Rushing off to law school

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Paul Campos
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Rushing off to law school

Postby Paul Campos » Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:58 am

Looking over the LSAT threads it seems lots of people are bound and determined to apply this cycle, because they're "too old" to wait another year to start law school (it appears the average age of people who say things like this is about 26).

FWIW, here's one perspective from inside legal academia: the big shakeout in the law school world is just beginning. IMO, law school is going to look significantly different five years from now than it does today. At least a few schools are going to go out of business, and a lot of others will make major changes out of a combination of fear and necessity. Some schools will cost significantly less, in real terms, than they do today (this won't be reflected fully by changes in sticker price: what's going to happen is that there will be schools where the vast majority of students aren't paying even half of sticker, i.e., the advertised price will bear no relation to what people are actually charged).

A parallel shakeout is happening in the world of legal employment. Lots of big law firms are trying to figure out how to restructure in a world of increasingly competitive price competition, driven by clients who are increasingly refusing to pay for lots of things they used to pay for without blinking. Government legal employment is also in flux, as states deal with long-term budget crunches that are only beginning to work their way through the fiscal pipeline.

All this is to say, being in a hurry to matriculate as a law student right now is like being in a hurry to buy a house in a particularly volatile real estate market, where the general price trend is downward and there's no real sense yet of where the bottom might be. Just something to think about if you're trying to decide whether to retake or whatever.

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WhiteyCakes
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby WhiteyCakes » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:11 am

Thanks Paul for my semi-regular dose of fear and second-guessing. :mrgreen:

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justonemoregame
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby justonemoregame » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:22 am

May not be a bad idea to send out resumes for jobs along with apps. Matriculation is a long ways off, and you could always change your mind. (I did last cycle). If you apply broadly (to law schools), you may end up struggling with a tough decision later - a job offer may not make it easier, but at least you'll have that option if you decide to hold off on law school. Also, it takes a while for the financial picture to shake out if you're trying to negotiate aid.

I wish I had done this earlier last cycle, actually. I backed out of T-14 at basically sticker and had to scramble around to find something.

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TheThriller
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby TheThriller » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:08 pm

I'm sending out tons of job apps as my LS apps are pending. Gives you time to get some valuable WE, retake the LSAT to hit the T14 or grab some more $$$ and then reevaluate your situation.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby JamMasterJ » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:12 pm

Prof Campos, where do you get the opinion that law school is going to be drastically different in 5 years? Is that a gut feeling or a result of conversation with other law school faculty/reformists?

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WhiteyCakes
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby WhiteyCakes » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:13 pm

No one denies that work experience is important. Paul's point about older 0Ls is more about the structure of law school and the legal market and how that could change over the next several years. Besides, if you're 26, you most likely have significant WE already.

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minnbills
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby minnbills » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:21 pm

JamMasterJ wrote:Prof Campos, where do you get the opinion that law school is going to be drastically different in 5 years? Is that a gut feeling or a result of conversation with other law school faculty/reformists?


It seems like class sizes are going down, and low-ranked schools are under pressure to seriously downsize. But I don't see any indication of other changes to legal education (as a law student.)

uvabro
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby uvabro » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:30 pm

i find the opposite - the straight through people always want to go right away even if their scores are a 148 or so. they're afraid of stopping, and aren't mature enough to respond to logic.

Paul Campos
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby Paul Campos » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:43 pm

JamMasterJ wrote:Prof Campos, where do you get the opinion that law school is going to be drastically different in 5 years? Is that a gut feeling or a result of conversation with other law school faculty/reformists?


I'm extrapolating based on what I know about the financial structure of legal education, and what's currently going on at several schools per what faculty at these places tell me.

Consider what it means that law school applications have fallen from a peak of around 100,000 a decade ago to 67,000 this past cycle, while the number of first-year seats has grown considerably. For example, the bottom 100 schools were probably aiming to enroll about 25,000 people this year. That's not a much smaller number than half the total applicant pool, but of course the situation is much more dire than that, because a very large percentage of the 67,000 total applicants would never go to a bottom 100 school, while another large percentage would only go with something close to a full ride, which of course produces little or no revenue for the school. In addition probably 10% to 15% of applicants are people with such poor credentials that they have very little chance of passing the bar. Add all that together and many lower-ranked schools are already in dire straits, or close to them.

