand out if I went to St. John’s. I don’t mind working at jobs that aren’t my first choice (or even jobs that I hate) for several years if doing so will eventually take me where I want to go. So if it’s simply a case of hard work, willingness to make sacrifices and compromises, and an understanding that I will never be the next Steven Shapiro, I believe I am up for the challenge.

However, it sounds like most of you are saying that no amount of hard work will ever give a Tier 2/3 graduate a chance to land a job in which he or she could make some kind of meaningful contribution to the civil liberties legal field. Is that pretty much the consensus on this board? If that truly is the case, I would like that reality to sink in now so I am under no misapprehensions if I do decide to attend law school.




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