As for higher-ranked schools, while they aren't having any trouble (yet) finding enough people willing to fill their seats, higher-ranked schools are far more constrained in regard to their admissions processes than low-ranked schools, because they have to worry about their ranking, which means they have to worry about finding strong enough applicants, not just warm bodies who are willing to borrow money from the federal government to pay for law school. So higher-ranked schools are slashing class sizes, giving out more "scholarships" (i.e., cross-subsidized tuition) and scrambling in general.

Add to all this the genuine threat of reform in regard to federal educational loan practices: the scuttlebutt is that Congress is going to consider applying the standards currently applied to for-profit schools to non-profit schools in regard to job outcomes and the like when it comes to access to federal loan money. This, if it happens, will be a huge problem for many law schools.

It all adds up to a situation that's in serious flux, and that is likely to look quite different in the not too distant future.

Kurst
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby Kurst » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:00 pm

For those of you who must go to law school as soon as possible, see this graph:

Image

There are a number of schools that are increasing their class sizes while decreasing their standards of admission, so even if you have a 157 on your LSAT, there is a school for you.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby JamMasterJ » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:37 pm

Paul Campos wrote:
JamMasterJ wrote:Prof Campos, where do you get the opinion that law school is going to be drastically different in 5 years? Is that a gut feeling or a result of conversation with other law school faculty/reformists?


I'm extrapolating based on what I know about the financial structure of legal education, and what's currently going on at several schools per what faculty at these places tell me.

Consider what it means that law school applications have fallen from a peak of around 100,000 a decade ago to 67,000 this past cycle, while the number of first-year seats has grown considerably. For example, the bottom 100 schools were probably aiming to enroll about 25,000 people this year. That's not a much smaller number than half the total applicant pool, but of course the situation is much more dire than that, because a very large percentage of the 67,000 total applicants would never go to a bottom 100 school, while another large percentage would only go with something close to a full ride, which of course produces little or no revenue for the school. In addition probably 10% to 15% of applicants are people with such poor credentials that they have very little chance of passing the bar. Add all that together and many lower-ranked schools are already in dire straits, or close to them.

As for higher-ranked schools, while they aren't having any trouble (yet) finding enough people willing to fill their seats, higher-ranked schools are far more constrained in regard to their admissions processes than low-ranked schools, because they have to worry about their ranking, which means they have to worry about finding strong enough applicants, not just warm bodies who are willing to borrow money from the federal government to pay for law school. So higher-ranked schools are slashing class sizes, giving out more "scholarships" (i.e., cross-subsidized tuition) and scrambling in general.

Add to all this the genuine threat of reform in regard to federal educational loan practices: the scuttlebutt is that Congress is going to consider applying the standards currently applied to for-profit schools to non-profit schools in regard to job outcomes and the like when it comes to access to federal loan money. This, if it happens, will be a huge problem for many law schools.

It all adds up to a situation that's in serious flux, and that is likely to look quite different in the not too distant future.

Can you speak to any specific things that schools are considering doing that the average well-read TLSer doesn't know about? It's not tough to make the inferences based on applicant numbers and the news regarding federal loans. But any inside info (obviously, only things you're comfortable sharing) would be very interesting.

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DougieFresh
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby DougieFresh » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:49 pm

Kurst wrote:so even if you have a 157 on your LSAT, there is a school for you.


How long do we have to wait until a 157 gets t14?

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dingbat
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby dingbat » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:53 pm

WhiteyCakes wrote: Besides, if you're 26, you most likely have significant WE already.

What on earth makes you think that the average 26 year old is likely to have significant WE?

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:37 am

Hey Paul,
Congrats on getting named a finalist for the National Jurist's most influential people in legal education. I know your posting on this site has been important.

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dirtrida2
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Re: Rushing off to law school

Postby dirtrida2 » Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:04 pm

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